By David McPherson, PGATOUR.COM Contributor
A year ago, Tom Lively, the director of course operations at TPC
San Antonio, was praying for the drought to end. As the Valero
Texas Open returns to a course in optimum condition this week,
though, his hopes are decidedly different.
“I’m praying for no rain,” Lively said.
While Lively has only been at TPC San Antonio since it opened
in 2010, he’s been keeping the greens at various championship
courses for the past 30. Prior to taking over the top spot at TPC
San Antonio, Lively was the director of golf course operations for
eight years at Medinah Country Club, which hosted the 2006 PGA
The major change players will see this week at TPC San Antonio is the turf, which is Bermudagrass throughout the course (except the greens).
“We simply did not have enough water to sustain an overseed and grow it in last year,” Lively explained. “But thanks to the warmer winter we had the Bermudagrass is in top shape. This has allowed us to push it and fertilize the turf a little bit more than we normally would.
“It’s a bit of a difficult time to have an all Bermudagrass course in south Texas host a PGA TOUR event since most of the courses are overseeded this time of year. That said, our course should play really well.”
Lively and his crew of 54 have been working in overdrive for the past six weeks to fine-tune the course for this week’s TOUR event. The drought last summer also devastated a lot of the native grasses on the course, which will come back in time.
“In the meantime, a lot of weeds have come back earlier, so we have been attacking them for the past four weeks to reduce them, so the players can play their ball,” Lively said. “It will also open up the canopy, so the native grasses can grow and compete.”
Further tournament preparations included fertilizing the rough to get it growing and extra watering as needed to the fairways. The greens at TPC San Antonio are champion ultradwarf Bermuda. Lively said they can be quite fast, so they have to watch the watering on the putting surfaces. The goal is not to have them run 12 or 13 on the Stimpmeter.
“We can achieve a lot of speed just with the slopes on the green," Lively said. "The Stimp reading this week will be between 10.5 and 11, but that’s misreading because of the slope, which makes them much faster.”
TPC San Antonio practices sounds environmental practices. It sits adjacent to a 750-acre nature preserve and sanctuary for the protection of the Golden-Cheek Warbler. Last year, Lively received the 2011 National Resort Environmental Leaders in Golf Award. This past January, the course also became an Audubon Certified Sanctuary Course.
“We are all very proud of that,” Lively said. “The resort was built to be environmentally friendly with its closed-loop irrigation system. We retain all the water we use and re-use it. We also spray chemicals very rarely -- only areas are on the greens on a limited basis and some moderate weed control.”