August 21 2012
By David McPherson, PGATOUR.COM contributor
The last time the Bethpage State Park Black Course hosted the PGA TOUR's best at the 2009 U.S. Open, it was a soggy affair. Fast forward three years and head groundskeeper Andrew Wilson hopes the weather is kinder when The Barclays tees off Thursday.
“So far the forecast looks to be in our favor,” he said. “We are all keeping our fingers crossed and hoping for a nice dry week after we had to get out the pumps and the squeegees back in ‘09 … We’re hoping it can all stay in the barn this year!”
Wilson is in charge of the group of five municipal courses in Farmingdale, N.Y. that make up Bethpage State Park. The superintendent has worked at the club for the past 20 years; he started tending the turf there and learning the business in the summers while attending college. When Bethpage Black last hosted the U.S. Open, Wilson, 40, was the assistant superintendent.
Changes TOUR players can expect this time around as they compete at the first FedExCup Playoffs event include a new tee on the 585-yard, par-5 13th and a longer seventh hole that plays as a par 5 this year, instead of a par 4, at just over 550 yards.
To make final preparations for The Barclays, Bethpage Black was closed two weeks ago, and the weeks leading up to this closure were a little bit hectic, to say the least.
“Being a public course, everybody wanted to come out and play," Wilson said. "We were definitely jam-packed. Since we do a lot of rounds, we couldn’t get as aggressive with the greens as we would have liked.”
That said, the greens are rolling well and should measure around 12 on the Stimpmeter come Thursday. Public players probably wouldn’t enjoy putting on these punishing putting surfaces but the TOUR pros thrive on the challenge.
“They think they want to, but if they did … the rounds at Bethpage tend to be a little long in the first place, and if we had greens like that, we might be approaching seven-hour rounds," Wilson said. "People would get even more depressed.”
The ragged rough might get TOUR players depressed this week if they don’t keep their ball on the fairways. It’s getting pretty shaggy and is currently cut at 3.5 inches.
“We’ll follow the rules of the TOUR agronomist and go from there,” Wilson concluded. “We will probably cut it one more time. For us, it’s nice and thick right now and we’re pretty happy with it.”