TPC Southwind was a late bloomer with growth this season. (Stan Badz/PGA TOUR)
By Jeff Shain, PGATOUR.COM Correspondent
Jim Thomas knows better than to complain too loudly, but there was a time about 2½ weeks ago that he fretted about whether he could get TPC Southwind up to the usual standards in time for this week’s FedEx St. Jude Classic.
That was before the year’s first real hot spell finally kicked the growing process into high gear.
“It looks like a tournament golf course now,” said Thomas, in his eighth year as director of golf course operations. “We have a few blemishes here and there, but the overall quality is really good.
“The golf course is a late bloomer, but it came through in the nick of time. It’s just like a lot of tournaments this year -- I think everybody had weather issues, just about every event.”
No argument there, considering frost days throughout the West, fog at Torrey Pines, snow at Dove Mountain, torrential rains at TPC Sawgrass and a cool spring that caused varying degrees of angst elsewhere.
“I think Mother Nature’s just letting us know who’s in charge,” Thomas said. “She flexes her muscles at times.”
Thomas acknowledged he expected smooth sailing when the warm-weather grasses came out of winter dormancy without a hitch. Things changed, though, when that cool, wet spring slowed growth to a crawl.
“We had actual areas where the turf declined,” he said, noting that some greens had very thin areas and he did a little resodding in spots in the fairways and collars around the putting surfaces.
“Without worrying about a tournament, they would have grown in just fine. But being the perfectionist that I am, I wanted to get rid of as many blemishes as I could.”
With conditions finally warming up again around mid-May, Thomas was able to coax the grasses back on track.
There’s a bit of irony, too, in that this year’s struggles came just one year after a warm spring created a landscape that had Thomas telling colleagues it was the best TPC Southwind had looked for the FedEx St. Jude.
“Our business is dictated by the weather,” he said. “We like to think we’re in control, but in reality I’m not sure how much control we really have. The older I get, the more that reality sets in.”
Though thunderstorms are forecast for Thursday’s opening round, the rest of the week is projecting temperatures in the mid- to high 80s with only a nominal chance of rain.