October 8 2013
By Jeff Shain, PGATOUR.COM
Tom Gray freely acknowledges he prefers a course on the slightly damper side of the ledger. And with CordeValle Golf Club staging the U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur just weeks before the Frys.com Open, it would be risky to take any other approach.
As it turned out, Gray was spot on.
Despite a drought that has dropped less than 2 inches of rain on CordeValle since the end of 2012, the layout at the foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains held up well for the senior women and now welcomes the PGA TOUR’s new season opener.
“We kept things just a little bit wet during the course of the year, just to make sure we had turf for both events,” said Gray, in his seventh year at CordeValle.
“I knew we’d need to keep championship conditions for almost a month, so we tried to anticipate that through the course of the year.”
It’s been a delicate balance in one of Northern California’s driest years in recent memory. Just 1.94 inches of rain has been recorded in the San Martin area since Jan. 1.
“And we haven’t had any rain since the middle of March – zero,” Gray added.
It’s a big contrast with the PGA TOUR’s previous visits to CordeValle, when storms played a role at some point during the week. Last year, hail during the pro-am damaged one green to the point that Gray’s entire 40-man staff spent more than two hours fanned out to repair indentations.
“It was awesome to see how the crew banded together to fix everything,” Gray recalled.
Not that the lack of rain hasn’t presented challenges. In addition to general conservation concerns, salt has a higher concentration in the water as it nears the bottom of the region’s aquifers.
To keep the salt from damaging greens, a periodic “flushing” has been required.
“We’d water them for three hours to try and get some of those salts out and growth back,” Gray said. Weekly topdressing also has helped.
CordeValle’s fairways are solid clay, so flushing has a limited effect. Regardless, Gray has turned off the sprinklers now to get a firmer run for the PGA TOUR’s top guns.
“We’re going to be a little different color [in the fairways] because of the lack of rain,” he said. “But I think the course will show well on television. I think the players will enjoy it, too.”
Forecasts call for sun throughout the week, with perhaps a 15 percent chance of rain during Wednesday’s pro-am. Highs will stay in the 70s all week.
“This is probably our most fun [tournament] week, just because of the way the weather looks,” Gray said. “There’s not a cloud in the sky today. It’s awesome out here.”