As though the bitter winter around Dallas-Fort Worth didn’t present enough challenges – or the dry spring that also kept bermudagrass in dormancy – Scott Abernathy had another challenge thrust upon him in the weeks leading to the HP Byron Nelson Championship.
Replacing nearly all his maintenance equipment ... at once.
That’s the aftermath when the TPC Four Seasons’ maintenance building collapsed in February, wrecking a $500,000 worth of equipment three months before the PGA TOUR made its annual visit.
“From a maintenance side, we pretty much lost it all,” said Abernathy, the resort’s director of golf operations and landscape. “It’s been a challenge to gear up again and get close to 100 percent.”
The building, spanning some 7,600 square feet, came down at a time when no one was inside the facility.
“We have it on videotape,” Abernathy said. “It happened very quickly and nobody was injured. We all feel pretty blessed, really.”
The collapse, though, effectively totaled the equipment inventory, including 13 greens mowers and 23 transportation vehicles. Not only were the vehicles a loss, but many of the tools used to repair them.
“We had some very expensive, very precise instruments that were not salvageable,” he said. “A lot of tools were buried for quite some time. Some we could recover, but a lot were really trashed.”
With the help of local manufacturers, Four Seasons officials were able to procure enough equipment in short order to keep operations at a baseline level. “Luckily, it wasn’t growing season,” Abernathy said, “so it afforded us more time.”
By the time growing season rolled around in March, enough equipment was on site to resume near-normal operations from a temporary facility. A new maintenance building is in the works, to be ready by year's end.
Then came the task of coaxing the bermudagrass fairways and rough out of hibernation.
“We had approximately 54 freeze days,” said Abernathy, noting that was about double what’s seen during a normal winter in the DFW Metroplex.
“We stayed very diligent on our fertilizers. Not excessive, but we made sure we were out there with multiple applications of nitrogen.”
Crews also applied pigmentation to the fairways, trying to raise the soil temperature through darker colors that would absorb heat. “If your soil temperature is not there,” he said, “you don’t have growth.”
Abernathy is still a little concerned about the rough, which is at the prescribed 2 ¼ inches but lacks consistency.
“I still think it’ll be a heck of a challenge,” he said. “I think it’s going to create situations for those flier lies, so it’s still going to be a penalty. You’ll have times where [players] face trouble controlling their spin.”
Wet conditions also may play a factor early. A cold front moving through Tuesday evening could drop up to 2 inches of rain on the area, though sunny skies and warming temperatures rule competition days.