August 12, 2014
By Jeff Shain, PGATOUR.COM
- A scenic view of the sixth hole at Sedgefield Country Club during the 2012 Wyndham Championship. (Hunter Martin/Getty Images)
If brown is the new green, so to speak, Keith Wood was ready to live with that.
All things considered, though, Sedgefield Country Club’s superintendent couldn’t be happier to report that green indeed will be the principal color as the Wyndham Championship celebrates its 75th edition this week.
“Keeping everything green was definitely a challenge,” Wood said of an abnormally dry June and July that plunged much of the Carolinas into near-drought conditions. “Now that the rains have started, it’s just flourished.”
Monday rains dropped nearly a quarter-inch of precipitation on the Greensboro area for the second time in three days – enough to quench a dry landscape but without softening the turf for the FedExCup’s final regular-season event.
That’s a vast difference from last year, when a wet, cool summer left Sedgefield nearly saturated even before the tournament commenced. Saturday rains left the final two rounds played under preferred lies.
“This year the ground is thirsty,” Wood said. “When it rains, it sucks [moisture] right up and we still have a firm surface to play on.”
As recently as a month ago, though, firmness was a cause for worry. Greensboro recorded only about 2 inches of rain in both June and July, about one-third of its usual totals for those months.
Combine that with a dry spring, and it was taking a toll on the area’s water supply. On more than one occasion, Wood found his water supply flirting dangerously low.
“The wells here could not keep up, so we couldn’t run full irrigation cycles,” he said. As the calendar headed into summer, Wood turned off the sprinklers and sent crews out to water everything via hoses.
“My assistants and I, we were just grinding it out,” he said.
If there were signs of encouragement, they came from some 80 miles down the highway at Pinehurst Resort. Despite similar conditions, Pinehurst’s restored No.2 course was getting high marks as it hosted the U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s open in back-to-back weeks.
“Pinehurst was firm and fast and brown around the edges,” Wood said. “All we could say was, ‘Well, maybe they set the tone.’ … Honestly, though, we were hoping we didn’t have to go there.”
Working with PGA TOUR agronomists, Wood built a watering program to get only enough water to each varying part of the golf course.
“You definitely have to plan it out,” he said. “And we ran everything by hand – go out and turn the head on. We didn’t want [computers] to run too long or find a head stuck in position overnight.”
The planning paid dividends. Not only did the dry spell break, but Sedgefield was able to survive using very little water.
“We were able to maintain, hold on for dear life, keep things healthy enough,” Wood said, “that when Mother Nature was ready to give us a drink, we were able to take it and flourish.”
Reed wins the Wyndham Championship