Turf Talk: Sycamore Hills Golf Club

August 29, 2013
By Jeff Shain, PGATOUR.COM

FORT WAYNE, Ind. – The biggest concern in getting Sycamore Hills Golf Club ready for the debut event of the Web.com Tour Finals had little to do with turf or water.

In this case, it was the human fatigue that comes with the ambition of putting on two showcase events just five weeks apart. The U.S. Girls’ Junior held the stage last month, after which John Thompson’s staff began preparations for the Hotel Fitness Championship.

“There wasn’t a lot of time, with weather and everything else, to let our guard down,” said Thompson, who came to Sycamore Hills just four months ago. “We’ve been kind of hammering it out for the last eight weeks.”

Fortunately, Thompson hasn’t encountered any crisis from the weather. Though it’s largely been a wet summer in the Midwest, the course received just enough rain to help it recover from one event to the next.

“We let the greens recover from the tournament and [foot] traffic, but we still managed to keep the quality at a very high level,” Thompson said. “Obviously the walk-off areas take a lot [of attention].

“We had to give things some more fertilizer and do some things agronomically to get things ready for this tournament that we probably wouldn’t have to do under normal circumstances.”

Putting surfaces should be a little faster than what they were at the Girls’ Junior, when storms dumped some 4 inches of rain on the course a day before practice rounds began. Speed aside, additional rolling will make approach shots tougher to hold the surface.

Less subtle is the Sycamore Hills rough, which hasn’t been mown in nine days and now stands at about 4 ½ inches. Nor are there any plans to cut it back until the tournament is over.

“We did a fertilizer application around the first of July to kind of prepare for this,” Thompson said. “And with the rain we’ve had this summer, it’s not hard to get thick rough right now.

“Our fairways are very generous, so if you miss fairways they want you in the rough.”

With scattered storms in the weekend forecast, the penalty could be even more severe for those who don’t keep their drives in the fairway.

The Hotel Fitness Championship caps a whirlwind summer for Thompson, who hit the ground running after taking the job in late April.

“My first day, I got a call from the USGA agronomist – and about 20 minutes later I got a call from Mark Johnson, our PGA TOUR agronomist,” he recalled. “Both of them asked me if I was ready for this. I said, ‘Let’s go. Bring on the business.’ ”

In the next breath, though, Thompson admits: “It’ll be nice next year, just having one event.”