Featured photo: James Devaney (left) and Dan Kilpatrick helped lead Baltusrol’s maintenance crew during a rain-soaked PGA Championship. Photo credit: Lawrence Aylward
When Phil Mickelson saw Jason Dorn, who was holding a squeegee, he commended him.
“Great job,” Mickelson said. “I don’t know how you do it.”
Dorn, a volunteer on the golf maintenance staff for the PGA Championship on Baltusrol Golf Club’s Lower Course, was one of several workers positioned on the course Sunday to remove water with squeegees from the greens on the rain-soaked track. Mickelson, one of golf’s most popular players, appreciated his efforts and felt moved enough to say so while playing his round.
“[His comment] meant everything,” said Dorn, who is the golf course superintendent at Portland (Oregon) Golf Club. “But that’s what we do.”
It was a wonder that the tournament was completed on Sunday, what with all the rain, which amounted to several inches for the week. Jimmy Walker, a bit of a no-name on the PGA Tour, played splendidly for four days and finished 14-under par to win his first major title.
“It’s surreal. I mean it really is,” Walker said.
It was that kind of tournament, really, considering the weather’s impact on play. There was plenty of heat and humidity and then pouring rain. Mark Kuhns, Baltusrol’s director of grounds, was hoping for a firm and fast course, which he and his staff had worked to achieve, but Mother Nature has a way of having the last word, as most superintendents know.
Still, it was an exciting finish on Sunday. Jason Day, the world’s top-ranked player who finished one stroke behind, pressed Walker throughout the day, including scoring an eagle on the par-5 18th hole. Day, who won the PGA Championship last year, made it a point to not only congratulate Walker (“He’s a very deserving winner,” Day said), but also to applaud Kuhns and the golf maintenance team of 150 for their efforts.
“Mark and his crew and the volunteers —everyone who made this tournament what it is — definitely [deserve] more than a pat on the back,” Day said. “Because of the amount of rain … I’m not sure if these guys have had any time off at all. To be able to get the course ready and playable for us [was] pretty special.
“I know how much time they actually put into [getting the course ready] before the tournament comes around. And then as the tournament is happening, it’s more hours than you can even imagine. They don’t get a lot of time off, and we are very thankful to have hardworking men and women getting our course prepared because it can be a very, very long and taxing week for them.”
Kuhns’ two right-hand men — Dan Kilpatrick, superintendent on the Lower Course, and James Devaney, superintendent of the Upper Course —were grateful for Day’s comments.
“We did everything out there in our power to keep them playing,” Devaney said. “The weather kept us on our toes.”
For Kilpatrick, it was his first major as a golf course superintendent. And he embraced it — no matter the weather.
“You have no control over [what happens],” he said. “You take care of what you need to take care of.”