Believe it or not, there are pro golfers who compliment superintendents on their work.
Professional golfers often are the first to criticize course conditions at tour events. They complain that the greens were too slow, the greens were too fast, the greens were bumpy, the greens were inconsistent, the bunkers didn’t drain properly, the fairways were too soft, the fairways were too hard and the pin placements were a joke.
The fact that this last one is usually decided by the tournament’s governing body (Professional Golf Association or United States Golf Association officials) often doesn’t stop them from blaming the golf course superintendent and his crew.
Usually, you know a super and his or her crew had the course in great condition for a big tournament when the course conditions are never mentioned all week. The old adage that “no news is good news” definitely applies.
But every now and then you do hear the other end of the spectrum – the pros who actually go to the trouble to point out great conditions. That little pat on the back that can mean so much to those of us in the industry. When the super at the U.S. Open is praised for the condition of the course, don’t we all take a little pride in that? Don’t we all feel we had something to do with it?
Here are 10 quotes from pro golfers in recent years who stepped up and made the effort to thank the super and his or her crew for a job well done.
1. Tom Watson, Valhalla Golf Club, 2004. During extremely wet conditions on the final day of the Senior PGA Championship, Watson went so far as to buy pizza for the crew.
“They deserve all the kudos for getting this course ready today. … Hopefully a little pizza goes a long way.”
The crew gave Watson a standing ovation on one hole during his final round.
2. Tiger Woods, Abu Dhabi Golf Club, 2013. Woods, known to let his negative feelings about course conditions escape from time to time, made a point to hand out his praise during the Abu Dhabi Golf Championships.
He stated that superintendent Andrew Whitaker and his crew had the course in “perfect and prime condition.”
3. Luke Donald, Atlanta Athletic Club, 2013. For the PGA Championship, Luke Donald was beside himself praising the course:
“It’s one of the best-conditioned courses I’ve seen,” Donald stated.
4. Mike Davis, USGA executive director. Granted, Davis is not a pro golfer, but considering who he is and his quote, it just had to be in here:
“The most important person at a U.S. Open is the golf course superintendent.”
Could there be a nicer show of respect than that? Don’t think so.
5. Michelle Wie, Pinehurst No. 2, 2014. After winning the women’s U.S. Open last year, Wie couldn’t stop praising the course conditions, which, as we all know, were a bit of a throwback to old-time golf.
“The course was great. The greens were in fantastic condition. I think the fairways were definitely brown, but that’s definitely the way the USGA wanted it. It looked so cool. I was telling Duncan (her caddie, Duncan French), I was looking back on the green to the fairway, and I said, ‘It would look really weird if this place was really green and lush.’ It had a really cool look with it, with the native areas and the sand and the brownness. The greens held up great. I think the USGA and the maintenance staff did a terrific job this week.”
6. Davis Love III, Bethpage Black Golf Course, 2002. Vast amounts of rain had the second round of the U.S. Open completely saturated. Love was asked by a reporter after his round if he agreed that the greens seemed to be holding up well through all the rain.
“I’m going to find the superintendent and ask him how he did that. They were soft; they would accept a shot. But they were still fast. … You would think with all that water the greens would slow down. If anything they almost seemed like they were faster. I don’t know if I was dreaming, but they were plenty fast. … These were the finest greens I’ve ever played a major championship on, without a doubt.”
7. Bernhard Langer, Sahalee Country Club, 2010. The legendary German golfer was more than impressed with the Seattle course for the 2010 Senior U.S. Open, and specifically the Poa annua greens.
“It’s in fantastic shape. I just talked to the greenskeeper, and I told him I’ve never seen Poa annua greens this good. I asked him what his secret was, but he wouldn’t tell me. I’ve played a lot of Poa annua greens. … Here they were true all day long from morning till night, and it was phenomenal how the condition of the course was.”
8. Paula Creamer, Sky 72 Golf Club, Ocean Course, 2008. For the 2008 LPGA Hana Bank Kolon Championship (Korea), Paula Creamer couldn’t believe how the course had improved from her previous visit.
“They did a wonderful job with this golf course. … The fairways were perfect. The golf course superintendent, everybody that works here should be very proud of themselves. … It’s just in great shape.”
9. Phil Mickelson, Hoylake Golf Club, 2006. When the Open was played at Hoylake in Liverpool nine years ago, Mickelson was asked about the conditions of the greens, specifically their dryness, and if “… they were ever in danger of losing them.” I love his answer, and I’ll tell you why after you read it.
“I’m not a superintendent. I don’t know … I don’t know what they should do to water them or not, or what have you. But the course seems to be playing terrific.”
I like Phil’s answer mainly because, how many guys would have said, “Yeah, they need water?” Phil gave respect to all superintendents by simply acknowledging us and our decision-making.
If only more PGA golfers could have this mindset.
10. Jack Nicklaus, in an ad campaign for the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America. In the “Thank a Golf Course Superintendent” ad campaign, Jack says it simply and says it the best.
“If you love golf like I do, thank a golf course superintendent.”