Staff photo: Manny Fils
. Oaks Course Superintendent Curtis Singleton helped to make sure the greens were perfect for the 93rd PGA Championship.
JOHNS CREEK -- When Oaks Course superintendent Curtis Singleton was asked if he wanted be part of the grounds crew of the 93rd PGA Championship -- do we really need to answer that?
It started back in February when he saw Atlanta Athletic Club head groundskeeper Ken Mangum at a USGA event and Singleton offered his services. At first it didn't look like he was going to get his chance because Mangum was using the event as a kind of homecoming for former staff and interns. But eventually he got the call he was waiting for.
"He was gracious enough to allow me to participate," Singleton said. "I'm thankful to have a chance to see golf maintenance at this magnitude."
Singleton is part of the 30-man crew which takes care of four holes, starting with the par-4, eighth, before the first golfers are even at the practice range. On the first day of the tournament, his job was to make sure the rest of the crew had enough light to do their job without blinding them as they carefully manicured the greens and the surrounding areas.
"I'm not really sure how many crews went out but we did four holes so you can figure from there. It looked like a small army," Singleton said. "I had a big light set that I towed behind the cart. I had to get to the greens first and light up the whole area. I had to be careful not to blind the mowers because they couldn't see when they were coming back towards the lights so I had to constantly adjust the lights."
Luckily for Singleton, he was not part of the crew that had the 14th or 17th green damaged.
According to Mangum, the damage came when a mower, for some unexplained reason, took a chunk out of the greens. In a press conference, Mangum said there was nothing wrong with the equipment and that the operators did not cause it. All anyone can do is guess. The main consensus is that a sudden rise in the dew point caused the brushes on the mowers to stick in the grass. Of course, when one is taking about cutting grass to a height of one-tenth of a inch there is very little room for error.
The PGA of America allowed the affected areas to be treated as ground under repair, so the players could move their ball if it landed there or they have to putt through it.
As Singleton said, if that's the only problem they're doing a great job considering that those two portions are less than one percent of the greens and the rest of the course is in excellent shape.
Besides being part of the PGA Championhsip, Singleton is also using this experience to see how he can improve the Oaks Course.
"I'm always looking for that edge of what we can do a little bit different; a little bit better to improve our playing conditions. Any tricks of the trade I can borrow and take them home and make them fit our situation, I'm always looking for that type of thing," Singleton said.
By knowing what it takes to have true championship quality greens, fairway and bunkers, he realizes what it takes to set the new standards.
"If you don't know where that level is at then you can never hope to be close to that level or achieve that level if you don't know where that standard is at," he said. "As far as playing conditions, we're pretty close. As far as pure aesthetics, they spend a lot of money around the edges to make it eye pleasing. Where we focus a lot on the center line of the fairway, down the middle of the green, and work our way up from there. But you're really judging two different animals when you compare them. You're looking at a budget here in the millions where for us it's a couple hundred thousand. So we try to keep our playing conditions at that level but I don't think we'll ever be able to do the edges like they do."