Baltusrol Readies for the PGA


PGA of AmericaAndy Bush doesn't need to watch Tiger Woods and rest of golf's finest play in the U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2 to remind him that Baltusrol's time is coming.
In Bush's trailer office on one of the country's top golf courses, the plaque on the wall Friday read: '52 days until championship week begins.'
'It's the ultimate deadline,' the PGA Championship tournament director said. 'They are all going to be here on Aug. 8.'
Bush has been getting ready for the PGA - golf's fourth major - for two years. The 28-year-old Michigan native has been working at Baltusrol since October 2003, developing plans for ticket sales, corporate involvement, vendors, volunteers, traffic, housing and everything else it takes to stage a golf tournament.
In the past month, 25 of what will be 300 truckloads of building material arrived at the 109-year-old course that has hosted 15 USGA national championships, including seven U.S. Opens.
'Now, as we have started construction, we are looking to see 'does the plan work?'' said Bush, who has worked at 56 tournaments. 'It is constantly changing. It's like a puzzle and we're making adjustments on an hourly basis refitting those pieces back into the puzzle.
'Everybody in this office has to be able to change their plans and go with it, and our vendors have to be the same way.'
Running the PGA Championship isn't the easiest of jobs. During an interview, his telephone rarely stops ringing. His cell phone is just as busy, and there are 70 or so e-mails that need to be answered on a daily basis.
The one area Bush doesn't have to worry about is the Lower Course, where the championship will be played. Kerry Haigh is in charge of everything inside the ropes.
Haigh recently told Bush that the course is ready after a wet spring. The rough is full and thick, the greens are outstanding, and conditions will only get tougher in the next seven weeks.
'This is a traditional golf course,' Bush said. 'Everything is in front of you. You can see the trouble but sometimes you just can't do anything about it. That's what makes it great. It has withstood the test of time.'
Players who competed in the 1993 U.S. Open will see some changes on the Lower Course. The rough was re-sodded last year, and the course is longer and narrower, playing at 7,400 yards - 248 more than 12 years ago.
The par-5, No. 7 has been extended 25 yards to 647 yards, which might even prevent the game's longest hitters from reaching it in two.
Bush plans on watching some of this year's U.S. Open on television, but he isn't going to pick Pinehurst apart.
'I look at it the other way,' he said. 'I'll sit there and say, 'I love that' and 'How do I get that here?' I always root for something special. Augusta was incredible whether it was Tiger or not. The three-month stretch where (every tournament) was going into a playoff was incredible.'
Seconds after the words came out of his mouth, Bush started thinking about a potential three-hole playoff at the PGA - and the implications.
The marshals at holes Nos. 4, 17 and 18 have to remain in place all day to protect them. Extra holes could also create transportation problems for the players and the expected 35,000 spectators. Potential dilemmas flood his mind.
But after a second, Bush smiled. That's exactly why he's spent the past two years in New Jersey getting ready.
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