PITTSFORD, N.Y. – Rick Slattery got a hero’s greeting as he made his way around Locust Hill Country Club following the start of play Friday morning at the Wegmans LPGA Championship.
They were calling him the miracle worker.
Slattery is the superintendent who somehow, some way got Locust Hill ready for play by the first tee time at 7:15 a.m. Friday after 2½ inches of rain fell nonstop for nearly 18 hours from early Thursday morning through late Thursday night. Nearing midnight, a Friday re-start didn’t seem possible with little rivers and small ponds in fairways and Slattery’s crew still unable to get on the course to work.
“There wasn’t a lot we could do until it stopped raining,” Slattery said. “I knew once it stopped, it would allow our drainage systems to start working.”
Slattery was back on the course at 3 a.m. His crew was there shortly after to run pumps, to squeegee greens and fairways and finally mow and roll greens just in time for Friday’s re-start. The greens were single cut and double rolled. The fairways and rough were not mowed.
Under gray skies and in heavy, damp air, play began as scheduled Friday with lift, clean and place in effect.
The work earned Slattery more attention than he is accustomed. He credited his crew.
“This job is a labor of love and anonymity,” Slattery said. “In situations like this, I get pulled out from behind the curtain.”
Slattery marveled when he put a stimpmeter to a still moist green just before Friday’s re-start and it measured 12 ½. That’s about what the staff wanted the greens rolling this week.
The staff's challenge wasn’t just with Thursday’s weather. More than 5 inches of rain has fallen on Locust Hill over the last nine days.
“A lot of what enabled us to get the course ready wasn’t what we did last night, but what we’ve been doing over the last 19 years,” Slattery said.
Slattery said in his 19 years as Locust Hill’s superintendent, his staff has learned something every year with the course’s weaknesses exposed during this tournament.
Trouble spots where water tends to collect have been addressed with added drainage and sand bases. Slattery said science also helped. He said his crew now uses wetting agents that speed drainage, and growth regulators that slow the growth of grasses when rain prohibits mowing.
Pumps and squeegees were needed most to remove large puddles in the first, second, third and sixth fairways. The greens at No. 2, 7, 11 and 13 required the most squeegee work.
“What I told our guys is the bottom line was we knew everyone was counting on us, and we didn’t want to let them down,” Slattery said.