Medinah Country Club Director of Golf Course Operations Curtis Tyrrell, CGCS, was ready to host the Ryder Cup by mid-June. However, Mother Nature had other ideas and put a crimp in his plans, reports GCSAA.
Extreme temperatures and severe drought jeopardized years of preparation and a course redesign. Tyrrell had originally planned to close the course after Labor Day to give it one last spit shine, but as the Medinah turf baked from late June through early August, he would have to call an audible in his course conditioning program.
Tyrrell and his staff babied the surface until weather patterns moderated. He then closed the course August 20 to aerate tees and fairways, and re-sodded small areas of damage. And while the final verdict will come when the competition tees off, the early returns from those participants who have caught an early practice round are positive.
“Any superintendent who hosts an event of this magnitude will tell you the preparation begins several years out,” Tyrrell says. “But you really sweat the last 30 days because if anything goes wrong, you don’t have much time to react. You just have to rely on your experience, the fundamentals of turf management and have a solid team. We came through it great.”
Team will be an oft-uttered word for the Ryder Cup matches set for September 27-29 west of the Windy City’s downtown. It applies for Tyrrell as much as it does for the teams from the United States and Europe. U.S. Captain Davis Love and Tyrrell forged quite a bond from the beginning.
“When we had the press conference here at Medinah announcing Davis as the captain, we immediately talked about what he might like from a set-up perspective,” Tyrrell says. “We then kept in periodic touch until we got a year out and the conversations became more frequent. Every time he visited, we toured the course and talked. He has been great to work with and has been very respectful of me and my staff.”
Tyrrell’s course operations staff has been tested through three summers of extreme weather, and during that time he also teamed up with Rees Jones to complete a redesign of the No. 3 (championship) course. According to Tyrrell, the effort will present the competitors a tract that is much different than what some experienced at the 2006 PGA Championship. More than 1,200 trees have been removed since then to improve air flow to enhance turf quality. The 15th hole has been completely redesigned, green contours have been changed and new teeing areas have been added. Tyrrell gives a detailed review of the course in the September issue of GCSAA’s flagship publication, GCM.
Throughout the preparation, the teamwork of Tyrrell, Love and Jones has focused on providing a set-up that would provide a platform for exciting play. Tyrrell explains a Ryder Cup set-up is not to provide the ultimate challenge such as a U.S. Open, but rather it is to create opportunities to grab a lead or recovery. While green speeds will be fast, rough will be cut at 1 ¼ inches.
Medinah and Tyrrell have been a perfect match since his arrival in 2008. A 15-year GCSAA member, he has experience with grow-in and renovation projects, and at multicourse facilities. He worked in the Rockies, the desert Southwest, the Mid-Atlanic and the Northeast managing both warm and cool season grasses. And, he has hosted high-profile golf events.
Tyrrell received an undergraduate degree in history from Elon (N.C.) College in 1992, but fell in love with golf course management when he took a golf course job to buy some time to figure out what he wanted to do with his life. He then enrolled atPennStateand earned a turfgrass certificate in 1996. He went on to earn GCSAA certified golf course superintendent status, recognizing achievement of high standards of education and experience; and Master Greenkeeper distinction, a similar honor bestowed by the British and International Golf Greenkeepers Association.
“This has been a great experience for me,” Tyrrell says. “You have your ups and downs because the weather can throw you. But my family and team provide a great support system. I am excited to see how the course plays.”
Medinah Country Club www.medinahcc.org
Ryder Cup www.rydercup.com