On Sunday afternoon of the PGA Tour’s Travelers Championship, while the final group of Fredrik Jacobson, the eventual winner, and Bryce Molder were on the eighth hole, TPC River Highlands head golf course superintendent Tom DeGrandi, first assistant Noel Hall and second assistant Ben Newfang, along with a small group of family and friends, were parked to the left of the first green. The vantage point afforded a prime view of holes 15-17.
The fatigue from a wild few days was etched into the faces of the three in charge of maintaining the Cromwell, Conn. course; for the first time in weeks, they we able to relax.
Thursday’s soaking rain that suspended the first round shortly after 11 a.m. produced a unique Friday with golf almost non-stop from 7 a.m. to 8:01 p.m. when play was called because of darkness. Not a blade of grass was mowed or an ounce of sand raked, just cups and tee markers moved in between the final group of the first round and the first group of the second round on each nine. The two small crews of maintenance personnel were given a rolling one-hole gap in which to do the quick change.
As a result of no work being done on Friday, Saturday began at 4 a.m., 90 minutes earlier than usual. Greens were double cut, tees squeegeed, fairways dragged and cups changed. After breakfast inside the maintenance facility, the crew was back out at 9 a.m. mowing tees and fairways before the third round commenced.
“I wanted to make sure that players that made the cut had a clean, fresh golf course,” DeGrandi said.
Carbone’s Ristorante of Hartford, thanks to DeGrandi, delivered dinner for the crew. Then, it was back out in the evening to mow the entire golf course, save for the rough. Sunday morning they were back at it.
Conditions were fantastic as evidenced by a bevy of low scores in the final round, the only day that lift, clean and place was not in effect. Greens that had been Stimping in the low 10s late Friday, were a foot quicker for Sunday play.
It came as no surprise that Jacobson lauded final-round conditions that saw shots bounding along in the fairways rather than plugging and putts dropping in from all over.
“The greens were rolling great,” he said.
“They’re the best players in the world,” DeGrandi said. “You want to produce the best golf course you can.”
-- Anthony Pioppi