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Women's Open to benefit from the talents of many
Manzi took over as superintendent at the Orchards Golf Club in South Hadley, Mass., late last September, a mere nine months before the 82-year-old Donald Ross creation was scheduled to host the U.S. Women's Open over the July 4 weekend.
The eight-year GCSAA member's arrival coincided with persistent rains that inundated Orchards GC, a private club owned by Mount Holyoke College and operated by Arnold Palmer Golf Management (APGM). Instead of planning the finishing touches on course conditions for the premier event in women's golf, Manzi faced a work in progress to solve problems wrought by the rains and compounded by the effects of the ensuing winter.
Located just north of Springfield in southwest Massachusetts, Orchards GC has historically been beset by poor drainage of its heavy clay soil base, but never with a major championship less than a year away. When Manzi got there the last of September, work was already underway putting in new trunk lines and he launched an extensive extension of the project.
"We worked off of that, tying in more laterals and trying to alleviate problem areas that were in play," he said in late April.
Manzi added that this past winter added a bittersweet touch to the situation. While less than normal snow cover allowed the turf to fully dry, there was damage from a combination of crown hydration and freezing, as well as desiccation in the unprotected fairways.
This spring Manzi began an intensive program of wall-to-wall aerification, along with topdressings, light seedings and overseedings and a few other measures to stimulate the Poa annua. The course is bentgrass/Poa tee through green, with a bluegrass/rye/fescue mix in the roughs and fescue elsewhere.
"We hit it hard early, which was good. We've had a lot of help from the membership as far as giving us a chance to do the work we need to do," Manzi says. "It also helped that we've had a good warm-up in the region (in April) to help germination. We wanted everything down by the first of May, including some sod work."
Manzi has also received a big boost from forces beyond the membership. Besides bringing his own maintenance staff up to nearly 30 workers by June, he benefited from volunteer help from other superintendents in the springtime months leading up to the Open, both in manpower and equipment-sharing.
"All along there has been a good reception and interest from those in the area, which is really nice since the tournament is over the Fourth of July weekend. That's a tough time it's a big weekend for a lot of guys too, but a lot of them have said they'll send their assistants over and some are going to come over in the evenings that week and help out," Manzi says.
But Manzi's biggest advantage has been the presence of the Arnold Palmer management company, which, among other things, will provide more than two dozen extra hands from other APGM-run courses by the time tournament week rolls around.
"There's a lot of additional resources, so it really helps; it's really a good situation," says Manzi, who also worked for APGM at Minebrook Golf Club in Hackettstown, N.J., for a year and a half before coming to Orchards. Jim Ellison, APGM's vice president of golf course maintenance and a 27-year GCSAA member, has been consulting with Manzi throughout, as have USGA agronomists.
"They trust me to do what needs to be done," Manzi says. "They're another set of eyes. It's nice to have someone else to bounce ideas off of."
Orchards basically will play from its tips for the women, about 6,400 yards. Manzi notes that the layout's mid-size greens should have a major impact on the tournament because of their subtle undulations typical of a Ross design. Overall, with less than two and a half months to go, the superintendent felt the work was on track.
"By the time I got here it was kind of late to re-create the wheel, so to speak. We're just trying to work with what's here. It's a great layout. It'll stand on its own."