So far this week, the TPC Deere Run golf course has drawn nothing but rave reviews from players, caddies and PGA Tour officials.
The par-71 facility looks as lush and green as ever and is in almost perfect condition heading into the 20th tournament on the PGA Tour-owned course.
“I was shocked how good the golf course looked when I got here after hearing and seeing on the news what was going on up here and how bad it was,” said Dillard Pruitt, PGA Tour advance man.
Two months ago, it was a much different story.
“We get 36 inches (of moisture) annually, and in two months we got 19 inches, and that was on top of the wet winter we had. That was just salt in the wound,” Deere Run superintendent Alex Stuedemann said of the rainfall measurements between early April and the middle of May. “Mother Nature wanted to make sure we knew she was in charge.”
And boy, did she ever leave her mark all over the flooded Quad-Cities as well as the home of the John Deere Classic PGA Tour event.
While the flooding was devastating in and around the Quad-Cities, as Stuedemann said, “we were just in the cross-hairs for the longest time.”
Less than a month before the $6 million event, Stuedemann and his staff faced major issues on top of only mowing fairways twice in a month span and needing push mowers to keep the rough under control.
“We had areas three weeks ago that we had to put drainage in that were in in-play areas, and we were out there with a trencher right near the landing area on the 18th hole,” he said. “We had no choice because we needed playable conditions. … We also had part of the slope supporting the 12th tee box fall off. It slid down the hill and broke an irrigation line.”
The timing for the wet weather and related damage was hardly ideal for tournament prep. Stuedemann was proud of his staff to go above and beyond to handle the repairs that were thrown at them — with the help of partners from Miller Trucking.
On the bright side, the washout didn't damage the tee deck on No. 12. The trenching that was required on No. 18 has recovered, and the area has dried to a point where it isn't an issue in regards to play.
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Harold Varner III, who logged a sixth-place finish here last year, liked what he saw out of the course after competing in Monday's pro-am.
“It was firmer,” he said comparing it to last year's event. “It's going to be fun; you have to go out and play good golf.”
Now, pristine conditions are prevalent. The greens will be running over 12 on the Stimp meter, and thick, lush rough was topped at 4 inches on Tuesday evening and will be left alone the rest of the week.
Getting to that point wasn't easy.
“I was telling one of our volunteers that I would get to the golf course at 3:30 each morning and drive zig-zagging down holes to see if it was dry enough to do something for the better part of the month,” Stuedemann said. “That way when the guys came in at 5 o'clock, I could say 'We can mow here and we can trim here. Forget anything on that hole.' We just picked away at it, and fortunately the stars aligned the last couple of weeks so we could get out there and really push the course.”
That included aerating the fairways and top-dressing them as has become part of the general maintenance practices — just a month out from the tournament.
It also required some unusual tactics.
“It opened my eyes to other hours of the day, and our whole crew adapted,” Stuedemann said. “We had guys out spreading sand at 8 o'clock at night and guys coming in to spray fertilizer at 3 o'clock in the morning. We basically bought back time by giving up sleep. … Most importantly, the course is where it is today because we didn't do a lot of things — we didn't put equipment out there, we didn't put people out there. We just let it sit and let be.”
The approach paid dividends.
“It's some of the best conditions I've seen in my tenure here,” said Stuedemann, who is in his sixth year as top man on the maintenance staff. “To be honest, it's really, really good. It's the result of a lot of hard work by a dedicated staff despite Mother Nature doing her best to spoil that.”