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Course appears up to par

January storms resulted in tons of debris on NBCC layout, however superintendent said course is ready.

March 03, 2010|By Bryce Alderton

NEWPORT BEACH — Ron Benedict never saw anything like it in his 20 years at Newport Beach Country Club.

The course’s superintendent said 170 tons of debris, from fallen trees to branches, fell onto the golf course during a period of heavy rain in January.

“Junk, everywhere you looked,” Benedict said Tuesday as he sat in a cart with sunglasses on and the sun out. “I’ve never seen that much debris. During a nine-day period there were three storms and it just kept getting worse. [The storms created a big mess]. We lost six complete trees.

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“The greens got a bit water-logged and these are 50-[year-old] greens.”

Benedict and his crew, which includes assistant superintendent Mike Novak, who Benedict calls “tireless” and “hard working,” pumped air into the green’s roots. The grass grew longer, but is shorter now for this week’s Toshiba Classic. Benedict said rules staff members seem pleased with the course.

He is pleased too.

“The course is as good as it’s ever been,” Benedict said.

The course sits on the slope of a hill, which Benedict said is beneficial, for most holes. But holes such as the 429-yard par-four 10th, and two par 5s, the 495-yard 15th and the 510-yard 18th, sit at the bottom of the hill and are catch basins for runoff when it rains. Thus, it takes those holes longer to dry.

The only change, and it’s a subtle one, from previous tournaments is the fairways, a combo of Bermuda and kikuyu grasses, are mowed a bit shorter, Benedict said.

“It’s scary for us every year,” Benedict said. “Three years ago there was a hailstorm. You never know what you’re going to get heading into the tournament.”

On days with 7 a.m. pro-am shotgun starts, such as today and Wednesday, Benedict said he and staff arrive at the course at 3:30 a.m. to mow greens and change the holes on the putting green and stay until late in the day.

When the tournament begins Friday, Benedict said crews mow greens (as the final group progresses through the holes) and are home by 6 p.m.

And with the possibility of weekend rain, Benedict isn’t taking any chances. Pumps for bunkers will be ready should a storm hit.

Benedict recognizes his responsibility and role for the Champions Tour event (for golfers 50 and older), which is on display in front of many eyes.

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