LOUISVILLE, KY—To the game of golf, it is bigger than the Super Bowl, is as anticipated as the Olympics, and comes only once every two years. Since 2006, golf fans around the globe have been awaiting the next installment of the greatest spectacle in the sport — and it’s coming in September to Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Kentucky.
The Ryder Cup represents the pinnacle of international competition, pitting the 12 finest players the United States has to offer against the best in all of Europe for a three-day event that will be watched, scrutinized and discussed by millions of fans across the globe. It is estimated that this year’s Ryder Cup tournament at Valhalla will be covered by some 1500 media personnel, watched by 600 million viewers, and broadcast in at least 177 countries.
Needless to say, Valhalla Golf Club Superintendent Mark Wilson, CGCS, and his crew are in high gear getting one of United States’ most prestigious golf courses ready for the sport’s biggest international stage.
“The Ryder Cup is definitely the biggest tournament in all of golf, I can say that with a lot confidence,” Wilson said. “We hosted the PGA Championship here in 2000 and as far as infrastructure, busses and hospitality areas go, this is twice as big.”
Wilson and his team have very high expectations for the entire facility and are busy preparing everything on the club’s 486-acre plot from greens to grandstands to accommodate players, fans and media from all over the world.
“The real challenges for us are going to be outside the ropes for the most part, trying to get 22-acres of corporate tents and patios all ready to go,” he said. “As far as the course goes we’ve just finished giving it a big facelift over the past couple of years and this new shipment of state-of-the art mowers from Jacobsen will help us make sure that everything is looking good as far as playing conditions are concerned.”
Jacobsen, the official equipment supplier of the PGA, shipped Valhalla a package of more than 20 new machines at the beginning of the summer to help the recently renovated course get ready for golf’s biggest stage. The equipment included Eclipse walking greens mowers for greens and tees and new GreensKing IV riding mowers for use on the fairways.
“We started renovations on spectator and hospitality areas four years ago and really got to work on the course in 2006,” Wilson explained. “Since then, we’ve added four new greens and have re-grassed them all with a new A1-A4 bentgrass blend. We also added eight new tees, added several new bunkers, worked on the grass and drainage just about everywhere, took down about 7,000 trees to accommodate more people and basically have made it a much more spectator-friendly golf course.”
As is the case with any major tournament preparation, support and good equipment make all the difference and Valhalla has gotten both from its new partnership with Jacobsen.
“The mowers are important, but a lot of it is about building a relationship with the people,” Wilson said. “I started my career using Jacobsen mowers, I’ve been down to their headquarters in Charlotte three times and they’re definitely committed to quality and being a player in the equipment industry. The new equipment is state-of-the-art with a good quality of cut and a great clip, which will definitely help us get ready for September. Jacobsen is also supporting us by sending more equipment, mechanics, technicians and their support vehicle right before the tournament. That’s going to be a big help.”
Mark Wilson and his crew know there are plenty of long hours and lots of hard work still to be done before September 16 when the gates open to the public and practice rounds begin. But they are ready and welcome the fans from around the world who’ll be viewing Valhalla Golf Club on their television screens watching the best players compete for golf’s most renowned international title.
“When the tournament finally begins, that will be the easiest part for me,” Wilson said. “On Sunday, they don’t tee off until noon, so maybe I’ll get to sleep in and catch up a little bit.”