Roger Meier, GCSAA Class A golf course superintendent at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Ky., has the golf course in great shape for the PGA of America’s Senior PGA Championship May 26-29.
"We finally got the rain moved out of here after being inundated early this spring," said Meier, who is in his first year at Valhalla. "The course has flooded six times this season, so we’ve spent an inordinate amount of time dealing with debris. We received 14 inches of rain the last week of April. A week later we lost a bridge between No. 9 tee and the fairway in what I’ve been told was the worst flooding here since 2004. That set us back a little bit with rebuilding that bridge, removing silt and debris, and doing some reseeding. We got caught up two weeks out from the tournament as the course dried up. We started establishing tournament mowing routines advance week and really getting the course dialed in."
Meier, a 14-year GCSAA member, came to Valhalla from Chariot Run Golf Club in Laconia, Ind., where he was superintendent for five years. He has a bachelor’s degree in turfgrass science and management from SUNY Cobleskill.
"Roger has only been at Valhalla since September 2010 and started immediately after one of the most difficult summers that the course has encountered from an agronomic standpoint," said Kerry Haigh, PGA of America managing director for championships and business development.
"Immediately Roger focused on a recovery plan from the heat stress of the summer. Through his outstanding scientific knowledge of the turfgrasses involved, he has been able to bring the course into outstanding condition. In addition, he also faced one of the wettest springs on record, but again has worked through these challenges in a professional manner to now be able to showcase the outstanding golf course at the oldest senior major championship in golf."
Meier has the bentgrass greens rolling smooth, fast, and they are continuing to firm up. The Kentucky bluegrass and fine fescue rough is 3 inches tall and very thick thanks to all the rain this spring.
"The feedback we’ve received so far is that the rough is really tough," Meier said. "The ball really sits down in it. They are going to have to keep it on the fairways to score."
Meier helped Valhalla complete its Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program certification. Situated on approximately 750 wooded acres about 20 miles east of Louisville, the course is dissected by a creek and is frequented by, and home to, various and numerous wildlife.
Meier’s staff of 30 will be bolstered tournament week with 70 volunteers, a diverse group that includes superintendents, assistant superintendents, interns, turfgrass students and industry vendors from near and far.
Valhalla Golf Club, which is owned by the PGA of America, was designed by Jack Nicklaus and built by Wadsworth Golf Construction Co. 25 years ago. The front nine traverses a low-lying parkland setting, while its back nine was carved out of a higher, tree-covered terrain. The golf course features natural amphitheaters, including the 18th hole, which can accommodate 20,000 spectators. Valhalla hosted the Ryder Cup in 2008, the 2004 Senior PGA Championship, and the PGA Championship in 1996 and 2000. The PGA Championship is set to return to Valhalla in 2014.
The above report is courtesy of the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America. For more information, visit www.gcsaa.org.