Posted: July 3, 2015 9:34 pm
As the U.S. Women’s Open has drawn close, Todd Bidlespacher has done interviews with several newspapers and web sites and TV stations. He has posed for photographers and even done an Q-and-A about his favorite foods and TV shows.
He’d rather be raking bunkers.
“A lot of people would probably be sitting in their office, running an operation like this,” Jim Nagle, one of the designers involved in renovating Lancaster Country Club to its current, original design in a project begun in 2009.
“But every time I’m here, I see him out there, doing the dirty work.”
Bidlespacher is the Director of Golf-Course Operations at Lancaster Country Club. It’s a job that goes far beyond greenskeeping. He manages a full-time staff of 43, deals with budgets and uses and maintains expensive, high-tech equipment.
He can hold forth on grasses and root systems and sand infusion and environmental sustainability.
He has sat in on United States Golf Association course set-up meetings, in the run-up to the Open. He’s even been asked for his opinion here and there.
He’s not allowed to talk about it, but he knows what the greens speeds, rough lengths, and even some tee and hole positions are going to be next week.
“I’m kinda surprised how little they (the U.S.G.A.) have requested of us,” Bidlespacher said Thursday, sitting on the veranda behind the 18th green as Michelle Wie finished a practice round.
“I guess that’s a good thing, a compliment. I feel really good about where we’re at right now.”
The gallery ropes were mostly up Thursday. The temporary buildings that transform a course into a tournament venue are finished. Bidlespacher and his crew simply have to work around all that.
“It makes is easier, because there’s less acreage,” he said. “It makes it harder, because you have more to work around.”
Bidlespacher has seen it all before. He worked on the course at Saucon Valley in Bethlehem for the 2009 Women’s Open, at Oakmont for the 2010 Women’s Open, and helped his mentor Matt Shaffer at the 2013 Men’s Open at Merion.
It’s something of a golf tradition for greenskeepers from around the country to travel to major championship venues tournament week to help out. As such, Bidlespacher’s crew will double to around 80 next week, including greenskeepers from Bent Creek, Saucon Valley, Hershey Country Club (where Bidlespacher worked for Shaffer, before Shaffer went to Merion), Scioto (the Columbus, Ohio club where Jack Nicklaus grew up), Los Angeles Country Club (site of the 2023 Men’s U.S. Open) and many others.
“(Shaffer) will be riding with me,” Bidlespacher said.
The Open will be the capstone of Bidlespacher’s career, and he admits to being a little nervous about it.
Not because the golf course won’t be good next week. It will be. If it isn’t (and again, it will be), it’ll be because of setup, not layout or condition), The U.S.G.A. will get the blame.
He’s nervous about the weather. With rain in the extended forecast Bidlespacher has already done test runs to estimate how long, post-storm, it might take he and his crew to get the course playable again.
And he’s a little nervous, he admitted, about the (very) unlikely possibility that the world’s best women players will have their way with the place.
“I don’t want ’em shooting 15 under par,” Bidlespacher admitted while sitting on the veranda behind the 18th green Thursday. “I want the golf course to hold up. It’s partly ego. It’s almost like I’m a member.”