Believe in Bellerive: PGA Wrapup 2018

By and |  September 17, 2018 0 Comments
2018 PGA at Bellerive CC (Photo by: Montana Pritchard/PGA of America)

Photo by: Montana Pritchard/PGA of America

It’s been 10 days since Brooks Koepka hoisted the Wanamaker Trophy at Bellerive CC in St. Louis, Mo. Carlos Arraya, CGCS, director of agronomy, has witnessed his crew dwindle from 52 people to 18. Cooler weather is allowing the course to heal.

“I realize now the magnitude,” Arraya says of the tournament in hindsight. “It was theatrical on TV. We had a lot of people watching on TV and in person. The leaderboard was fantastic. And what it did for the city…”

A highlight for Arraya and his crew was the praise the course conditions drew from players and fans.

“It was great seeing what the players were saying about the course on social media,” Arraya says. “I ran into (Koepka), and some of the things he said to me were great. After the ‘negative’ things that were said in the media early in the week, and how that ended up not being an issue… the whole thing was awesome.”

If he could do one thing differently, he says he wished he would have taken 30 minutes to himself to soak in the moment.

“It went by so fast, it was hard for me to slow down,” Arraya says.

We couldn’t agree more. So allow us this moment to go back and revisit some of what we saw and wrote from our week at the 2018 PGA Championship.

Close-up of Bellerive's greens (Photo by: Seth Jones)

A close-up of Bellerive’s greens the day before tournament play kicked off. (Photo by: Seth Jones)

Jones: When it comes to greens, everyone has an opinion

Posted Tuesday, Aug. 7

“Bellerive’s greens look burnt and patchy” read a headline in Monday’s e-newsletter from Golf Digest. The title of the email was, “Conditions of Bellerive’s greens brought into focus.”

Golf Digest is a fine publication, but the description of “burnt and patchy” is a head-scratcher. The greens look great!

It then followed up the e-newsletter with a tweet, including a photo that wasn’t even of a green.

There are areas that are patchy on the outer edges of a few greens. It’s not anything that is critical, and it’s something golfers rarely play through or that viewers will see on TV.

Once the tournament kicks off, television viewers will see how amazing this course looks, and this story/tweet will be a distant memory. The crew here at Bellerive has done a phenomenal job in a brutal summer. Everyone knew an August major in St. Louis was going to be tough going. And the crew and the PGA of America’s Kerry Haigh have pulled it off! Golf claps all around.

The problem is, early in the week, we (the golf press) feel the need to have headlines right away… big, bold headlines that get readers to click on them so our internet traffic numbers rise. And yet, there’s not much going on during the PGA Championship on a Monday. Many players are still arriving, and many haven’t even played the course yet — so it’s hard to get player reactions.

With all due respect to Golf Digest, viewers and golfers will enjoy these greens at Bellerive, and we’re in store for a heck of a championship.

Bellerive CC PGA (Photo courtesy: John Deere)

Caption this: “Brandel… Brandel… come check this!!” @WallyGresham (Photo courtesy: John Deere)

Just for fun

We try not to take things too seriously while we’re at golf’s majors. That’s why we always try to have a little fun on Twitter and Facebook while we’re there, working hard (but only about 50 percent as hard as the crew and volunteers).

This year we gave out two John Deere Grizzly coolers to readers who came closest to picking the PGA Championship winner and the winning score (congratulations to Seth Smith and Miles Carlson for picking Brooks Koepka at -15, only one stroke off the right score!) We also challenged readers to give us a funny caption for the photo of Bellerive Director of Agronomy Carlos Arraya, CGCS, and Assistant Superintendent Nick White on page 24.

Our two winners are first and second off the tee. The honorable mentions then follow.

Thanks to everyone who played along, and thanks to John Deere for sponsoring our coverage and our giveaways!

Winners

“Brandel… Brandel… come check this!!” @WallyGresham

“Pretty sure the boys at Golf Digest should stick to clubs, balls and swing tips!” @JPTurfIdiot

Honorable mentions

“Ma! The meatloaf!”@SethSmith50

“Someone get me a TDR over here! My hand isn’t working!” @SpectrumTech

“We have a pool and a pond. The pond is better for you.” @CreekSupt

“Omaha!” @buildsmartgolf

“Hey, stop that beer cart!!!!” @TurfTank

“I haven’t slept in 10 days! Ahhhhhhhh!!!!” @JaredDilbone

“The heck with it, let’s pull cores!” Kenneth J. Schumacher (via Facebook)

“You’d be safer squatting next to the hole so you don’t get hit by Seth Jones’ approach shot.” Thomas Lervik Jr. (via Facebook)

From left: Reuben Berridge, Traevon Clark and Michael Davenport. (Photo by: Seth Jones)

Honoring “Izzy.” From left: Reuben Berridge, Traevon Clark and Michael Davenport. (Photo by: Seth Jones)

Three friends make the trip of a lifetime

Posted Tuesday, Aug. 7

Isaih Arraya, the late son of Carlos Arraya, is only at the PGA Championship in spirit, but his three best friends are here in person to honor him and to support his father. Reuben Berridge, age 22; Traevon Clark, 20 and Michael Davenport, 20, all made the trek from Orlando, Fla., to St. Louis to volunteer on the Bellerive crew. Originally meeting in high school, they have no background in golf, but knew they wanted to be here to represent for “Izzy.” (Editor’s note: As reported in the July issue of Golfdom, Isaih was killed in a car accident two years ago. The Monday of the PGA Championship would have been his 21st birthday.)

“We wanted to be here to support Carlos,” says Berridge. “My first time seeing Carlos was at the hospital, when he flew in, I was there. I didn’t really get to speak to him, I just gave him a hug… As the days went on I’ve gotten to talk to him, and we’ve been in contact ever since.”

The three say they weren’t golf fans before, but they definitely are now. Berridge and Davenport go so far as to say they’re becoming interested in working in the industry.

“I’m actually not (working) at the moment, you could say the (accident) set me back,” Davenport says. “I tend to think about things differently now. That’s what Izzy knew about me. I learned from Carlos that he was speaking to him about motivating me. We wanted to start a business together. I feel like I can do a lot. Being around the PGA, I could probably see myself going into golf.”

“It’s beautiful, I’ve never seen anything like it, honestly,” says Berridge. “Everything is pinpoint. We weren’t golf fans (before) but we are now.”

Berridge says as he has gotten to know Carlos Arraya better, he realizes why his son was the special person he was, calling him a “mini version of his father.”

“I’ve learned why Isaih was the way he was,” Berridge says. “He was very tight knit, very motivated, driven, nothing was going to stop him. There’s not going to be another Isaih, he was special. I don’t even know how to explain it, you could have just known him for a day and you would remember him, and he touched many people.”

Making connections at Bellerive

Posted Sunday, Aug. 12

Talk to some of the volunteers from Bellerive and it’ll be no surprise that one of the main reasons they ventured to Missouri was for the networking. Sure, pitching in for a world-renowned sporting event is a serious perk in and of itself, but after a long week of working together to get the course picture perfect, it’d be a bigger challenge not to bond and connect with peers.

It has been said before, but let’s say it again: It’s a small turf world, after all. But it’s events like these that really bring together turfgrass professionals from across the globe.

Australian Wesley Cochran is no stranger to Bellerive, and his strong ties to the course and the maintenance crew prompted his 9,000-plus mile journey to St. Louis.

Back in 2002, he interned at Bellerive as part of Ohio State University’s Ohio International Program, an international exchange program for students wishing to study horticulture, agriculture and turfgrass.

In Cochran’s case, he wanted to spend some time in the United States learning about the way courses manage things stateside.

Thinking on it now, he said one of the main things that stood out to him was the two management styles. From his perspective, the U.S. management system is “top heavy” in comparison to Australia. Having two assistants in Australia is rare.

Cochran wasn’t the only one drawn back to the historic course for the 100th PGA Championship.

Jon Prange, a Missouri State Technical College graduate, was senior assistant golf course superintendent at Bellerive for 10 years before he took on the role of superintendent at Holiday Island Country Club in Holiday Island, Ark., a few years back.

“It is really nice to be back and see my staff and see Carlos take it to the next level,” he says.

While reminiscing is part of the fun, Prange also was at the tournament to guide industry newcomers.

“One of my favorite parts of this experience is mentoring the next generation,” says Prange. “That’s what has made me successful — mentors.”

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