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Keeping up with the Jones: Tales from Torrey

By |  May 25, 2021 0 Comments
Photo: Seth Jones

Photo: Seth Jones

I was discussing story ideas for Golfdom in 2021 with our Editor-at-Large Ed Hiscock when he gave me a lightning bolt of an idea. “Seth, Golfdom has an opportunity that no other magazine does — we have the 2008 U.S. Open superintendent (Mark Woodward) on our team. We could get the 2008 Torrey Pines U.S. Open superintendent to discuss the event with the 2021 Torrey Pines U.S. Open superintendent …”

That great idea came to fruition recently when we arranged a Zoom call between Mark and Rich McIntosh, senior superintendent at Torrey Pines. Find the abridged version of their interview here, and the complete interview is available here.

After that interview concluded, I called Mark up just to talk more to him about his memories of Torrey Pines and the 2008 U.S. Open. Here are some of the best bits from that discussion:

Mark was surprised every time he got a follow-up call for the Torrey Pines job. “I applied for it in May of 2004 … I started the job in February of 2005. I did a phone interview with a committee. Then I did an in-person interview. Then I met with two different committees. Every one of those steps was a month or more apart. I kept thinking, ‘well, they must be moving in a different direction.’ Then a month later I’d get a call, and they’d say, ‘we’re going forward with you to the next step …’”

Mark had nine grievances filed against him during his three years at Torrey Pines. “I won every one of the grievances, but I had to take the time to go down to the Union Hall and explain to the union people why I was holding people accountable. You can’t just mow fairways for three hours in the morning, and that’s your day, and I’m going to pay you for eight hours.”

The crew didn’t think it would go to a Monday finish. “We thought Tiger is going to miss that putt on Sunday to tie Rocco, it’s a downhill snaking 18-footer. We’ll go home and everyone’s going to say it was a great U.S. Open. Then he made it! And we all looked at each other and said ‘we gotta come back tomorrow now!’ I told my volunteers, I need enough people to prep the course. About half my volunteers said ‘there’s no way I’m leaving, I want to see this through because it’s so awesome!’ We instantly started the planning process to accommodate 100 people (staff and volunteers) for another day.”

Mark missed most of the tournament from a spectator and television standpoint but was lucky enough to walk the last nine with Tiger and Rocco. “Rocco was very cordial and nice, accommodating. Tiger was in his zone. He didn’t know there were 25,000 people on the course because he was so in the zone.”

Woodward’s family got a close encounter with Tiger right before he won it. “On the 90th hole, I’m behind the ninth green with Mike Davis and all the guys. Tiger Woods comes up to Mike, on the green, while the rest of us migrated to the seventh tee, the next playoff hole. Tiger and Davis are having a serious conversation, very close, face-to-face. I thought, ‘what the heck, did someone do something wrong?’ As soon as they stop talking, they call security over and took Tiger under the ropes right exactly where my whole family was standing. (My wife) Amy said his eyes were totally in the zone, steely focused. My daughter even had to move the stroller. He was straight ahead. Turns out, he had to use the restroom. He came back to seven tee, hits his drive down the middle, Rocco hits his in the left bunker. That’s how it ended.”

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