Now on the clock: Bethpage Black (with a May start)

By |  August 16, 2018 0 Comments
Architect Rees Jones and Andrew Wilson, superintendent, Bethpage State Park, at the 2016 PGA Championship | Photo: Golfdom staff

Architect Rees Jones and Andrew Wilson, superintendent, Bethpage State Park, at the 2016 PGA Championship. (Photo: Golfdom staff)

Now that the 2018 PGA Championship is in the rearview, it’s time to look ahead… but only nine months.

With the 2018-2019 PGA Tour schedule getting a shake-up recently, the 2019 PGA Championship moves from August to May. That’s a change that’s A-OK with Bethpage State Park Director of Agronomy Andrew Wilson.

Wilson says he first heard murmurs of the schedule change about two years ago, with the PGA of America asking him about the weather and conditions of the course in the month of May. His response: May is better than August.

“With Poa greens, May is certainly a good alternative to August for us,” Wilson told Golfdom while he was visiting the 2018 PGA Championship at Bellerive. “This time of year, there’s more time for (the greens) to get beat up. In May, our biggest worry is winter damage. After that, all the short grass should be pretty good if we can escape with a decent winter or a mild winter.”

Wilson visited Carlos Arraya, CGCS at Bellerive, and his crew to get an idea of what it will be like to work with the PGA of America next year.

“The PGA of America, the PGA Tour, the USGA… we’re hitting the trifecta now, so it was important to me to see how the interaction (with the PGA of America) is,” Wilson says. “I wanted to see the interaction between Carlos and (PGA of America Chief Championships Officer) Kerry Haigh… and his staff and see how that’s different from tournaments in years past that we’ve hosted.”

Wilson says Bethpage has been getting off easy during summers for a couple seasons, but this year they’re in the midst of a difficult summer.

“It’s been more of a summer this year than the past two years where we sort of cruised through. Last summer, if you couldn’t grow grass, you should look for a different job. This summer has been different, we’ve had some good stretches of heat. We’ve had two defined heat waves so far this year,” Wilson says. “We just had the New York State Open and the pros were telling us that the greens on the Black Course are the best they’ve ever seen in 20-plus years… we’re looking really good. Mike Hadley, the super on the Black Course, is doing a fantastic job… we’re really happy with where we are now.”

Bethpage Black, which hosted the 2002 and 2009 U.S. Opens, will also host the 2024 Ryder Cup. For the 2019 PGA Championship, golfers will see slight changes to No. 18, but otherwise a similar course to what they’ve seen in the past.

“We did a big renovation on 18 where we added two bunkers and we recontoured the fairway a little bit,” Wilson says. “For now we might sod some areas from wear, but nothing wholesale — that might be too obvious — because next spring, we don’t have a ton of time to get going, we hit the ground running. But we’re certainly excited for a May tournament.”

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