TPC Sugarloaf’s Kyle Worthy shares insights on preparing for the Mitsubishi Electric Classic

By |  April 25, 2024 0 Comments

Before accepting a position as superintendent at TPC Sugarloaf in 2018, Kyle Worthy held assistant superintendent positions at TPC Sawgrass’s The Players Stadium Course and Dye’s Valley Course.

The roles prepared him for his present position — his first-ever role as a superintendent — along with the various challenges associated with it, especially as Worthy and his team plan for the PGA Tour Champions Mitsubishi Electric Classic.

Since TPC Sugarloaf in Duluth, Ga., began to host the tournament in 2013, agronomy team members have encountered one challenge more than any other: scheduling.

Each year, Worthy and his team have to begin their shifts early in the morning. From there, they’ll work until mid-morning, before working again late in the afternoon and into the evening. If inclement weather occurs, their schedules become even more challenging, as they need to remain on the property longer, meaning they don’t get very much time to rest.

Increasing productivity

To enhance his team’s efficiency throughout the week of the tournament, Worthy will usually bring on 10 to 20 volunteers. These volunteers are either turf professionals or students, bringing in various skill sets and viewpoints that Worthy says are important to have during a tournament.

“The additional practices that my team and I can achieve, thanks to increasing our staff, lead to an enhancement in playing conditions, from acceptable to exceptional,” he says.

Three separate Greg Norman-designed nine-hole courses make up the 27-hole layout at TPC Sugarloaf. (Photo: Kyle Worthy)

Three separate Greg Norman-designed nine-hole courses make up the 27-hole layout at TPC Sugarloaf. (Photo: Kyle Worthy)

Once the tournament has concluded and volunteers return to their home courses, colleges or universities, Worthy and his team encounter another significant challenge: putting spectator areas back together as efficiently as possible.

“After the tournament venues have been torn down, plenty of clean up and turf recovery will need to occur,” Worthy says. “Patience is key, as the recovery process may last for several weeks.”

Aside from recovering from the tournament’s aftermath, Worthy and his crew must also prepare for it well ahead of time.

Weather is a challenge before the tournament, as TPC Sugarloaf’s warm-season turf varieties — on its greens and fairways — will emerge from dormancy to “tournament-ready” conditioning in a short period. The tournament is held in early May and spring doesn’t typically begin in the Atlanta area until March. Consequently, there is a narrow window of time for Worthy and his team to recover divots and cultivate green surfaces, among many other tasks.

Renovating for the future

Alongside these challenges, Worthy has also witnessed an extensive renovation project at TPC Sugarloaf’s three nine-hole courses (The Stables, The Meadows and The Pines).

From 2017 to 2019, the club converted its greens from bentgrass to TifEagle bermudagrass, one course at a time. In addition, crews also converted all tees and fairways from GN-1 bermudagrass (which was overseeded every winter) to Zeon zoysiagrass.

“A new irrigation system was also installed, which included a new HDPE mainline and new HDPE laterals,” Worthy says. “Furthermore, new Toro irrigation heads and controllers, along with a Network VP Lynx operating system, was installed as well.”

TPC Sugarloaf served as host site for the PGA Tour Canada’s Local iQ Series Championship in 2020 due to complications with the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo: Kyle Worthy)

TPC Sugarloaf served as host site for the PGA Tour Canada’s Local iQ Series Championship in 2020 due to complications with the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo: Kyle Worthy)

The club also completely renovated bunkers during this time with EcoBunker walls, leading to a sustainable, “stacked sod” face that doesn’t require as much maintenance as natural, sod-stacked walls.

“By converting our greens from a cool-season turf to a warm-season turf, our membership now has high-quality putting green surfaces throughout the majority of the year,” Worthy emphasizes. “And, by eliminating any need to overseed shortgrass, due to the conversion from bermudagrass to zoysiagrass, TPC Sugarloaf’s fairways’ playing conditions are better, while each course’s turf coverage is healthier and more consistent than before.”

Upon witnessing the extensive renovation project’s steady results, TPC Sugarloaf’s leadership decided to restore the stream that’s located on The Stables course’s fourth hole. For nearly a year, the stream’s banks had become considerably eroded, to the point in which the hole’s playable area had begun to diminish.

Within a matter of weeks, beginning in November 2022, a stream engineer and a Natural Channel Design-certified contractor were able to completely restore the stream banks that are nestled near the hole.

While reflecting on his career, Worthy has some advice to share with other superintendents.

“First, superintendents must remain focused on the specific goals they have for their properties — and not stray from them until they achieve them,” he says. “And, at the same time, they need to be open to new ideas and innovative practices that can benefit their properties and team members, all while maintaining confidence in the agronomy programs they’ve developed.”

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About the Author: Chris Lewis

Michigan-based writer Chris Lewis specializes in reporting on golf in the U.S. He wrote about White Pine National Golf Resort for Golfdom in 2013, and part two of the magazine’s annual Plant Health Series in 2014.

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