Women’s PGA Championship host shines with more ladies, labor

By |  June 28, 2021 0 Comments
A crew member prepares Atlanta Athletic Club ahead of the Women's PGA Championship. (Photo: John Deere)

A crew member prepares Atlanta Athletic Club ahead of the 2021 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship. (Photo: John Deere)

Like all golf courses, Atlanta Athletic Club endured an abnormal year in 2020. The pandemic, getting shut down for six weeks, a labor shortage and an unusually wet year all made life a little crazy as they worked toward hosting the 2021 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship.

Now that the final putt has dropped with Nelly Korda, perhaps the new face of professional women’s golf in America, hoisting the trophy, Atlanta Athletic Club Director of Agronomy Lukus Harvey can breathe a slight sigh of relief.

Atlanta Athletic Club was in impeccable condition for the tournament. How did the crew succeed in these strange times? Alongside a lot of hard work, Harvey points to two contributing factors: an increased investment in labor and success in recruiting female crew members.

The latter first. Harvey says the number of female crew members for the 45-hole facility has grown to 18, which accounts for 35 percent of his hourly staff. Previously that number was closer to zero.

“It’s kind of ironic, we’re hosting the Women’s PGA Championship, and we have had the most success in filling our staff with ladies,” Harvey says. “They’ve been a wonderful resource. We’ve tapped into our local market here, and they’re fantastic. We had one or two (women) apply. Once they experienced the work environment, and what we were looking for here, they asked, ‘Do you have more open positions?’ I said absolutely because we were like everybody else … just dying on the vine. It’s really spread by word of mouth.”

As for the former, Harvey points to COVID-19 as the catalyst that caused the Atlanta Athletic Club membership to increase its investment in the maintenance crew.

“We learned a lot, and as difficult as it was, it made us reevaluate. One of the biggest things we’ve taken from it was increasing our staff size,” Harvey says. “As members slowly came back, they obviously didn’t want exposure to other people. So, we looked at different staffing models and how we could get all the work done before the members (arrive.) We ramped up our staff, and the board was supportive — we increased our staff by 25 or 30 percent. So, we’re doing all the work before the members get out there. By the time they catch up to us on No. 18 mowing rough or whatever, most of our staff is gone for the day.”

Harvey says the labor budget line item has increased, but not by much. Though the course has a bigger staff to pay, the overtime hours have dwindled, and the members have also supported the idea by allowing the crew more of a head start.

“Part of the success was the members making some compromise in taking later tee times,” he says. “No 7:00 or 7:30 a.m. tee times, or 8:00 or 8:30 a.m. tee times, depending on the time of year.”

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About the Author: Seth Jones

Seth Jones, a 18-year veteran of the golf industry media, is Editor-in-Chief of Golfdom magazine and Athletic Turf. A graduate of the University of Kansas School of Journalism and Mass Communications, Jones began working for Golf Course Management in 1999 as an intern. In his professional career he has won numerous awards, including a Turf and Ornamental Communicators Association (TOCA) first place general feature writing award for his profile of World Golf Hall of Famer Greg Norman and a TOCA first place photography award for his work covering the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. In his career, Jones has accumulated an impressive list of interviews, including such names as George H.W. Bush, Samuel L. Jackson, Lance Armstrong and Charles Barkley. Jones has also done in-depth interviews with such golfing luminaries as Norman, Gary Player, Nick Price and Lorena Ochoa, to name only a few. Jones is a member of both the Golf Writers Association of America and the Turf and Ornamental Communicators Association. Jones can be reached at sjones@northcoastmedia.net.

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