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Breezy Point

Local Golf
September 24, 2017

A Look Into The Mind Of University Ridge Superintendent Phil Davidson
Phil Davidson Superintendent University Ridge
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Phil Davidson Superintendent University Ridge
University Ridge #2
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University Ridge #2
By E. Nolan


Golf courses you love wouldn't be so lovable without great superintendents, and great superintendents are artists, masters at drawing the most beauty out of the natural canvas of each hole. University Ridge is one of the most beautiful places in Wisconsin to play golf, which suggests their superintendent is pretty SUPER. Meet Phil Davidson. Phil was born in Michigan and raised a Braves fan in Decatur, Georgia. He came back to the Midwest to attend Lawrence University in Appleton, WI then went back out east for Turf School in South Carolina before joining the University Ridge team in 2005. If he's not out on the course working, or repairing the water main on 18, he's hanging out with his family, wife, Katie (of 27 years), kids, Matthew (19) and Megan (22) and/or eating Indian food at Swad in Monona.

Tee Times: What is your favorite part of being a golf superintendent?
Phil Davidson: I LOVE being outside... pretty hard to beat for an office. That and there's so much daily variety in the work. You never have two identical workdays.

TT: Ever been hit by a golf ball?
PD: Never in 30 years. Lots of close calls though.

TT: How is preparing a course for a tournament different from preparing it for daily play?
PD: The PGA TOUR has some unique requests, mostly involving a lot more rigorous attention to detail. Weeks before an event you can't let anything go, not even for a day. Every day, every hole, every piece of turf is covered, rolled, tweaked, trimmed or something. It's pretty amazing how small the targets are compared to how massive the scope of work to be done is. I would say it's similar to our daily practices, just more intense.

TT: What is the hardest hole on the course to maintain?
PD: Probably #10 with all the trees with all humidity changes, restricted wind flow, and limited sunlight in areas.

TT: What is a superintendent's biggest enemy? Geese? Crabgrass? Gophers? Golfers?
PD: (Phil laughs) Fortunately we don't have many geese. Moles are probably the biggest nuisance, and we always wish people understood the importance of fixing divots and replacing ball marks. Leave the place better than you found it, you know? (I follow a "Fix Five" rule for ball marks on greens.)

TT: Do you golf?
PD: I try to play 1-2 times a week and my handicap is a 3.

TT: What is your favorite hole on the Front Nine?
PD: #2. It's a great Par 5 with plenty of different playing options, fantastically designed to favor everyone equally with lots of different ways to get there.

TT: And on the Back?
PD: #10. One of the harder holes on the course, but so pretty and the transition from #9 to #10 is so dramatic... a crazy shift in beauty.

TT: What was your first golf job?
PD: I worked at The Minikahda Golf Club in Minneapolis, a great, private Donald Ross course.

TT: I won't ask you to compare jobs, but what is something truly special about working here?
PD: I really appreciate the opportunity I've had to work with (General Manager) Mike Gaspard the past ten years. He never takes for granted how much work goes into the course prep itself and he's always willing to do what's best for the course. He always has time for you and really respects people. It is so easy and enjoyable to work for someone like that.

TT: It has to be a thrill to be the superintendent of a course hosting a PGA event. Did you get to meet any of the stars last year... anyone make any impressions?
PD: I met Bernhard Langer, which was really cool - he was very kind and down to earth. I was also able to spend some time with John Daly last year, and after the tournament I even let him mow a fairway. Of course, we all love Steve Stricker - hero doesn't really do justice to all that man has done for Wisconsin, and he's always so appreciative of what we do as the host course. It's great when professionals like those two are so considerate and giving.

TT: Your golf career has taken you all over. What would you say is the most unique/memorable animal encounter you've ever had on a golf course?
PD: Working in Alexandria Virginia we had a beaver on the course in the middle of the suburbs in a pond. He was so protective of HIS territory in the city. We also saved a Blue Heron once with fishing line wrapped around its beak. That was a pretty dramatic rescue.

TT: What's your favorite golf course you've ever played outside of Wisconsin?
PD: I had the privilege of working at Valhalla Golf Club in Kentucky for a while - that might be my favorite course anywhere.

TT: Anywhere you've always really wanted to play? Pebble? Bandon?
PD: I've played Pebble, but Bandon would be awesome, and I've always wanted to play TPC Sawgrass.






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