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Tee Times Magazine | Minneapolis/St. Paul

Breezy Point

Local Golf
June 23, 2017

THE KEEPER OF THE GREEN
By Tom Abts


Usually the valuable people behind the scenes go unrecognized and unheralded - golf course maintenance people are an example of such a disservice. If you have a lawn, you know how difficult it is to keep it pristine. Imagine taking care of a 150-acre lawn.

Not only is it a huge lawn, but it has different grasses - some that are very fragile and vulnerable to changes in weather. And Minnesota has extreme changes in weather. Not only do we have harsh winters, but we can have brutally hot summer days. When Bobby Jones won the U.S. Open here at Interlachen CC, they had to cut his tie off of his shirt. Jones - a native of Atlanta - said it was the hottest he ever was in his life.

That type of heat and humidity can destroy a golf course. We live in fear for a few weeks every summer that we don't get too wet before the brutal heat rolls in. If the timing is wrong and the heat and dew points stay high at night, a golf course can be taken over by disease. The greens and fairways can be taken over in minutes - you can see it run through a golf course. Ironically your lawn will be alright - so will our roughs. But the grasses that make fairways and greens special are the grasses that are very vulnerable to disease.

Winter isn't easy either. If the ground doesn't freeze before the snow comes... it's a breeding ground for disease. The layer of snow works like a greenhouse on the unfrozen turf. The turf needs to go dormant before the snow settles on top for the winter. Otherwise, the molds can take over and spread under the snow during the winter months. It's not much fun to have the snow melt in the spring and see a dead golf course.

Then, it's no picnic when the snow melts even if the turf came through the winter in good shape. Once the snow melts, the grass comes awake from dormancy and wants to flower. It's in a very delicate stage. If the weather changes and turns bitterly cold, that newly awaking grass can die. It's like a new born that comes out of the womb and then is thrown into a freezer... not so good.

Courses that open too early really take a beating and may not heal up until summer - or longer. I believe that we have the finest Green Keeper in the state and trust his judgment as to when we should open for play. Our Green Keeper - Barry Provo - keeps the total golf course green and healthy. Over the years men of his title have been mistakenly referred to as "Greens Keepers" - no, the title should refer to the course, not the putting greens.

A top notch Green Keeper needs to be a scientist and an artist. Barry has a vast knowledge of grasses and fertilizers, along with soil, drainage, irrigation systems, and the equipment to mow and maintain a beautiful golf course. Then he has to put together a plan and coordinate his staff so that all of this golf course maintenance works in harmony with the seasons and the unpredictability of nature. Wow! That's where the artist side really takes over. Barry can feel what the course needs and how it should be handled.

Mr. Provo is also a manager. He hires, fires and trains his staff. And, he's always looking to the future: are we ready to start replacing trees that look to be fading away? Are we doing the proper and timely aerating of the greens? Do we have a master plan to continually improve the golf course?

Barry is always on top of everything relating to the needs and future of the golf course. We are very fortunate to have such a superb Keeper of the Green.






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