A “Super” Task
By Jim McNaney
When Mark Michalski started on the grounds crew at his local course in Silver Bay, Minnesota at the age of 16, he never dreamed that he would be where he is today.
Mark is the Superintendent at the TPC Twin Cities in Blaine and he is about to work his 11th 3M golf tournament, only this time, he will oversee course conditions for the best players in the world from the PGA TOUR with the inaugural 3M Open.
After graduating from the University of Minnesota Crookston, Mark was an Assistant Superintendent at Wayzata Country Club and then spent six years at the TPC as an assistant. In his years in the TPC Network (the golf management company operates multiple facilities throughout the nation), Mark has worked 18 PGA TOUR events.
This time he is in charge.
There were many challenges in front of Mark preparing for this event. Perhaps the biggest was the timeline given to take the TPC’s layout and adapt it to suit the PGA TOUR players. Players like world number one Brooks Koepka hit the ball quite a bit further than their PGA TOUR Champions counterparts.
To make the course more challenging, Tom Lehman, along with the PGA TOUR design team, took all of the 9 months available through the fall and spring.
The day after last year’s event, the bulldozers hit the ground. New tee complexes were added, holes were lengthened and the cut of the rough was altered. The famous pond on number 18 doubled in size, bunkers were moved and fairways narrowed as much as 75 yards or more.
It was Mark’s job to make sure everything got done and not just for the PGA TOUR, but for the private course’s members. Given the “perfect storm” of winter conditions, people wondered if the course would be ready.
Mark was confident in his team. “We wintered better than others.” Mark said referring to how the course came out of the winter. “We had a month less of grow in for the tournament than last year, but our preparation for the season was the same as years past,” he continued. The only real change he said needed to be a little more creative on tee areas for member play to preserve the course.
With the plan in place and the course progressing, preparations turned to staffing. Normally, Mark’s crew includes two assistants, Reily Soderstrom and Maxton Kelly along with a team of around 30 full and part time people. To pull off a PGA TOUR event, that number doubles the staff. “I wouldn’t be able to do this without a great team”
Along with volunteer support from other local golf course Superintendents, the TPC Network sends assistants from other facilities to work TOUR events. “This allows all the extra little detail work to get done.” Michalski said.
Even with all the extra hands, the workdays are long around and during tournament week. Typically, Mark and the assistants will start around 4:00 AM and leave around 9:00 PM. Most of the crew work split shifts. It is Mark’s job to make sure everything runs according to plan. Fingers crossed; there are no weather delays to make matters more complicated. To Mark and others like him, the long hours are all worth it in the end.
One might wonder why anyone would want to work such long hours in a job that, while vital to the success of any golf course, tends to fly under the radar. “For the love of the game,” explained Michalski.
Ask most superintendents and you are likely to get the same answer. People like Mark go unseen, but without their dedication to the craft, none of this would be possible. It takes a special type of person to want to wake up so early every day just to make sure golfers, no matter if they are a PGA TOUR Professional, a member or even a guest have the best golfing experience possible.
So if you run into Mark or any of his team when you are out at the 3M Open this year, make sure you smile and say thank you. Without him and his team, none of what you enjoy would be possible.