HED:Superintendent working to get Old Waverly into top shape
By Todd Vinyard
WEST POINT - After 12 years as golf superintendent at Old Waverly, Bill Colloredo is happy to have seen it all, even if he can't always enjoy it.
"Sometimes I wish I could leave here and come back having never seen it before, because of all the little things I would see for the first time," said Colloredo, as he points to two deer on the left side of the fourth hole. "The nature of the job is I see more problems than good things. We never sit back and smell the roses. Right now there are no roses to smell."
Colloredo and his 21-person staff are working 6 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily preparing for the U.S. Women's Open May 31-June 6. A typical Monday finds the Old Waverly crew vertical mowing, brushing and top dressing greens. When the most prestigious golf tournament pays a visit, everything must be in place.
"We want this to be the best course (the United States Golf Association) has ever played," Colloredo said. "It's easy to motivate people, because they want this to go well. I've talked to a number of my friends in this business and they say, 'The week before all hell breaks loose, but if the weather is good during championship week, your crew has been trained, and you've done the homework, the week of the championship is pretty smooth.'"
Colloredo is planning a smooth championship ride with assistant golf course superintendents Brad Suggs and Shane Alpe. They have planning meetings twice a week, and have been working the last four years to be ready.
If help is needed, the United States Golf Association is available.
"The USGA has done this 53 times before," Colloredo said. "If we have washed out bunkers or trees down, they know what to do. I think that will be a calming factor."
The USGA will run different tests on the course, such as comparing green speed at Old Waverly to last year's championship.
"They put a premium on accuracy," Colloredo said. "They want the tees, greens and fairways to play as well as they can, but make the rough be a place where if the golfers get in there, they wish they hadn't."
Old Waverly has been mowing the Bermuda rough grass at 2 inches, which is higher than normal.
"We're really happy where they are," Colloredo said. "We just need some more warm weather to green the Bermuda grass up. Bent grass (on the greens) is perfect for a colder season. The Open being the first week in June is favorable for both, not ideal for either, but favorable for both."
"We don't want any rain."
The dreaded four-letter word can strike fear into the heart of any golf superintendent during championship week. Superintendents must plan a response for anything from bad weather to an irrigation blowout.
Colloredo can draw on support just 15 miles away, in the form of the the Mississippi State Golf/Sports Turf Management program.
MSU has been providing computer software, initially developed to assist farmers, to make things easier. A Global positioning system maps the course based around data signals broadcast from orbiting satellites, and GPS enables the precise marking of Old Waverly, marking which could save valuable time.
As the golfers begin making their way in for each day, Colloredo's crew will be mowing grass, raking bunkers, and doing other maintenance to prepare the course for the next day. Workers stay a hole behind the players on the 180-acre course.
Mississippi State graduate students Brian D. Ward of Drew and Milton C. Wardlaw of Batesville recently spent about 40 hours walking the par-72 course under the direction of MSU assistant professor of plant and soil sciences Michael S. Cox. The two were armed with a hand-held computer and backpack containing an antenna and other satellite downlink equipment.
As they walked, a position signal traveled from satellites to their receiver. With the information, the students produced detailed maps of each hole and a large grid of the entire course. The end result is a series of displays that can be used to locate virtually anything - even individual water sprinkler heads.
"Many of our volunteers won't know the location of shutoff valves and other such things," Colloredo said. "With these maps, I can circle a piece of equipment and no one should have a problem finding it when needed."
Colloredo said the Mississippi State Golf/Sports Turf management program has been a great resource. Jeff Krans said the MSU program benefits from Old Waverly, since students are able to work there through a co-op program.
"Our students have the chance to get hands on experience with cutting edge things in their field, and that is really invaluable," Krans said. "It's a big help that (Old Waverly founder) George Bryan and Bill Colloredo have been so supportive."
MSU professors are being suportive of the Open by volunteering their time. Euel Coats, Krans, and Michael Goatley will all be pitching in. Coats is a professor of weed science, while Krans and Goatley are agronomist.
"That's not uncommon in our business for superintendents to help at tournaments," said Krans, who taught Colloredo at MSU. "I recently worked as a volunteer at The Masters. To have the course perfectly manicured for a tournament like this you need several volunteers."
Colloredo, a Memphis native, began in the business at a development in Hot Springs, Ark., before joining the Old Waverly staff. Even he was caught off guard by the West Point course's growth.
"My knowledge of West Point was the prairie and being flat," Colloredo said. "I had no idea there was property this good in Clay County. The Bryans really have a dedication to make this a great golf course. That brings some pressure, but it's good."
Colloredo and his staff will probably only see the championship from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. each day, all the while waiting by the walkie talkie if a problem arises.
"I'm looking forward to seeing the winner putt out on 18, and know we have done a great job," Colloredo said. "That's what I'm hoping for."
He's working, not just hoping. But every now and then Colloredo sneaks to the No. 5 hole, one of his favorites since golfers can feel like they are the only ones on the hole, and remembers his mother's advice.
"Bill, there's nothing prettier than a golf course early in the morning or late in the evening," Colloredo's mother said. "It's so peaceful."
Colloredo can't savor the peaceful feeling until late June 6, when the U.S. Women's Open is complete and he can smell the roses.
Mississippi State University Relations contributed to this story.