Right now, about the only happy Americans on the grounds of Medinah CC might be those on the golf course management team that helped prepare Course No. 3 for this weekend's Ryder Cup matches. The course played to rave reviews from all fronts and proved to be an excellent stage for the event, although after Sunday's results, the memories of that stage will be much brighter from Team Europe than Team USA.
Jim Wallace, the superintendent of Course No. 1 at Medinah and a six-year GCSAA member, checks in with his report on preparations for Saturday's play:
5 a.m. — Morning managers meeting … I know this may be getting a bit repetitive, but for us managers here at Medinah, this is an everyday routine for us that is an essential component to keeping everyone on the same page and making sure standards are always met. We have these meetings 365 days a year and I can't say enough about how much it has meant to our team and keeping everyone moving together to reach our collective goals.
5:40 a.m. — Teams are heading out the door and getting into position on first holes, I arrive on No. 13 green and see they have the video board across from the green lit up again so our team is moving on cutting the green pretty quickly, which sets us up to be well ahead of the pace. By about 6:15 a.m., everyone has been cleared to start cutting, and since the first tee time is 7:20, the grandstands on the first few holes are already filling up. When my team arrives at hole No. 3, we have a large audience watching us perform our work and they are already fired up to see today's action. We are moving along nice and smooth this morning, greens are looking good and rolling smooth. We get to hole No. 12, and when I started walking off the steps on my hole location sheet to cut the cup, I noticed they had it all the way in the back of the green tucked in the right corner. I knew that hole would provide a lot of excitement for the morning rounds. Apparently, Team Europe has hired some pretty talented pilots to fly over the club and they wrote some really neat messages in smoke signals across the sky.
9 a.m. — Morning operations are complete and we are headed to our exit point from the golf course. Before we all exit we walk out to the approach to hole No. 16 for a team photo. We first took a photo of the Medinah team, with our entire staff of roughly 85 people getting large applause from our volunteer staff. We turned it right back around on them and let them know that we could not put on such a grand event without them helping us this week. We took a few photos of the entire staff and volunteers, and it was just a great moment that I am glad we were able to capture in a photo, although it won't be necessary for me to have a photo to remember it. This week has been so special and has etched memories in my mind that won't ever fade.
10:30 a.m. — Grabbed a quick breakfast in the tent and we are headed back out to cut greens, check bunkers, change cups and touch up anything else we can in between rounds. This process really gets the adrenaline pumping, I have a team of 8 with me and we are jumping on our assigned greens and knocking each one out in about 20 minutes. The crowds are already in position for the afternoon matches, giving us another experience you can only get at the Ryder Cup. For most tournaments the crowd is not around yet as you prep the golf course, but with us doing it in the middle of the day, we have large crowds watching us and, in some cases (depending on proximity to the beverage tents), cheering us on. We finish up the mid-day run around 1:30 p.m. Navigating the crowds has actually been a little easier than expected since most of the play is on the last few holes when we get out there and the crowds are mostly still over watching the last few matches finish up.
4:30 p.m. — Headed out to start picking up the flags behind the last group. Team USA has fared well in the morning rounds, and looks to be playing pretty solid this afternoon so far as well. The rest of the crew heads out around 4:45. Today was a gorgeous day with temperatures in the high 70s and not a cloud in the sky (aside from those made by the European-hired pilots). The golf course is very firm and playing just the way we want it to. We are putting a few extra guys on hoses this afternoon to hit some rough areas, but most of the fine turf is still holding up really well. We could not have asked for better weather for this event. I catch up to golf on hole No. 15 and get to watch a little bit while going behind them to pick up the flags and get them back to our shop and secured. Team USA has taken the first two matches of the afternoon, and the last two matches are going down to the wire. The European team has a lot of fight left in them, and Ian Poulter played a fantastic final three holes to help his team win his match. At day's end, Team USA leads Europe 10-6 going into singles play tomorrow morning. It should be an exciting finish!