The thunderstorms that have been predicted all week here at Baltusrol are finally making their presence felt. Although it is not currently raining here (2:50 p.m. Eastern), lightning is in the area and they have just suspended play. And a look at the Weather Channel indicates we now have a severe thunderstorm watch to go along with our heat advisory.
This development probably does not come as good news to Doston Kish, the superintendent on the Upper Course here at Baltusrol. I spent about an hour with Kish earlier this afternoon touring his course to get a first-hand look at the impact the PGA Championship has had, and one of his hopes was that the rain hold off until tonight. "It can rain all it wants after about 9 o'clock tonight," he said. "Just let me get these cars off my fairways."
No such luck. But here's hoping that whatever rain we do get this afternoon is brief, because if anyone deserves a break, it's Kish, the 26-year-old who has worked with Baltusrol Director of Grounds Mark Kuhns, CGCS, since his days at Oakmont Golf Club in the Pittsburgh, Pa., area. Kish has been in charge of all the practice areas being used this weekend, and he has been a loyal soldier for months now, offering up his crew, his equipment, his resources to Lower Course Superintendent Scott Bosetti and Kuhns and watching bravely as portions of his course were slowly chewed up by the virtual city that grows up around any major golf championship. "I've been happy to serve in a support role this summer," Kish said. "My team was ready and willing to do whatever was needed to prepare for this tournament."
It's pretty clear now, though, that Kish is ready to get his course back. And if you were in his shoes, wouldn't you want some semblance of normalcy? Although play continued on the Upper Course on a limited basis until the Friday before tournament week, portions of the course began to disappear a full two months ago. Corporate tents, the merchandise area and the massive Wannamaker Club take up holes 16, 17 and 18. The state police have a compound on No. 15. The No. 1 hole on the Upper is now the driving range for the tournament. Club and ball manufacturers had trailers on the third hole. There's a road on No. 10, a pedestrian walkway on No. 9 and parking on virtually every other hole. The only holes that have escaped damage are Nos. 3, 5, 6 and 7, and even those aren't immune -- five, six and seven were set aside as spillover parking, if needed.
Kish long ago got over the cringe factor in seeing his course torn up that way, and as I mentioned earlier, he has been one of the tournament's biggest supporters in the maintenance area. And help is on the way -- earlier this week, club members approved a full, wall-to-wall aerating and re-seeding of the Upper Course, work which will probably begin on Wednesday. Although Kish and Kuhns both admit it will be next spring before the Upper is back to normal, the goal is to have the course playable for members 30 days after the last tent is removed from the property.
They've just announced that play will resume in about five minutes, but storms continue to dance around the area. Keep your fingers crossed, and while you do that, check out the first batch of photos from today that are now posted, most from my travels with Kish.