Jul. 4—This will be the seventh Marathon LPGA Classic for Highland Meadows Golf Club superintendent Greg Pattinson, and the golf course has never looked better.
A confluence of factors — mainly weather and the calendar — have been kind to Pattinson this year as the tournament approached, with heavy rains last week greening up the place and keeping the rough nice and thick.
"Typically, we're hot and dry when we come around for the Fourth of July," he said. "This year, we're wet. We've actually mowed the rough twice this week. Usually, we shut it down after we mow it the first time, hoping we can get 3-3.5 inches of rough. We typically can't. This year, I don't think that will be a problem."
The July 8-11 date for the Marathon LPGA Classic presented by Dana is the earliest placement on the calendar since 2010 when the tournament ended on the Fourth. As it crept into mid-to-late July and even August over the past decade, it meant thinner rough and playing conditions more in line with humid summer months in the Midwest. A dip in humidity in 2021 has kept the grass strong.
Highland Meadows had 2.25 inches of rain on June 25 and another three-quarters of an inch Wednesday, keeping carts off the golf course a combined two days. The soil stayed saturated, thickening the rough and allowing every blade of grass on property to keep its vibrant green hue.
"I think the course is in as good of condition as I've ever seen it," Marathon Classic tournament director Judd Silverman said. "Greg Pattinson and his staff always do a good job, and this year every aspect of the course looks great — greens, fairways, rough, green. Everything is in pristine condition."
All that's left to do is trim sprinkler heads and pull any stray weeds out of bunkers. The finishing touches are being applied to the golf course as the build-out is completed. The process of adding bleachers, concession stands, and signage began three weeks ago.
"It'll be the thickest and lushest it's been since I've been here," Pattinson said. "It'll be different than what it usually is. When we control the water, we can get it firm and fast. When we don't control the water, then we react and do everything we can to provide the firmest, fastest conditions. The weather dictates everything."
In June, Pattinson met with LPGA agronomist John Miller to ride the course, discussing any potential issues while getting a lay of the land. Missy Jones, a rules official with the tour, arrived on-site last week, to survey the course and mark any ground under repair.
"I'm very pleased," Pattinson said about the course. "Great crew. One of the younger crews I've ever had. It's made up of a lot of college kids and high school kids. They're doing a great job. They have great attention to detail. It should be a great year to showcase the club."
The grounds crew of 20 is two less than unusual, not that anyone would notice.
"They've done a good job of picking up the slack," Pattinson said.
So, will the winning score be higher because of the course conditions? Pattinson wouldn't bet on it, because the players who find the short grass won't find many obstructions en route to the green. But the cut could be higher and some scores of players who miss the weekend might be in unfamiliar territory.
"If you're not hitting fairways, you'll struggle," Pattinson said.
Since 1989, Highland Meadows and the LPGA have been a match made in golf heaven.
"We greatly appreciate the relationship that the tournament has had with the club," Silverman said. "I can't say enough about how much we appreciate the membership's willingness to work with us on providing the course for the tournament."