The steamy smell of mulch in late summer can only mean one thing at Winthrop University’s Recreation Area … USDGC course work is underway. Every year it’s the first step in the Championship’s return.
A month prior to competition, the legendary course will get the royal treatment as staff ready it for the the Championship. Here’s a quick breakdown of what all goes into getting Winthrop Gold dressed for the USDGC.
Literally, tons of mulch is needed to get the course in Championship form. (Left) Innova’s Course Superintendent Michael Shugart, who is well-versed in operating heavy machinery, speeds up the process with a backhoe.
Arranging the sand on hole 6′s green can be a delicate process on the backhoe as Shugart shows here. Each year the beach green has to be recarved and leveled so by the time the Championship comes it’s sand castle quality.
Throughout the year, Hole 7′s Bamboo Wall takes a beating from flying discs. Here Innova’s Justin Alderman secures the bamboo to the fence’s foundation. When the wall was remade in 2010, 95 whole pieces of bamboo were cut to make over 140 usable pieces that were braced with more than 500 zip cords and rope.
The UPS trailer arrives a few weeks before competition. For the last several years, UPS has sponsored the USDGC by donating the use of a trailer during the Championship and the build-up prior. Its role is crucial because it acts as course work central. Here, Innova’s Ross Porter, a USDGC volunteer for many years prior to working at Innova, gets a weed eater ready to manicure the fairways.
You know it’s getting close to USDGC time when the various trailers used for the tournament are dropped off at the course. Usually there’s one (here) at the Player’s Hospitality area, one reserved for the PDGA near hole 18′s green, and another manned by USDGC staff located not far from the baseball stadium.
When it comes to clearing a path in the rough nothing quite works like a brush hog. Here, Porter tidies up where hole 8′s fairway meets the woods. A lot can grow in the time between Championships. By the time USDGC staff and volunteers get done with Winthrop it looks remarkably different from when work first starts.
All kinds of equipment is utilized to make sure every piece of the course is ready before the first tee-off. Here, Innova’s Andrew Dupre hauls a teepad edger with an ancient yet dependable Winthrop Univ. tractor. Dupre, who is Innova’s ‘target man’, will soon substitute all the tops and chains from the gold course’s baskets for new tournament versions.
The yellow rope must go up, even in the rain. Here, Innova’s Robert Joubert arranges a clove knot on some top rope on hole 15.
A literal sign that the Championship is near. Here, Dupre refreshes some of the USDGC interstate sign decals at the Innova warehouse before it is picked up by highway crews. It is placed along I-77 near the Rock Hill exits.
Once the top rope is secured it’s time for the bottom string, which is the course’s true OB indicator. The top rope acts as just a visual guide. Here, volunteer Marty Borucki of Michigan looks down the line, making sure his section along hole 12 is straight.
A little help is always appreciated during USDGC course prep. Here, utility crews with a hydraulic bucket lend a long arm that reaches the top of hole 7′s bamboo wall with new flags for the wall’s entrance.
Myles Broome, suited up in waders, repairs hole 6′s beach green, which is easily disturbed by heavy rains.
Raising the big red and white tent is always a team effort. Its purpose occasionally varies, but it’s always a good source of shade. Here, volunteer Tom Usselman, who is also active in the Charlotte Disc Golf Club, powers one of the tent’s center poles into place.
The course is generally open to casual play throughout the year. However, those heavily used targets are replaced prior to the Championship. Here, Durpre tightens up the top of hole 18 during the week prior to the USDGC.
With all the major course work complete, it’s time to decorate the Gold Course with all of its familiar banners. Here, Borucki and Broome set up banner mountain featuring each U.S. state near the Winthrop Coliseum.
One of the pillars of the USDGC is longtime volunteer Brian Mace. Ready to work as soon as he arrives, Mace Man as he’s called, is liable to help out wherever he’s needed whether that be mulching, tying yellow rope or even broadcast commentating.