Lots of rain now, lots of birdies in the SA Open – Innes

by | Dec 11, 2019

AS of midday on Tuesday of this week 120ml of rain had fallen at Randpark inside five days, causing both the Firethorn and Bushwillow courses to be closed for play.

“But,” said Head Greenkeeper Roger Innes on Tuesday, “we’ve actually got off relatively lightly compared to some other Gauteng clubs.

Centurion, for instance, had a mammoth 240ml of rain (as of Tuesday) in the same time frame and several other clubs around the 160ml mark.

And because up until now we’ve not had any really heavy downpours here as it’s been more soaking rain, there hasn’t been any course damage to speak of.”

Talk among some Randpark members is that all the rain will mean high rough and therefore high scores in the South African Open at the club from January 9-12. But Roger, a good golfer himself, disputes this:

“Actually what’s going to happen is that the guys are going to shoot the lights out because the courses are going to be super soft which means they can play target golf. They’re going to be able to fire straight at the flags, knowing that the ball will check and hold. They won’t worry too much about the rough because these world-class top players just don’t go in the rough!”

When last summer’s SA Open was held here at the club and Louis Oosthuizen won on 18-under-par 266 (both Firethorn and Bushwillow were played as par-71s) it was hot and dry and the rough was almost non-existent. It will be recalled that Oosthuizen in his final round of 67 drove the green at Firethorn’s  par-4 ninth and two putted for birdie, and then at the par-5 14th, helped by plenty of roll on the sun-baked fairway, hit driver, wedge (can you believe it?) to almost “give” distance en route to an eagle-three.

Roger and his staff of close to 50 have had no option but to sit around and do nothing for a number of days. “With the rain constantly coming down we haven’t been able to get any machines onto the course, and so we’re going to have a lot of catching up to do once the rain stops and hopefully it will stop sooner than later.”

The staff typically start work at 6am every day but during SA Open week it’s a completely different story. “Then we have to get things underway at 3am each day to ensure the courses are ready for play so as you can imagine it’s a pretty early wake-up call. Then we knock off at 8am only to start work again after play at about 4pm and go through until seven or even later.”

It’s a huge commitment from Roger and his team who are responsible for keeping two of South Africa’s finest courses in top shape not only for the SA Open, but year in and year out.

Roger says with all the rain and not being able to mow, the grass has got longer which brings some fungal activity. “So we might lose a bit of turf quality but hopefully we’ll still see the courses in good condition come the SA Open.”

Innes has a diploma in turf and course management and started his career at Krugersdorp Golf Club where he spent four years before moving to Randpark where he has been for the last 16.

On Tuesday, unable to do much on the course, he was able to spend time in the gym under the watchful eye of trainer Warren McCann who takes great delight in working his clients extra hard. So, Roger, did you enjoy the session? Here’s how the Head Greenkeeper replied: “Did I enjoy it? How can I when that guy’s a flippin’ sadist!” (Plenty of laughter did follow).

Written by Randpark member Grant Winter.

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