Pattinson grooming stage for stars

JOHN HERBERT -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 10:53 AM ET

If London Hunt and Country Club is this city's version of golf paradise, then Bob Pattinson is its keeper.

Though the pressure is just starting for the LPGA Tour's biggest names to perform next week, Pattinson has been in the pressure cooker since last November, when the Hunt Club was awarded the CN Canadian Women's championship.

"It's on your mind from the minute they announced it until it's over,'' Pattinson said. "It never leaves your head. But I'm fortunate to have a major tournament with the best golfers in the world on our golf course. I know a lot of guys (in his business) in my lifetime have never have had a major, let alone two.

"It's a thrill, not for me, but for the course that they want to play here.''

Pattinson, the Hunt Club's head superintendent since 1991 and employed at the club for 34 years, was also superintendent when the du Maurier Classic was played at London Hunt in 1993.

All he is hoping for is that the course is just right for the pros and they enjoy it.

Pattinson said when several LPGA stars came to the club in May -- including Meg Mallon and Juli Inkster-- they told him they were impressed by the changes made to it in 1999-2000 by Rees Jones, who has redesigned many U.S. Open courses in recent years, including Bethpage Black in New York City.

Pattinson said his staff of 27 have been working for months to comply with LPGA and RCGA requirements to prepare the course.

Insects, turf mounds and cranky members complaining under their breath about the length of the rough are of little concern.

It is ready, he said.

In fact, it was tournament ready two weeks ago when Pattinson "handed the course '' to the LPGA, which calls all the shots -- the length of rough, speed of greens, etc. -- until the tournament ends. During the tournament, the Hunt Club staff will have the benefit of their own equipment and $750,000 of loaner mowers.

"We're fortunate all our physical changes to the course had been done by Rees Jones and that's a big thing," Pattinson said.

"Our biggest concern is it be the best it can be on the date of the tournament.''

Pattinson's crew began preparing the course in the spring by allowing the primary rough to grow to 3 1/2 inches and also cutting tees and greens to heights required by the LPGA Tour.

He also has an eight-metre long table in his maintenance shed with the written "daily operation'' completely covering it.

Tournament week, Pattinson and his staff work around the clock.

First thing in the morning, they will be rolling and cutting the huge greens averaging 9,500 square feet, removing dew from fairways, cutting tees and inspecting 71 bunkers to make sure they are ready to receive shots and have not been visited over night by critters.

As the players finish their rounds, Pattinson's crew heads back out to cut fairways following a safe two-hole distance behind the final groups to cut and roll greens, cut fairways, rake traps and water fairways (if requested by the LPGA Tour).

Most days, the work is not complete until 11 p.m., when the greens are rolled.

ABOUT THE COURSE

Designer: Robert Trent Jones. Redesigned by Rees Jones in 1999

Tees, fairways and greens: The primary grasses are creeping bentgrass and poa annua.

Rough: Kentucky bluegrass, perennial ryegrass and fine fescue

Green soil mix: 33 per cent sand, 33 per cent peat and 33 per cent other

Source of water: Thames River

Sand bunkers: 71

Water hazards: Six, including ponds on the second, fourth, 10th (two) and 11th holes. The other hazard is the Thames River, which runs down the right side of the ninth, 10th and 11th holes.

BOB PATTINSON

Pattinson became superintendent of the London Hunt and Country Club on May 1, 1991, replacing John Bennett, who died after suffering a heart attack.

Years as superintendent: 15

Years at club: 34

Education: Graduated with degree in horticulture from the University of Guelph in 1972, where he began his career at the Cutten Club. He is a member of the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America, based in Laurence, Kan.

Previous preparation: 1993 du Maurier and several RCGA and Golf Association of Ontario championships.


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