Presidents Cup brings unique challenges to Quail Hollow

Professional golf is nothing new to this Charlotte, N.C. gem, but there will be nothing routine about this week for Keith Wood and the team preparing for the competition.


Filed to: Tournament prep

Keith Wood speaking to volunteers
Keith Wood speaks to staff and volunteers ahead of preparations for this week's Presidents Cup.Photos by Scott Hollister

When it comes to professional golf events, this week’s Presidents Cup at Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, N.C., is certainly not Keith Wood’s first rodeo.

The club’s GCSAA Class A director of green and grounds has a deep history in tournament golf, from the annual PGA Tour events he’s prepared for at both Quail Hollow and his previous stop, Sedgefield Country Club in Greensboro, N.C., to the PGA Championship that came to Charlotte in 2017. There isn’t much Wood hasn’t seen or done when it comes to getting a golf course ready for big events.

That doesn’t mean hosting one is old hat for the 26-year GCSAA member. On Sunday of tournament week, as his crew and the 60-plus volunteers who will be onsite to help this week gathered for an orientation meeting at Quail Hollow, Wood admitted the usual butterflies are still there. In fact, considering the scope of this Presidents Cup, there just might be more of them.

“This one feels much, much bigger,” Wood says. “The intensity and the magnitude of this event is five-fold what a normal Tour event is. And it’s a different kind of pressure than a PGA Championship, where you have way more players, way more competition.

“Plus, there’s no agronomist for that one. Kerry (Haigh, the PGA of America’s chief championships officer) provides a lot of support, but all the agronomic decisions fall on me. There’s a team from the Tour to help with that this week, so that frees me up a little to spend more time with the guys and the staff, making sure we’re doing what we need to do and taking care of all those fine details.”

As Sunday NFL football played on the TVs in the agronomy department’s hospitality tent at Quail Hollow, Wood equated his role this week to that of the head coach of a football team. He’s the man in charge, of course, but shouldering most of the on-course responsibilities will be his “coordinators” — assistant superintendents Frankie Cardelle, Robert Blood and Kevin Robinson, all three-year GCSAA members.

“I trust what they do. They got us to this point,” Wood says. “My job is to support their decisions, to help guide them in the direction I think they need to go, but then stay far enough away so they can do their job.”

Quail Creek volunteers
Wood and volunteers catch up during the orientation session.

That trio will lean heavily upon the volunteers assembled for the Presidents Cup, most of whom have either previously worked at Quail Hollow or volunteered for previous professional events there. “Most of the full-time staff now hasn’t been through anything this large before, so that group (of volunteers) will be our experience,” Wood says. “They’ve been here before in some capacity, have graduated and moved on to other clubs. The current crop hasn’t been through that stress test, so the volunteers are going to be really important this week.”

Compared to other major events, crews this week will have a chance to sleep in a little bit — relatively speaking, of course. Morning call times at the maintenance facility are at 6 a.m. (Saturday’s will be 5 a.m. since it is the only day with morning competitions), and crews will hit the course again around 5:30 p.m. for afternoon rounds.

Mother Nature did throw a sweeping curve ball at Wood and the team at Quail Hollow about two-and-a-half weeks prior to tournament week with a fierce thunderstorm that dumped nearly 4 inches of rain on the property in a short span of time. It left behind washed-out bunkers and messes of all shapes and sizes, but Wood says it also created an opportunity.

“This is totally looking on the bright side since it was a ton of work, but it was kind of a blessing because we had to put everything back together the right way,” he says. “Everything really came back great, course got a bunch of nutrients flushed through it at the right time, and things have really greened up. It hasn’t rained since, so we’re ready.”

Scott Hollister is editor-in-chief of GCM.