Andrew Wilson (left), Bethpage State Park director of agronomy, and Michael Hadley, Bethpage Black superintendent. Photo by Jim Krajicek
Bethpage Black — site of the 2019 PGA Championship — is practically a home away from home for both director of agronomy Andrew Wilson and superintendent Michael Hadley.
Wilson, 47, has been navigating the property since preschool. He was raised on Martha Boulevard, just 3 miles from the park. When he was 4, Wilson rode sleighs on the driving range in winter.
After finishing high school, Wilson started at Bethpage, working in clubhouse maintenance. That was 30 years ago this summer. Wilson was an English major at Fairfield University, and he later went to Rutgers University for its turf management program. He was hired and assigned to the Black Course in 1997 to work for then-superintendent Craig Currier.
Asked what it means to have Wilson’s presence, one word quickly comes to mind for Bethpage State Park director Betsy Wintenberger: “golden.”
“It’s different when you grow up at a facility,” Wintenberger says. “It’s inherent in his knowledge of the facility. That’s a huge asset. And he’s not unintelligent to begin with, and that helps.”
Hadley started at Bethpage 19 years ago this month. “My first day, I hand-aerified the bunker fingers on No. 3,” says Hadley, a Penn State University grad who has been the superintendent at Bethpage Black since 2013. “I was just happy to be out here as part of it, trying to fit in and not break anything.”
Given that Bethpage State Park has five golf courses, Wilson and Hadley have plenty of help on-site for the PGA Championship, including superintendents Erik Feldman, Hamilton Lopes, Eric Newell and Shawn Brownell. They will oversee a golf course that hasn’t changed much since hosting the U.S. Open in 2009 (its 8 acres of massive bunkers remain). The 7,436-yard, par-70 layout’s new elements include a green extension at No. 11 that features 500 square feet of new turf on the green to make it more cup-able. A new tee on No. 12 adds 15 yards to the hole.
Hadley says the staff will go to great lengths to ensure the Black Course is ready for this momentous occasion.
“It’s a major. It goes down in history,” Hadley says. “It also shows that our course is relevant around the world.”
Howard Richman is GCM’s associate editor.