Grassroots work paying off for MacIndoe

IT’S not just the storms of winter or the drought of early summer that have caused problems for David MacIndoe, the course superintendent at Killarney Golf & Fishing Club.

He was slightly late for our appointment yesterday because he was just after hearing that a red deer had run across the ninth green an hour or so earlier and “done a wee bit of damage”. Typically unfazed, MacIndoe and his expert team were on the job and in no time at all you would never have imagined that such a thing had happened. However, as the cream of European golf assembled for the 3 Irish Open starting over the Killeen Course on Thursday, there was considerable speculation that the 7,161 yards, par 71 layout would be taken to the cleaners.

There have even been suggestions that the first sub-60 round in the history of the European Tour would make for a good wager this week. McIndoe has heard that kind of talk as well but simply commented: “I wouldn’t be betting on it anyway. I’m a Scotsman and I work too hard for my money to give it away to the bookies. And if someone does shoot 59, wouldn’t it be nice, at least we’d be famous for something.”

On a more serious note, he went on: “I don’t think they’re going to tear the course apart. These guys are very good. They’ll score very well on it. People have issues with courses getting torn apart… McIlroy shot a 62 around Quail Valley, a 63 around St Andrews, a 61 around St Andrews. If these guys are on song and the course is set up nicely which is the case here, they will go low and I don’t see anything wrong with that.

“If someone shoots four 66s, fine. I suppose we’d be a bit miffed if they were to shoot four 62s, a John Deere Classic kind of thing, but I don’t believe that will happen. And remember, the public want to see the pros playing good golf and they will play good golf around here because it’s set up to play good golf. The forecast is similar to today, quite calm, maybe a bit of cloud, a small bit of breeze without the wind they had at St Andrews.”

Carrying the responsibility for having a golf course in mint condition for a tournament as big as the 3 Irish Open is a major challenge but it’s something McIndoe relishes. He was also the man in charge here back in 1991 and 1992 when the Championship was last staged over the Killeen Course. Times, of course, have changed radically in the interim. Four years or so ago, the layout was updated and modernised and accordingly should be all the better for the return of the stars.

McIndoe has been rising around 5am on several days in recent times but he isn’t the only member of the ground staff happy to put his shoulder to the wheel.

“I arrived here at 5.10am on Sunday and I thought I’d be the first one because I had told the guys there was no need for them until half past five because it would be dark,” he related. “I noticed that the gates were open, saw a light on in the shed and wondered what this is… and there were two guys in before me and I felt that was real dedication. That was nice and that’s the way it will be for the rest of the week.

“I have 19 full-time staff, four on a six-month contract for the Irish Open, basically people who had to be let go during hard times, and I have two guys for the last six weeks. Obviously, we have three courses to look after and so the resources have to be spread around. Yeah, it’s a big challenge but I really enjoy it. You can see it around the club, it gives everybody a great impetus and they all get involved.”

The weather, as always, has a huge role to play in getting a golf course ready for a big event. For a time, it looked as if the gods were completely against Killarney and even an optimist like McIndoe suffered some worrying moments.

“I hate it when people tell me that we’re lucky with the weather as if the greens staff do nothing when they’re actually doing everything,” he said.

“In all honesty, in this instance we have been lucky with the weather. After all the storms and all the damage, we had one of the driest springs on record. That’s not good for a golf course but it was great for repair. We brought in 700 tonnes of stuff to repair what was washed away along the lakeshore and used it all.

“June was a nightmare with the heat after the dry May. But then came the rain in July and I was getting really worried. The first week wasn’t too bad but we had six inches in the next two, the first four we were taking without a problem but after that things were starting to get on the soft side. Now it has dried out nicely. We knew from day one we wouldn’t have much rough and we weren’t going to trick it up. From what I can gather, the Tour are reasonably happy and the only issue now is greens speed.”

With three more days similar to yesterday, that will also be adequately dealt with – provided, of course, that the red deer who normally take off for the mountains during the summer months – stay outside the ropes, so to speak, for at least the next week.


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