The Norman Transcript

July 4, 2013

Rain, cooler temperatures provide welcome challenges for greens crew

By Corbin Hosler
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Ralph Cagigal wakes up long before the sun’s rise, and he’ll be nine holes in by the time most of the golfers in this weekend’s Westwood Invitation even show up.

Nearly everyone who shows up to this year’s Westwood Invitational, which tees off on Friday, will face the early hours and a long day. But for Cagigal, the course superintendent, and his crew, it will be even longer.

Cagigal has worked at Westwood for 28 years, and seen just about everything there is to see when it comes to keeping a course pristine. Along with assistant superintendent Jay Lowery and their crew of seven other people, Cagigal is responsible for the biggest tournament of the year at Westwood. More than 100 golfers will take to the course to compete on the grass that the course crew at Westwood has meticulously crafted.

And crafting that course is a challenge for Cagigal and his team, even after nearly three decades on the course.

They arrive on the course at 5 a.m. to prepare. Grass must be watered, leaves and branches must be cleared from the cart path, bunkers must be raked and greens must be maintained. The crew works efficiently in the morning to try and be mostly finished by the time the first group tees off at 7 a.m.

“I can’t stress enough how much of a team effort this is,” Cagigal said. “I’m a blessed man as far as that goes. We have five full-time employees that I owe everything to. They keep it looking great all year. And we have four seasonal employees who help this time of the year. We just try to make it as nice as possible.”

Their efforts haven’t gone unnoticed. David Lisle, Westwood’s head pro, said the dedication the team shows toward preparing the course is one of the reasons the tournament is as successful as it’s been.

“I know they take special pride in preparing for the tournament,” he said. “I think that’s kind of an aiming point for them. It’s kind of the pinnacle of the year for the golf course.”

Every year brings its own challenges, and 2013 is no different. But, while the usual problems include sweltering heat and dry conditions, this year has changed things up a bit for Cagigal’s team. Temperatures for last year’s tournament hovered around 100 degrees throughout the weekend. But this year has thus far remained cool and rain has come in steadily, a phenomenon which has altered the issues facing the course.

While the greens have grown well and will play fast this weekend because of that, the cool temperatures have stunted the Bermuda grass that covers much of the course. There’s also been an increase in the number of weeds the team has had to deal with, and they will have to mow the course Friday night after the first day of competition because of how fast the grass is growing.

Still, Cagigal said it’s a welcome list of problems.

“It’s been a little unusual this year, but we’re grateful for the rain and cool weather,” he said. “It’s grown really well all spring and the problems were a little different this year, but it looks as good as it’s ever been and I think it will play well.”

Corbin Hosler

Follow me @Chosler88