Keith Reese is the head golf professional at Valhalla Golf Club. The club is set to reopen for play next month. It shut down in September of 2011, and under the supervision of designer Jack Nicklaus, has undergone a major renovation. Having already hosted 2 P.G.A Championships, 2 Senior P.G.A Championships and the 2008 Ryder Cup, the next major on the horizon is another P.G.A. Championship in August of 2014.
Kent Taylor.: Take me through where you are now in the process?
Keith Reese: Basically all the planting has been done. The greens were seeded, the back nine was seeded at the end of November, the front nine was seeded in mid-March, but it’s amazing, with the weather we’ve had, how they’ve caught up with each other. Our plan right now is we’re just putting some finish work on the golf course for the next month and then we’re going to open for play on September the first.”
K.T.: When I tell you that you’re 24 months away from hosting the P.G.A. Championship, what goes through your mind when you hear that?
K.R.: For me, it’s happened so many times now that it’s not that big of a deal. We know kind of what we want to do, we know when things are going to gear up and get going.
For our superintendent, Roger Meier, it’s going to be a totally different deal. He’s been through the Senior P.G.A., and he had some tournament experience before, but this is a big one and that’s what all of this work has been for. A lot of it has been, you know, we want to get the golf course in the best shape we can, day in and day out for the membership, but also it’s going to help with our tournament and assuring that we’re in the proper condition come August of ‘14.
K.T.: Are there major changes that the average fan will notice?
K.R.: A lot of it, if you’re not really familiar with it, you look at it and go, oh that looks kind of the same, but I think once you get on a green, say our 10th green, it’ll look the same from a distance, but when you get on it and start putting, you’ll notice that the contours are a lot different. Hole 15 is a lot different, and No. 2 and No. 3 are markedly different.
K.T.: What’s different about No. 2?
K.R.: The green has been shifted a little bit to the left, about two or three paces to the left. The bunker that was there on the right has been moved actually towards the back and there is more of a collection area around to the right. Much more open area around to the right. That’s what they’ll notice the most. The look of the green, the green complex, the mounding has changed a great deal.
K.T.: How about hole No. 3?
K.R.: No. 3, same thing, the mounding around the green, the bunker that was to the left, we had a really big bunker with two big grass mounds in it. That bunker has been reduced down to where it’s about maybe a third of the size of what it was before. It’s a greenside bunker for the left, and that area where the bunker was is now a closely mowed collection area. The bunker to the right was expanded a great deal around to the front of the green.
K.T.: What were the changes to hole No. 15?
K.R.: The green is a lot shorter in depth than it used to be, about four paces. Mr. Nicklaus added a bunker on the front right of that green. We actually took the layer of rock down two layers, and he put a little bunker in there and shortened the bunker to the left.
K.T.: How many times has Jack Nicklaus been back here during this process?
K.R.: I think he was in four times from the span of September, through, I think his last visit was probably in March.
K.T.: Were the main issues irrigation and drainage issues?
K.R.: That was one of the biggest projects we had. The irrigation system we had was 26 years old and it was the original system. Just like anything, like modern day computers, irrigation systems have changed so much. Now we have the ability to control one single irrigation head if we want. We’ll be able to water the golf course more efficiently, more effectively, to help a number of things, the playability as well as controlling disease.
K.T.: The fairway on No. 1 has traditionally had a lot of standing water during big rains, how was that issue remedied?
K.R.: One of the companies that did a lot of work for Mr. Nicklaus at Muirfield in Dublin, Ohio, came in and laid out an actual plan for the whole golf course, and in the first stage here, we’re taking the holes that needed it the most and we’re putting some of this drainage in and it’s basically catching water before it hits the fairway, taking water out as it’s on the fairway and moving it off more quickly. We should see a big difference there as well.
K.T.: Who plays the first round on Sept. 1; will it be the Gahm family?
K.R.: I’m sure the Gahm family will be out, whether Dwight will come out and hit some shots, I don’t know, I hope so. We are terribly excited to have golfers again, it will be great. It has been a different kind of busy for us, but we are so excited to get back to playing golf and the golf course is just going to be fantastic.
Kent Taylor is a sports anchor for WAVE 3. See more of his work at www.wave3.com or by tuning in to the NBC affiliate.