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Cook has Oakland Hills ready for PGA Championship

A major championship requires a major effort.

Such is the case at Oakland Hills Country Club's South Course where Certified Golf Course Superintendent Steve Cook and his staff have The Monster ready for the world's best golfers at the 90th PGA Championship, Aug. 7-10.

Playing at par 70 and 7,439 yards, Oakland Hills South's Poa annua greens will be rolling at 12 on the Stimpmeter. The creeping bentgrass fairways have been narrowed and many of the 135 bunkers have been redone and relocated. The goal was to preserve the Donald Ross design of 1918, while modernizing it for today's players.

"We’ve made our par 3s longer and tougher, narrowed the fairways, and really paid attention to the landing areas,” said Cook, who is one of approximately 25 golf course superintendents around the world who have achieved recognition from both the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA) as a certified golf course superintendent and the British & International Golf Greenkeepers Association (BIGGA) as a master greenkeeper. “It places a premium on tee shot accuracy. We've also tried to make our bunkers more penal and very hazardous. Plus, it’s difficult to get to the right spots on the greens — the hole locations shrink them because of the undulations and shelving.”

Cook is a 26-year GCSAA member and has been GCSAA certified for 15 years. Prior to assuming the golf course manager position at Oakland Hills in 1996, he served as superintendent at Wakonda Club in Des Moines, Iowa, from 1992-95, Golf de Joyenval in Paris, France, from 1990-92, and Medinah (Ill.) Country Club from 1984-89. He prepped Oakland Hills for the 2004 Ryder Cup, 2002 U.S. Amateur and Medinah for the 1988 U.S. Senior Open. South Course superintendent Ben McGargill is a six-year GCSAA member.

“Steve Cook and his staff are very experienced and very skilled,” said Kerry Haigh, PGA of America managing director of championships. “Certainly August is always a challenging time to get a golf course in its best condition — most superintendents will tell you it’s the most difficult time to manage cool-season grasses. With that said, considering the expertise of Steve and his staff, we expect the course to be in outstanding shape for the championship.”

For more on Cook's preparations, read GCM Senior Staff Writer Terry Ostmeyer's PGA Championship preview "A real Ross," published in the August 2008 edition of GCSAA’s monthly magazine.

The 1972 and 1979 PGA Championships and 2004 Ryder Cup were held on the South Course, as well as the 1924, 1937, 1961, 1985 and 1996 U.S. Opens, 2002 U.S. Amateur, 1981 and 1991 U.S. Senior Opens, 1929 U.S. Women's Amateur, and 1922 Western Open. Robert Trent Jones redesigned the South Course before the 1952 U.S. Open and again in 1972 and 1984. Arthur Hills did a redesign in 1987 and Rees Jones added another in 2006.

GCSAA is a leading golf organization and has as its focus golf course management. Since 1926, GCSAA has been the top professional association for the men and women who manage golf courses in the United States and worldwide. From its headquarters in Lawrence, Kan., the association provides education, information and representation to more than 21,000 members in more than 72 countries. GCSAA’s mission is to serve its members, advance their profession and enhance the enjoyment, growth and vitality of the game of golf. The association’s philanthropic organization, The Environmental Institute for Golf, works to strengthen the compatibility of golf with the natural environment through research grants, support for education programs and outreach efforts. Visit GCSAA at http://www.gcsaa.org.


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