The 2020 Vic Open got underway at Thirteenth Beach Golf Links yesterday with course superintendent Steve Hewitt leading his maintenance team (pictured above) for an eighth consecutive year since the tournament's arrival on the Bellarine Peninsula. Hewitt (50) has been at the club for 19 years, 18 of them as superintendent, and has a crew of 24 for the week preparing both the Beach and Creek courses for one of the most unique professional tournaments in the game.
Since 2012 the men and women have contested the Vic Open alongside each other, with the tournament moving to the 36-hole Thirteenth Beach in 2013. Since then the format has garnered worldwide attention and captured the hearts of players and spectators alike. Indeed, for one of Australia’s greatest ever female golfers, Karrie Webb, the format is an absolute no-brainer and one that should be expanded to other events around the country.
“I think it’s fantastic,” says Webb. “We don't cross paths ever until this tournament. What I loved is this event has been around for many years, but last year with the co-sanctioning, the LPGA and the men's European Tour, for whatever reason it got the attention of the world. Now it's the hot topic as far as a concept for a golf tournament. Annika (Sorenstam) and Henrik (Stenson) are doing one in Sweden. There’s a few popping up around the place. I think with this model it would be great to see it replicated in all the state opens and have five, six, seven events like this around the country for guys and girls.”
Here are a few facts and figures from the Thirteenth Beach Golf Links maintenance facility for this week's event...
- With the Vic Open being a combined men’s and women’s event, both the Beach and Creek courses are in play over the first two days before the final two days are played on the Beach. The Creek course plays as the members normally play it, whereas the Beach course holes are rearranged. Usual holes 10-18 are tournament 1-9, holes 5-9 are tournament 10-13 and holes 1-4 are tournament 14 – 18.
- Greens on both courses are Penn G2 and surrounds fescue. On the Beach course the tees are Santa ana couch and fairways a mixture of fine fescue, common couch and Poa. On the Creek course the fairways are Santa Ana and tees Wintergreen. Roughs on both courses are a fine fescue, pasture/native grass mix. Both courses house a mammoth total of 266 bunkers between them.
- Preparations this year were hampered a little after an outbreak of anthracnose on Boxing Day knocked the greens, particularly on the Creek course, something that Hewitt has never seen before. Some greens are still showing the scars this week but the rest of the course is looking the best it has ever been, with the fairways immaculate.
- Cutting heights: Greens (3mm), surrounds and tees (7mm), fairways (10mm) and roughs (50mm). Projected stimpmeter reading of between 11 and 11.5. With the wind expected to get up on Saturday and Sunday, a couple of the more exposed greens may not receive a cut. continued...
- Hewitt’s normal crew for 36 holes (as well as the maintenance of a 250-house estate) numbers just 18. Hewitt has an experienced senior team around him this week, many of whom have multiple Vic Opens on their CVs. Among the senior staff are… Beach course assistant James Widdowson (eight Vic Opens); Creek course assistant Ash Hobson (five Vic Opens); foremen Scott Thomson and Dylan Taylor (both eight Vic Opens); irrigation tech David Johnston (seven Vic Opens); turf technician Luke Rogers (two Vic Opens) and Ian Rainnie (vegetation and clubhouse gardens).
- The tournament crew numbers 24 for the week, with 27 for yesterday’s opening round. Among those volunteering their time are Dylan Flanagan and Sam Rennie (Yarrawonga Mulwala GC), Daniel Tardrew (Southern GC), former employee Trent Schneider-Johnson and his apprentice Nathanial and three staff from Clifton Springs Golf Club on Thursday and Friday mornings of the tournament.
- ASTMA Platinum Partner Toro have provided Hewitt support with additional machinery for the tournament in the form of two fairway mowers, two triplex greens mowers and a Workman utility. ASTMA Bronze Partner GTS have supplied the crew shirts.
- Works to accommodate the burgeoning tournament have included extending the practice tee width by 25m, giving a total width of 90m. Two full fields requiring practice before play prompted the need to widen the range. The Creek course putting green has been doubled in size and now measures 900 square metres. Thirty-six new boutique golf lodges have also been built.
The ASTMA congratulates Steve and the crew on their efforts this week and wishes them all the best for the remainder of the tournament. You can keep up to date with the latest tournament news through social media...