BELLEAIR – These are the scenarios that drove Terry Kennelly crazy.
A tournament is approaching. A storm is brewing. A prediction that never seemed to improve. The running joke around the Superintendent’s industry — that they only watch The Weather Channel — reportedly centers his punchline on Kennelly and his background.
So, with Hurricane Nicole rolling through Florida ahead of the Pelican Women’s LPGA Championship this week at the Pelican Golf Course, Kennelly, its golf course and grounds manager, was set on the forecast. He wanted to be prepared, to have a plan in place, hopefully the outlook would change, even if it only seemed to get worse.
When Kennelly started working on golf courses around 1986, he said he tried to control the weather. But at this point the 53-year-old said: “I finally realized I couldn’t.”
That’s why when Sam Green spoke this week with his former colleague at the Congressional Country Club (in Bethesda, Maryland) from the 1990s, Kennelly was “calm as a cucumber,” Green said. The trait allowed Kennelly to last 36 years in the industry, progressing through various courses until he landed superintendent jobs at Delray Dunes Golf and Country Club in Boynton Beach, Concession Golf Club in Bradenton (qu he helped build) and at the Pelican Golf Club, which he joined in 2021.
Kennelly estimates he’s played in about 20 tournaments, including a US Open and a PGA Championship. By maintaining the courses and preparing them for championship-level playing conditions, he strikes a balance between touch and theory, old and new, Picasso and Einstein, Green said. An appreciation for aesthetics complements Kennelly’s understanding of theories in what Green calls a “game of chess with Mother Nature.”
“Your background in agronomy has to be Einstein’s play,” Green said, “but if you want to get to the level of what Terry does, you have to be a really good Picasso.”
Build a Resume
Paul Latshaw’s staff at the Congressional Country Club in the 1990s was full of future superintendents. They knew Latshaw’s reputation, with experience at Augusta National Golf Club. But it was hard work – “horrible, horrible work,” said Tom Walker, a superintendent who hired Kennelly for his first job at the Inverness Club in Toledo, Ohio – due to Maryland’s unstable climate.
Still, Kennelly and Green had experience of events like the US Open, which revolved around the story of a budding Tiger Woods in 1997. They worked 60, sometimes 70 hour weeks, and Kennelly was often stuck with the task of “spraying hawking greens”. “, Green said. He had to manually push the device and logged “100,000 miles on these feet to do this job,” Green joked.
“Your resume is your golf course,” said Kennelly’s brother, Tim, the Baltimore Country Club’s chief greenkeeper. “It doesn’t lie. So if you get lazy or sloppy or whatever, it shows.
During those years, Kennelly “worked in the trenches” and built on the experiences that convinced him to leave behind a four-year criminal justice degree and return to school in the state. of Michigan to pursue his interest in turf.
He learned the importance of reconciling a long-term dream with a short-term vision, mixing his cues on the course with the aspirations of the owner. Even as superintendent, the course was not his. Latshaw told his congressional staff that if someone said to paint the course pink, he had to convince the owner of the pros and cons of that decision.
“And if they still want you to paint it pink,” Green Latshaw recalled saying, “you better load up the sprayers and start spraying.”
Still, Kennelly managed to make his own mark when he arrived at The Concession in 2005. He helped oversee the design and construction from start to finish – “almost like having another child”, he said. he declares. It was the toughest course he had ever played, exactly what the members wanted, and Kennelly tried to make sure the course reflected that desire.
The grass must have been dry. We had to play hard and fast. When he arrived at Pelican Golf Club in 2021, the approach changed. What worked at The Concession wouldn’t translate, as Pelican wanted a comfortable, playable environment with lush conditions.
“Part of our responsibility with the maintenance department is to protect that design,” Kennelly said. “And I take great pride in that.”
Become “tournament ready”
When owner Dan Doyle Jr. hired Kennelly at Pelican, he wanted it to be Kennelly’s last job. Doyle looked around for an option to help Pelican take it “to the next level”, he said, and Kennelly’s name kept coming up.
Doyle and his dad promised to tell Kennelly away. They would just watch from afar, admiring his work from a clubhouse perch and providing the resources to make Kennelly’s knowledge materialize on the 18 holes. But from Kennelly’s perspective, the course wasn’t necessarily “tournament ready,” so they had to fix that.
There were agronomic elements that needed to be addressed, he said. Kennelly and the Doyles didn’t blame the previous staff, but the family wanted to find ways to progress gradually. Kennelly too.
“That’s not to say it was ruined,” Kennelly said, “but it just had to be better.”
After 18 months at Pelican, Kennelly has nothing to complain about. He enjoyed the thrill of new challenges — like “The Match,” a 12-hole event featuring Woods, Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth that the course will host in December — and his entry process into the LPGA Tournament from this week reflects the course. improvements.
Kennelly said his staff just needed to make a few “tweaks”, whether it was mowing the fairway or raking the bunkers more frequently. Then they will try to rest during the rounds while remaining on guard, unless they see something on the show that needs fixing.
“Last year’s tournament was a sample of his ability and skill,” Doyle said, “where this year I’m going to say he has it.”
When: Friday-Sunday (shortened to 54 holes)
Where: Pelican Golf Club, Belleair
Field size: 120 competitors, including seven of the world’s top 10 players
Bag: $2 million
Departure times: Out Thursday