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Setting up shop: Silverado preps for PGA Tour's Safeway Open

Superintendent P.J. Ringenberger and his team putting in long hours for first event of professional golf's fall season.

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Silverado The ninth hole on the North Course at Silverado Resort and Spa in Napa, Calif., which will play host to this week's Safeway Open on the PGA Tour. Photo by Rick Manahan

The work week will start very early Monday morning for the grounds department at Silverado Resort and Spa, the host course for the PGA Tour's Safeway Open.

The staff, led by Patrick "PJ" Ringenberger, the Director of Agronomy at Silverado, will be working a split shift schedule, as it's tournament week. They will be spending four hours in the morning, from 3:30 to 7:30 a.m., preparing and setting up the North Course for play. This involves mowing fairways, tees, approaches and greens, and also raking each of the bunkers.

It's back to work later in the day, from 4-8 p.m., with the staff filling in divots, rolling greens, and checking the moisture in the greens and fairway landing areas.

"Our staff really comes together and molds together well and does a great job for the tournament," Ringenberger said last week. "It's great working with a fantastic team that can do just anything that you want them to do.

"Everything we do mounts up this point. We always want to be at the top of our game come October in Napa Valley. It's important for us to provide a great product for the professional players."

There are 144 players in the field for the Safeway Open, which kicks off the PGA Tour's 2017-18 schedule and offers a $6 million purse. The event, presented by Chevron, is Oct. 2-8.

It will be played on the North Course, a par-72, 7,203-yard layout.

The week begins with the Johnny Miller Pro-Am and practice rounds on Monday. There will be practice rounds on Tuesday. The official Safeway Open Pro-Am is on Wednesday. The tournament's first round is on Thursday, with players starting from the first and 10th tees beginning at 7:20 a.m.

Golf Channel will televise all four rounds. The winner receives $1,080,000. It is a full FedEx Cup points event.

PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan will be in town for the event, which will feature Phil Mickelson, Zach Johnson, Webb Simpson, Tony Finau, Ryan Moore and defending champion Brendan Steele.

Mickelson is a World Golf Hall of Fame member and the winner of 42 PGA Tour events, including five majors.

Sangmoon Bae and Emiliano Grillo, who won Open titles at Silverado in 2014 and 2015, respectively, are each entered in the tournament. The field also includes Keegan Bradley, Chad Campbell, Ben Crane, John Daly, Bryson DeChambeau, Retief Goosen, Bill Haas, Billy Hurley III and Smylie Kaufman.

PJRingenberger Patrick "P.J." Ringenberger, the GCSAA Class A director of agronomy at Silverado Resort and Spa and a23-year member of the association. Photo by Rick Manahan

The North Course has been closed to members and resort guests since Sept. 24 to allow the crew to prepare the course.

"We're in perfect shape leading into the tournament," said Ringenberger. "The nice thing about what we do, especially advance week and then tournament week, is not so much the height of cut, but it's the frequency of cut. When we're able to get out there and mow every single day, it just really slicks them up and just makes them look really nice and tight."

Ringenberger oversees a big staff and the day-to-day operations on the North and South courses and the resort landscapes at one of the country's top golf complexes.

Ringenberger has been working with Cal Roth, who works as the senior vice president of agronomy for the PGA Tour, and David Donnelly, a PGA Tour rules official in preparation for the event.

The grounds department has been reducing the amount of water that the golf course receives in advance of the tournament. The staff will use hoses to hand water areas.

"The most important thing is just making sure that we have consistent turf throughout and having a good surface to hit off of," said Ringenberger, who is member of the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America and the Northern California Golf Course Superintendents Association.

Ringenberger's department includes Ryan Nicholson, course superintendent; Dennis Eichner and Jeff Orr, assistant superintendents; and Arnulfo Avina and Roberto Perez, mechanics. There are 24 more employees on the staff.

Silverado will receive help and support throughout tournament week from an additional 18 golf course superintendents through a volunteer program.

"It helps us out greatly, especially when there is unpredicted weather," said Ringenberger. "It's nice to have all hands on deck and be able to take care of the golf course and provide a great product."

There were heavy rains – which caused some suspensions in play – at last year's tournament.

The forecast for the week ahead shows sunny weather, with temperatures ranging from a low 45 to a high of 86.

The widths of the fairways range from 25 to 35 yards, with the fairway height cut at just below half an inch. The primary rough is expected to be 3-3 ½ inches. The intermediate cut will be about an inch.

There are four different height cuts around the green complexes.

The greens are expected to be between 11 ½ and 12 on the Stimpmeter, which is used to measure speeds.

"The health of the greens is really good," said Ringenberger. "They're awesome. The moisture levels in them are fantastic."

Silverado's two championship courses have hosted both PGA Tour and Champions Tour events, including the Kaiser International Open Invitational (1968-1976), the Anheuser-Busch Golf Classic (1977-1980), The Transamerica (1989-2002), and the Open (2014-15).

Silverado was once the site of the PGA Tour's national qualifying school.

Ringenberger majored in plant and soil sciences as a student at Southern Illinois University. He has worked in golf course maintenance all over the country.

He did internships at two courses: TPC of Scottsdale, Arizona, and Kokopelli Golf Club in Marion, Ill.

He was:

  • On the staff at Weaver Ridge Golf Club in Peoria, Ill.
  • The assistant superintendent at Keystone Ranch Golf Club in Keystone, Colorado.
  • Foreman at Cherry Hills Country Club in Englewood, Colo.
  • The assistant superintendent and later the golf course superintendent at Green Valley Ranch Golf Club in Denver.
  • The superintendent, overseeing the construction and grow-in of the course at Kohanaiki Golf and Ocean Club at Kailua-Kona, Hawaii.
  • The superintendent, in charge of overseeing the construction and grow-in of the course at BallenIsles Country Club in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.