Course ‘wizard’ dials in Aronimink’s conditions for the 2020 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship
He’s been called “Aronimink’s course wizard” by the Philadelphia Inquirer.
High praise, indeed, for Aronimink Golf Club Superintendent John Gosselin, who has guided the Donald Ross gem in Newtown Square, Pa., through three PGA Tour events, the 2010-11 AT&T National and the 2018 BMW Championship, since taking the job in 2005. He’s excited and fully prepared for his first major, the 2020 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship.
“We start working long hours (last week),” he said Tuesday night. “Advance week is a tough week, but it is one of those things you want to do. It is a good kind of stress. It motivates us … we love it.”
Fortunately for Gosselin, the Championship’s postponement from June to October because of the coronavirus pandemic hasn’t been too much of a burden. He hasn’t had to shift aeration schedules or anything drastic like that. Fall conditions are generally sparkling anyway to give members a memorable end to the season.
“When it was postponed, we just held all our plans and volunteers. We just froze it,” he recalled. “When we got the new date, we picked up where we left off with all our prep. We had already done our recruiting for volunteers for our greens staff. We had written our schedules and what we wanted to accomplish.
“It’s a good time of year for the course as far as conditioning. The temperatures are good this week. It’s typical fall for this area, cooler nights, 65 to 70 degrees. The challenge for us this time of year, most of the work in the morning and a lot in the evening, we have to do it in the dark. In June, there is so much more daylight.”
Gosselin’s maintenance crew consists of his staff, plus an army of roughly 50 superintendents and assistant superintendents from other clubs in greater Philadelphia and New York. They work in shifts of 20 with the first ones starting at 4 a.m. and finishing around 9 a.m. The night shift starts at 4 p.m. and lasts until 10-11 p.m.
“We would take more (volunteers), but our numbers are lower (than usual) on site,” he said of social distancing's impact for 2020. “We have room to spread out.”
During Tuesday’s press conferences, the LPGA Tour players said the course was playing “soft” and “long” after rain over the weekend. Gosselin said he isn’t worried about getting the course firmer or faster. “It won’t play overly firm or overly soft. It will play really well,” he said. “Mother Nature will dictate it.”
The setup, from which tees are used daily to the speed of the greens, is being handled by Kerry Haigh, the Chief Championships Officer of the PGA of America.
“We are prepared to do whatever they want,” Gosselin said. “We will get the conditions really great. If we need to speed up or slow (the greens) down, we can. There is no specific green speed (to hit). They (Haigh and his staff) are happy with what we are doing. The rough looks to be challenging. I’m not sure how it will play with that caliber of golfer. They are just so good.”
Gosselin did provide one warning for players: Be wary of two interesting greens sitting almost side by side, the 8th (a par 3) and 10th (a par 4). “That 10th green can be a lot of fun,” he said with a laugh. “It seems to play difficult for our members. I would imagine those two holes will be a challenge.”