By T.J. Auclair, PGA.com Interactive Producer
JOHNS CREEK, Ga. – That went by fast, didn’t it? The year’s final major, the PGA Championship, takes place this week at Atlanta Athletic Club.
Before the first ball is struck on Thursday morning, PGA.com’s T.J. Auclair caught up with AAC PGA Master Professional and Director of Golf Rick Anderson for a little Q&A.
Needless to say, Anderson is absolutely delighted to have the world’s best players teeing it up in his backyard this week. Anderson explained the process of transforming AAC for a major sporting event, talked about the condition of the course and drew up his picture of a perfect week.
PGA.com: Thanks you for joining us, Rick. This week, I’m sure, is one you’ve very much been looking forward to. Can you please tell us what it’s like to be the host PGA Professional of your association’s biggest event?
Anderson: For a club professional like myself, this is as good as it gets. It’s not like playing in a major, but I think it’s as close as you can get to that. We’ll have the greatest golfers in the world here on a tremendous golf course here. The members have given up so much to make it the very best it can be for the players and they’re all playing in our back yard.
PGA.com: Probably no one more so than you has noticed the unbelievable transformation that’s gone here to a golf course set up for a major event with huge tents, stands, etc. What’s it been like to see that transformation?
Anderson: It’s like building a city for 40,000 people. The construction started in late June and it’s been amazing to watch all of the workers and all of the people putting so much up around here. It’s been a total transformation. It gets to be where you can’t really go where we need to go as much as you could without all these structures up. But I think the excitement from the members standpoint the last few weeks before shutting down the golf course with the scoreboards, leaderboards and grandstands going up – they’re getting the feeling that something special is going on here and they’re going to be a piece of it.
PGA.com: A number of players have been in the media center for pre-tournament interviews already this week. All of them have raved about the condition of the course. What’s it like to hear the best players in the world say so many complimentary things about your course?
Anderson: It’s very satisfying because they play a lot of tournaments and I know they, for the most part, aren’t shy about telling you their feelings on a particular place. They’re not afraid to tell you if they think something’s not right. I think, so far, the players appreciate the sacrifice the members have made here to get the fairways so good for them. They like the greens too. We don’t know how fast they’re going to be for the tournament, but they’ve been really fast leading up to this time.
Also, I love what they’ve been saying about our last four holes. To hear Tiger and Rory and all those guys recognize that this might be the toughest final four-hole stretch on any golf course is very satisfying and exciting for the club and our superintendent Ken Mangum.
PGA.com: Can you explain to our readers a little but about what your duties are this week? Obviously, this is a different animal than what you’re used to.
Anderson: I’m wearing a lot of different hats and badges this week, that’s for sure. I’m trying to be in as many places as I can. As director of golf, my staff of professionals is actually working in the championship, helping on the practice tee, giving out carts and things of that nature. We’re trying to make sure everyone’s got everything they need.
I’m a member of the club’s executive committee for this championship, so we’ve been meeting for almost 3 ½ years now. I’ll make sure I’m doing my duties there, being the places I need to be and I’m also a member of the PGA Rules Committee. I won’t be actively out there, obviously, because you can’t get stuck out there with all these other things going on, but I am on the committee and I’ll be doing some announcing on No. 10 tee on Thursday and on the 18th green on Sunday. It’s off to the races everyday and talking to a lot of you guys, too.PGA.com: What in your mind would make for the perfect week here at Atlanta Athletic Club?
It’s something I’ve been praying for for a long time – good weather. We know it’s going to be hot, but if we could get some breezes – I think we’re going to get somewhere between 8-15 mph per day – that not only toughens the golf course a little bit and helps dry it out so it plays firm and fast, but it makes it a little easier on our spectators.
That to me, having not just the players, but the fans and everybody who comes out, saying, ‘Hey, that’s one of the best events I’ve ever been to.’
That would be the perfect week for me.