Wednesday, September 28, 2016

For Hazeltine National Superintendent, the Bar is Always Set at Championship Conditions

Superintendent Chris Tritabaugh (right) and top assisitant Ryan Moy host the Ryder Cup
Chris Tritabaugh is ready to welcome the world's best players for the Ryder Cup with the help of other Golf Course Superintendents Association of America members

(CHASKA, Minn.) - Minnesota native Chris Tritabaugh loves the passion of preparing for the Ryder Cup at Hazeltine National Golf Club.

Tritabaugh, 37, is the golf course superintendent at Hazeltine, where preparing for major golf events comes with the territory. The club has been the site of two U.S. Opens, two U.S. Women’s Opens, two PGA Championships and a U.S. Amateur.

This 41st Ryder Cup will be held Sept. 30 – Oct. 2, and the format is Team USA versus Team Europe. But one more team deserves a mention: Team Tritabaugh.

“This is Hazeltine’s and Minnesota’s event,” Tritabaugh told associate editor Howard Richman for a preview story in Golf Course Management magazine, the flagship publication of the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America. “We all know what the goal is. The message will be the same as I tell my staff every day: We’re all great at what we do. Enjoy what you are going to be part of. Enjoy the company you are with. And enjoy the product that you are going to produce. We will do this as a team — and it will be something special.”

U.S. Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III has Jordan Spieth, Dustin Johnson and other familiar names on his roster. Captain Tritabaugh’s team includes Ryan Moy, Steve “Rollie” Giesen, Ralph Arnt and Keith Conway.

Moy, who arrived at Hazeltine as an intern in 2007 and is now the top assistant, once thought he’d be a businessman.

“Hosting an event of this magnitude brings our team closer together,” says Moy, who loves the frequent brainstorming sessions over lunch, when ideas for improving their efforts are welcomed and shared.

Giesen, 55, has been at Hazeltine since it hosted the 1991 U.S. Open.

“We’ve got a good core, and we have great camaraderie,” says Giesen, a golf course technician. “We think we keep the course in condition like they would have for a major event all the time.”

Tritabaugh is a 17-year GCSAA member who says he learned a lot from observing his father, a Minnesota school district superintendent. But his journey in the golf course superintendent profession started with picking up range balls and loading a Cushman with gravel so he could fill potholes on cart paths at Albany Golf Club in Albany, Minn.

Gary Deters, superintendent at St. Cloud (Minn.) Country Club, worked alongside Tritabaugh at Albany Golf Club.

“We did a lot of things as teammates. It was so much fun because of the working environment,” says Deters, a 16-year GCSAA member. “A lot of it was attitude. Chris is intelligent, willing to take risks and learn. It’s taken him to a great place.”

Hazeltine green chairman Reed Mackenzie often sees Tritabaugh walking the course. A former USGA president, Hazeltine president and a Rules official in 38 U.S. Opens, Mackenzie doesn’t need a ruling when it comes to Tritabaugh, who writes a blog to keep members informed of course maintenance.

“He’s probably the best hire we’ve ever made,” MacKenzie said. “Chris and his crew are the perfect example of environmental stewards — (through) water reduction, naturalized turf areas.”

From the day it opened its doors in 1962, Hazeltine was prepared for major events. The first 22 words of its 300-word mission statement make that clear: "The Mission of the founders of Hazeltine was to build and maintain a golf course suitable for the conduct of national championships."

They did just that.

To Read more about Tritabaugh and Hazeltine National see the the September issue of Golf Course Management magazine (GCM). To hear more from Tritabaugh tune in to "Katrek and Maginnes On Tap" at 6 p.m. (Eastern) Sept. 28 on Sirius channel 208 and XM channel 92.

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