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Country club workers fight through dog days of golf maintenance, hoping for rain

Golfers warm up on the putting green Wednesday afternoon at the Bemidji Town and Country Club amidst a dry hill between holes Nos. 9 and 10. Brian matthews | Bemidji Pioneer

BEMIDJI - With the 88th annual Birchmont Golf Tournament entering its second round of match play Thursday, course workers are scrambling to keep the course watered amidst the muggy dry conditions.

"If Mother Nature cooperates with us and we get some timely rain it would help but obviously we haven't had that and things show it quite a bit," Golf Course Superintendent Tom Johanns said Thursday.

Johanns said the course got about three-fourths of an inch of rain Wednesday morning, the only rain the course had seen since the July 2 storms.

To battle the dry conditions, Johanns said crews worked non-stop last week in preparation for the tournament.

The irrigation system on the course uses its own well, but Johanns said it only irrigates 45 of the course's 175 acres, focusing mainly on the tee boxes, fairways and greens.

Leading up to the tournament, hoses were used to water areas of rough that needed attention. But with the 200-plus golfers walking the course this week, Johanns said the hoses can only be used at night.

With the tournament schedule, Johanns said all of the watering is done at night, with the irrigation system working to keep the most played areas green and crews using hoses and hand watering specific areas.

"We have a few scars from the conditions we've had on a couple of greens and there is some evidence of issues on the fairways but overall it is OK," Johanns said.

Johanns, who has supervised the course since 1989, said that he has seen droughts like this in the past. He said there is often a dry stretch in June or July, so this is not anything new for him. But, he said, it has been a few years since it has been this bad.

"We have been fortunate the last two years," Johanns said. "We've had pretty good wet years so we haven't seen this look in a while so it is probably shocking to some people but we have had these conditions before."

Johanns said the golf course's deep rough and fescue is nice because it recovers quickly when moisture gets back into it, which will make it appear much perkier when the rain does come.

Johanns said Wednesday's rain was much needed and he hopes it did some good but much more is needed.

"It has been a tough time of year for golf courses around the country and for farmers and everyone else," Johanns said. "Two-thirds of the country is in a drought.

"This is a very stressful time of year to maintain golf course conditions with limited water and the pressures we have to keep things fast and firm. It is kind of the dog days for golf course maintenance but that is our job to hold it together."