Golf

Herculean effort to get course playable for Honda Classic Sunday

A few years ago, Lukus Harvey would have held the title of golf course superintendent.

These days, the title has become slightly more highfalutin. He’s called the director of agronomy at PGA National Resort & Spa.

The title he should hold is Mr. Golf Course Fix-It-Up-Guy.

When a sudden and ferocious storm came through Saturday afternoon with winds clocked at 60 mph, it trashed the Champion Course at PGA National. Harvey’s task: Get the course ready for play and make it quick — like less than 24 hours.

“To be honest, the storm was quite devastating to the golf course,” Harvey said.

In addition to the wind, five inches of rain left the course looking more like a water theme park than a golf course. Some 72 traps on the course were filled with water, and greens were covered in water, much to the delight of many of the ducks inhabiting the course.

When the storm hit and went through, Harvey and his grounds crew were huddled up in a maintenance facility.

“We were just hoping that the building we were in wasn’t going to blow away, as well,” Harvey said.

So, up close and personal, from that maintenance building, they all watched their meticulously manicured golf course being torn up by Mother Nature.

Once the storm had passed, the team immediately knew the task at hand — clean up and fix up. And that’s exactly what they did. They arrived at 3:45 in the morning Saturday, worked all day and now they would be working for most of the night and coming back at 3:45 a.m. Sunday.

“We got in just a little two-hour nap in between,” Harvey said.

It pretty much amounted to a 22-hour day.

Harvey, 36, has 20 years in the golf course business and was jokingly asked if he can receive overtime pay.

“I do not and my hourly rate went the other way,” he said with a laugh, pointing his hands downward.

Harvey even used some of his own money.

“I ran out during the night when we were working, went to Papa John’s and got 15 pizzas and carried around soda and bottles of water for everyone,” he said. “Made sure we were hydrated all night long.”

Harvey has 20 people in his crew, but it grew into many more.

He already had eight volunteers from TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra to help out during the tournament, then after the storm the phone calls started coming in.

“The local superintendents, my peers, my friends, were awesome,” he said. “I must have gotten 30 text messages saying, ‘What can we do? What can we do?’ That’s where all the pumps came from. All of a sudden I turned around and there were a dozen pumps on my front door.”

Harvey was asked if he was stressed or challenged about the job at hand.

“No, it’s fun,” he quickly responded. “It’s only stressful if you make it that way.”

Harvey estimated the course was at “about 80 percent” when play started Sunday.

For the average fan who showed up Sunday, the course looked pristine, and they could not tell of the damage released upon it the afternoon before. Pretty much the only thing spectators did notice was that the huge scoreboard off the 18th green was missing. It had been blown over into a lake.

And, of course, scoreboards don’t come under the category of agronomy.

So asked how he felt Sunday, Harvey summed up, and rightfully so, “I couldn’t be more happy.”

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