Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Eli Comes to Town

With the rain suspended Derby (over 3 inches fell on early Sat. morning) completed on a beautiful Sunday we are now in the home stretch of making final course preparations for the Western Amateur Championship.
Before I go any further though, I want to congratulate Derby Champions, Jim Connors IV and Ken Coquillette. They shot a fabulous 17 under par on a course that, although rain softened greens were slower than usual for the Derby, had extra challenging hole locations and, rough that was plenty longer and thicker than usual! Indeed quite a score!  I'll blog a bit more about the Derby, prior course preparations, the 3" rain and our work to get the course playable to complete the Derby, and final course preparations for the Western, in a soon to be posted later blog. For now though, I want to tell you about our gazebo work now in progress.

Five years ago, after a rain shelter gazebo was destroyed by vandals, we searched for a company that could build a structure similar to the one that we had at the #12 hole pond on #3 side. Our search ended in the company Rocky Knolls Gazebos, from Rexford, Montana (Northwest corner of Montana about two miles from Canada) owned by Eli Beechy and a few family members. Eli and family are Amish and are incredible craftsman, as hardworking as you get, and just delightful folks, and at that time Eli fabricated the gazebo in Montana, had it shipped here to the club, and the two of us constructed it in the fall of 2005. We were fortunate in that they normally travel, to erect these gazebos, only in the states of Montana, Oregon, Idaho, and Washington, but they have family in Illinois and also Michigan and we were able to persuade him to stop by here and put up a gazebo for us during a planned trip visit to family. So at that time, Eli, his wife Irene, and their two sons, Nathan and Samuel traveled here by train, I picked them up at Union Station and they stayed one night at a nearby hotel. Eli and I erected the gazebo at #7 tee on a Saturday and finished it up early Sunday morning.
 The original Rain Shelter Gazebo constructed in 2005 by Eli and Me
 Disfigured Willow and deteriorating Gazebo before removal

Gazebo at #5 Tee prior to removal

Fast forward five years... The rain shelter gazebo at #12 pond was rapidly deteriorating and one of our other rain shelters was also in pretty bad shape. It was certainly time for them to be replaced. I contacted Eli and asked about having two more built (I was thinking he could send kits and I would construct myself) and he said and then, to my delight, asked if I would like for him to put them up as he was planning another visit to family nearby around the first week of August. The first week of August is the Western Am. and that wouldn't work for us but with a little pleading he graciously agreed to shift his plans one week so the timing would work out and the new rain shelter gazebos would be in place before the tournament. Perhaps it was because we established a relationship five years earlier, or because I did my best to accommodate Eli and family five years ago, or because ultimately we decided to have a third gazebo made, but whatever it was Eli happily adjusted his travel plans.

So, in the previous post I showed our preliminary work with removing portions of the old gazebos (and still keeping the roofs in place should they be needed during the Derby) digging footings (8 per) for piers at each location, laying out the exact pier locations and pouring concrete. With this work complete last Monday - Wednesday the concrete would be cured before Eli arrived. Yesterday the truck arrived with the all the gazebo pieces and later in the day Eli and family arrived. They drove this time (they themselves can't drive but they hired a driver, Brent, whom also assits with construction) but this trip there are a few more family members. In addition to Nathan and Samuel, they have a few more brothers and sisters, including Ruth, Paul, James, Martha, and the youngest (7 months old) is Joseph. Large families are common among the Amish as Eli has 14 brothers and sisters and Irene has 13! Eli and Irene are certainly making good progress on building their family.

Instead of staying at a hotel Eli asked if I would be willing to let them pitch a tent and stay here near the Grounds Operation Center and so without this being a problem at all, we have some visitors on site for the next couple days. Their compound is in a comfortable location on the lawn area in front of the Grounds Staff  Bunkhouse. As of this morning at 9:30, Eli, Brent, Nathan (the oldest at 11 years) and Samuel, already have one gazebo nearly complete!

Here are a few photos of all that is going on at the moment:
 Hand unloading Gazebo sections bright and early Monday morn.

Lots of materials, Lodge-pole Pine, bark stripped by hand

Eli and boys loading first Gazebo

 Some of Beechy and Cross family enjoying shade on #14 while course closed (little guy in foreground is my grandson Clark Joseph)

 Most of Beechy family awaiting dinner. Brent grilling, Eli supervising, Irene tending to children
(Amish do not take pictures or pose for photographs but Eli and Irene do not mind me taking pictures)
The youngest of the Beechy family, Joseph. ( Posing pretty well here!)
Future Gazebo builder I'm sure!

Making fast progress. Gazebo between #15 Tee /#16 Green

There is a lot of work still to do but with extra help this time around they'll be done in no time. I'll post more later on the Gazebo construction progress and much more.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Tournament Time is Here

It's been way too long since I've posted but it surely hasn't been because I haven't had anything to post about. To the contrary! We've had so many things going on that I just haven't had time. But on Skokie Derby Eve., and the Western Amateur Championship about a week later, it's a great time to update you on what we've been up to for the past several weeks.
I mentioned in my last post that it hasn't been just the past several weeks that we've been getting ready for the Western, but in fact the last several months. Most recently though, we've made the final push to have the course in as fine a condition, both from a playability standpoint as well as an aesthetic standpoint.
Over the past several weeks, which have been especially challenging for turf survival with high heat and humidity at times (leading to high disease activity), and high heat, drought, and wind conditions at other times (leading to moisture stressed turf ), we've had our hands full just trying to keep turf healthy and alive much less carrying out several special projects. With a lot of hard work and many long days (definitely a sleep deprived staff), I think we've managed to do both fairly well.
I'll write more about the difficult weather year we're experiencing, the impact it's had on turf conditons, and reference or link you to some other articles regarding this, but for now the following items have been part of our preparations for both the Derby and the Western Am. It's a photo recap...hope it gives you a little insight into our world.
Asst. Superintendent Jacob applying nutrients and plant protectants
(a frequent activity these past couple months during these challenging environmental conditions)
Miguel & Javier checking sand depths and smoothing all bunkers

Robbie painting rails, posts, and wire of fence at #13 new Champ. Tee area
(planting of native grasses and vines to more thoroughly mask has also been completed)

Gus completing a drainage repair project in area between holes #1 and #10, an area which will be heavily trafficked during Western Am. 

Fairway rolling on Derby eve to provide smoother, firmer surfaces to aid ball roll.

Careful though - don't let that ball roll to far off the fairway. 
Here Freddy is "topping it off" - at 4 inches!

Some other tall rough you'll want to avoid! Here Nestor is finishing removal of seedling and other weeds. He and others have spent considerable time combing all tall rough areas for unwanted plants.

Otto "fluffs" same rough area after cleaning small branches and leaf debris.

With new gazebo being installed soon, it was time for this declining willow to go. 
We didn't want it falling on new gazebo - or on a player!

Rafa and Nestor pause from clean-up activities. Trunk measured nearly 5 feet in diameter.

Miguel, Javier V., and Perez remove center supports so that footings can be dug while still keeping roof in tact if needed for shelter during Derby

Drilling 1 of 24 holes, 12" in diameter, approx 42" deep. This was a day and a half job for 4 of us. Compacted clay with a few rocks and roots to go through (and 90 degree temps) made this a really delightful task!

Another 3 days were spent laying out exact positioning for concrete footings (piers)... 

and then pouring took place.  Several of the crew were involved in this project with Steve as my main assistant. All piers are now in place and curing. Old structures will be removed Sunday after Derby and new structures will be erected next Monday, Tuesday & Wednesday.
Eli Beechy, the Amish-man from Montana will be coming in town. More later on this....

  Another project (following removal of several disfigured and diseased spruce trees) was new landscape plantings at #9 pond.

New plants include Serviceberry, Chokeberry, Little Blue-stem, Indiangrass, and False Indigo

Cirilo removes a dried divot and fills with...

a green dyed sand, peat, and seed mixture

Miguel does a little "Aquatic Gardening"...thins some of the water lillies

& after a Derby eve mowing, to help gain some putting green speed...
(we'll do this a couple times in the morning too!)

The course is... Ready for the 60th Run for the Roses!

Best of Luck to you all!

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