When Brad Wunderlich was growing up in St. Louis, he spent his summers working at local golf courses, now it has become his livelihood.
“It was a summer job when I was in high school,” said Wunderlich, the golf course superintendent at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course. “My grandfather used to work at golf courses. I fell in love with it and decided to pursue it as a career.”
Wunderlich graduated from Colorado State with a degree in turf management, and then he did some work at the prestigious Kingsmill Resort and Westwood CC in St. Louis before landing a job at Montreux Golf & Country Club in Reno, the site of the annual Reno-Tahoe Open.
Wunderlich said that Chuck Green and Bland Cooper, two PGA Tour agronomists, and current Montreux superintendent Doug Heinrichs, were instrumental in his career development.
“I worked closely with a lot of PGA Tour agronomists,” Wunderlich said. “Chuck Green helped me get my job at Montreux, and Blane Cooper is one of the best in the business. Doug Heinrichs taught me a lot.”
And now, Wunderlich is busily getting the Edgewood course in shape for the 24th annual American Century Championships. It will be the first ACC event for Wunderlich, who was hired in October. It won’t be the first time he’s helped prepare a course for a big event. Wunderlich spent the last 11 years at Montreux.
Wunderlich pointed out that getting ready for a tournament like the ACC is much different than preparing a course for a PGA event.
“For the celebrity tournament, everything doesn’t have to be perfect,” Wunderlich said. “Things are a little more relaxed. It’s not as stressful as a PGA event. It’s more of a fun event, but we do want the course to look nice. “For the RTO, PGA Tour agronomists would come out the week before the tournament; what we call the advance week. They would spend two weeks with us. We did a lot of bunker maintenance. The PGA likes their greens fast and firm which requires a lot of hand watering. We also had to do a lot of brushing to get the graininess out of the greens. The guys are playing for a lot of money, and you don’t want anything to come down to chance.”
The field for the ACC will be treated to a course that is in outstanding shape. Wunderlich said that the course won’t be toughened up for the tournament. It will play the same as it does for the membership and open players.
“We’ll mow the course every day of the tournament,” Wunderlich said. “Usually we mow every other day. We don’t let the rough grow out. We don’t have the budget that Montreux does nor the overtime budget. Usually it’s my assistant Jeff Cady and a couple of other full-time guys that work after the morning crew leaves.
“We had a good winter. I changed a lot of practices (in terms of course care). We did some seeding in the spring, and the course responded really well. It never rains here, so we rely on our irrigation system, so we have to be careful of how much water we put on the course. It can tend to get really wet or really dry. It’s a fine line.”
Wunderlich said that it was requested by tournament officials that the greens be around 10.5 on the Stimpmeter.
“They will probably be between 10.5 and 11,” Wunderlich said. “They may be faster by the end of the week. There are probably 10 or so guys in the field that can notice the speed. If the greens get too fast there will be guys 3-putting and 4-putting, and that’s not what we want.”