Midland Heads to the Genesis Invitational

Normally we attend the Golf Course Superintendent Association Golf Industry Show, as our flagship educational event of the year. Being in a science-based industry, there is constantly new and emerging technology, turf research updates, and leadership/management classroom events. There’s also the traditional trade show, unveiling new equipment/technology, as well as a way to study equipment options for future capital investments. The GIS event, is also a great way to network, and meet golf course managers across the US, and world. But after over 2 decades of attendance, its delivery becomes stale, and too repetitive. Add in the ability to gain technical education via online platforms, and it’s becoming easier to keep abreast.

For the past few years, I’ve been trying to attend a different kind of educational opportunity that offered a different ROI, volunteering to help prepare Riviera Country Club for the Genesis Invitational. It’s a difficult tournament to volunteer for, as they have a strong contingent of returning individuals from around North America. Our restoration put us on the map to open the door to get in, as Riviera’s Superintendent, and staff, were paying attention on the specifics of how we expanded our green complexes, via Twitter, as they are potentially looking at doing the same scope of project in the future.

Midland’s staff has had plenty of volunteering at big golf events – Men’s and Women’s US Opens, US Amateurs, Men’s and Women’s PGA Championships, the Solheim Sup, the Ryder Cup, and the PGA Tour stop at TPC Twin Cities. But Riviera is a unique opportunity, specifically because of it’s world-class architecture (sorry TPC Twin Cities…), location (Pacific Palisades > Chaska!), and grass types (TV commentators talk about Kikuyu but have no idea what they’re talking about). It offers a completely different “classroom” experience. An elite classroom on the world stage of golf.

From an architectural standpoint, I was most interested in seeing 2 specific holes, #4 and 5, as they are both “Template” holes. The 4th being a Redan (which Ben Hogan called the greatest par 3 in America) and the 5th, being one of the greatest par 4s in the world, and very similar to a Leven hole concept. The obvious hole everyone wants to see is the drivable 10th, which lived up to the hype. We watched player after player study the hole during practice rounds, practicing second shots from all over the green complex, giving it respect I’ve never witnessed at a golf tournament before.

The Redan. Notice the kicker slope is fairway and approach height turf

The Redan’s green is relatively flat, mostly sloping from front to back, giving players that fly the green a good dose of regret. Unfortunately PGA Tour players think they can over power classic architecture, play “target golf” and immediately blame the turf conditions, instead of playing their ball to the approach and letting it roll out. I was in heaven looking through the shotlink data and scores. Very few have figured out how to play the Redan (or refuse to check their ego and play “short”)

The Leven 5th. Position A off the tee is down the right side of the fairway to get a flat lie, but the further right you go, the more the Leven mound blocks your view of the green/pin. Very similar to Midland’s 13th, but also Alps-ish like our 14th. Regardless, classic golf architecture at its best

Fortunately, Riviera’s Superintendent allowed Midland to bring all of our technical staff – Mark Ries, Tina Rosenow, Justin Hemauer, and myself, the only club to bring more than 1 individual. It not only allowed for an educational opportunity, but other intangibles such as team building, daily discussions, and potential aspects to implement back home. No, we are not comparing preparing an “elevated” PGA tournament at one of the most exclusive (and expensive) clubs to Midland. But when you take their staff of 40, many of which have been at the club for 25+ years,  add in 55 volunteers from all levels of clubs, there is endless information shared on strategy, logistics, success and failure stories – intangible information that pays real dividends. Throw on top of that, preparing a tournament hosted by Tiger Woods himself, you get a massive confidence boost to prepare Midland for any, and all, future events, lowering your stress levels knowing you successfully executed Tiger’s “Invite.”

The All-World 6th

The logistics of the event is a large commitment. We arrived in LA late morning, Sunday Feb 12th, and were on the course early afternoon for a review of tasks, and to become familiar with the course in the daylight, as most of the maintenance is completed under complete darkness. And they only accept volunteers that can commit to all 8 days of tournament preparation.

The bunkering of the 10th has lights permanently mounted on the backside of the bunker faces, giving an amazing effect from the clubhouse 

The morning alarm of 3:00am was the least enjoyable aspect. A morning meeting at 4:00am with tasks, goals, and details were discussed. With over 100 people working out of their Turfgrass facility, the energy is always palpable at events like this. Mark, Tina and Justin were tasked with mowing fairways. Riviera’s architecture presents some dangerous situations, with navigating the property in darkness, avoiding the barancas, and steep (hidden) fairway bunkering. A group of 5 mowers on each 9 was lead by an experienced Riviera staff member. Mowing fairways with Triplex units, on a 9-3 (side by side) mowing direction is elite, and shouldn’t be copied by your typical club.

Mowing the 2nd Green under darkness 

Cutting the cup on the 1st

AGCS Mark Ries

AGCS Tina Rosenow

AGCS Justin Hemauer

After mowing, they then transitioned to dew whipping any accumulated fairway grass clippings, as well as knocking down dew on tee boxes and walkways to fairways. This was a great time for them to network with Riviera staff, and other volunteers about their own operations. As you can see from the above pictures, the real color of the turf doesn’t show on TV. The obnoxious filters they use makes everything much greener than reality, drowning out the fantastic patina color palate of the dry Kikuyu fairways, and eliminating much of the classic golf course feel.

I was tasked with assisting Riviera, the PGA Tour, and USGA on collecting data on firmness, trueness, smoothness, and green speed. A good friend of mine, who was the Superintendent of the Cal Club in San Francisco, is now a Tour Agronomist for the PGA Tour. We’ve stayed in contact over the past 10 years, mostly about philosophies of growing turf, and worked together collecting data at the 2016 Ryder Cup. The PGA Tour collects 1000’s of data points at each tour stop, creates baselines and thresholds, as well as where the numbers should be trending throughout the tournament. However, the USGA recently unveiled new technology with a golf ball that contains several internal sensors to take all 4 measurements. The Genesis Invitational was the first tour event that the technology was being used for the entire week. Being able to take the data for the USGA, and relate it to past techniques the PGA Tour was using, as well as communicate to the Riviera Superintendent, was an interesting and sometimes political experience. Let’s just say, all three parties wanted to achieve different numbers.  It will take some time, with this new technology (GS3 ball), to create a new data set to find correlations to cultural practices and results. I collected data during the morning shift, as well as night, to accumulate as much information as possible, to keep a close eye on the data trends, communicate to the PGA Tour Agronomist and Superintendent, that lead them to adjust maintenance as necessary, and correlate that with future pin locations, as well as feedback from PGA Tour players.


Collecting firmness data on the 10th 

Collecting smoothness, trueness, and ball roll data on the 3rd

After the morning shift, we had ~4 hours to watch golf, go back to the hotel and get some much needed rest, or sightsee, which we did a combo of all of that throughout the week. Wednesday was a treat, as spectators weren’t allowed in for the Pro-Am, giving the staff and volunteers the ability to watch golf close up. Who knows how many more times we’ll see Tiger play, so getting to see him for a few holes uninterrupted by the masses was a treat. He looked stiff as a board Wednesday morning as he teed off at 6:30am in 39 degree weather.

Tiger up close during Wednesday’s Pro-Am

The Tiger Effect on Thursday

Griffith Observatory

Venice Beach

Not in Kansas Anymore….

Point Dume Nature Preserve, Malibu

Daily night shift started at 2:00pm, with another meeting to discuss what we needed to improve upon, logistics, changes, player feedback, and individual tasks. Mark, Tina, and Justin worked on filling fairway divots, and I continued with data collection. Night shifts ended around 7:30pm, giving us a chance to “network” in downtown Santa Monica the rest of the night…..

Me astounded at the fact that the average golfer THINKS they want green speeds they see on TV. Trust me, you don’t

Only a handful of clubs in the country hand roll greens, as this process allows you to fill the roller with a specific amount of water, to achieve a very specific amount of firmness and speed, based on the objectives and turf health

Looking back towards the fairway on the 5th

“Hogan’s Alley”

Overall, it was a great experience to not only represent Midland Hills at Riviera, but to expand our exposure to fantastic turf professionals. The networking and connections made will form life-long friendships, as well as hopefully open other doors in the future for Mark, Tina, and Justin. Riviera is the most interesting stop on the tour architecturally, demanding creativity, precision, and patience. There’s a reason it’s Tiger’s Invitational. Their Golf Course Maintenance staff is expansive in knowledge, resources, and lives up to the highest expectations. Even under a frost delay Thursday morning, they kept extremely calm, and you’d never know they were on the world’s golf stage. Their culture welcomed us easily, and instantly entrusted us with being an integral part of their success, another reason we enjoy our industry.

A big thanks to Midland’s leadership for allowing us the opportunity to attend, and enjoy such a great experience. We’ve come back home better turf professionals 

Mike Manthey


31 Replies to “Midland Heads to the Genesis Invitational”

  1. Mitch Granholm says:

    Awesome post Mike! I’m jealous… but not jealous of the early mornings.

    1. Mike Manthey says:

      Thanks Mitchell.
      You still remember the sting of early rises?!

      1. …… Oh yea…. Very much so. Ironically some of my favorite memories are when we were working at obscene hours, like cleaning up aerification cores past 1:00 am because the versa-vac broke down, or plowing snow in a blizzard at 2:00 am with some good tunes blasting while everyone else is sleeping.

  2. Dan Kelly says:

    Looks as though you had a blast! I’m envious. Thanks for the report.

    One question: Is this GS3 ball going to become standard equipment? Will Midland have one?

    1. Mike Manthey says:

      Good question Dan.
      After about 80 hours of use, IMO, it shouldn’t have come to market, it’s not ready, too many glitches, the app is clunky at best, and its numerical numbers don’t match what is currently being used. But will it become standard equipment? Probably for the higher end clubs. I think all of the data craze happening right now is eliminating some of the artistic side of greenkeeping. Data can help you manage what you measure, but I’m not the person who will blindly follow data. Will we have one? Probably in the future to double check our practices against a numerical value, which will be helpful.

  3. Billy Jackson says:

    Very Cool!! Awesome opportunity for all of you!!

    1. Mike Manthey says:

      Thanks Billy!
      Hope you’re great,

  4. Howard O’Connell says:

    Great article and pictures-especially the hand rolling of the greens.

    1. Mike Manthey says:

      Thanks for reading Howard,
      You probably remember when hand rolling was the only option to roll greens!

  5. Anonymous says:


    Great article! So happy for all of you to have that experience and see some of LA and southern CA. Thanks for sharing, hi to all of you and stay warm!!

    Mary Liz

    1. Mike Manthey says:

      Mary Liz!
      Thanks, and yes, it was nice to feel some warmth on our faces!

  6. Bob Marolt says:

    Thanks for taking the time to write this! Lifelong learning is so important and benefits everyone. So glad you had this experience.

    1. Mike Manthey says:

      Thanks Bob,
      Agree completely, always stay humble and eager to learn.

  7. Tucker Wayne LeBien says:

    Mike, Mark, Tina and Justin-

    We are busting with pride over.your fantastic experience and showcasing Midland knowledge, talent and work ethic!

    1. Mike Manthey says:

      Thanks Tucker, really appreciate that!

  8. Mark Hronski says:

    Great opportunity & experience for you all! Really enjoy being educated on the science behind the golf course. Thanks Mike & team!

    1. Mike Manthey says:

      Hey Mark,

      Thanks for reading, and the support.

  9. Rob Etten says:

    Thanks for such a detailed summary! You and the entire team deserved this trip. Glad you could combine long work days with some fun as well!

    1. Mike Manthey says:

      Thanks Rob!
      You know we left room for some fun 🙂

  10. Tom Kieselbach says:

    Thank you! . It was, indeed a great experience for all. Your summary was informative and a good read.
    By the way, how fast are our greens in the summer?

    1. Mike Manthey says:

      Hey Tom,
      Thanks for reading.
      Our target is 10.5-11′ Obviously weather has the biggest impact of what we actually get.

  11. Norm Chervany says:

    Great post!! I am very glad your team this opportunity … a “win” for everyone at Midland

    1. Mike Manthey says:

      A win-win, no question.

  12. Brian Gorecki says:

    Thanks for sharing. We have such a great staff at MHCC – nice to see you having an opportunity to expand your knowledge. Really appreciate all you do for our club. BG

    1. Mike Manthey says:

      Thanks for reading Brian. We do have a great staff!

  13. Bobby Bonine says:

    I loved reading this. Thanks for representing Midland and for the continued commitment to hands on professional growth. Well done.

    1. Mike Manthey says:

      Thanks Bobby for the support, hope you’re great!

  14. Jared Sherlock says:

    Thank you for taking time to share all of this, Mike. I learn so much from your posts. And really awesome that Tina, Mark, and Justin could attend, too!

    1. Mike Manthey says:

      Thanks Jared, it’s why I do them! Can’t leave the squad behind!

  15. Richard Fesmire says:

    Great write up Mike.
    Proud of you and the team. Wonderful you guys had the opportunity to experience it! We are fortunate to get to enjoy the fruits of your team’s knowledge and efforts. Glad we could share with those west coast folks!

    1. Mike Manthey says:

      Thanks Richard, and couldn’t agree more!

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