June 14, 1994
LES UNGER: Mark Kuhns has been the green superintendent here
for three and a half years. He has acquired an assistant named
Steven who he has brought along to answer any questions. Mark,
how about letting you just start off on a general idea of what
kind of special preparation went into preparing for the U.S. Open.
MARK KUHNS: Well, for any event, there is an awful lot of preparation
involved. Even for our SWAT party there is a lot of preparation
involved. It is almost U.S. Open caliber. We have been preparing
-- I have been here for three and a half years, and from the day
we walked through the door, we have been preparing for this week
and it hasn't been real easy. Some of the things needed a lot
of attention. The greens, of course, have come back rather nicely
over the last couple of years. We have been doing heavier aerofication
for the last three and a half years and applied tons of sand --
hundreds of tons of sand to try get the surface a little firmer.
The greens are not USGA specification greens. They were never
built that way, but they are very good greens. They surface drain
very well. And the sand is more to firm the surface because we
don't have that internal drainage so we have to try to get the
surface as firm as we can but that has probably been -- the thrust
of our efforts have been the greens the last three years. We have
also worked somewhat on the fairways, but the fairways were very
good to begin with. And we have worked on the roughs; strengthening
the roughs, but again, sometimes all the work in the world can't
counteract what nature will do to you if you don't get the rainfall
and the weather, the temperatures, and so forth. But we are here
today and it is -- we are right where we want to be at this point.
The rain has held off fairly well, and we will see what happens.
LES UNGER: Memory serves me that you have been involved in
the previous Open course; is that not true?
MARK KUHNS: Yes. I was superintendent of Laurel Valley Golf Club
for 12 years. We prepared for the U.S. Senior Open in 1989 there,
and we have hosted the U.S. Women's Open here in 1992.
LES UNGER: About the weather during the winter, did that set
you back or how would you evaluate any damage from that.
MARK KUHNS: Well, the winter wasn't the best in the world, but
it was -- it actually served a purpose. The snow covered the greens
most of the winter and protected them from desiccation from the
winds, from freezing and we did have some ice damage on a couple
of the greens. Most of it is not visible now, but it was very
minor compared to what happened over the eastern half of the state.
But we did have a little bit of damage but it wasn't too bad.
LES UNGER: Okay. We will take some questions.
Q. Johnny Miller said when he was in here that he heard that
these are the only greens that you have to slow down for the Open;
is that right?
MARK KUHNS: Well, if you look at the different events that we
have throughout the year, we have several events involving member/guests
and different outings that the club has that we do really over
-- we overemphasize speed and on a day-to-day basis, our members
play these greens anywhere from 10.6 to 11.6 depending on the
environmental conditions, and it just seems that the harder and
faster the greens are, the happier the membership is. But, no,
I don't think we really are slowing them down. We are going to
play the greens about 11.6.
Q. Give me an estimate of what they play for, a member/guest?
MARK KUHNS: First of all, let me introduce my two assistants Brian
Steele - stand up - Scott Hines (and Eric Wetmiller), and they
helped prepare these greens for these member/guests, and we have
been up to -- our record is 13.6 . That is a true 13.6 on a stimpmeter
with an average of six rolls, three in each direction.
Q. As a frame of reference, would you give us an average around
the United States of a typical private club, what they roll during
the season at a club typically?
MARK KUHNS: I am not real sure what the average is, but I know
other clubs around the area. In a normal club where you have to
water more to receive a ball better on the approach shot, probably
a speed of nine is fast at most clubs.
Q. Mark, how has the weather been the last couple of weeks
and how happy are you with the condition of the course the way
it is right now?
MARK KUHNS: The weather has been really good up until this point.
This is starting to do a number on the roughs. No matter how much
you syringe and water, you can't replace the environmental conditions
of a cold front coming through and perking everything up, so we
just try to keep it alive. But for the greens, you know, the saying
is, you can't have your cake and eat it too, so the good thing
about the dryness right now is the fact that the greens are nice
and firm and we are able to keep them smooth and as fast as we
want them, but the roughs suffer when it gets this warm up in
Q. The last two Opens here they got some kind of poorly-timed
rain and the course played a lot softer and the course was easier.
With all this sand that you have been putting on the greens, is
there a chance that we can get some rain this week and the greens
won't get that soft?
MARK KUHNS: Well, again, the sand helps to keep them smooth, keep
them firm. When they become field saturated, totally saturated
with water, it is not going to have that much of an impact. A
soft green is soft whether it is sand or soil. And I think they
will still be able to hold the shots if it does turn extremely
wet. It is going to have to rain a lot at this point, though,
because the soil profile is dry. It is dry about a foot down now
in most areas except where we have been irrigating to keep the
Q. Tell us how you have been incorporating the rollers on the
greens in your management program to prepare for the Open?
MARK KUHNS: The roller is a very useful tool. We have been using
rollers for many, many years here at Oakmont and again, when I
came on board, the roller was just another tool. The new rollers
that are out on the market today, the operator actually rides
across the green and they have been great for helping to maintain
the conditions that we want. The key to the roller is, you know,
a lot of guys use them in different ways in different clubs. We
are trying to get the footprint out of the greens in the spring
and the roller is great way of doing it. Unfortunately, you can
really do some severe damage to your greens with a roller. But
for Open time, it is just a tremendous tool to take the footprints,
the spike marks, any irregularities, ball marks, whatever maybe,
that really smooths it out nice.
LES UNGER: Any other questions? Questions for your assistant.
MARK KUHNS: That is my son, Steven. He is shadowing with me today.
LES UNGER: Everybody is happy? Okay. We appreciate you coming
by Mark and Steven.
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