Daily Herald
Solheim course weathers first challenge
By Mike Spellman | Daily Herald Staff
Published: 8/18/2009 12:02 AM

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With apologies to Johnny Carson, boy was it wet at Rich Harvest Farms on the first day of practice for the 2009 Solheim Cup.

How wet was it?

So wet that crews were seen squeegeeing the first fairway.

Ba da boom!

That wasn't just a punch line - it was reality after 11/2 inches of rain fell overnight and early Monday morning, soaking the Sugar Grove area and making Rich Harvest Farms a little wetter than it has been in quite awhile.

"You hit it and it's just dead," said Morgan Pressel of the U.S. team, who played a practice round Monday with Nicole Castrale. "I feel like I've had to use my sand wedge more than ever."

But with the state-of-the-art drainage system installed by owner/architect Jerry Rich, players and fans can expect things to be back to normal in no time.

"We needed the rain, but an inch-and-a-half was a little much," said course superintendent Jeff D. VerCautren, who for nearly eight years has overseen the course that features 32 acres of fairway, 150 acres of rough, 106 sand bunkers and 13 water hazards. "It made it pretty wet in just a few areas - a few traffic areas."

The rain sure didn't dampen the enthusiasm of a surprisingly good-sized crowd that showed up Monday to get an early view of players from the United States and Europe. While some of the pros were playing Rich Harvest Farms for the first time, others were reacquainting themselves with the challenging layout.

"We were overwhelmed with the response, especially with the weather we had," said Kelly Hyne, executive director of the 2009 Solheim Cup. "It certainly didn't keep people away."

More than 1,000 cars filled the parking areas by 10 a.m. on the first Monday practice in event history.

"This is kind of our bonus day; we've never been open on a Monday," Hyne said. "We said (to expect) a couple of hundred, maybe 1,000 people out here, but if we had 1,000 cars, we were well above that.

"I think it's only going to build from here."

After being shut down for a few months, the 18th green was back and ready for action again Monday, and according to Rich it performed just as he had hoped.

"It's ready," Rich said with a smile.

As is the course itself.

"The greens and the fairways are just pristine and we tried to keep them that way by keeping carts off the course and some alternate spectator routing," Hyne said. "It helped get us ahead in some of those troubled areas."

When asked what his ideal forecast the rest of the week would be, VerCautren was quick to respond.

"Mid-70s and sunshine would be perfect," he said. "We don't need any more rain."

It's expected to be drier when the pros tee off at 8:30 a.m. today for another round of practice.