Dick Stuntz, vice president of golf course operations at Alvamar, is plenty familiar with Prairie Dunes Country Club in Hutchinson, site of the four-day U.S. Senior Open that gets under way today.
"It's a little piece of Scotland right in the middle of Kansas," Stuntz said. "It's the sand hills of south-central Kansas, the native brush and the native grasses, the terrain itself, that make it so special. And the golf course itself, the greens are the old Perry Maxwell-designed greens, so they're very tough. He constructed greens with lots of mounds and rolls and they're very severe. When Maxwell designed greens, we didn't have the putting speeds we have today. They were much slower. So those severe slopes in those days were problematic, but at today's putting speeds they can just be brutal. And in many cases, they're not very big, so you're hitting to a small target."
Stuntz reached the quarterfinals of the 1988 USGA Mid-Amateur at Prairie Dunes and said he has played the course an estimated 25 times. He also is close friends with Prairie Dunes superintendent Stan George, who filled him in on what changes were made to the course to get it ready for the likes of Tom Watson and Hale Irwin.
"They narrowed the fairways slightly, not a lot, but very slightly from when they had the women's open (2002)," Stuntz said. "And then they grew the primary rough, the mowed areas, let them grow to four or five inches. Normally, they'd be two inches. It makes all the difference in the world. With that rough, from 150 yards, half the time you can't even get it to the green. You add that to those greens, and if the wind comes up, they'll have their hands full."
Stuntz said he won't be able to make it to Hutchinson for the tournament.
"I have a family commitment up in Iowa so I'm going to miss it, and it's just killing me," he said.
Despite his absence, Lawrence will be represented, even inside the ropes.
Dave Rueschhoff, 55, grew up in Hutchinson and has lived in Lawrence since coming to school at Kansas University. He said he recently sold most of his security business. As a youth, Rueschhoff's family had a membership at Prairie Dunes. This weekend, he'll be what's known as a "walking scorer," not to be confused with the "standard bearer."
The walking scorer enters the players' scores and other statistics into a hand-held computer and double checks that the standard-bearer (the person carrying the scoreboard) shows the correct numbers.
Rueschhoff, who lives behind the sixth green at Alvamar Country Club, went through an hour of training for the job he is stoked to perform for three of the four days of the tournament.
"The first thing you do is record if they hit the fairway or not, then you keep the number of shots from tee to green or tee to green-side bunker, then you keep the number of shots if they are in the bunker, from there to the green," he said. "Then the total of putts, then the total for the hole. It's harder than you think and there were some guys questioning whether they'll be able to handle it."
He said that during training it was stressed that accuracy is a premium because as soon as the walking scorer sends the information from the hand-held computer, it arrives at official scoring headquarters and immediately is available for the television networks, the Internet, etc.
Rueschhoff said he was a hole marshal at the U.S. Women's Open: "The guy that stands there, raises his hand and says be quiet. I think the walking scorer is a lot better deal. I'll be able to get a lot more up-close and personal with the players."