There is no off season at Quail Hollow Club, according to Keith Wood, director of green and grounds at the esteemed country club and golf course located in Charlotte, North Carolina. Wood and his team are constantly working to ensure that the course is in top shape for tournament players and club members. They’re working extra hard this year, as Quail Hollow is set to host the 2022 Presidents Cup in September. We caught up with Keith to learn more about his career and how his team is preparing for the momentous occasion.
Give us an overview of your career and how it started.
I was a student at the University of South Carolina when I got a summer job working on the golf course maintenance crew at The WildeWood Club in Columbia, S.C. I loved being able to work outdoors while also being involved in sport. I learned how my actions as a staff member impacted how customers played the course, and it piqued my interest. I knew then that I wanted to make this into a career. I graduated from USC with a Bachelor’s degree in Biology, and I decided to enroll in Rutgers University’s Professional Golf Turf Management program to get formal training in golf agronomy.
During my studies, WildeWood offered me an assistant superintendent position, so I was able to earn a living while getting my associate’s degree. From there, I’ve worked at the Grandover Resort and Sedgefield Country Club (both in Greensboro, N.C.) as well as Florence Country Club in Florence, S.C. before coming to Quail Hollow in 2015.
How is working at Quail Hollow different from other clubs?
We’re busy all 12 months of the year! We’re on the PGA Championship and PGA Tour rotations, so we host a tournament annually. We also serve a very active golf membership community. Our club president is a developer, and he loves to make improvements to the property, so we always have a construction season. It’s busy but exciting! I’m very fortunate to work here.
How are you preparing to host the 2022 Presidents Cup?
This is going to be a huge event. It’s estimated that it will be viewed on one billion televisions worldwide, so there will be a lot of focus on the course. What’s unusual for us is that we normally host tournaments with 140-160 players, but for the Presidents Cup, we’re only hosting 24 players. And it’s the first time we’ve done a match play event. So, there are different opportunities for us to prepare the golf course, but I see it as an exciting change. The PGA Tour operations crew arrived in April to begin the hospitality building, and our sales team is doing a great job promoting the event – we’ve gotten a lot of support from the community.
Do you anticipate any changes to Quail Hollow as a result of hosting the Presidents Cup?
When we hosted the PGA Championship in 2017, I think we really established our brand, not just as a tour course that holds a solid tournament in the spring, but as one that can give players a fair but tough test of golf at the championship level. Also, we know from spectator feedback that the fans love coming to Quail Hollow because we have lots of great places for fans to view and get close to the action. By hosting the Presidents Cup, I think we’ll solidify our place as a truly special venue that can do just about anything.
What do you enjoy most about your career?
I get the opportunity to work with a lot of different people. We have an internship program and an assistant training program, and it’s so satisfying to see these young people put forth effort in developing their craft, and then watch them go out on their own and become a superintendent or an assistant superintendent. I love when I get a call from someone’s new supervisor saying, “They’re really doing a wonderful job for us.” That’s what makes this work so special to me – the people who bring their passion and energy to the table every day.
What advice do you have for aspiring superintendents?
There’s no doubt that this is a tough profession. You have to maintain a good attitude and give 100 percent effort. When I was first started out, there were definitely hard times, but I knew I had to stick with it and have patience. If you really want to be in this business, give it the opportunity to pay you back, but you have to put in the effort to receive the benefits.
How do you like to spend your free time?
I like to golf (laughs); I take golf trips even now and then with my friends. Most of my time right now is spent with my wife, Amanda, and my two children, Grace and Alex, just playing baseball in the backyard or hitting tennis balls. I love being with my family.
Kyra Molinaro is an award-winning writer and editor based in Richmond, Virginia. She manages donor communications in the Advancement Office at the University of Richmond.