Keith Bishop said it was difficult for him to golf at The Links in Stoney Point.
As the superintendent of the golf course, he loves the course, but he gets distracted while playing it.
âWhen I play golf I see things that most golfers don’t see,â said Bishop, who has been a superintendent for four years. “Why didn’t we cut this tree or why didn’t we rake these leaves? Or, ‘This bunker doesn’t look like it was raked properly.’
He spends his days coordinating efforts to make the championship course the best.
âYou lean on a lot of people,â Bishop said. âYou know there are some things you can and cannot do. There are always expectations, and we try to meet or exceed those expectations.
Two of the people Bishop leans on are club pros Patrick Wilson and Tommy Pendley.
âThey say, ‘Hey, the greens are a little slow, and can you make it faster – or can you make it slower? “” said Bishop. âWe always ask golfers to help us. Fix your bullet marks. Put your root ball back in place and walk on it, and nine out of 10 times it will grow back. Rake the bunkers. Keep your carts away from the greens.
These are the things Bishop notices when he finds time to play on other courses.
âI appreciate the hard work it takes to get the golf course this way,â he said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s a low budget or a big budget, someone works hard with what they have to provide a place to play golf.”
Bishop received a golf scholarship and played at a Methodist college in Spartanburg in the 1980s.
âMy dream was to play golf professionally,â Bishop said. âThat was the plan. When I went to college at Spartanburg Methodist, it was to try and play at the next level.
He transferred to Clemson and was hoping to play there.
âI could shoot 72, but they told me they didn’t need anyone who could shoot 72,â Bishop said. âThey needed someone who could shoot 62. If I couldn’t be a professional – make a lot of money and win tournaments – I decided that maybe I could take care of it (a field of golf) for those who do. “
Although he said it was a âheartbreakâ not to be able to pursue his dreams of a professional golfer, he had a back-up plan. He majored in horticulture at Clemson, with an emphasis on turf management.
After graduating from college, he landed a job as an assistant golf course superintendent in Pinehurst, North Carolina, the site of several US Open tournaments. He mainly worked on courses 1 and 4, but also on n Â° 2, where the Open is often played.
He spent three years at Pinehurst then returned home to be Assistant Superintendent at Greenwood Country Club for six years. He later served as a course superintendent at Parkland for eight years, then spent 12 years as a superintendent at Star Fort.
He said he deteriorated on golf courses when Star Fort ran into financial trouble, so he went to work for the State Department of Health and Environmental Control. He tested the soil before people bought land, and he also investigated environmental complaints.
He later went into business, installing irrigation systems and doing landscaping. He had a pesticide license, so he sprayed ball fields in Greenwood County and area parks. He spent time working in the village of Savannah Lakes in McCormick, doing landscaping for specific homes.
Bishop then served as Lands Manager at Wesley Commons for nine years before joining WP Law, an irrigation company. He has traveled extensively and missed seeing his parents, who are around 80 years old. When Billy Ford left his position as superintendent at Stoney Point to move to Charleston, Bishop felt the time had come to return to golf course maintenance.
âI’ve always loved this golf course,â said Bishop. âThis has always been the best golf course in Greenwood. The reason I came back here was to get off the road. I was fed up with being on the road, even though I had only been there (WP Law) for two years. I could just see that my time away from home was getting longer and longer.
Bishop said that in addition to listening to Wilson and Pendley, he also listened to other golfers about their likes and dislikes. This can be somewhat ambiguous, however.
âIt depends on the round and how they played that day,â Bishop said. âThe guy who played really well thought the greens were perfect. The guy who didn’t play so well thought maybe he was too slow or too fast.
Bishop often answers questions about pin placement. During events, tournament directors determine pin locations. The rest of the time, Bishop and his team decide where to drill the holes on the green.
âPeople think we’re putting him (the pin) in a tough spot,â he said. âWe have to move it because of the play. We have a lot of play here.
He said the biggest challenge is trying to get around golfers.
âWe want it to look how we want it to look without being a nuisance to them, getting in their way or making noise,â Bishop said. âThe environment is neck and neck with this. The weather is simply no longer predictable.
Previously, he could consult a calendar and plan his work and treatments. The changing weather conditions made his job more difficult. And then there are the changes of seasons.
âIn the winter, while the leaves are falling, the golf course is cleaned up so people can find their golf ball,â Bishop said. âNo one wants to spend five hours playing golf. We have to maintain the softness of the greens because the grass does not grow at this time of year.
Stoney Point has machines with rollers for pressing greens during the winter months. The maintenance crew also paints the greens. Bullet marks are difficult to heal in the winter, and cart traffic is another problem because the grass does not grow.
âA little water goes a long way in the winter,â Bishop said. âHalf an inch of rain is like two inches in summer because the grass doesn’t absorb it. In fact, we move the holes more frequently in the winter than in the summer, simply because of traffic and wear and tear on the grass.
Bishop said he wanted to thank course owners Jim and Denise Medford and his hardworking staff for all they do.
Contact editor Greg K. Deal at 864-223-1812 or follow him on Twitter @IJDEAL.