Thomas, Sanford Golf Club Getting Ready for the 48th Brick Capital Classic

By Jon Hockaday

Sanford Golf Club Course Superintendent Keith Thomas is preparing for his 25th Brick Capital Classic later this month on June 29-30 with a goal of making sure that the course is at its best for the area’s top golf tournament.  The Brick CC has long been dubbed as Sanford’s version of a local “US Open” and the course has always been near its best and will once again offer a great challenge for local players.

The “real” US Open finished this past week at Pinehurst Country Club, and it was normal to see hundreds of volunteers helping with the maintenance of the course during tournament week and weeks before to make sure Pinehurst was at its best.   Thomas will try to achieve similar results with a staff of five (5) and as of today is pleased with the course condition and said this morning that “we will be ready.”

Thomas, who has been at the course since 1999 and Head Superintendent since 2006, has prepared for 25 Brick tournaments and notes that every year brings different challenges but keeps the goal of being consistently good for the course’s showcase event of the year.   He also admits he has learned a lot about tournament set-up over the years and how it can affect playability, speed of play and opinions of the competitors about the course.  His goal has remained the same since the beginning – to offer a tough but fair test, but also agrees that he’s changed pin placements over the years in order to offer the best product.  “In the beginning I went out to find 18 difficult hole locations but have changed to the philosophy of 6 easy, 6 medium and 6 difficult locations.”   We know there are some pins that will be in similar locations as years past, but we always have to consider firmness, weather and other things in order to be our best.”

Course clean up is always given more importance come Brick Capital time but Thomas pointed out that preparing the greens and fairways has changed over time.   “We lowered our greens mowers down in mid-May to tournament heights, which is earlier than we used to, and we use growth regulators on fairways and greens to tighten up the grass prior to the event – something that technology allowed us to start doing in recent years.”

Thomas is a good player in his own right and knows what the golfers expect in the set-up and is able to take the current conditions and weather of each year and make the adjustments to keep things consistent from one year to the next.  It also helps that former club professional Mark Midford is on Thomas’ staff – and together are more aware than most superintendents what is expected and how things should be set up for the Brick Capital Classic.

Extra things like rolling greens, using growth regulators, planning for amounts of water to put on the course prior to the weekend, have all helped in making the quality consistent – something Thomas knows the golfers want and expect. 

Thomas even used the phrase “It’s our US Open and we want to treat it that way.”  There’s no question that Thomas and staff take much pride in the event and realized that they are somewhat judged by the conditions during the Brick.  “We want to be at our best and realize that this is our showcase event.  Just as others do, we gear a lot of what we do during the spring to be perfect for tournament weekend – and now we hope the weather cooperates and that we can meet our goals.”

And yes, we’ll be surprised if it’s not in pristine condition and yet a tough challenge come June 29-30.   Competitors will be practicing and honing their skills over the next two weeks to get ready for the area’s top individual golf tournament.  And these competitors can know that course preparation has been going on for months and that Thomas and staff will have things ready come Saturday of Brick weekend.

It is hard to know who is under more pressure during tournament weekend – the golfers playing in the event or Thomas and his staff – but no question Thomas will be prepared and have Sanford Golf Club ready once again.

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