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An all-female crew will prepare the Olympic Club for the U.S. Women's Open. Sue Spahr is helping.


ROCKFORD, Illinois — For 28 years, Swanhills superintendent Sue Spahr has tried to make her Boone County course a fun track for golfers.

“This is the type of course I enjoy and want to stay at,” Spahr said. “We want to make it very golfer-friendly out here. We want to reduce the penal aspect of golf.”

Spahr’s next task, though, is on the opposite end of the golf spectrum. She’s helping set up one of the toughest courses in the country for the toughest women’s tournament: The 2021 U.S. Women’s Open at the famed Olympic Club in San Francisco.

“This is the only way this would ever happen for me, to be part of a course prep for a tournament,” Spahr said. “It’s phenomenal to experience how meticulous and how in-tune you have to be to prepare a course for a tournament like this.”

Sue Spahr has been the Swanhills Golf Course superintendent in Rockford, Illinois, for 28 years. She heads to San Francisco to help prepare for the U.S. Women’s Open later this month. (Contributed photo)

Troy Flanagan, the Olympic Club’s director of golf maintenance, came up with the idea of an all-women crew preparing the course for the world’s most prestigious women’s golf tournament. He invited 29 women course superintendents and greenskeepers to come to the course for the June 3-6 tournament.

Spahr leaves for San Francisco on May 30 and will return on June 5.

“It’s pretty phenomenal that Troy would take this on,” Spahr said. “As if there isn’t enough pressure itself hosting the tournament. And there are a lot of COVID restrictions, too. There are a lot of hoops he’s had to jump through to make this happen.

“We are supposed to have a lot of education out there also in addition to all the work we have to do. I just want to pay attention to how meticulous they are and bring back some tricks of the trade.”

Just don’t expect Spahr to ever set up Swanhills according to the specs she has gotten for the Olympic Club, where they want the first nine feet of rough to be mowed at 3 ¼ inches long and beyond nine feet at 4 ¼ inches and the greens to register a lighting-fast 12.6 on the Stimpmeter.

“They also put down several fertilizer apps on their rough, so it’s going to be really thick. That is some pretty intense rough,” Spahr said. “We maintain ours at 2 ½ inches. That’s plenty hard enough.

“And I won’t bring back their green speeds. We go for pretty greens.”

Matt Trowbridge is a reporter for the Rockford Register-Star, part of the USA Today Network. Follow him: @matttrowbridge

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