U.S. GIRLS' JUNIOR
Before Boone Valley Was Born, Hynson Was Here July 29, 2017 | Augusta, Mo. By Lisa D. Mickey

Rick Hynson near one of Boone Valley’s unique features: a limestone outcropping that runs the length of a fairway bunker on the 15th hole. (USGA/Steven Gibbons)

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Rick Hynson, the superintendent at Boone Valley Golf Club, was told years ago when he was just starting his career that one of the nation’s hardest places to grow grass year-round on a golf course is in St. Louis.

So where did he end up?

In the American Heartland, overseeing an extraordinary parcel of 440 acres nestled in a valley surrounded by rolling terrain. Located about 45 miles west of downtown St. Louis, Boone Valley also features dramatic elevation changes and native limestone rock outcroppings while enduring the challenges of both extremely cold and extremely hot temperatures throughout the year.

But it’s not just a job for Hynson, who has a deep attachment to Boone Valley, the host site of this week’s U.S. Girls’ Junior, its second USGA championship. He arrived here 28 years ago as a construction superintendent for Dye Designs, the architectural firm of the course’s designer P.B. Dye, and never left. Hynson oversaw the earth moving and shaping and knows every undulation of every hole on the golf course.

Boone Valley opened to members in July 1992, and from 1996-2000, the club hosted the PGA Tour Champions’ Boone Valley Classic. It also hosted the 2007 U.S. Junior AmateurChampionship.

In his 25 years as superintendent at Boone Valley, Hynson has seen winters with significant snowfall and as recently as this week, summer temperatures that reached a record 108 degrees. That range of temperatures alone – coupled with the grasses grown in this region of the country – is a regular balancing act for Hynson and his staff, with or without the rigors of championship play.

“This is a transition zone for grass growing and since we are right in the middle of our summer season – which is a difficult one for cool-season grasses – we just tried to get our golf course as healthy as we could before the championship started,” said Hynson, who preaches consistency in championship playing conditions.  

John Daniels, a USGA agronomist from the Central Region and a St. Louis native, explained that the wide range of temperatures impact turf growth in the Midwest because any single grass type is “always going to have some type of weakness at some point during the year.”

Boone Valley uses creeping bentgrass, a cool-season grass, on its greens, tees and fairways, which requires careful upkeep at this time of year. Other courses in the region might typically use zoysiagrass in the fairways for less intensive summer maintenance practices.

“Keeping cool-season grass alive during this season is very challenging when you have 4½ acres of putting greens, plus another 25 acres of fairways and tee surfaces,” said Daniels. “It takes a very site-specific management adjustment with water and other cultural practices to get it all to match up so we have a consistent playing surface for the championship.”

While Boone Valley has extensive experience in hosting championships over the years, Hynson said requirements vary for the respective events.

“This week, we have had firm fairways, but we haven’t been stressing any special conditions on our fairways and our greens are a little quicker,” he explained, comparing the course conditions of this week’s Girls’ Junior to that of the PGA Champions Tour.

“The PGA Champions Tour didn’t want us to mow rough and to just let it grow from the start to finish of their event, but in this week’s championship, we actually mowed the rough again during the week to keep it around 2½ inches long instead of 5 inches long,” Hynson added. “That’s the only difference.”

Hynson has been impressed at the level of skill this week, especially on the course’s tough-playing par-5 sixth hole, where four eagles were scored during two rounds of stroke play.

“They are fantastic players,” said Hynson. “That sixth hole is not as easy as the girls have made it seem this week.”

Hynson said the St. Louis area had already endured five days of extreme heat prior to the start of the championship, so he and his staff were prepared when the temperatures rose during championship week. During the Girls’ Junior, the Boone Valley grounds crew arrived at the course at 2:30 a.m. each day and worked until 8:30 a.m., then returned to the course in the afternoon to prepare for the next day’s rounds.

The course received rain on Thursday, which Hynson said “slowed down the greens a bit,” but the rainfall also “actually saved a whole lot of grass” at Boone Valley.

 “For this course and in this area, once we get into September, it gets a little easier and the course starts taking care of itself,” said Hynson.

Daniels said the championship successfully weathered the challenges of summer-season turf growing, and he credits Hynson and his staff for making that possible.

“The fact that the course is doing so well right now during this really stressful period is a testament to how much effort they’ve put into trying to get it healthy so that we could produce these conditions during the championship,” Daniels added.

And for the 156 competitors in this year’s Girls’ Junior, the superb condition of the fairways and greens of Boone Valley has been more like a walk in the park than a fight against the summertime wrath of Mother Nature.

Lisa D. Mickey is a Florida-based freelance writer who frequently contributes to USGA websites.

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