Garret Bodington knows a thing or two about preparing for a major golf tournament.
Bodington, the course superintendent at Sebonack Golf Club in Southampton, has been intricately involved in setup for some of the world’s most prestigious golf championships—the U.S. Open, the Masters—at some of the world’s most renowned golf courses—Bethpage Black and Augusta National.
Those experiences will serve him well next summer, when Sebonack hosts the 2013 U.S. Women’s Open. It will mark the first time that Sebonack, a prestigious private club that opened in 2006 and has quickly become recognized as one of the nation’s best, will host a major tournament.
The monumental task of preparing the club for the event has already begun, and Bodington will be immersed in the thick of it from now until June 24, when the tournament gets underway.
Bodington took time from his busy schedule to speak with The Press last week about preparations for the big event, why Sebonack is such a great venue to host a major championship, and the changes that will be made to accommodate the best female players in the world.
Tell me a bit about your background and where you’ve worked in the past before coming to Sebonack.
I started working at golf courses when I was 12 years old, and I worked 10 summers in the pro shop growing up in a town like Southampton, called Little Compton, Rhode Island. I worked at my first tournament golf course at Desert Mountain in Carefree, Arizona, and I was there during the 1996 Tradition, which was the last major that Jack Nicklaus won. And I was at Augusta National in the winter of 1996-97, and that’s when [Tiger Woods] won his first major. I worked full time there that winter, and I also worked there as a volunteer for the 1999 Masters. After the 1997 Masters, I went to Long Island to work at Meadowbrook, when they had a Senior Tour event there. Then I went to work at Bethpage in the fall of 1997, and I was part of the renovation of the Black course in preparation for the 2002 men’s Open.
So my resume, before I came to Sebonack, was definitely geared toward tournament setup. For the 2002 U.S. Open, I was the Black course superintendent under Craig Courrier, and ran the Black on a day-to-day basis.
My boss, Craig, and I, we looked at the way they ran the Masters, because in the golf industry, it’s the best-run tournament there is, so when you’re hosting a tournament, you want to mimic the best. We outlined the Black course prep similar to the Masters, dealing with how to be prepared for
rain events, playoffs, and changing conditions on a day-to-day basis.
Did you ever expect that Sebonack would be hosting a major golf tournament?
I met [Sebonack owner] Mike Pascucci in 2001 while I was working at the Black course, and it seemed like his favorite courses were a lot of the ones I’d worked at. I came on board with him early on, even before we were under construction here, not knowing that we’d be hosting a women’s Open in the first seven years. Michael’s vision was to have a top 100 golf course that would be tournament ready in case we ever wanted to do that.
One thing that’s amazing about being part of the team here is that we helped design, build and maintain a course that within seven years was ranked in the top 50 in the country by Golf Digest. People asked how we were going to create something different from [famous neighboring courses] Shinnecock and National, but they really did create something special here. To be ranked in the top 50 and host a national championship in the first seven years—not a lot of places can say that. My hat’s off to [Sebonack designers] Jack Nicklaus and Tom Doak, and Michael Pascucci. When we were building Sebonack, one thing that was important was to not only build a course for men but Michael and his wife went around and put a lot of thought into the placement of tees for women. We have quite a few individual women members, so it’s been important to have women play golf here.
That’s interesting considering you used to work at Augusta, which excludes women.
Yes, I went from Augusta to Bethpage—so, from the most private course to the most public. They were built during times when women didn’t play golf a lot. But Michael really made the architects think about what was the best side to have the women’s tees on. Mike Davis and Jim Hyler from the USGA took their first trip here while the men’s Open was at Shinnecock in 2004, and we were under construction. They came by and looked around, not knowing that we’d host a women’s Open here. In the fall of 2007, they made their first trip to see it and play the course, and it was only the second year we were open. It’s come such a long way in that time, and they said, ‘We’ve never had a women’s Open on Long Island—would you be interested in that?’”