5 Star Stories: The year-long making of the 2022 FedEx St. Jude Championship

Published: Aug. 10, 2022 at 5:32 AM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Competition in the FedEx St. Jude Championship tees off in just two days with coverage airing LIVE on NBC and the Golf Channel.

That kind of national spotlight intensifies the prep work that goes into this event, and in this week’s 5 Star Story about the things that make us proud to call this place home. Here’s a look at how hundreds of Mid-Southerners spent the past year preparing for this one week.

It’s taken more than xa year to prepare the grounds and course to pull off this event with a team of hundreds of craftsmen and women who will log more than 56,000 hours on the clock by the time tear down of this tournament space is complete.

A Tournament Players Club, like the more than 200-acre property in southeast Shelby County, requires year-round expert care.

Just ask Nick Bisanz, Director of Golf Course Maintenance at TPC Southwind.

“It’s an exercise in planning and execution,” said Bisanz.

Throw in a nationally televised PGA Playoff like the FedEx St. Jude Championship and Bisanz’s team of 25 kicks into overdrive.

“Mid-February we started renovating four fairways. We mow greens daily -- a lot of times twice a day if not more,” said Bisanz. “We mow the rest; fairways, tees and approaches three to four times a week. And the rough we’re mowing twice a week. So, just that alone, on top of raking bunkers, cleaning up behind the mowers, you know cutting new cups, moving tee markers. Everything basically outside the clubhouse falls on this team.”

And, that includes working around twists from Mother Nature like winter ice storms that bring down trees and branches, as well as the drought that can turn lush green grass brown without a watchful eye.

The week before and during the tournament absolutely means “all hands on deck” with the maintenance crew nearly doubling in size.

“We also get about 20 to 25 volunteers most of them local in the golf course business, vendors and superintendents and assistant superintendents that come out and assist for the week and volunteer their time and help make it happen,” explained Bisanz.

FedEx/St. Jude Championship Executive Director Joe Tomek is proud of the tourney’s growth, establishing itself as one of the largest events on the PGA Tour, and who’s own team has spent the past 12 months or more getting ready for this moment.

“We have a team of nine to ten of us who are out here full-time, year-round working towards this tournament one week out of the year,” said Tomek. “You might see cameras on for four days and gates are open for five. We’re working tirelessly for the whole year to make it, pull it off. And it’s a feat to build this little mini city out here.”

And it certainly is like a mini-city around the course.

A map shows the scale of this event with fan areas, food spaces, clubhouses and cabanas surrounding the 18 holes. There’s even a massive two-story air-conditioned hospitality tent with stadium seating -- just one of the dozens of venues for which Tournament Operations Manager Tim Lawman’s team takes on.

FedEx St. Jude Championship course map
FedEx St. Jude Championship course map(FESJC)

”We will probably wind up building somewhere in the neighborhood of from 10 by 10′s all the way up 50 by 150 foot,” said Lawman’s. “And the number for all of that is probably in the range of about 120. It’s a full undertaking.”

His 40 man crew began building the first week of May after some 97 trailers filled with supplies arrived at the course. And according to Lawman, “then, the tear down will take about another six to eight weeks afterward to get it all back down out here.”

These builders put in a lot of hours like six-day work weeks and must also contend with weather conditions, which this summer includes blazing sun and numerous heat advisories and excessive heat warnings.

“It actually, by the time you go through all of the build-up and tear down, it will wind up being 56,000 man hours,” said Lawman.

But, what’s most important in the build is the “fit and finish” meaning it has to look good, too, and continue looking great throughout.

This is where local companies like Service Master come into play making sure everything stays clean and in top shape. Troy Watson is President and CEO.

“We’re a cleaning company, facility maintenance,” said Watson. “We come out, we pull the trash, make sure the course stays pretty. On the greens, all of the stands, the vendors, all of the trash we pull throughout the event and at night to get the course ready for the next day.”

And he adds that his crews pull tons of trash every day.

All this planning and work for one week and 125 of the world’s top golfers. And when this year’s tournament ends, it’ll be time to start planning for the next one.

After being closed the past several days in preparation for the PGA Playoff, the course at TPC Southwind will re-open on Wednesday for practice rounds and the Pro-Am and other activities throughout the day and night.

First Round of the FedEx St. Jude Championship begins Thursday morning and you can catch some of the action on Action News 5 Saturday and Sunday.

For more information about the FedEx St. Jude Championship, visit pgatour.com/tournaments.

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