Putting new back in the game
TPC Kuala Lumpur

By SHIV DAS

There are no two ways about it if a championship course is to entice top players in the world to come and pit their skills against one another and take home hard-fought spoils. It’s with this in mind that the TPC Kuala Lumpur (TPCKL) is undertaking a complete makeover of its West Course.

The weighty task sits squarely on the shoulders of TPCKL’s course superintendent Mohd Nizam Othman, a holder of Class A Certification by the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America.

Preliminary work begins immediately after the CIMB Classic on Oct 15 and in earnest when the curtain comes down at the Sime Darby Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) Malaysia, on Oct 30.

Having to do two tournaments and plan renovations, all at the same time, how awesome is that, asked TPCKL CEO Steven Thielke as he got “Super Nizam” to do the talking in the presence of a handful of other executives there to chip in with details of related matters.

Light-hearted banter that went on for a while waxed lyrical on possible headlines.

“Super Zam zooms through October”, was contributed by Thielke and it said something for his management style, informal, and yet task-oriented and getting things done through delegation and guidance, enabling staff to push their boundaries and grow.

But it was soon back to the matter at hand, with Mohd Nizam explaining the course renovation process as a challenging exercise.

First off, it called for killing the grass on the greens and the fairways with a special spray that would have minimal impact on the environment. It would be done with an eye for getting the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Programme for Golf Courses certification, the first to be won by any golf club in the country.

“It’s the most recognised, environmentally friendly certification in the world,” emphasised Thielke.

“We have to gather data and evidence to back up our basis for winning the certification,” added Mohd Nizam.

“It reflects our commitment,” said Thielke. It would be the basis for the Parslow and Winter Golf Design effort in managing what is seen as enhancement of an already world-class facility.

To be sure, planning had begun after the 2016 CIMB Classic, with soil tests and analysis, preliminary design and scheduling of work, tendering for the international specialist contractor for the greens. Five companies had put in their bids. Selection was about to be done.

TPC Kuala Lumpur

The makeover of TPCKL’s West Course includes stolonising and grassing the Celebration Bermuda

Work on the fairways would be undertaken in-house. Mohd Nizam was seeing to that.

Thielke said earlier in the day he had said to Farroul Hossey, the club manager, that everyone in the team seemed relaxed, simply because they had worked on improvements together many times. It was allowing them to now focus on details, making sure they hadn’t missed anything.

It would be a tough year with the closure of the West Course for 10 months. Only the East Course would be open. But plans are in hand to encourage club members to go play more inter-club matches. Special deals are being worked out with seven local clubs and even clubs in the region for those who want to venture out.

At the club itself, the interval time between flights would be cut from 10 minutes to seven to accommodate 36 flights instead of 28. The course would remain open all week, with maintenance being done at night. Corporate events would be avoided.

For the past six years, subscription on average had increased only by 5.1%. “We want to be fair to both members and the club, and it’s been reasonable, given inflation, and cost and exchange-rate increases.

As for the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia event at the end of October, it has the reputation of being the most fun event of its kind in the country. It would have a bigger entertainment factor this time, with bands and children being able to swim in the pool. Thielke asked: “Which golf tournament in the world allows people (outsiders) to swim in the pool?”

The courtyard facility would be extended all the way to the green this time to allow for greater interaction between families and the players.

This year, funds raised for cancer research and awareness were targeted at RM200,000. Some RM150,000 had already been collected through sale of pro-am spots that have been sold out. Activities such as “Chip for Charity” and donations were likely to bring in the remaining RM50,000 and, perhaps, even more.

It’s all for the good.