He doesn’t know quite what to say to the doubters, and he’s given up trying.
“I wish people would just come out and give us a try,” said Ehrich, superintendent since July 2009 at the municipal course in the shadow of the old Olympia Brewery.
“Give us a day of sunshine, and the next day we’re nice.”
Ehrich, for 20 years the superintendent at Alderbrook Resort golf course in Union, was aware of Tumwater Valley’s damp reputation when he took over from the retiring Skip Wirtz in Tumwater.
When he got here, he saw the fruits of Wirtz’s crews’ labor and the seven-figure expenditure of the city of Tumwater. Old and leaking irrigation pipes had been unearthed and replaced with a sophisticated new system, and the cart paths extended to all 18 holes.
The improvement was immediate and significant.
There are still holes that sometimes call for stepping lightly. No. 11, which got the lion’s share of the attention, is much better, though it will never be bone dry.
No. 6, a par-3, is wettish right in front of the tee boxes. Nos. 7 and 8, which play next to the Deschutes River on the left, can be soggy after a stretch of rain.
The course was just aerified, Ehrich said, which helps remove the dead and dying thatch layers and further aids drainage.
“You might as well have a sponge on top of your course,” he said of the thatch. “It just holds everything.”
Golfers are also playing around the residue of construction crews installing “purple pipe” for the eventual flow of treated reclaimed water to the course.
Ehrich has been forced to cut back staff: He gets by with four full-timers and six who work 25 hours a week. The part-timers are all youngish retirees who can be pretty flexible with their hours.
“This is heaven for those guys,” Ehrich said.
Like other cities, like other golf courses, Tumwater and its “jewel in the valley” are making do with less.
“One good thing in this economy,” Ehrich said, “we’re forced to really seek out what’s important. We don’t get diverted into pet projects. It’s really been a good thing, a good learning experience for my staff and my superiors.
“We can get through this time, and we will look good.”
Men’s club chips in
The Tumwater men’s club is helping with course upkeep and beautification with a Sand and Seed Party at 5:30 tonight.
Members will fan out across the course, armed with five-gallon buckets of a sand-and-grass-seed mixture, and look for divots.
“They’ll dump a little scoop in it, step on it, and move on to the next one,” Ehrich said.
“It’s not a huge thing, but the benefits are huge.”
One to savor
Frankly, there were better story lines.
Just when it looked like the Masters was going to be all Tiger Woods all the time, there came a week where the best stories had nothing to do with Tiger. And that’s the best story line of all.
When will Tiger play next? When will Elin resurface? Good questions, but they’ll keep for another day.
For now, we can look back and find much to appreciate.
Like Freddy Couples.
Couples, 50, is committed to playing the U.S. Senior Open in Sahalee in late July. By then, he might have a handful more Champions Tour victories. Or a few regular tour wins.
He’s playing that well, and if his back stays loose he’s as good a ball-striker as anybody, especially if you count style points. And how ’bout those snazzy spikeless golf shoes?
Or, like Tom Watson.
He’s 60, young enough for most things but not an age when he’s supposed to shoot 67 and tie for second at the Masters after one round. It’s not a bad golf afterlife for a Hall of Famer and multiple major winner: the steely old pro who’ll compete like hell for four rounds and still be the elder statesman afterward.
Or, like Phil Mickelson.
Lefty was the story last June at the U.S. Open, his first major after announcing his wife Amy had breast cancer. He tied for second there on a tough weekend, and now he’s got the bona fides (four majors) to be the story for all the reasons, including golf, at this year’s U.S. Open.
And, man, he won’t change. He’ll lose some tournaments by shooting through 4-foot windows, shots where he won’t land it 4 feet from the pin; and he will win a few more in just that way.
So, really, it was not all about Tiger. That he’s back playing golf, great. That he’s playing well, mainly, good for him.
That he got snippy in post-Masters interviews, well, why should we expect otherwise? He still doesn’t like questions from lesser humans.
He’ll be in the conversation, whenever professional golf is the subject. But for now, there are better stories, and golf is better for it.
Contributing writer Bart Potter can be reached at email@example.com.