Lee Moore, left, executive president and director of public relations for the Celebrity Players Tour, laughs with Beau Pré Country Club board president Chuck Fields after play began following a brief rain delay in the Magnolia Bluffs Casino Classic at Beau Pré on Thursday morning. (Jay Sowers \ The Natchez Democrat)
Lee Moore, left, executive president and director of public relations for the Celebrity Players Tour, laughs with Beau Pré Country Club board president Chuck Fields after play began following a brief rain delay in the Magnolia Bluffs Casino Classic at Beau Pré on Thursday morning. (Jay Sowers \ The Natchez Democrat)

Down to details: Pro golf tournament starts at Beau Pré

Published 12:01am Friday, July 12, 2013

NATCHEZ — While some Miss-Lou residents were spending summer mornings sleeping in, Beau Pré Country Club staff members were measuring grass to hundredths of an inch to prepare for the Magnolia Bluffs Casino Classic.

Thursday marked the first day of the National Golf Association’s tournament, but preparation began one year ago with an eight-second decision.

“When we met with the tournament representative, it wasn’t more than eight seconds before we said ‘Yes,’” tournament coordinator Lee Moore said.

Woody Allen, chairman of the board at Beau Pré, laughs while discussing the differences between hosting the classic at Beau Pré and the T.C. Jordan Tour at the old Belwood Country Club. (Jay Sowers \ The Natchez Democrat)
Woody Allen, chairman of the board at Beau Pré, laughs while discussing the differences between hosting the classic at Beau Pré and the T.C. Jordan Tour at the old Belwood Country Club. (Jay Sowers \ The Natchez Democrat)

After agreeing to host the tournament in July 2012, club president Chuck Fields said his staff got to work, forming committees and securing sponsors.

As the tournament inched closer, Fields said the workload to prepare the course increased.

“We had to pay attention to every small detail,” he said. “Even a few months out we were worrying about things, like getting the golfers to their tee times, and making sure we had enough water.”

The course hired five staff members specifically for the tournament, Fields said.

Many players in the tournament have participated in Professional Golf Association tournaments. As a result, course superintendent Adam Flynn said he had to ratchet up the difficulty.

Flynn said he narrowed fairways on the course to 25 yards, increased the height of the rough and lowered the height of the putting green to increase speed.

“If they come in and destroy the course, it looks bad on me,” he said, jokingly. “These guys are really good, we had to make sure they didn’t win too easily.”

Flynn and his crew began working at 5 a.m., on some days, to prepare the course months in advance.

“We have to groom the course,” he said. “I had to put a lot of fertilizer on the green at the beginning but then had to slow down so it got faster. It’s a process.”

Because Beau Pré staff worked hard in advance, they were able to relax slightly on the first day of competition, tournament coordinator Woody Allen said.

“I’m doing all the work I plan to do,” Allen said as he watched golfers putt. “We watch a little golf, and we also shuttle golfers to the holes.”

Rain delayed the second flight and golfers hurried to find cover at tents near the clubhouse, testing another aspect of the staff’s preparation.

Golfer Sam Ryder watches his chip shot approach the green on the 18th hole during the classic. (Jay Sowers \ The Natchez Democrat)
Golfer Sam Ryder watches his chip shot approach the green on the 18th hole during the classic. (Jay Sowers \ The Natchez Democrat)

“We have to make sure that the food and drinks are all in place,” Fields said. “While they were on the course, we had to make sure that the coolers stayed full around the course, and when the rain hit we had to keep them fed.”

Beau Pré is hosting a NGA tournament for the first time, but it isn’t the association’s first time in Natchez. The former Belwood Country Club hosted a predecessor tournament several times, with the last time being eight years ago.

“This course is much nicer and more competitive than Belwood,” Fields said. “We hope that our hard word pays off, and the tournament returns next year.”