For many, the Ryder Cup countdown is just starting. The event is now a year away.
But the Hazeltine National Golf Club grounds crew has been prepping for the tournament for far longer, using the Toro Co.'s golf maintenance and irrigation equipment to do so.
"Our planning for this event began the day after the PGA Championship was here in 2009," said Chris Tritabaugh, head superintendent of Hazeltine in Chaska.
Toro equipment has long been used to prep championship golf courses and playing fields, and Toro regularly partners with them to test new precision or drainage equipment. But having the event 20 miles from its headquarters could bring even more focus to Bloomington-based Toro, and hopefully with it, more brand recognition.
"Our long-standing relationship with Hazeltine National brings us a great honor and appreciation for the trust they put in our products," said Bill Brown, group vice president of Toro's commercial and irrigation business. "We are excited to partner and support their efforts to produce and maintain first-class greens and fairways during the matches."
Toro had a big presence at this year's U.S. Open Championship held at Chambers Bay outside of Seattle, Wash., and at the British Open Championship held at St. Andrews in Scotland.
"They are no stranger to this kind of thing," Tritabaugh said. "I imagine for them it makes it a little more special that it is here in their hometown."
Hazeltine was awarded the 2009 PGA Championship and the 2016 Ryder Cup back in 2002.
Hazeltine was designed and built to host major golf events, and Toro has worked with the Chaska course since the beginning. The course currently uses a full range of Toro greens, fairway and rough mowers, utility vehicles, mechanical bunker rakes and irrigation equipment.
"We depend on Toro for pretty much everything in that regard," Tritabaugh said.
Tritabaugh heads a grounds crew that swells to 45 during the middle of the summer. Combined, Tritabaugh's crew has worked 35 major championships at Hazeltine including major amateur, women's, and men's tournaments. Two of Tritabaugh's Hazeltine crew members date back to the 1991 U.S. Open held at the club.
Next year, he'll augment his staff with about 80 volunteers for the tournament, which will be held from Sept. 27 to Oct. 2.
Tritabaugh, 38, grew up in Minnesota, starting his golf career at Albany Golf Club while going to high school. Tritabaugh graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2001 with a degree in environmental horticulture.
After college he spent a year at St. Cloud Country Club and the next 11 years at two of Minnesota's oldest courses. He spent five years as assistant superintendent at St. Paul's Town and Country Club and from 2007 to 2012 he was superintendent at Northland Country Club in Duluth.
"For me as a Minnesotan, to be working on a Minnesota club, getting to host this event in Minnesota, to work with a Minnesota company like Toro is really pretty neat," Tritabaugh said.
According to the Professional Golf Association, which hosts the Ryder Cup, the event will be broadcast in 160 countries and territories to 500 million homes. The PGA expects 250,000 guests to attend the 2016 Ryder Cup. The economic impact for the 2016 event is estimated at $135 million.
When Tritabaugh interviewed for the Hazeltine job in 2012 he presented a full proposal on how he would get ready for the Ryder Cup event with the goal to be 90 to 95 percent ready for the event this week.
"I'm pretty comfortable with where we are right now," Tritabaugh said. "Now we fine-tune and make it that much better."