Exclusive: How Perry and his team rescued the rain-hit Dubai Desert Classic

During an interview with Khaleej Times, Perry gave an insight into the monumental rescue operation that he successfully oversaw

Jason Scrivener of Australia plays a shot during the Dubai Desert Classic. — AFP
Jason Scrivener of Australia plays a shot during the Dubai Desert Classic. — AFP

Leslie Wilson Jr

Published: Sun 29 Jan 2023, 12:01 AM

Last updated: Sun 29 Jan 2023, 12:02 AM

The most wanted man at the Hero Dubai Desert Classic this week has been Matthew Perry, the course superintendent at the Emirates Golf Club.

While most of the golfing fraternity was deep in sleep and dreaming of birdies and eagles, Perry and his incredible team of ground maintenance staff were working through the wee hours of the morning to salvage the course and get it fit for play by daybreak.

The destruction that Dubai’s favourite golfing destination was dealt with by the heavy rains, was by far the biggest in the course’s 25-year history.

But with Perry heroically marshaling the rescue operation it would only mean victory for the tournament which got underway on Thursday, albeit with a six-hour delay and massive shuffling of tee-off times.

During an interview with Khaleej Times, Perry gave an insight into the monumental rescue operation that he successfully oversaw.

Q. Fantastic effort by you and your team over the last couple of days. How much of a challenge was it to get the course ready for play given the little time that you had at your disposal?

A. We normally have a 7:15 tee time in the morning (but with that amount of rain that fell, it was just impossible for early tee times on the first day. Everything was flooded, and all bunkers were flooded with water in desert areas, fairways, and so forth.

So we had the task of pumping out as much as we could and trying to dry down the sand by moving it around and shoveling it back up. There were lots of washouts in the bunkers as well.

We changed the greens 18 months ago with new drainage so they’ve done very well. but it was mainly the bunkers and desert areas that were really damaged the most.

So it was a challenge for us to get it done given the time frames. We were in by 2:30 am and it was non-stop work. So, yes it’s been pretty good for the team.

Q. What were the most critical aspects of the rescue operation?

A. The most critical thing was obviously pumping water and getting it out and also trying to have some dry patches where we could do some work. There was no point tidying up if you were still going to get tons and tons of rain even though you’d just tidied up. So we had to pick and choose when it was good to go out and try and blitz it basically and get it to be in tournament condition, and I feel we did that, which was good.

Q. Can you tell us a bit about the excellent drainage system at the EGC and how it works?

The drainage and the greens are absolutely fantastic now. It’s made a massive difference. If we had our old greens, they could have been underwater quite easily and holding water, because they don’t drain. So amazing for us, we had pumps all around the property as well to take off the groundwater. We got tankers in as well to remove water where we could.

Q. What do you have to do over the next couple of days to protect the course?

Obviously, we’ve done a lot of work. We've added sand into areas on the course to help protect it and we’ll get things back to normal and start moving sand around and levelling it off. I think the weather is fair going forward, so fingers crossed for that.

Q. You have earned the highest respect from most of the players for getting the tournament back on track. That must be sweet music to your ears!

A. Yeah, it's nice to hear from the players. A few players and I have been on the putting green and we’ve been doing roles and stuff. A few of them have said well done to us for getting it going. It’s always nice here, but it’s been a massive, massive team effort from the golf course. The team has really never experienced anything like this in the Desert Classic before. I’ve got guys that have been here for 30 years and they said that they never experienced anything like what we did over the last few days. Fingers crossed for the sun for the rest of the tournament and hopefully we can have a nice winner come Monday.

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