Jon Heywood – Preparing to Host the US Mid-Amateur Championship

Turf Experts Podcast (Jon Heywood)

Join us as we talk to Jon Heywood, Superintendent at Sleepy Hollow Country Club, a 27-hole private facility in Briarcliff New York, north of New York City. Jon is preparing to host the US Mid-Amateur Golf Championship in September 2023 and uses Aquaritin 19 on his tees and fairways and Aquaritin Defend on his greens.

Take a listen or read on below for the full interview.

When Jon Heywood arrived at Sleepy Hollow Country Club, a 27-hole private club in Briarcliff Manor, N.Y. prior to the start of the 2022 season, he was eager to make a good impression on his new members. So, he brought the Aquaritin line with him from Morris County Golf Cub in Morristown, N.J. where he had spent the previous seven seasons. Prior to that he worked at Winged Foot where he was in charge of club’s East Course.

The New York metropolitan area is home to an abundance of Top 100 golf courses including Sleepy Hollow. Heywood has Winged Foot, Quaker Ridge, and Hudson National as nearby neighbors while the Black Course at Bethpage, Shinnecock Hills, the National Golf Links, and Baltusrol are within a two-hour drive.

That circumstance heightens expectations, not just from members but also from superintendents themselves to produce quality conditions on a daily basis. But it’s an environment that Heywood, a golfer himself, thrives in.

“I enjoy seeing other people’s products,” he said “and revisiting my golf course after being on somebody else’s property and saying ‘What about my place can I make better?’ or ‘What I am doing well that I’m happy with compared to the golf course I was just on?’

“You could drive in any direction and in about 25 minutes see a top 100 facility and see some great conditions at any given time. But it’s something that I enjoy.”

Heywood, who has a degree from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, was introduced to Aquaritin Defend (It was known as Nualgi at the time) early in his tenure at Morris County when he was searching for a remedy for an Annual Bluegrass Weevil issue.

He was told about the product by a fellow superintendent.

Golf course

“They said the damage from ABW was minimal,” Heywood said, “and the recovery was much greater.”

Hearing this, Heywood decided to give Nualgi(now Aquaritin Defend) a try and was immediately impressed.

“I just remember going out with the fairway sprayer, along with a couple other products I was comfortable with, and looking for some good recovery after some heat stress, and I just remember how good the turf looked the next morning when I came out. I was blown away.”

Aquaritin Defend and later Aquaritin 19 have been part of Heywood’s tool kit ever since. When he assumed his post at Sleepy Hollow, he brought them with him.

“I didn’t really change much from my agronomic program from Morris County to Sleepy Hollow,” he said. “I’ve just been kind of making tweaks to the program every year There are a few staples that have been the bag for the last five or six years and Aquaritin has been one of them.”

Heywood customarily applies Defend every two weeks on his greens and Aquaritin 19 on tees and fairways every three to four weeks at a rate of 5-6 oz./acre.

Golf course

“Every two to three weeks has been the typical sweet spot,” he said. “It always goes in the tank before a tournament, or event where I know there is going to be added stress. That’s really when it seems like it shines.”

Stress reduction - from Heat to ABW.

Heywood notes that maintaining a tight application window has enhanced his course’s resistance to ABW. He’s also noticing an improved response to heat stress.

“I’ve seen reduced stress on the plant,” he said. “Especially after taking over a golf course after a very wet year; 2021 was a very wet year with repeated rainfalls. Not a lot of irrigation was needed, so the turf was used to being very wet. 

“Then we go into a year, 2022, my first year on the property, I’m trying to impress the membership. I want to maintain firm, fast conditions. So, I started the year off by really kind of starving the turf for moisture at the beginning of the year and then lo and behold at the end of June it doesn’t rain ever again.

“I’m hoping that between the pre-stress conditioning with the lower water input from the springtime and then adding Aquaritin products in the tank along with a few other staple products I use that it prepares the plant for stressful conditions.”

Heywood notes the conditions he dealt with at Sleepy Hollow last year were similar to what he encountered his first season at Morris County, but with one notable difference.

“I didn’t have Aquaritin in my bag going into my first year (at Morris County) he said. 2022 was very similar, if not worse at Sleepy Hollow (but) we made it through the year with flying colors.”

Even by the standards of his profession, Heywood has an abundance of motivation to provide first-rate conditions this season. He is hosting the 42nd U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship in September, which will feature some of the premier amateur competitors in the world. Heywood’s focus prior to the championship, which will be contested September 9-14, will be on his greens and the rough.

Golf course

“We’re really going to be focused on our rough fertilization,” he said, “and the firmness of our greens, as well as plant health in all those areas. Our defense is going to be thick penal rough and making the greens as firm as we can.

Heywood enjoys sharing his experiences with Aquaritin products with his professional peers.

I’ve given them the description; ‘It’s almost like giving the turf a steroid shot,’ It really just kind of perks it up, makes it stronger. It gives it a nicer appearance as well. Good color response, good strength response, and the plant stands more upright in my opinion. Anybody that’s asked me about this product that’s exactly what I’ve described to them.

“And I feel like once every year I get another superintendent or two who have tried Aquaritin and then they follow back up with me every year. They ask ‘Are you still using Aquaritin?’ and I say ‘Absolutely, it’s going in the tanks every two or three weeks.’ I think that’s kind of reassuring to them that it’s the real deal, that’s it’s a real product, and they need to be putting it in their program. 

“They’re seeing the same results that I am.”

Golf course

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