Berntson is the man behind the beauty of the Dayton Valley Golf Club

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DAYTON - Don't blame Kay Berntson if he walks around Dayton Valley Golf Club this week feeling he has a huge target on his back.

Berntson, the Class A superintendent at Dayton Valley, spends much of the year pleasing the members and the public by keeping up the golf course.

This week, his audience is much tougher. He has the pressure of pleasing the 70-plus professional golfers and members of the Northern California PGA who are putting on the PGA Stage I qualifier which starts Tuesday.

And, truth be told, the PGA wouldn't keep coming out to Dayton for 16 years in a row if it didn't like what Dayton has to offer.

"A little bit I do (feel that I have a target)," Berntson said. "It's really stressful leading up to it. It's a little scary sometimes. It always has seemed to work out. I've gotten so many great compliments from the guys that have played here in the past."

One of his biggest fans is head pro Rick Vaughan, who has worked with Berntson since 1995.

"He takes a lot of pride in the golf course," Vaughan said. "He learned a lot under Sid (Salomon). He's taken that knowledge and applied it to his own philosophy. He does a great job. He knows and understands how he wants the course to play."

Larry Windsor has been a member since 1991, and he plays two or three times a week. He has nothing but kind words for Berntson and the course.

"I can't say enough about the kind of job he's done," Windsor said. "He's a hard worker and very dedicated to what he does. The advantage he has is that he's been doing that forever.

"The course is in phenomenal shape. That's a testament to first Sid and now Kay."

Probably what most pros and amateur remember the most about their experience at Dayton are the greens.

"The greens here are so true," Windsor said. "The greens won't be a factor this week."

Berntson will mow and double-cut the greens before and after each round of the event. He figures that they will be running around 12 on the stimpmeter. To give you an idea of how fast that is, when members and the general public plays, the greens are around a 10, which is the slowest they could be for this tournament. Rain is expected today, and if that happens, the greens won't reach 12 until the course dries out.

"One of the guys last year - and I think he was from the United Arab Emirates, told me the greens were the best he'd ever putted," Berntson said.

What is the biggest challenge that Berntson faces getting ready for the yearly event?

"The bunkers are the biggest challenge," Berntson admitted. "My staff has been working really hard, and we've spent the last few weeks working on the bunkers. My staff is top-notch. I have 11 full-time maintenance guys, and everybody has been here for at least three years.

"We've turned all the bunkers over and added sand where we needed to. We've tried to get the sand consistent in all the bunkers."

That's not an easy job. The wind that blows through Northern Nevada regularly does a number on the bunkers. The sand appears softer, finer over the past few weeks. That is good news for the players.

Players who have played Dayton before will see just one change, and it's a pretty big one, according to Berntson. The 453-yard par-4 14th dogleg right has been moved back nearly 30 yards.

"Steve (Carman from the PGA) asked me to move that tee back," Berntson said. "It's the only noticeable change you'll see this year.

"This really brings the water into play. If we get any kind of wind out of the south, it will turn this hole into a grizzly bear. If the wind is from the northeast, it might help them a little bit."


The 44-year-old Berntson, who grew up in Colorado, moved to Nevada in 1984 and he's been here ever since.

When Berntson came to the Dayton course, he worked as a mechanic for three years, maintaining all the golf course's equipment.

"After two years (as a mechanic), I decided that I wanted to be a golf course superintendent," Berntson said. "I did a lot of schooling; did a lot of it online from the University of Georgia (degree in agronomy). I was an assistant for five years and then got my title changed to superintendent."

Berntson thinks he has the best office in the world. He considers the course his office, and he certainly spends more time in his outdoor office than a lot of people do in their indoor offices. He spends his day tooling around the course in his little cart which is full of tools. He's not just an administrator. He rolls up his sleeves and works with the rest of his crew.

"I'm usually up around 4:30, and I'm on the course around 5:30," Berntson said, looking up into the sun. "I love being outside and in the fresh air."

And when the weather is bad like it was for more than a month last year, Berntson finds himself doing a lot of studying and learning new and different ways to keep a golf course looking good, and the benefactors are the golfers in Northern Nevada and aspiring PGA Tour golfers.


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