For the benefit of the spectators walking around Minnehaha Country Club this weekend, the less they see of Greg Santa Maria and his staff of first responders, the better.
Santa Maria is the director of public safety at Sanford Health and as such is in charge of an emergency response team at the Sanford International presented by Cambria PGA Tour Champions event this week.
Early Saturday afternoon he gave some visitors a look at headquarters. This is where the staff decides who needs to go where. It is also where people in need of care end up.
“We basically consider the whole area of ‘Minnehaha City,’” Santa Maria said. “And each layer of the city is broken down into sectors.”
Responders form a network
When a call is received, the closest unit is sent out to complete a basic assessment. The paramedics follow. At the height of activity they’ll have up to 20 responders on the grounds. It fluctuates depending on the time of day, with the weekend staff increased to accommodate the larger crowds.
“It’s like any EMS system in the country,” Santa Maria said. “Except we’re on a golf course.”
This is the staff’s second year in control of safety at the event, which included 70,000 people over the three-day tournament in 2018.
Conditions can often dictate what responders spend their time on. A year ago, four days of rain soaked the course and made footing difficult. It also kept the bees out of sight until Friday. But they were out in force thereafter.
“The bees are vicious,” Santa Maria said. “And a lot of people can be allergic to bee stings so we make sure we have the right people here to treat them. We’ll have a few falls and ankle sprains — everybody is walking on uneven terrain. And people are out in the sun and drinking, or even not drinking, just getting dehydrated.”
Ready for anything
Ah, the bees. They remain the biggest single source of attention for the staff.
“Last year we did 30 total bee stings and we’re in line to beat that number so far,” Santa Maria said. “We’re not happy about that, but we’re more prepared this year. We have bee sting kits that have a numbing liquid on a pad that you open up. You stick it on a bee sting like an ice packet.”
Occasionally, actual golfers are in need of help, though it’s usually on one of the pro-am days when the shots are less precise.
“During the pro-ams sometimes golf balls land where they’re not supposed to land,” Santa Maria said. “We’ve had a couple of those.”
Santa Maria and the crew began the week early Monday morning. They go from dawn until dusk every day until it’s over.
“We’re ready for anything,” he said. “We’re here from the minute it opens at 7 a.m. until the last crew leaves at 7 p.m. When the guys are cutting the lawn, that’s when we go home.”