A year ago, I wrote about my return to the golf world after a 13-year absence titled “Back the the future,” which Golf Course Industry graciously printed in the Turfheads Take Over issue. Heck, I was even asked to be on a podcast, which was a true career highlight. Right after I sent that article, I acquired yet another title with the city of Harrisonburg: interim general manager of Heritage Oaks Golf Course.
In mid-September, the acting general manager at Heritage Oaks put in her notice. She was a great woman to work with, amazing with numbers but limited in her golf knowledge. She’d be the first to tell you so. She worked HARD at learning the ins and outs of golf. So, opportunity presented itself once again, but fate played a cruel trick.
I caught COVID-19.
Besides being a turf guy, I’m also a drummer and have played for more than 40 years. You can even find a few of my former band’s originals on Spotify and, yes, that’s me playing the kit. At a gig on Sept. 28, the entire band and at least 15 other people picked up COVID. To top it off, I also gave it to my 17-year-old son. I spent 14 days quarantined at home, and six of those days I was as sick as ever.
But while at home, I asked for a Zoom meeting with the parks and recreation director and assistant director. I laid out how I felt I could help the course with my 20-plus years of golf knowledge, my food and beverage background, and my willingness to take on another department. Upon my return, I was handed the keys and asked to take it on.
Before I talk about being a superintendent/general manager/athletic fields manager, I wanted to say I received some real good advice from Kevin Clunis, a superintendent/general manager in Luck, Wisconsin, on a Turfnet post. I had posted about my new multifaceted role and asked for some advice from those doing both. Kevin said to make sure I had the right people in the pro shop who could handle the day to day as well as the staff there and in golf maintenance, and to be willing to delegate to those people. Best advice I could have gotten. I took it to heart.
Upon taking on the general manager role, I gave control of the pro shop staff to our acting clubhouse manager and let our golf pro handle outings and tournaments. I also asked our pro to do what he does better than most: interact with the golfers, be the people person he is and be the face of our course. It’s worked very, very well. Both guys handled their areas and it allowed me to continue to focus on golf maintenance and keep my eyes on our athletic fields as well.
I also had to allow the staff of each department the ability to take some leadership and trust them. I’m lucky to have a 30-plus-year fields maintenance worker to handle what I want done on fields and a golf course maintenance crew that has at least seven years in golf maintenance work. Laying out what we need to do on a daily and weekly basis — as well as coordinating events on both the fields and golf course — has become easier as we are all actively communicating with each other.
My day complements my ADHD beautifully. I always start in golf maintenance around 5:30 a.m. I get my eyes on the course, check out what’s going on disease-wise, moisture-wise and health-wise. I generally finish my rounds, make my mental notes and make my way to the pro shop — where the GM’s office is — and begin checking emails and handling any tasks I have there around 9 a.m. I’m there usually an hour or so before I make my way to the athletic fields in the city. I wish the fields were closer to each other, but they aren’t. Some fields I don’t need my eyes on each day, but with all these duties I am also growing in the new football field for the city, so I have to see it almost daily. It’s a #bluemuda field. I make it a point to see it often and I mow it twice a week. I see all 10 of our fields at least once or twice a week, so my work truck stays busy.
After seeing fields and getting some lunch — most of the time eating it in my truck — I get back to the golf course between 12:30 and 1:00 p.m. I check back in with the golf maintenance crew to see if we have any issues (LDS most of the time) and then I take a second spin to see where things are. Follow-ups with the crew set up our plans for the next day and I usually end my day back in the pro shop handling the rest of my GM duties. Wash, rinse, repeat.
I’m proud to say that our fields are some of the best around, our golf course is getting rave reviews for both playability and how the general public is handled inside. The perception of all departments has dramatically improved. I take pride in those facts. But it is a lot.
Correction: It’s a TON.
I’m 51 now and I feel this schedule more days than not. I’m happy to say that the city is currently preparing to find my replacement for the fields supervisor position, who will report directly to me. That’ll allow me to focus more on the golf course but still have an eye on the fields. It’ll also take away the interim tag and make me the fulltime superintendent and general manager of the course.
Oh, and if you’re interested in the fields position, drop me a line. I know the head guy. I hear he’s a bit of an ass, but overall a pretty good guy to work for. He’s an aging, bald-headed, diehard KISS fan — who, by the way, are on their End of the Road tour, capping off an almost 50-year run as the hottest band in the world. I’ve seen them 13 times. Did I mention I had ADHD?