The $86,400 dilemma

Columns - america’s greenkeeper

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A recent article in my chapter’s publication touched some nerves. To be fair, I too didn’t think the article portrayed our membership in a positive way. But I want to see if I can perhaps persuade some of you to think about the content of the article differently.

For starters, because not everyone receiving and reading Golf Course Industry sees Carolinas Green, the article “Younger Generation Part II: Things That Will Surprise You” appeared in the May/June issue. You can access a digital edition of the issue and the article via

The article references a survey of golf course superintendents and this survey took place several years ago in advance of our annual winter chapter meeting that has education geared toward our assistants. The survey participants were only those superintendents registered to attend the meeting, and that meeting at Bulls Bay Golf Club in Charleston, S.C., was unfortunately cancelled due to inclement weather. I didn’t participate in the survey.

Late last year, I was gifted two books from superintendent colleagues, “The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck” by Mark Manson and “The Path of No Resistance” by Garret Kramer. Now, the first book could be easily summarized as don’t sweat the small stuff.

You may recall earlier this year I wrote about the presentation Lee Strutt and I gave about success at BTME and GIS. In the presentation, gave an example of you possessing $86,400 and someone steals $10. Would you spend the remaining $86,390 trying to get your $10 back or would you realize it isn’t worth it? Well, there are 86,400 seconds in one day, so don’t let someone’s 10 seconds of negativity ruin your entire day.

But Kramer’s book really intrigued me. He talks about how our thoughts and our feelings come from within. We need to own them, and no person or thing can make you feel a certain way. He claims the majority of the world’s population have it backwards and think outside-in. People allow external influences to manipulate their thoughts and feelings.

But when you begin to learn how much better it works in reverse (inside-out), you are freed from the anxiety, anger and other emotions that stem from outside-in thinking. This got me to thinking: What if everyone upset with the content and tone of the article (outside-in) thought about it in a different way?

The final two pages contain the exact quotes of the responding superintendents when asked: What is the biggest surprise assistants are likely to encounter when they take on the role and responsibility of being the superintendent? I’m afraid in that context the answers do read like a bashing of the next generation and I can fully understand why young men and women busting their tails as assistants would take offense.

But what if the same quotes were answering: What is one thing you would tell your younger assistant self that would have helped when you transitioned to a superintendent?

Just by changing the context we change the narrative and now the same answers no longer disparage the next generation but rather shed light on the difficulties and challenges many new superintendents face when they’re calling the shots for the first time in their career.

We’ve all been there. When I was assistant superintendent for Rick Owens, CGCS at Augustine Golf Club in Virginia, there were times I wondered what the heck he was thinking. It’s not too unlike growing up and going through that phase where you think your parents are idiots.

But then you grow up, have children of your own and you begin to realize how your parents weren’t idiots but rather they loved you and were preparing you for adulthood. You become a superintendent, begin to call your own shots and suddenly some of those crazy things your former boss said and/or did now makes sense to you.

I follow a lot of assistants, second assistants and AITs on Twitter. From my perspective, they’re intelligent, talented, hard-working and have a bright future. They’re going to make great superintendents. If they ask me the biggest surprise they’ll likely encounter when they take on the role and responsibility of being a superintendent, I’ll tell them it’s that one day you will realize your former boss was not as crazy as you once may have thought.

And no matter how difficult or challenging things may be at times, don’t ever forget why you fell in love with this profession. In other words, don’t sweat the small stuff.

Matthew Wharton, CGCS, MG, is the superintendent at Carolina Golf Club in Charlotte, N.C., and President of the Carolinas GCSA. Follow him on Twitter @CGCGreenkeeper.