Respect your elders

Columns - outside the ropes

March 11, 2019

Viacheslav Iakobchuk | adobe stock

After attending my 33rd consecutive Golf Industry Show, it occurred to me that I am now, officially, one of the “old guys.” My hair is greyer and there is less of it. I have a brand-new knee. And I opt to wear soft shoes instead of sleek loafers. Trust me, however, Sans-a-belts are not in my future!

So why, after all these years, do I still attend? More than anything else, it’s to meet new – and see old –friends. And to learn. One thing I learned again this year is that while turf maintenance may be a young person’s occupation, we veterans of the game still have game.

I made it a point to participate in educational seminars, walk the show floor and attend the occasional evening networking function. I even conducted a day-long, for-credit seminar on tournament preparation for superintendents. When it was over, I was tired, but even more excited and enthusiastic.

The newest and greatest advances are cool, but I didn’t get too wrapped up in technology and all the new innovations because none of those things have all the answers. The answers, I learned once again this year, are with people. That’s where you’ll find knowledge, expertise, and, perhaps most importantly, life experience.

Some of the younger superintendents out there may think the older guys are tired, impractical and out of touch. Trust me, we’re not. We veterans of the trenches are more than capable of telling you what you need to know. No matter what the situation, we’ve been there and done that.

Take the seminars and check out the equipment, but don’t neglect the best resource this industry has to offer: Those of us who have already been through “the wars.”

There are many reasons to reach out to your elders. Not just about agronomics, but lessons on every aspect of what we do including life lessons we’ve likely learned the hard way: Everything from dealing with labor issues and climate change to handling members, staff and even family.

It’s Networking 101, but I don’t see enough of it happening. Our industry has dozens and dozens of experts who are more than willing to help by sharing their knowledge and experience. Pick their brains, talk to them.

Here are a few off-course topics perfect for getting some outside consultation or direction:

  • Negotiations – on and off the golf course
  • Contracts, making sure you have all the bases covered
  • Relocation (moving – what to know and what to ask)
  • Finances, both personal and private
  • Insurance
  • New lease agreements for equipment
  • Human resources issues, particularly since labor is the No. 1 issue facing our industry
  • Budgets: How to cut 15 percent from your budget while still providing a solid product?
  • Employment contracts. As a big-time attorney said to me, “they’re only as good as the paper they’re printed on!”
  • Staying healthy (skin cancer, stress, survival of the fittest outdoors)
  • Family situations
  • Financial planning

As I mentioned above, I learned a lot of this the hard way. If I had it to do all over again, I definitely would have become more engaged with those who came before me, approaching people I admired and asking for their help and advice.

For this year, it was people like Jon Jennings (2018 U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills), Dr. Kimberly Erusha (USGA Green Section), Matt Shaffer and Mark Kuhns (former golf course superintendents at Merion Golf Club and Baltusrol Golf Club, respectively), Desert Mountain’s Shawn Emerson, Tommy Witt (past president of the GCSAA), and Bob Farren (Pinehurst Resort) who are happy to connect. The list goes on and on. Ask how they handled a situation, what they’ve done wrong, where they go for answers.

There’s no reason to be intimidated or nervous. We all want to help.

Seek out the really smart people, the researchers who specialize in diseases, insects, weeds. Among my “team” are Dr. Pat Vittum (entomologist), Dr. Fred Yelverton (weed scientist) and Dr. Bruce Clarke (pathology), all leading experts and good people. Go hear them speak then introduce yourself, give them your card, and follow up with email. They are all willing to share their expertise

Not only are we there to help, we seasoned veterans want to help. I gain great personal satisfaction talking to the new, young blood in the business. And I learn a lot, too.

Tim Moraghan, principal, ASPIRE Golf ( Follow Tim’s blog, Golf Course Confidential at or on Twitter @TimMoraghan