Who turns up to interview for a golf course superintendent job looking to sell hardwood flooring? No one, right? Wrong. Jeremy Boone did that late last year. Even took samples along. It was all he talked about for the first five minutes. And he still got the job! His dream job, on the golf course he grew up on.
Boone’s path home, to what is now Springdale at Cold Mountain in Canton, North Carolina, is as winding as any road in the Appalachian chain. There have been sharp turns, hairpin bends and a stretch or two close to the cliff’s edge. But he’s made it, much to his own disbelief … which explains the hardwood flooring.
Boone thought he was done with the golf business, felt like it was done with him. There’s no sugarcoating it. His previous superintendent position at Sequoyah National Golf Club in nearby Whittier didn’t end well. There was a management company issue, a separation, a two-year gag order and a gut-churning grief.
After more than 20 years in the business, Sequoyah was meant to be the dream job. The Robert Trent Jones Jr. design was developed by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. With a full-blood grandmother, Boone is proudly part-Cherokee and an enrolled member of the tribe. It seemed like a job he was born to and a source of pride for him and his people.
So when it ended after four years and nine months, anguish and acrimony reverberated throughout the community. Boone himself was “hurt” and more than a little lost.
“There was a very low time,” he says. “A dark six-month period that probably stretched on into a couple of years. I didn’t think I identified with my job as much as I did when it happened. Golf course superintendent is not a job you do, you are a golf course superintendent.”
Angry, he tried to deny that calling, dabbling in web sales before taking a job in the lawn and garden department at Lowe’s in nearby Waynesville. Just 10 minutes west of where he grew up and 30 minutes east of Sequoyah, it was far from a complete escape. “Everybody knows everybody, and knows everybody’s business,” Boone says.
Indeed, Boone’s next job was with an independent hardware store owner he played basketball against in recreational leagues. The owner, David Singleton, had a paint guy but needed someone who knew lawn and garden. Boone started part-time and provided online marketing and social media support before Singleton asked him to manage the store.
Things took off. One store became two, three and, eventually, four. Boone was having “a great time.”
“I actually went on a couple of very, very nice golf trips put on by the PPG paint company,” he says. “One year, we went to San Diego and played Aviara and Torrey Pines. Another was in Scottsdale. We did TPC Scottsdale, The Boulders, Grayhawk. I told my owner, ‘You’re making it awful difficult for me to go back to the golf business.’”
That was true even early on.
In Boone’s first year, the day before a family vacation, Singleton wanted a quick word: “He said, ‘I know you’re getting ready to go to the beach. Take the family out to dinner or something. Have a great time. I really appreciate everything you’ve done,’” Boone says. “And he hands me some cash. I couldn’t believe it. I’d gone from a situation that left me with a kind of PTSD to being appreciated like that. I thanked him, drove out of the parking lot and had to pull over. I was in tears.”
Boone spent six years with Hometown Hardware and had no plans to leave. Most years, he’d field a call or two from a former superintendent colleague with news of a vacancy. “They’d ask if I was interested, if I wanted them to throw my hat in the ring,” he says. “I told them, ‘Don’t even breathe my name.’”
There was one exception. The job at what was then called Springdale Country Club.
If Sequoyah was in his heritage, Springdale was in his heart. He pretty much grew up there. For years, his mother, who grew up two miles from the course, managed the kitchen for owners Fred and Eunice Tingle, who helped found the National Golf Course Owners Association back in the 1970s. The association honored Fred Tingle’s “significant and long-lasting contribution” with the Don Rossi Award in 1994.
Boone’s grandmother also worked in the kitchen and is now buried, along with Boone’s grandfather, in a cemetery near the driving range. His father, a carpenter, helped on construction at the course. Some of Boone’s earliest memories are at Springdale. “To be honest, I can’t ever remember not knowing Springdale,” he says. On the high school golf team, Boone and his buddies often mused, “Hey, what would we do if we owned the golf course?”
Today, it’s Boone’s son Alex, who plays on that team when he’s not mowing fairways for his dad as part of a fourth generation of the family line at Springdale. Another son, Nick, who is studying sports management, interned in the pro shop this summer. Last year, helping coach Alex’s team, one of Boone’s last acts in hardware was to arrange sponsorship of the Hometown Cup, to be contested annually between Pisgah and Tuscola high schools. A few weeks after that announcement, he laid those hardwood floor samples in front of Lex West, who, along with his father, Zan, bought Springdale in 2018.
He remembers opening with: “I don’t know how this interview is going to go, but I know one thing. We sell hardware flooring and I know you’re getting ready to renovate some cottages and build a new clubhouse. Hometown Hardware would like your business.”
The fact was, even though he’d been invited to interview and recommended by members, Boone was skeptical.
In the years since Fred Tingle died in 2005, followed soon after by the Great Recession, Springdale began to show its age. From time to time, there was talk of new ownership, mostly among locals who would tell Boone they wanted him as their superintendent. Initially, he’d let himself get excited. But the talk never came to anything. “It got to a point,” Boone says, “where I was like, ‘Listen, when you’ve got a deed in your hand, then call me and we’ll talk about it.’”
Early in 2015, it looked like that might finally happen. During a high school golf match, a player’s parent introduced himself to Boone as the prospective new general manager and suggested they should talk “in about a month.”
“Once again, I’m excited,” Boone says. “I told him, ‘Well, I don’t really want to leave the hardware business … but this is Springdale. On the day of closing, I’m waiting for the deal to close and hear on the grapevine that it fell through. I thought, ‘Oh well, it’s just not meant to be, it’s just not going to happen.’”
Then, out of the blue in 2018, the golf course did sell. But this time, there was no courting. The job was someone else’s — again — which explains the hardwood flooring. The superintendent they hired didn’t work out, but even so, Boone had every reason to question whether this interview would lead anywhere. “It was like the boy who cried wolf, for so long,” he says.
After pitching his product to West and general manager Buddy Lawrence, Boone started on the personal. “After a few minutes, Lex looked at me and said, ‘This interview is over, shortest interview in history. I want you on our team,’” Boone recalls.
Turns out, even though they were strangers to that point, they shared ties going back years. Long ago, the West family bought property for a summer home from the McDougles on nearby Dream Mountain and the families became close. Boone laughed when West told him Arvida McDougle was like a second grandmother. “I used to mow her yard in high school, and she was my Sunday school teacher,” Boone says. “It was kind of crazy. We’d never met but we knew a lot of the same people.”
In the year since, the Wests have invested heavily, installing a new irrigation system and pump house, and renovating bunkers. The new clubhouse is set to open next year. The name change — to Springdale at Cold Mountain — draws on notoriety generated by Charles Frazier’s novel “Cold Mountain” and the 2003 movie of the same name, starring Jude Law and Nicole Kidman. The mountain overlooks the golf course.
The renaissance is hardly Springdale’s alone. “I’ve had a lot of people say, ‘I know you were happy doing the hardware thing, but now you look and sound even happier,’” Boone says. And there’s good reason. Springdale hasn’t simply been a homecoming; it has been a healing. After losing his job and the identity he’d spent more than two decades building, Boone then lost his father, his mother was diagnosed with dementia, and his wife, Kelly, was diagnosed with breast cancer.
“Mom is in a care facility and Kelly is doing great now,” he says. “But it was a very emotional and trying time, some of the worst days of my life. Without my faith, family and friends, I wouldn’t have made it through and be where I am today. It’s been quite a journey.”
One member of Boone’s crew started at Springdale as a cart boy when he was 16. Claude Trull is now 67. “Claude remembers when I was 3 and 4 years old, running around the golf course,” Boone laughs. “He gives me crap every day. We’ve had so many people tell us the golf course is the best it’s ever been and some of them have been coming for 20 or 30 years.”But since Trull has been there more than 50 years and is not afraid to hold back with his new boss, Boone asked him recently what he thought.
“Claude just kind of grinned and said, ‘It’s the best it’s ever been,’” Boone says. “And that’s the last compliment I’ll ever get from him! What I missed most about being out of the business was the people in the business. I love what I do.”