With a little help from our friends

Features - Turfheads Take Over

In the Birthplace of Vermont, Bob Hingston relies on a rotation of regulars who chip in and help make John P. Larkin Country Club hum.

Subscribe
December 10, 2021

© courtesy of bob hingston

John P. Larkin Country Club is a small nine-hole course located on the Connecticut River bordering New Hampshire. Our budget is tight and we pretty much run the club with eight total employees, both inside and out. We rely on many of our members volunteering in a variety of capacities.

This was a challenging year in many ways. We had some equipment issues and our amazing volunteer mechanics, Don “Grizzy” Griswold and Doug “Double D” Daniels, kept us afloat. Two gentlemen from a neighboring course in New Hampshire, Andy and Tom Fowler continue to support us, lending equipment, technical knowledge and a helping hand in many projects.

We did extensive work on two of our greens and those projects both presented their own challenges thanks to location, tree canopies that limited light to the green, drainage issues and poor subsoil composition. We dug out subsoil and re-sodded one of the greens. So far, that project has come along great. We hope it will winter well and give us much improvement in 2022.

With a smaller and smaller crew over the course of the summer, we relied on 20 of our members showing up to volunteer when we aerated our greens in early September. They were put into shifts and helped with removing cores, spreading topdress sand and brushing in the holes. It was a great team effort, our greens bounced back and our members got a real appreciation of the work it takes to fully aerate our 10 greens.

As the summer wore on and some of our equipment broke down, we had had five members who stepped up and helped with mowing — three of them bringing their own mowers. Members have also helped out with raking bunkers, weed whacking, fixing divots on tee boxes and whatever else is needed.

Our group of dedicated members who volunteer are what really keeps JPLCC viable. It is a challenge coordinating them on the days they are available, and what is really the best timing for mowing and other jobs. Some needed to learn that we do “technical mowing” rather than just mowing up and down like they do in their yards. Some of their lines aren’t the straightest maybe but, certainly, you have to be grateful for the help.

How about John Smith, who was willing to leave his home at 4:50 a.m. and head to Maine, a two-and-a-half hour trip, to pick up sod in his own truck, then drive back and work until almost dark laying the sod down on the green? Another member, Cody LaFlamme, left his job early at a neighboring course to help direct the sod installation. And the whole Abernethy family chipped in again and again: Noah, just 17, works on the crew, his dad, Dave, volunteered for any on-course job starting as early as 5 a.m., and his mom, Julie, joined fellow member Sue Southworth in working on flower beds.

Jim Kennison, an old friend from my athletic director and coaching days — who, like me, is “retired” but mows fairways for The Quechee Club — came over to mow fairways for me when I was working alone and had a high school match one afternoon. He got done with his job at Quechee, drove to Windsor and mowed for three-plus hours. His daughter and son-in-law live near the course and his son-in-law belongs to JPLCC! How cool is that? He wouldn’t take a dime!

One more highlight: Grady Gilman, who worked for us three summers, graduated from college with a degree in meteorology and was waiting to take a position in Pennsylvania on July 1, came in on weekends and helped mow greens for us for a couple of tournaments! Again, getting up early to be there at 5 a.m. and never taking a dime! Amazing folks we have here. It really is how we make things work. We are blessed.

We held a member appreciation and volunteer day near the end of the season, with a nine-hole scramble, much food and beverage, and some of our locals playing music to enjoy. Small-town America at its best.