Some of the most notable golf course superintendents in the industry are helping those who want to walk in their shoes fill notebooks with ideas, suggestions, and advice.
After all, that is what it is all about here today in the seventh annual Green Start Academy, an effort spearheaded by John Deere Golf and Bayer, which began this morning at the Bayer Environmental Science Technical Training Center in Clayton, N.C.
Without question, there were plenty of nuggets, sweet morsels, that proved to be worthy of documentation, stuff that was stick-to-their-ribs goodness, for the assistant superintendents who supplied online applications, answered a 500-word essay question, and ultimately were among the 50 chosen for an all-expenses paid trip to absorb knowledge from expert speakers, such as Bob Baldassari, PGA of America Senior Director of Player Development (pictured above) and National Golf Foundation (NGF) Senior Vice President Greg Nathan, who got this thing started by stroking egos and stoking wannabes.
"I was told early on when I got into the business that the smartest person at the golf course is the superintendent," Nathan says.
That, however, appears to be no guarantee that the job is going to be a breeze. Not according to Ken Mangum, CGCS, who oversaw the 2011 PGA Championship at Atlanta Athletic Club. Mangum understands that probably every set of eyes fixed on him would love to be in his situation. If they end up there, Mangum informed them that it won't take very long for them to realize this is a whole new ballgame.
"One of the things I remember (as an aspiring superintendent) saying was 'If I was in charge, I would do it this way.' Once you get there, though, you find out it's really not that easy at all," Mangum says. "You'll have some fear to deal with. You'll want a mentor you can talk to, and you will want to get to know the crew you inherit, find out who the leaders are. You've got to reach out to them, say 'Help me.' They'll respond to that."
"View yourself as a revenue stream," says Bob Farren, CGCS, who oversees Pinehurst Resort. "We are looked upon more now as go-to people for revenue. They can have beer specials, lunch specials, but it's the golf course superintendent that brings people back or drives people away."
Baldassari agrees: "Player development equals business development which equals job security."
No doubt, Farren says, that times have changed.
"When I was an assistant, growing in the profession, we talked about fungicides, herbicides. We were turfheads," he says. "Now, the level of engagement you have on the business side of it will separate you from your peers."
More bits and pieces from the day:
*Networking, including fellow superintendents, vendors, and suppliers, is a must if you want to go somewhere. That was reiterated, often, including this from Paul Grogan, CGCS (pictured outside in the middle at a roundtable discussion), director of golf operations at TPC Deere Run, home of the John Deere Classic, who intimated that you never know who may possess the information that might be your big break. "Equipment sales people know about jobs that are open sometimes even before the superintendents do. The industry is your best friend," Grogan says.
*The NGF expects only 15 new course openings this year in the U.S.
*Pat Finlen, CGCS, oversaw The Olympic Club when it played host to the U.S. Open in June. His message: Don't be afraid to fail. "You're going to make mistakes. I still make mistakes. You've just got to be honest. Don't hide from them."
*Greg Lyman, GCSAA director of environmental programs, posed a challenge to his listeners. "I would like you all to be well-versed to know what water shed you are in, how nitrogen is affecting Tampa Bay, to know in Wisconsin and Arkansas that we can apply products and still provide a product that is viable for the marketplace," Lyman says.
Zach Hall, a 26-year-old who was among the 50 invitees, says he gained valuable knowledge from the day's activities, and hopes to implement some of it when he returns to DeBell Golf Course in Burbank, Calif., and even beyond as his career progresses.
"Definitely this is refreshing, fills you full of vigor to go back and be a rock star at my course," Hall says.