You cannot be a GCSAA staff member for very long and not become attached to the association’s members.
Regardless of position, staff interacts with the membership on a variety of matters. And while few on staff have an agronomic background, we quickly gain an appreciation for the profession through our orientation and training program. Those interactions become more frequent and friendships are built as we attend conference and show, chapter meetings, host committees at headquarters, go to Capitol Hill to advocate or sit down to do a magazine piece.
Given this relationship, we ride the rollercoaster of emotions with you. When an award is won, we celebrate the accomplishment. When a job is lost, we hope a new door opens quickly. When we see a member on TV, we revel in the exposure. When we hear of one’s passing, there is pit in our stomach.
Today the mood at headquarters is somber. Philip “Stan” George, CGCS (pictured here) at Prairie Dunes Country Club in Hutchinson, Kan., was found dead Saturday evening. He was 57. The details of his passing are sketchy, but those details aren't really important. Located just three hours away from GCSAA headquarters, Stan was known to many staff members as we collaborated with him to do media work, write magazine articles, volunteer at golf events, present education events at conference and occasionally take special guests to his club, a true jewel on the prairie that's routinely been ranked among the top 100 courses in the world.
A true professional in every sense of the word, Stan always had time for his chapter and national association. That was on top of his volunteer work in his community and hosting numerous state and national events at Prairie Dunes. To many, Stan was Prairie Dunes, having served as the club's superintendent for 30 years.
A native Kansan, his entire career was spent in the Sunflower State. He had every right to thump his chest in recognition of his accomplishments and position. But Stan did not seek the limelight nor was he bigger than his britches. He was friendly, cordial and respectful to all.
My first exposure to Stan came before I was a GCSAA employee. I was a young media relations director for the Big Eight Conference, prepping for the league golf championships to be conducted at Prairie Dunes. I reached out to Stan for information for various media, event programs and cart availability. I am sure after a while he was ready to put a block on my phone calls (and there were many). But every call was taken and he always had time for a little conversation as well. He treated me no different than he would the head of communications for the USGA.
Former USGA championship agronomist Tim Moraghan, who worked with Stan on many USGA events, once said nobody was more organized or ran better staff meetings than Stan. No stone was left unturned and nobody was unsure of their assignment or the task at hand.
The respect Stan had from his peers was immense. He delivered on promises, and was always a step ahead of last-second requests, almost like he had a little golf-centric ESP. He could build consensus and deftly insert a chuckle when tensions would escalate.
Associations tend to be a bit faceless by their nature. I don’t know if GCSAA is any different than any other when it comes to staff-member relations. My guess is there is more of a bond because of the appreciation each has for the other and the interactions that occur.
It is hard to think that Stan will not be sitting at his desk, greeting me with a warm smile and a firm handshake the next time I venture out to Prairie Dunes. Like the other members who have gone before him, our staff finds solace in the friendships we have made and the good times we have shared.
You can read Stan's obituary here.
— Jeff Bollig, GCSAA senior director, communications