Don Hearn, CGCS Retired, certainly has come a very, very long way since he heard those words as a teen-ager working at Woburn (Mass.) Country Club.
He showed up late one day for work. Upon arrival, superintendent Bob Connolly was doing some work on hole No. 1 as Hearn approached him.
"He looked up at me and said, 'What does it mean to be late?' You got fired," Hearn says.
Now, approaching his 70th birthday, Hearn can look back and laugh at that teachable moment all those years ago. Right now, he is here at GCSAA headquarters, participating in his fifth consecutive GCSAA Chapter Leader/Executive Symposium. Forty-six chapter leaders and executives representing 26 different chapters are in attendance.
Hearn (pictured in front of GCSAA headquarters next to the Old Tom Morris statue) never quit pursuing his dreams following that firing way back when. Eventually, he enrolled at the University of Massachusetts Stockbridge School. Ultimately, he spent 29 years at Weston (Mass.) Golf Club. His desire to be involved in the industry ran deep. The crowning achievement: Hearn was elected as the 51st president in GCSAA history in 1987, a time in which he helped update the certification program. In those days, GCSAA headquarters were located a short drive from where they are now.
"It was like a large ranch house," says Hearn, who along the way has served on the USGA Green Section committee, been the president of the New England GCSA, and in 2008 received GCSAA's Distinguished Service Award. 'We had maybe 18 employees. We took a big gulp and decided to add more people and got to 22."
In those days as superintendent, Hearn didn't have the gadgets and gizmos that superintendents have today at their disposal.
"Now you can push a button from something you carry in your pocket and turn on the irrigation system," he says. "I remember when we got our first fax. You could buy parts via fax."
He also says the role of a superintendent has changed.
"Thirty or 40 years ago, our job was more art than it was science. Today, it is more about science than it is art," Hearn says.
Being part of this week's chapter event, which concludes tomorrow, is worthwhile, Hearn says. He first joined the association in 1970.
"To me, it's important to know what the association is doing and bring back that information to my area," he says. "It allows me to provide them with a perspective that I couldn't get just sitting and looking at a website."
In 2011, Hearn became the first full-time employee of the GCSA of New England as its association manager. And, yes, he still is connected with Connolly, who Hearn says likes to tease him every now and then. They often have breakfast, served with a side of laughs, when the talk turns to how Hearn recovered so well from that ominous entry into the business.
"He says 'You must've paid somebody off,'" Hearn says.