Equipment manager James Herzog remembers those days when he determined that his profession was not widely accepted or recognized.
"We didn't exist. And it seemed like no one wanted to be around us and had no one to represent us," says Herzog, an equipment manager for 33 years, currently at Columbia Edgewater Country Club in Portland, Ore.
"It's gotten a lot better for us," he says.
On Tuesday, Herzog was among many of his kind. He was one of approximately 110 people participating in "Learning Tour: Preparing for the Future of Turf Management Equipment" presented in partnership with John Deere Golf at Tranquilo Golf Club, a 15-minute drive from GIS at the Orange County Convention Center.
The event served as an opportunity for equipment managers, technicians, superintendents, and even golf course owners to receive an inside look at what goes on behind the scenes in maintenance. They got to hear, and learn, from people such as Stephen Tucker, equipment manager at Tranquilo; Mike Kriz, equipment manager, Arrowhead Country Club, Rapid City, S.D.; industry experts from major corporations such as Dana Lonn, Toro; Jim Roach, John Deere; and Adam Blackford, Jacobsen.
"You don't have to build a new building to have a great-looking operation," says Tucker, adding that any guest or member who enters that area shouldn't be uncomfortable touching anything over fear of getting dirty.
Meanwhile, in a Q and A session at the clubhouse, a panel of superintendents and equipment managers covered various industry topics. Mark Kuhns, CGCS, who oversees Baltusrol Golf Club, weighed in on hybrid equipment.
"It's something the jury's still out on. But we have to look at new technology," Kuhns said.
He also promoted the importance of equipment managers and their role.
"The equipment manager has been the one constant in my career. They are the one constant in our careers and part of the success of our organization," he said. "They are a very important part of what we do."
In another session, Lonn pondered the future.
"No doubt in my mind that oil is the water of the 21st century," Long said.
Daniel Read, superintendent at Rosemere Golf Club in Montreal, soaked it all up. He thoroughly enjoyed the experience at Tranquilo.
"I observed everything from task boards to shop setup, just getting ideas," Read said. "Clubs do things differently. There's right ways and wrong ways. But if you put it all together, you're a step closer."
Read brought his equipment manager, Sylvain Nadon, who is part deaf, speaks little English, yet filled his notebook with ideas to take home north of the border.
Herzog, meanwhile, was smiling as he boarded one of the buses to take him back to the convention center. For equipment managers, he likes the direction in which his profession is headed.
"I think, and hope, it just keeps getting better and better," Herzog said. "Events like this are nice and help promote what we do."