Patrick Drinkard was just two years shy of obtaining a mechanical engineering degree when he decided he would rather have a career where he could keep machinery humming.
“My parents weren’t too happy with me,” said Drinkard, who left Georgia Southern University and fell in love with his summer job working on a golf course in the Atlanta suburb of Marietta. “I worked outside raking bunkers and taking care of the grounds in the mornings and spent the afternoons in the shop. But one summer in the hot Georgia sun was enough, and I asked if I could take care of the equipment full time. I loved taking things apart and putting them back together as a kid, and managing an equipment fleet at a golf course seemed like a perfect fit.”
From the start, Drinkard could not be distracted. He poured himself into the job. So much so that in 2016 he was the first U.S. equipment manager to complete the Turf Equipment Technician Certificate Program offered by GCSAA.
He was only eight when he took his bicycle apart just to see how it worked and if he could put it back together. Now he is in his first year as equipment manager at The Clubs at Cordillera Ranch outside of San Antonio, taking care of a fleet of mowers, golf carts and the machinery at the club’s equestrian center.
“I took it as a challenge,” said the 32-year-old Drinkard, who has been a GCSAA member for three years. “I gave myself a year to earn the six certificates; but once I started I just keep going, and I completed the whole program in three months. I can see the value in it. The certificates give us baseline competences for the golf industry.
“No one knows about this golf equipment industry and what we do. There is an exact science to the agronomic side of this business, and it takes close tolerances to get the maintenance where we want it. I take pride in my work, and I always want to get better.”
Drinkard applauds a GCSAA members’ 2015 decision to include a member classification for golf course equipment managers. Today, GCSAA has more than 800 equipment manager members, and Drinkard hopes he can help others to consider becoming an equipment manager and GCSAA member.
He moved to Cordillera Ranch from Marietta Country Club in October 2016 and temporarily rented space with a family who lived next door to the club’s most famous member, PGA Tour professional Jimmy Walker, the 2016 PGA major champion.
“He has taken us to the next level,” said Mark Semm, director of agronomy at Cordillera Ranch and a 21-year member of GCSAA. “I can’t say enough good things about Patrick. In fact, I think he has the most important position out here.”