By Alan Prescott
May 28, 2021
“With no experience as a golf course superintendent, easily the most difficult job in the golf business, . . .”
In my last article, John became an off-course golf shop owner. He learned how to manufacture custom golf club and developed his own models of golf club sets of both irons and woods. His Company name was “Dr. Divot Golf Services”. Dr. Divot golf clubs were custom-made clubs that used the new and innovative concept of “GRAM-WEIGHTING”. That is, starting with the #1 iron, the #2 iron was 7.1 grams heavier and the #3 iron was 7.1 grams heavier than the #2 iron. In this way, each golf club had the same feel on each shot. John’s Dr. Divot Golf Clubs were priced right and sold out quickly.
Still, after playing fulltime tournament golf as a golf professional, learning about the history of the manufacture of golf clubs, learning about home golf club components work, testing prototype golf clubs as well as golf balls, the marketing of golf clubs, and finally, becoming a head golf professional at both on-course and off-course facilities as well as driving ranges, it was time for John to move on.
After all of the hard work, John still sensed that something was missing in is golf career. All of what he accomplished seemed incomplete. John thought that he could put all of his training and experiences together. That single “missing link” was his inexperience and lack of the knowledge in running a golf course. This deficiency was evident in that John knew absolutely nothing about the most important person in golf, the golf course superintendent.
It was a cold start to the golf season in Saugerties, New York, which was located just over 100 miles north of New York City. John was lucky enough to lease the Sawyer Golf Club in Saugerties. With the small amount of money, John purchased new cups, pins (flagsticks), trash cans for each tee box, and other supplies that were necessary in order to open for the season. He couldn’t afford to purchase golf carts, so John leased 20 used golf carts from a local golf cart company. He then contacted the Scotts Company for materials like fungicide and fertilizer (from their golf course division) in Marysville, Ohio. If it weren’t for the Scotts salesman, John would not have been able to learn when, what, where, and how to apply the necessary materials. He borrowed a tractor, purchased a triplex mower to mow the tee boxes and the aprons and collars around the greens, and purchased 2 Jacobsen Walk-Behind greens mowers.
John’s golf course maintenance staff consisted of a retired police detective from the Kingston, New York police force (10 miles south of Saugerties) and a retired New York City Sanitation police officer, who was the personal driver and security for Mayor Lindsey of New York City. With no knowledge of how to be a golf course superintendent when he signed the 2-year lease, John quickly found out that he had to earn his Turf and Ornamentals License before he could legally apply the chemicals that he had already purchased for the golf course.
Just when you thought that the winter of 1980-81 was over, mother nature threw a wrench onto John’s plans. His golf course lease started on March, 1st and there was a lot of work to be done to prepare the golf course for the season’s opening. There was a bridge across the esopus that had to be re-assembled, re-floated, and anchored on each side of the bridge. The sand traps had to be raked. The greens had to be treated due to winter diseases. The tee markers had to be painted. The very used golf course machinery had to sent out for sharpening and parts updating. It was a very busy time. In addition, what about that Turf and Ornamentals (3A) license test that had to be studied for and passed?
The Town of Liberty, New York was the site of the license test on April 8th of 1981. It was 5:00am and John awoke to look out of the window to see about 18 inches of snow that had fallen the night before the exam. The exam was scheduled to begin at 10:00am sharp. The trip was a 60-mile journey through the Catskill Mountains, which, on a clear morning, would take 1 hour and 19 minutes. After leaving at 6:30am, and not stopping for breakfast or gas, John arrived at the test sight at 9:57am and ran up to the door of the testing center. A makeshift sign in the locked door said that the test was cancelled that day and was re-scheduled to the next week, on April 15th. John had not received any notice of the cancellation, even though the proctor had John’s phone number. The next week, John returned to the test sight. The snow was gone. It was a frosty spring morning when John passed the test with a perfect score.
The final stage of John’s Golf Business Apprenticeship had begun. There is more to tell about John’s journey than can be offered in this single article. With no experience as a golf course superintendent, easily the most difficult job in the golf business, John had rolled the dice. Surely, in my next article, you will know what drove John to accept this challenge.
In closing this writing out, as I promised at the outset, there will be a question at the end of this true story. In the conclusion of this discussion, there will also be an Epilogue, which will contain the answer to that question. I hope that you will enjoy John’s efforts and achievement and see how relevant they are today.
As always, I am Alan Prescott. I can be reached at [email protected]. Please stay safe and remain healthy.
In addition, on Tuesday, June 2nd, I will begin my next trip to the Fernandina Beach Municipal Golf Course, arriving the next evening. I hope to see many of the people who play this golf course to gain more knowledge of the course, and field your comments and listen to your suggestions. Any positive and open discussion will be much appreciated, as will be any sharing of ideas. Thank you to those who have spent their time in reading my articles and who have taken time out of their day to respond.