Characterizing a country

By |  January 24, 2019 0 Comments
Headshot: Karl Danneberger

Karl Danneberger

The golf course management business is a global endeavor. I have been fortunate over the last 30 years to be part of it, traveling to places throughout Europe, Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Australia and South America. It’s a small world, in that we share similar goals and technology to deliver the best playing conditions in a variety of climatic and social conditions.

For me, these travels have been more than just meeting great golf
managers and observing how various turfgrasses are managed. It’s also involved trying to understand the culture of these countries. At the end of a visit and prior to heading home, I often look for a bookstore. If I am fortunate enough to come across a salesperson or a customer, I ask, “Is there a book that captures the essence of this country?” I am not looking for a boring history or geography book, but rather one that speaks to the characteristics of that country’s people. Two examples stand out from that ongoing exercise.

Returning from Japan, I was struck by how kind and cordial the Japanese are — not just to me — but as an overall characteristic of the population. My dad served in World War II in the Pacific Theater, so I’ve always been a WWII buff. Talking to some of my colleagues during the trip, I wondered, given that the Japanese show such deference and kindness, how could something like WWII happen? A colleague suggested I read the book “Flyboys” by James Bradley. Although the book centers on nine American pilots (one of which is George H.W. Bush), it really looks at the war through individuals on both sides. It is an eye-opener.

Another book suggestion that stands out to me occurred when I was returning from one of my trips to South Africa. As I was standing in a bookstore strumming through a book, a salesperson asked if she could help. I told her what I was interested in, and she recommended the book “The Bang-Bang Club” by Greg Marinovich and Joao Silva. The book is about four young white photographers who covered the “Silent War” of the early 1990s — the last and darkest days of apartheid.

I’ve pondered what book I would recommend to an international visitor, one that I hope would speak to what America is. Looking for such a book, I focused on the essence of America. A quote from Condoleezza Rice captures this essence: “… It is an idea that you can come from humble circumstances and do great things. That it doesn’t matter what you came from but where you are going.” Americans possess this idea and have the characteristic of what I believe is true grit.

Americans are courageous, conscientious, resilient, optimistic and confident. Above all, when they are knocked down, they get back up. I can think of several books that represent this, and most of you could probably think of one or two. However, the book capturing the essence — the grit — that stands out to me is “Clearview: America’s Course, the Autobiography of William J. Powell” by Ellen Susanna Nosner.

I was extremely surprised and pleased when I found out that the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America has named Renee and Lawrence Powell, the daughter and son of William Powell, as the 2019 Old Tom Morris Award recipients. I won’t recite the details of the Powell family story, what they have done for breaking down racial barriers and what they have meant to Ohio. This has appeared recently in several publications and in the previously mentioned book. However, it’s not only golf that has benefitted from all the work the Powells have done and continue to do. They also remind us of the characteristics that make us American.

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