How the Boeing Classic Super Ryan Gordon found his way into turfgrass management

By |  August 7, 2023 0 Comments
Graphic: Golfdom Staff

Graphic: Golfdom Staff

For Ryan Gordon, superintendent at The Club at Snoqualmie Ridge in Washington, golf course maintenance wasn’t always the plan.

Gordon enrolled at Oregon State University to earn a business degree. It didn’t take long for those plans to change, he says.

“After my first year, I knew I needed more purpose with my studies,” he says. “I ended up meeting Tom Cook (former Oregon State turfgrass professor), who introduced me to the concept of a degree in turfgrass management. That’s when it clicked.”

Gordon says the turfgrass management program and, in turn, the golf course maintenance industry was a perfect fit.

“I’d always enjoyed the satisfaction that came with the process of visually influencing the outcome of a product,” he says. “In addition to that feeling, I drew back on my experiences of caddying for my dad on the golf course as a kid.”

After graduating from Oregon State in 2005, Gordon made several stops at courses around the Pacific Northwest before he landed at Snoqualmie in 2006 as an assistant superintendent. After five years in that position, Gordon earned the head superintendent position in 2012.

Superintendent Ryan Gordon says hosting a successful tournament wouldn’t be possible without the help of his staff, who help maintain the Washington-based course on a daily basis. (Photo: Ryan Gordon)

Superintendent Ryan Gordon says hosting a successful tournament wouldn’t be possible without the help of his staff, who help maintain the Washington course on a daily basis. (Photo: Ryan Gordon)

Million-dollar views

Now in his 17th year at the club, Gordon says it’s been a rewarding experience maintaining a course in such a unique location.

Snoqualmie, 30 minutes east of Seattle, has the prototypical Pacific Northwest feel with plenty of trees and cool, rainy weather. But what it has that others don’t is a view of the nearby Cascade Mountains.

The course also features wide fairways and, as Gordon puts it, “a lot of bunkers.” Those bunkers recently underwent a renovation, he says, as part of an initiative from the clubs’ ownership to invest in the latest bunker construction techniques that reduced maintenance liabilities and improved playability for the membership.

The Club at Snoqualmie Ridge utilized Porous Pave’s Sand Guard solution for its bunker renovation in 2021. (Photo: Ryan Gordon)

The Club at Snoqualmie Ridge utilized Porous Pave’s Sand Guard solution for its bunker renovation in 2021. (Photo: Ryan Gordon)

“After our six-figure bunker renovation last year, ownership has continued the momentum of that success with additional operating budgets,” he says. “That will be allocated to firming up our short-cut grass areas during the rainy season with lots of sand, drainage and aeration processes.”

Snoqualmie’s bunker project began in 2021 with new drainage, rhizomatous tall fescue surrounds, liners and sand on the front nine. After a two-month hiatus — due to a strike from the local concrete union — Gordon says the project continued with Porous Pave’s Sand Guard on the back nine.

“What I did like about Sand Guard was how you can mix the rubber, rock and binder right on-site at the bunker,” he says. “It saved us from needing to build a lot of plywood roads across fairways and other sensitive areas.”

For others looking at a future bunker renovation, Gordon suggests installing plastic trail chasers on the floor of the bunkers to use as a depth indicator. He says they alert staff that sand needs redistributing before it becomes a playability issue.

Gordon adds that upgrades to the course’s pump station could also be on the horizon.

“We’re lucky that the course still plays very modern due to its relatively young age,” he says of the Nicklaus-designed Club, which opened in 1999. “We aren’t in need of some of the redesign efforts that some of the older courses in the area have been completing over the last few years.”

No I in team

Gordon is quick to point out that it takes more to maintain championship-level conditions than just a superintendent.

“I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention our equipment manager Derek Costa,” he says. “Without his expertise in keeping our fleet in top shape, being the problem solver that he is, we wouldn’t have the level of success in maintaining the course as we do.”

Gordon says he and Costa share a similar path to their careers at Snoqualmie. Costa began his career as a seasonal greenkeeper and eventually found his way to the shop as an assistant mechanic.

Assistant superintendents Manny Torres and Matt Pilger also earned a mention from Gordon, who says the duo provides leadership and plenty of fresh ideas about course maintenance.

“The collective embarrassment of riches with these guys makes The Club at Snoqualmie Ridge one of the most efficient and harmonious teams I’ve had the privilege of working with,” he says. “It allows me to focus on things I need to dedicate my time to.”

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About the Author: Rob DiFranco

Rob DiFranco is Golfdom's associate editor. A 2018 graduate of Kent State University, DiFranco holds a bachelor's degree in journalism. Prior to Golfdom, DiFranco was a reporter for The Morning Journal in Lorain, Ohio

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