Like fine wine

By |  March 26, 2018 0 Comments

They say we live in a youth-obsessed culture. “They” say a lot of things, much of which is somewhere between dubious at best and ridiculous at worst, but I think most would agree this statement is true. One could argue that it certainly is true within our profession.

According to demographic data from GCSAA, the average superintendent is 46 years old. Twenty nine percent of superintendents are between the ages of 30 to 39, while only 6 percent are age 60 and up and 28 percent are age 50 to 59. It’s clearly a young person’s game.

It makes sense. The physical nature of the work combined with the hours and, at times, high stress level certainly could favor younger people. But for all the supposed advantages of youth, being a grizzled industry vet certainly seems to have a considerable upside.

Why? Glad you asked.

The experience factor

Almost nothing fazes these guys anymore. They’ve pretty much seen it all (or at least most of it) and lived to tell about it. Why waste time getting fired up about a problem when you can just fix it and move on? The assistants might be freaking out about something while the GIV is just sitting there calmly eating his lunch, waiting for the kids to stop crying long enough to tell them everything will be fine.

The stories

Maybe I’m crazy, but being able to say that you learned to mow fairways on the tank-like death traps of a bygone era gives you a certain street cred that’s tough to beat. Think about it. Telling a story about the first time you rolled out on an F-10 is a million times cooler than talking about your first time out on the ergonomically designed, power steering- and ROPS-having Cadillacs (complete with cup holders) we use now. If you get into a sketchy situation on a piece of equipment nowadays, it’s probably your fault. I get the sense that wasn’t always the case back in the day.

Weather historians

GIVs frequently have an almost Rain Man-esque recall of past years’ weather going back 20-plus years. This frequently is demonstrated in statements like, “You think this year is tough? It’s got nothing on the summer of ’95.” While it possibly can be argued that time has, shall we say, slightly increased the severity of those bad years in their memories, the point still stands. Insane weather recall is pretty typical in this business. Climatologists probably could save themselves a ton of time and frostbite by simply talking to a bunch of veteran supers instead of drilling ice cores in the Arctic.

Political geniuses

This goes along with experience, but knowing when to stand your ground and when to concede is vital to career longevity. Deftly navigating club politics truly is an art, and GIVs are masters of it. They probably wouldn’t be GIVs otherwise.

Impressive (course) résumés

I’m not referring to actual career résumés. I’m talking about course résumés: the places that, as longtime members of the industry, they’ve been able to play that most golfers can only dream about. I guess it’s only fair. There needs to be some payoff for making it through dozens of summers “when it never got below 85 degrees… even at night.”

While youth certainly seems to be idolized in our culture, there’s a whole lot to be said for experience and the wisdom that often comes from it. I, for one, am grateful for the many industry vets who have shared their experience and knowledge with me over the years, and I hope eventually to be a GIV myself. My chances probably are decent, since risking life and limb to mow a fairway is no longer standard operating procedure.

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