Mike Nowicki tells the tale of how he landed his dream job at Victoria National GC

By |  October 5, 2023 0 Comments

Mike Nowicki is no stranger to Victoria National Golf Club in Newburgh, Ind. Now the director of agronomy — Nowicki accepted the position in November 2022 — is a former assistant-in-training at the course.

Graphic: Golfdom staff

Graphic: Golfdom staff

“It’s a dream job,” he says. “It’s very rewarding and exciting that I’ve been, so far, able to hit a lot of my career goals.”

Now at the helm, Nowicki prepares to host the Korn Ferry Tour’s final stop of the season, the Korn Ferry Tour Championship.

“It starts and stops with you. So, you better have assembled the right team and made the right inputs to the course,” he says. “Anxious isn’t the best way to describe (the feeling). I would say we’ve got heightened alertness. We’ve got our ears pinned back.”

Finding his niche

Growing up in South Bend, Ind., Nowicki remembers playing rounds with his father at nearby Elbel Park Golf Course.

“I picked up a summer job at the Warren Golf Course (at the University of Notre Dame) and worked for (former superintendent) Matt Cielen,” Nowicki says.

Nowicki spent four years at Notre Dame before making the move to Victoria National as an assistant in training.

“The allure of a top-100 golf course was something I was interested in. Victoria National, being one of the top courses in the state, was the right fit,” he says.

After his initial stop at Victoria National, Nowicki had a short stint at a Chicago-area course before taking on a senior assistant role at Kinloch Golf Club in Manakin-Sabot, Va., a stop he says was crucial to his growth as a superintendent.

“I spent a little over three years as the senior assistant (at Kinloch), and that’s where I learned a ton about how to present a golf course at an exceptionally high level,” he says.

Finding his way back

Nowicki took his first superintendent role at Lakeside Park Club in Richmond, Va., following his time at Kinloch. After two years at the helm of Lakeside Park, the First Tee of Greater Richmond approached him to take over as senior director of agronomy.

“I took that job with zero intentions of ever leaving it,” he says. “But then, the director’s position at Victoria opened up, and that is a dream job. So, I went for it.”

Nowicki’s first months on the job have been busy as he looks to fill out his staff and reacclimate himself to the Midwest weather.

“Yesterday we were at 55 degrees, and it was a nice day. Today I woke up and there was a quarter inch of ice on everything, and you can’t even get out onto the course,” he says. “In Richmond, the weather is moderated by the mountains and the ocean a bit, so you don’t have these giant temperature swings.”

Victoria National brings several unique challenges in addition to the weather, Nowicki says. For one, the course features L93 bentgrass greens, tees and fairways with Kentucky bluegrass and tall fescue mixture in the rough.

“It’s a bit unusual for this area as everyone around us has either zoysiagrass or bermudagrass fairways,” he says. “So that makes this place a bit challenging to maintain.”

The course also sits on an abandoned strip mine, meaning Nowicki and his team have plenty of cliffs to work around.

Raise the bar

The 2023 Korn Ferry Tour Championship will be the last at Victoria National for the foreseeable future. Still, even without future tournaments set in stone, Nowicki hopes to keep the course moving forward.

“It’s my goal to set a new standard here to where we’re always ready,” he says. “At Kinloch, we didn’t ramp up because we were always in tournament condition. That’s the standard that I want to set here.”

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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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