Musings from the Ledge: Get involved or stop criticizing

By |  May 16, 2022 0 Comments

Over the years, I’ve been lucky to be invited to sit on several Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA) committees. 

As a young superintendent, the local association sent me to the mothership for a meeting, and my involvement grew from there. The pandemic threw us all into a new world. Kudos to Rhett Evans, the board and all of the GCSAA staff for pushing through it and getting back to an in-person San Diego show, although it also brought back the annual criticism of “what do they do for me?” 

It’s funny; even though I’ve been there enough to know that answer, I struggle when someone asks because, like all-important work, it hides in the background, silently supporting the main cast, the superintendents. 

Through my involvement with the national and local associations, I know what goes on behind the scenes. It’s easy to say I drank the proverbial GCSAA Kool-Aid. It’s similar to criticism that regularly pops up about the compensation report only providing updates on “the big clubs” and making it skewed. If that’s the case, why are those complaining not providing info to unskew it?

Change the perception

It’s like anything in life, the more you put in and get involved, the more you get back. At the end of the day, it comes down to being a part of something that helps change perceptions of what we do and how important greenkeepers are to a facility. Initiatives like the First Green connect us with people who have never seen or considered golf, which grows the game but also gives us a stage to show people how we really are stewards of the environment and how much fun the kids have. They give us a single voice on regulatory stuff. I don’t want to know what would have happened if the waters of the United States (WOTUS) bill had passed. While the GCSAA didn’t prevent this on its own, it gave the industry a voice in a larger group that was able to get it done. 

How it works

The big show works and brings everyone to one place. The vendors can focus on one event to pay for, and, more importantly, there will not be a case of one show stealing from another. The local shows work on a smaller scale, largely for the local distributors to do the exhibiting, leaving the manufacturers to float the big event and new product launches. As the virtual show last year showed, this is not broken. These events bring us together for networking and camaraderie, although social media has also made that easier. I still like meeting people one-on-one and learning from their different insights and perspectives, as well as hearing that a lot of our struggles are the same.

If nothing else, the GCSAA has raised the professionalism of our industry. When I first came to Penn State in the mid-1990s, superintendents and greenkeepers were more closely regarded as Carl Spackler rather than as a professional. Our pay has gone up. If someone says it does not apply to them, at least the data is there to approach the powers that be and start a conversation. 

Head of the table

Overall, superintendents are now considered the most important person at a facility when, not so long ago, it was the pro. Look at Tour events on TV; they are not talking to or about the club pro but rather to the superintendent and about the course conditions. All you have to do is look at other countries that have not got there yet to see the superintendent is still treated as the dirty guy in the shed at the back of the course.

Of course, there is much more, but I am limited here on space. The GCSAA (and British and International Golf Greenkeepers Association, while we’re at it) do a lot for our industry, but they only work if we support them. Get involved or stop criticizing, and if nothing else, get out and meet some new people in person and help shape the future of the industry. 

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