Musings from the Ledge: Getting help with help wanted

By |  May 6, 2021 0 Comments
Alan FitzGerald (Photo: Fernando Gaglianese)

Alan FitzGerald
(Photo: Fernando Gaglianese)

Recently, there has been a lot attention — and even a formal statement from the GCSAA — questioning the announced partnership between GGA Partners and the USGA Green Section to offer a golf course superintendents recruitment service. I would like to add my two cents to the mix.

This announcement came not long after a number of entertaining job postings hit the GCSAA job site. Thanks to the site’s standards, those jobs were quickly removed. There was one with absolutely no information other than that it was a confidential hiring on a Caribbean Island. The most infamous ad had some very specific, but questionable requirements, like an 11-foot Stimpmeter reading check with the GM every day at 2 p.m.

It is obvious with these job listings that some clubs are not equipped to host their own job search. Is it not better having a club recognize that, due to the complexity of a superintendent’s position (especially at higher-end clubs), they need expert help to find and filter out the best candidates? This gap in the market traditionally has been filled by turf consultants, but more recently, companies crossing over from GM executive searches have joined in, using agronomic experts as advisors. As such, I see GGAs Partners’ recent announcement as fast-tracking its way into the market.

The main concerns are that it is a conflict of interest to have the governing body for the sport be involved with a search for a club and that using the Turf Advisory Service (TAS) will become a necessity to be considered for a position or that the TAS will become a requirement for the search and possibly even a method to get rid of superintendents. I will admit these are legitimate concerns; however, these could be a concern with any advisory service coming on site. Upon reflection, I am ambivalent to having the sports governing body involved in recruitment searches as, although I could never see the GCSAA getting involved, the PGA of America offers a similar service and seems to be doing fine.

Several years ago, I was in a class on hiring and retaining good employees. We were told that the best hires came from recommendations from other staff, peers or friends. Most people do not want to look bad, so they are not willing to recommend someone who might let them down. Over the years, I have found that those recommendations are infrequent; however, the ones that were recommended have been exceptional employees. As such, nepotism plays a part in our everyday lives. Maybe it is a member who knows a superintendent, maybe it is an agronomist/consultant, maybe it is the recruitment agency or it could even just be a superintendent recommending another for a job that they are leaving.

A recommendation may get you in the door, but at the end of the day, it is the person who impresses the hiring committee the most who gets the job. A bad hire does no one favors, so along with recommendations, advertising the position to make sure there is a pool of qualified candidates is essential to maintaining a reputable service.

A site visit is a vital part for writing a superintendent job description — how else will someone hiring know what the requirements of the actual position are and what kind of qualifications they are looking for? The TAS is a ready-built version of this. I would have an issue if the USGA says you need to follow its precise agronomic guidance after you are hired or recommends a superintendent’s dismissal if their philosophies differ (and assuming the superintendent is performing well), and I would feel the same about anyone in this situation overexerting their influence because then, these searches lose their impartiality. The hope is that these searches are conducted above board by a reputable company or individual, who is working in the best interest of all the parties — something the Green Section has been doing for years.

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