Musings from the Ledge: The best advice I’ve received as a super

By |  April 5, 2024 0 Comments

As I get older, I like to think back on the good advice I’ve been given over the years, whether I realized it at the time or not. The fact that I remember these and am about to pass them on obviously means that they have had an impact on me.

Photo: Alan Fitzgerald

Alan Fitzgerald, CGCS, MG

Always be learning. One day in college, we were told that if a neighbor had a turf question, we better be able to answer it. One of my classmates said it shouldn’t matter provided we can find the info quickly and pass it on. The rebuttal was that as a true professional, we should just know it.

To this day, I try to make sure I know about a turf topic, and if I don’t, I won’t rest until I do!

The man with the gold wins. While this might rub some the wrong way, in our line of work, at the end of the day, we need to remember that we don’t own the properties we manage. It’s tough for the course not to become part of your life and to not double down on what you think is best. But to be successful we must give our employers what they want.

That’s not to say you’re not the expert and shouldn’t fight for what’s right, but it should be while working towards their goals and the overall direction of the club.

You must mess it up, to fix it. The first time I lost turf as a superintendent, a local superintendent came to play with a friend of the pro. He could see I was distraught and offered up a golden piece of advice — you’re not a superintendent until you’ve lost turf.

He was right! You don’t know how far you can push things until you try and how you handle it makes you stronger — just don’t make a habit of it.

When I first started to do course construction, I was always trying to minimize the damage outside the area I was working on, but that always seemed to complicate things. This was a bit of an eye-opener. I don’t mean it’s OK to destroy the place or be careless, but by essentially blowing up the area and starting from scratch it makes it easier to tie it all together.

That time I had to regrow lost turf wasn’t pretty, but the superintendent told me that while I was working on that, I better make sure everything else was perfect. His point was that if people can’t find another fault, it shows that you’re on top of all of it and the turf loss was just a hiccup.

It’s easier to add water than to take it away. While over the years — having dealt with poor water quality — I might argue this point a little, the premise is solid. It’s harder to get soil to drain than it is to irrigate it, so maximize your drainage when you can.

Don’t be a sheep. This is the oldest advice on the list as I was a very spotty teenager when I heard it. We were working on a project and the guys were bringing their own cars to the site. At the end of the day, they would head directly home from there rather than going back to the shop.

We weren’t supposed to, but it made sense to me, and I joined in. My boss stopped me and asked if I wanted to be a sheep that follows all the others or be the leader to show them the way. It eventually sank in as — rightly or wrongly —since then I’ve always set my own path and stuck to it.

So, there you have it, my (ok, my inherited) words of wisdom.

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About the Author: Alan FitzGerald

Alan FitzGerald is superintendent at Rehoboth Beach (Del.) CC.

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