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Musings from the Ledge: Three decades on the golf course

By |  November 30, 2021 0 Comments

This year marks 30 years of me officially starting work on a golf course as a spotty teenager with a bad haircut. July’s Irish Open was on the anniversary of the official opening of Mount Juliet, which was a couple of weeks after I started. Watching the tournament on TV over the Independence Day weekend brought back some great memories, although I had a hard time recognizing some of the now-tree-lined holes; it is hard to believe that I helped plant them. It’s been quite a journey, and 15-year-old Alan would not believe you if he was told that he would still be doing it in 2021. So, what would I tell that guy?

Ladder of lessons/insights (Photo: Vertigo3d / E+ / Getty Images Plus)

Ladder of lessons/insights (Photo: Vertigo3d / E+ / Getty Images Plus)


Thankfully, at this point, the statute of limitations has passed on those times of poor judgment of my early career. I’ve been very fortunate to work for superintendents who stuck with me after these moments, saw the potential I had to become a superintendent and helped me reach my goals. In hindsight, I probably could have been a bit easier on them too, but I guess karma is a cruel mistress as I have had to do the same for my staff as a superintendent.

Learn, question, educate yourself and network.

Experience counts for so much as there is only so much that you can learn in school, especially when Mother Nature throws so many curveballs. Continuing education can help you focus on those areas where you need to learn more. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. A side to this is don’t be afraid to lose grass. That doesn’t mean go out with the intention to kill turf, but if you never know how hard to push it, you’ll never really push it. Just don’t make it a habit and make sure you learn from it. Always have a plan B (and C and D) — how you handle it and how quickly you recover will define your success. It never hurts to get to know people as you never know down the road where you can help them or vice versa. Treat everyone with respect and help them as much as possible. At the end of the day, it is a small business, and you never know where paths will cross in the future.

The friendships.

Due to the characters you find yourself working with, the work itself and the unpredictability of Mother Nature, each day at work should feel like a turf episode of Seinfeld or at the very least (and more predictably), your own version of Caddyshack. You spend so much time with these other grass-lovers that the friendships grow deep. Maybe it’s the ability to reminisce over the long hours and crazy jobs, like some old battle-hardened veterans. “You weren’t there man! It was 95 degrees F and high skies, and the Poa wasn’t having any of it” or the “Do you remember when we did that (really stupid thing)” — which is why that statute of limitations is important even though our stupidity could have been an episode.

And lastly, learn who you are and what makes you tick.

My biggest revelation was when I found where I was on the grumpy super scale. Three straight weeks of working every day is my grumpy switch. Now, I work around it and everyone is happier, although it probably would have made the lives of my former bosses easier had I found that out sooner!

Thirty years seems like an eternity, but that time has quickly passed as I went from reluctant teenager to wide-eyed intern and assistant to trying not to be the grumpy old superintendent. Maybe I did somehow tell myself these things, as I am not sure I would change any of it. I guess time does fly when you’re having fun.

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