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Our Game, Our Crew: The gift of giving

By |  December 1, 2020 0 Comments
Eddie Brown (Photo: Mountain Lake GC)

Eddie Brown, a 25-year employee at Mountain Lake GC, Lake Wales, Fla., tragically died after contracting COVID-19 in April. Our Game, Our Crew helped his family get back on their feet. (Photo: Mountain Lake GC)

Back in the spring, when most Americans were first learning about COVID-19, everything about golf was uncertain. Would golf courses be allowed to open? If they were, would people feel comfortable enough to come out and play?

Not only have golf courses been open but they’ve been slam-packed. That meant golf course maintenance workers were quickly brought back to work and thankfully, didn’t lose out on the revenue they expect to support their families.

But, when things were still uncertain, Dave Vanslette, CEO of FAIRWAYiQ, reached out to Golfdom to propose a program to help support golf course maintenance workers who were out of work when golf was shut down. Golfdom jumped in and enlisted the support of its brother in the industry, the National Golf Foundation, with whom the magazine shares a common founder in Herb Graffis. Our Game, Our Crew was born.

“I am a person who needs to take action, so when I see a situation developing that is concerning, I wonder, ‘how can I help?’” Vanslette recalls. “When the COVID-19 lockdowns began in March, I wondered what would happen to people working in the golf course maintenance industry. I work with these people on a daily basis and knew that many people didn’t have the opportunity to work from home as I did.”

Giving back

Thankfully, the GoFundMe donations started pouring in … while the nominations for workers in need did not. Many superintendents told Golfdom that their crew was working plenty of hours, so they wouldn’t qualify for the additional money.

But, there were still some in need, and thankfully, Our Game, Our Crew was able to donate a larger sum than what was previously expected to those people. One of those workers was Eddie Brown, a 25-year employee at Mountain Lake GC, Lake Wales, Fla., who tragically died after contracting COVID-19 in April.

“Eddie was a true Southern gentleman … very polite, a respectful gentlemen,” says Tony Nysse, director of golf course and grounds at Mountain Lake. “He worked here for 25 years and was supporting his family — this wasn’t a side job. He was supporting his family and two grandkids. He was a beacon of light for the maintenance team. Everyone knew Eddie.”

Nysse says Brown contracted COVID-19 after attending a funeral in Georgia, which created a rough patch for the family for a few weeks; his son suffered complications to his health, and his widow had a heart attack 10 days after Brown’s passing. Nysse says both the Our Game, Our Crew funds as well as a GoFundMe donation from Mountain Lake GC helped get the family back on their feet again. And, he still fondly recalls the last time he saw Brown at work.

“The last time I spoke with him was the very first day we got a brand-new Toro 4700 fairway mower, and the look on his face … it was like he was riding around mowing grass on a Mercedes-Benz,” Nysse says. “He didn’t have a lot of new equipment over his 25 years here, but he was proud as a peacock on the property on the last day he worked here on that shiny new red piece of equipment.”

A ray of hope

During those uncertain days early in the pandemic, Our Game, Our Crew gave the team at Golfdom something positive to work on, says Craig MacGregor, publisher.

“The golf course maintenance workers and the superintendents, all those folks are our family,” MacGregor says. “I’m glad Dave came to us, and we were able to support some families in need, because it gave us a good feeling when there weren’t a lot of things to feel good about at the time.”

Vanslette says it was difficult to hear the heartbreaking stories of those who were nominated, but, at the same time, it served as a reminder that there are always people who need help.

“We all spend so much time worrying about ourselves, our families, the world in front of us,” Vanslette says. “At least for me, it takes recognition that there are many in need to jar me back to reality. This is always true — the pandemic was just the catalyst here. Giving is actually something that helps both the person doing the giving and the receiver of the gift. I forgot how much helping others has always helped me. I am extremely grateful to be able to help even a small number of people through this program.”

Nysse says that Brown’s passion for doing the job right lives on at Mountain Lake. Brown was very particular about leaving the wash pad clean after using it, and the crew continues to obey that rule out of respect for Brown. So beloved was Brown that after his passing, the club immediately created a new program to offset funeral expenses for any employee who tragically passes away.

“What (Our Game, Our Crew) did for Eddie was more than anyone could have hoped for or anticipated,” Nysse says. “Through their family to you guys, that’s awesome … it is so graciously, warmly accepted by them. You have no idea how far that goes for them.”



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