Pro athlete, veterinarian or… superintendent

By |  August 15, 2018 0 Comments
Seth Jones headshot

Seth Jones

I had the pleasure of attending two graduations recently — one was a 5th grade graduation, the other a 6th grade graduation.

The comment everyone makes — especially grumbling parents in the auditorium — is, ‘Since when did we start having elementary school graduations?’ But I was proud to be at both, as one was for my daughter, Evey, and the other was for my niece, Marina.

(Quick dad-brag: Evey is a straight-A student, a voracious reader and most important, a kind kid. She’s my older child, and I can’t believe she’s already going to be a 6th grader. I’m overwhelmingly proud of her.)

While I was proud, I’ll still admit that Evey’s graduation was painful to sit through… it took too long, and the auditorium’s air conditioning couldn’t keep up with the crowd. Marina’s was better — shorter and with more personality. A fun addition to her graduation was that, as they announced each student, the principal told the crowd what each kid hopes to be when he or she grows up.

The most popular answer was professional athlete — basketball led the field here in Jayhawk country. Then there were the kids who want to be teachers (it’s one of the few occupations they’re exposed to) and veterinarians (because some kids think vets pet cute animals all day.) One kid said farmer, another said comedian.

None of the students said professional golfer or golf course owner. And it will come as no surprise to you that there was not a single kid who said golf course superintendent, because odds are none of those kids know that is even a thing.

Why would they? It’s a largely unknown profession.

But perhaps the First Green, a program that brings school kids to the golf course to learn about STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) has a chance to help with that. This month, the First Green, founded in Washington in 1997, officially becomes a program led by the GCSAA and the Environmental Institute for Golf, a pairing that goes together like peanut butter and jelly. The GCSAA field staff will lead the charge around the country as to the how and why of hosting a First Green field trip.

I talked to David Phipps, field staff representative for the Northwest Region, about the program. He hosted groups during his superintendent days.

“When you get a group, you tell them what you do, what your responsibilities are,” Phipps says. “Part of the goal is to interest kids in the industry — as everyone knows, we’re hurting for people. The kids are going to remember that meeting for a long time. They find out that this guy isn’t just a greenkeeper, he’s a scientist. It demonstrates the quality of people that superintendents are.”

Cory Brown, superintendent at Overlake G&CC in Medina, Wash., has been active with the First Green for years. He talked with a recent group about the difference between native and invasive species and why it’s important to remove the invasive plants.

“There are a lot of negative comments out there about golf’s effect on the environment… I can show them the programs we use and how we’re having a positive effect,” Brown says. “It’s a great outreach to the community.”

“Every field trip is a success story,” Phipps told me. “The look on the kids’ faces says it all. I’ve had guys tell me, ‘I’ll never (host a First Green group),’ and then they do it once… and now they do it all the time.”

I just asked my daughter what she wants to be when she grows up. And yeah, she said a veterinarian. I asked her if she would ever consider being a golf course superintendent. She asked, “What’s that?”

Guess I also need to do a better job spreading the word. She is a voracious reader, but no, that does not include Golfdom.

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