Some quiet time (really) with Richard Bator

By |  June 16, 2016 0 Comments

I’ve heard so much about Richard Bator — former superintendent at Pine Valley, Oakmont and Merion, among others — that I was excited he was willing to take a few minutes for an interview.

Merion Superintendent Matt Shaffer with his longtime friend and colleague Richard Bator.

Merion Superintendent Matt Shaffer with his longtime friend and colleague Richard Bator.

From what I can tell from the stories, Bator is legendary for two things in this industry: growing grass and epic tirades. I saw a friend briefly before my interview with Bator was to begin, and when I told him what I was doing, he laughed. “Anything I should definitely ask him?” “Yeah, ask how many superintendents he’s thrown radios at.”

So I asked.

“Believe me, the ones who worked for me… I treated like garbage,” Bator said, almost with a hint of sadness. “It was for a reason. (The industry) is like being in the service; at the end of the day it’s about survival.”

Bator was presented with a WWE championship belt at the beginning of the week. Along with Mr. Paul Latshaw, he was inducted into the inaugural class of what Zimmers described as his own personal Hall of Fame. Bator was clearly stunned and honored. In his brief acceptance speech, he told the people in the room who didn’t know him that, in case they were wondering, all the stories they’ve heard about him were true.

I asked him to clarify.

“98% percent of them are true,” Bator told me. “There are a lot of things I wish I could take back. Like my tirades on the golf course… I’ll stick with that.”

I asked Bator what advancements he thinks I should keep my eye out for. Without hesitation he said it was rolling fairways.

Perhaps for my own safety, I chose to videotape my interview with Mr. Bator.

Perhaps for my own safety, I chose to videotape my interview with Mr. Bator.

“If I was a superintendent now I’d buy three (fairway rollers),” he told me. “They’re the next rage. When we first started mowing fairways with triplex greens mowers they said we couldn’t do it; now it’s a normal procedure. They said you couldn’t topdress fairways, now it’s normal. (Fairway rolling) is going to be the same way.”

Bator and I chatted for a while, and I’ll save the rest of the interview for later. My parting question: Do you still read Golfdom?

“Without a doubt. I’m glad you asked that. I got the most education out of magazines,” Bator told me. “I read them cover-to-cover. I’d stay up until midnight and cut out articles that could help my superintendents and my assistants. I probably got more education from reading magazines and the research than I did going to conferences.”

So there’s at least one thing that Bator wouldn’t take back.

Photos: Golfdom

This is posted in Columns, Industry News

About the Author: Seth Jones

Seth Jones, a 25-year veteran of the golf industry media, is Editor-in-Chief of Golfdom magazine and Athletic Turf. A graduate of the University of Kansas School of Journalism and Mass Communications, Jones began working for Golf Course Management in 1999 as an intern. In his professional career he has won numerous awards, including a Turf and Ornamental Communicators Association (TOCA) first place general feature writing award for his profile of World Golf Hall of Famer Greg Norman and a TOCA first place photography award for his work covering the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. In his career, Jones has accumulated an impressive list of interviews, including such names as George H.W. Bush, Samuel L. Jackson, Lance Armstrong and Charles Barkley. Jones has also done in-depth interviews with such golfing luminaries as Norman, Gary Player, Nick Price and Lorena Ochoa, to name only a few. Jones is a member of both the Golf Writers Association of America and the Turf and Ornamental Communicators Association. Jones can be reached at

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