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By |  December 17, 2018 0 Comments
Photo: Matt Neff

Matt Neff

I recently had a conversation with one of my neighbors and he asked me about my job. You’ve all had the same conversation, and my neighbor and I hit all the major talking points. Yes, I work all winter. Yes, you actually can get a degree in Turfgrass Science. No, I don’t “just mow grass all day.” Yes, I’ll look at those weird spots in your lawn.

After our conversation, I laughed to myself about how many times I’ve answered those same questions. Then it hit me that the widespread lack of knowledge the general public has about what we do may be a big factor in why fewer people are getting into this business. Most people have no idea what we do, let alone that greenkeeping is a legitimate profession that requires a formal education.

When was the last time you heard a kid say they want to be a superintendent when they grow up? Probably never, unless they have a parent or other relative in the business. When I was a kid, I knew nothing about this profession until I started working at a course in high school. I never even considered greenkeeping as a possible career until my boss mentioned it to me one day.

He asked me what I was planning on doing when I went to college. Because I had far too much respect for him to say, “I’m not really sure, but I assume I’ll be getting hammered a lot,” I told him what my career plans were at the time.

He then took the opportunity to discuss this profession with me and said that because I seemed to be interested in the work and was good at it, I should keep it in mind. I doubt he ever gave our conversation a second thought, but he planted the seed (no pun intended) in my mind.

Full disclosure: I will never forget my first round of golf, and it had almost nothing to do with the game. Of course I thought it was fun, and I’ve developed a love for the game over the years, but without a doubt, the main thing that drew me to the game at first was the golf course itself.

I was absolutely fascinated by the conditioning and design of the course. Admittedly, I didn’t actually see it in those terms at 10 years old, but I couldn’t get over how awesome the course looked — how short the playing surfaces were mowed, the groomed bunkers, the acres of beautifully maintained rolling terrain, the tree-lined fairways (give me a break — I was 10). I guess you could say I may have had a predisposition for greenkeeping.

At the risk of sounding way too corny, it truly was love at first sight. Side note: If your girlfriend (and future wife) ever asks if you believe in love at first sight, make sure you mention her and not a golf course. In my defense, she should’ve known right then what kind of idiot she was dealing with.

It’s not breaking news that there is a significant labor shortage in this business that could ultimately result in golf looking a lot different in the not too distant future. I’m sure many people in this business have a story similar to mine, which is why it’s imperative that we support efforts on the industry and personal level to get kids into the game and tell people what we do.

Getting hooked on golf and golf courses as a kid, along with that conversation with my boss, ultimately led to my career in this profession. I will always be grateful for both, otherwise I’d probably be stuck in cubicle purgatory. On the other hand, had I never gotten into golf, the whole “love at first sight” conversation probably would have gone a lot better.

This is posted in Columns

About the Author:

Matt Neff is the assistant golf course superintendent at Wedgewood Golf & Country Club in Powell, OH. He is a graduate of Malone College in Canton, Ohio, and obtained his turfgrass science degree from The Ohio State University. He has been writing for Golfdom since 2013.

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