It wasn’t exactly love at first sight, but after a brief courtship with the golf course, Mike Bogroff knew a career in turfgrass management would become a passion.
Growing up in golf-crazy Michigan, Mike Bogroff had no real exposure to the game or the golf course until he met his brother’s roommate at Michigan State, who happened to be majoring in turfgrass management. A few years later, while helping his uncle build an 18-hole par-3 executive course, he put two and two together and steered his course of action to golf course management.
“Working for my uncle opened my eyes,” Bogroff says. “I knew I wanted to work outside. Knowing what my brother’s friend did for a major and helping to build a golf course showed me there were opportunities. So, I changed my major and then focused on turf management. I thought it matched my interests.”
Fortune came Bogroff’s way one day when Dr. Paul Rieke, a professor at Michigan State, suggested he apply for an internship at Blackhawk Country Club in Madison, Wis. Working under the legendary Monroe Miller, Bogroff’s zest for the profession only grew. He would finish his course work, then upon graduation returned to Blackhawk as a Second Assistant Superintendent from 2000-02.
“Monroe was wonderful to work for,” Bogroff said. “He taught you how to manage people. I was his first intern from a school other than Wisconsin. I made an impression on him because my parents came down to Madison with me when I interviewed for the intern position. They became good friends with Monroe and stayed connected. He loved the Midwest work ethic and I had that. It was just a great situation to learn and launch my career.”
Q. Can you tell us about the driving experience with Monroe?
A. Well, Monroe usually drove to the annual GCSAA conference, no matter where it was. One year, he asked if I and assistant Chad Grimm wanted to go with him. So, we drove from Madison to Dallas. It was the most awesome road trip. It took us four days. But the stories Monroe told were wonderful. I learned as much in those four days as I had any.
Q. You said you had two mentors that helped you in your career, especially in the early days?
A. I was very fortunate. After working for Monroe, I took an assistant position at Traverse City (Mich.) Golf and Country Club, working for Steve Hammon. He was wonderful. I could not have asked for better people to work for than Monroe and Steve. They were just great people who also had great leadership skills. They treated people with respect and communicated well. They also taught the value of giving back to the profession and that inspired me to serve on the board for the West Virginia chapter. I’m not saying managing turf is easy, but it’s often the people aspect that presents the biggest challenges – dealing with staff, members, vendors, etc.
Q. How did the job in Morgantown come about?
A. I met my future wife in Traverse City and she just happened to be from Morgantown, W. Va. So, when the superintendent position at The Pines opened, let’s just say there were other considerations to go for it. It was a tough decision because we really liked Traverse City. But the job growth in the industry was slowing down. It just made sense to apply and go for it.
Q. Only 27 years old at the time, how were those first few years of being our own boss?
A. Well, I give a lot of credit to Steve Hammon. He was so good in teaching his team on what it took to be successful. Every year at evaluation time we sat down and talked about what it took for me to advance to become a head superintendent. He helped me prepare for interviews as well. It was still a challenge those first years. I was younger, making some changes from what had been previously done and I was coming from out of the area. It helped that I had a veteran staff.
Hammon knew early on that Bogroff was headed to a leadership position in golf course management. “He was a mature person when he came to me and always showed great respect for others. And they gave it back to him in return,” Hammon says. “I knew he was destined to be a Head Golf Course Superintendent, so I took him to green committee meetings, and we also discussed the issues facing the club. I also had him in the equipment shop in the winter to see what we were doing. I wanted him to get a well-rounded experience. He soaked it up. His even-keel nature is perfect for a golf course superintendent.”
Q. What makes The Pines fun to play and what makes it challenging?
A. The greens here are what have people talking. They slope from back to front, so you do not want to be above the hole. We get them rolling fast. So, they can be fun or frustrating. You get outside the fairways, and you find trouble because they are tree lined. The thing I like about the course is every hole is interesting. A lot of courses may have a few holes that wow you and the rest are all remarkably similar. We have great diversity here. Another aspect that people like is that the course is walkable. More so the front nine, but it does not beat you up in terms of elevation.
Q. What course management challenges do you face?
A. We are in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains at about 1,200 feet. You go 10 minutes east and you are in elevations of 3,000 and above. So, you get some interesting weather patterns in the region. We joke that storm systems move from the west to Morgantown and just before it hits, there is a split. We are at the Northernmost part of the transition zone, so we have both cool-season and warm-season grasses. The one thing that surprised me in moving from Michigan is how sustained the periods of heat and humidity are here. That means we face a great deal of disease pressure. We have a good preventative program here to keep disease down. We do some syringing of the greens to battle the heat. In the fall, when storms come up from the gulf or hurricanes up the coast, we can get some extended periods of rain from time to time.
Q. What is your location and what surrounds the course?
A. We are just outside of Morgantown to the northeast. We only have one home adjacent to the course. On one of the sides, we have a Beagle farm where hunting dogs get trained. There is also a West Virginia University research farm that borders the property. They used to mine coal below the surface, and you can find a few entrances to caves. In the early 1900s it was still an active mine. People do not go there because of the mold and other issues.
Q. Who is your clientele
A. We have about 440 members. I would say that the membership is distributed evenly between ages 30 and 70. We have several family members, but do not have many business memberships. We offer leagues and most of our members are from right here in the region. We are in a competitive area for golf, so having good conditions are important to us.
Q. Do you golf? Do you have hobbies?
A. I putt my greens every day, but I only play once a year. My wife and I have three children, so family activities take up the free time. That is one thing Monroe and Steve taught me is to understand that you cannot spend your whole life on the course. You need balance. I think I have been able to manage that aspect well. My wife is also very understanding of this profession and what it requires.
Q. I see a Mike Bogroff You Tube Channel?
A. Actually, that is my 17-year-old son Michael. We have many mountain biking trails around here. He and his friends would strap GoPro cameras to their helmets and go ride, then upload the video to YouTube. Now they do not ride as much anymore. They just find the good jumps and natural ramps and go out and film that. I used to ride with Michael, but not as much anymore. I’m 44-years-old. The body does not bounce back as quicky.
Q. What has changed in your 25 years of golf?
A. Well, what has not changed are high expectations for good conditions. There is increasing demand for faster green speeds. Everyone wants fast greens that roll perfectly. When you deal with Mother Nature, you cannot be perfect all the time. It is also a big challenge to find and keep workers for the golf course. Every year I used to have a stack of resumes from students wanting jobs. Today, not so much. There are many positives to being on the golf course, but it is not for everyone. We are also competing with the Krogers, McDonalds and Starbucks and other places for workers. Young workers are just different these days. I have had to change the way I manage compared to when I first started. I am more flexible and understanding in managing my staff. For a long-time I did not allow earphones to be worn. Now I allow it, but ask my team to always be aware of their surroundings.
I also think technology has allowed superintendents to do more and make the job easier in some regards. We can use a variety of apps to manage aspects of the course, including controlling irrigation. It has also enhanced communication so that superintendents can exchange information and best practices.
Super in the Spotlight
Current Position: Golf Course Superintendent, The Pines Country Club, Morgantown, W. Va.
Years at The Pines CC: 16
Years in Golf Course Maintenance Business: 23
Previous Employment History:
Intern, Blackhawk Country Club, Madison, Wis., 1998;
Second Assistant Golf Course Superintendent, Blackhawk Country Club, Madison, Wis., 2000-2002;
Assistant Golf Course Superintendent, Traverse City (Mich.) Golf and Country Club, 2002-2005;
Education & Training:
Two-Year Certificate, Sports Turf Management, Michigan State University, 1999;
Associate’s Degree, Turf Grass Management, Northwestern Michigan College, 2000.
Honors and Awards: Board Member, West Virginia Golf Course Superintendents Association; 2011 Superintendent of the Year, WVGCSA
The Pines Country Club
Year Opened: 1970
Ownership (Public, Private, Resort): Private Club (stockholders)
Golf Course Type (Parkland, Links, Prairie): Rolling Parkland
Course Designer (Renovation/Redesign): Edmund Ault / Aspen Corporation 2004 (Green Surrounds)
No. of Holes: 18
Yardage: Forward – 5,019 yards; Back – 6,713
Golf Season: Open year-round (main season of play: April – November)
Annual Rounds: 24,000
Tees, Fairways: Bentgrass
Roughs: Bluegrass, Rye, Fescue mix
Greens: Poa annua/Bentgrass
Water Features: 3-acre lake (used for irrigation) comes into play on four holes
Course + Grounds Operations Profile
Annual Course Maintenance Budget: $800,000 (includes labor)
Staff Size: Seven year-round and three seasonal
Other Green and Grounds Managers:
Mechanic – Tom Dillsworth (40 years);
Foreman/Spray Tech – Robert Sigley (38 years)
Water Source and Usage: Local reservoir 1.5 miles away is pumped and water transported via a supply line to fill a lake on course; Use 7-9, million gallons annually.
Aerating and Overseeding Schedules: Greens – Spring core; Summer deep solid tine; Fall drill and fill; Fairways & Tees – Fall core. (Use 400 tons of sand a year for topdressing).
Upcoming Capital Projects: Beginning this September: New swimming pool and pool house; Halfway house; Driving range and short-game facility.