Brian Conlin, 25, is Assistant Course Superintendent of the Greenwich, Conn., club, and the feature highlighted the behind-the-scenes work grounds crews do to ensure a pristine golf course.
Superintendents begin their day before dawn and are often still at the golf course when most others have left. Their work is critical to the success of a golf facility, yet is often overlooked, the Norwalk, Conn., Greenwich Time reported.
Indeed, golf course superintendents and assistant superintendents are the behind-the-scenes individuals who are dedicated to making their respective courses shine. And Greenwich resident Brian Conlon relishes such a role, the Time reported.
Conlon, 25, has already risen to the assistant course superintendent position at Burning Tree Country Club in Greenwich. Conlon’s appreciation for what goes into making a course look pristine in all types of weather conditions stems from when he worked at The Apawamis Club in Rye, N.Y., during his high school years, the Time reported.
“When you are playing golf and you look around, you realize how much work is done on the golf course to make it look the way it does,” said Conlon. “I’ve always been into golf management, turf management, the maintenance aspect of golf. For me, it added another element into being on the golf course.”
While on a family vacation in Maui, Hawaii, Conlon spoke to the superintendent of a course there who attended UConn and earned his degree in turf management. A lightbulb went on for Conlon, the Time reported.
“I realized that was the career path I wanted to take,” Conlon said. “I felt it would take me to cool places and take me to different golf courses. It made me want to go to UConn and and pursue a career in the golf industry.”
A turf, grass and soil management major at UConn, Conlon gained valuable experience as a second assistant superintendent at Greenwich Country Club—a role he filled while he attended college. Following his time at Greenwich Country Club, Conlon joined the superintendent’s staff at Miacomet Golf Club in Nantucket, Mass., where he continued to learn his craft for three years, the Time reported.
Then it was on to Burning Tree Country Club, where he landed the first assistant superintendent job in December 2016. But before beginning his tenure at Burning Tree, Conlon got out of the cold and headed to Mexico. From the end of December until late April, he worked as an assistant at El Dorado Golf and Beach Club in San Jose del Cabo, the Time reported.
“I had an opportunity to go there and meet people in the industry and other superintendents,” Conlon said. “I felt I would not learn anything while the snow was on the ground here, so why wait until the grass starts growing? Going to Mexico during the busy season there to help out was something I knew would help me.”
El Dorado Golf and Beach Club is a high-end resort known for hosting A-list celebrities and wealthy businesspeople, the Time reported.
“Even though there were not too many golfers, we needed the course to be perfect,” Conlon said. “We needed to be ready to go at all times. I would wake up at 4:45 a.m. and wouldn’t get home until after 5 p.m. most days.”
Among his many tasks, Conlon was in charge of the irrigation crew at the course. “We had to keep the course green and watered perfectly when there was no rain for four months,” he said. “In the four months I was there they got a half an inch of rain. Since you are in the desert, you rely so much on sprinkler heads. Everything had to be perfect and we really had to be dialed in.”
One of the biggest challenges he faced while in Mexico was getting the El Dorado Golf and Beach Club’s course prepared for its biggest tournament in April. “We had a membership that wanted the fastest possible greens. A lot of clubs don’t want that,” Conlon said. “We got our green speeds at 15, which is PGA Tour standard.
“It was a learning experience to see how fast you can push the grass and keep it alive,” Conlon said. That’s what I learned the most—how to manipulate the greens to get the response you wanted.”
Conlon’s stint in Mexico prepared him for his job at Burning Tree Country Club—home to a 6,841-yard, par-72 course. Up early, Conlon is busy throughout the day on the course, mowing the greens, fairways and tee boxes; raking the sand traps; pulling weeds; filling divots; and cutting cups, with his dog, Tug, often by his side, the Time reported.
“Brian is a great addition to our team here at BTCC,” said Steve Wickstrom, golf course superintendent. “He brings knowledge from the experience he has gained working at a number of high-end clubs. It is my expectation that Brian will be proficient in every operation we are responsible for here by year’s end. He is easing in to crew management and participates in all day-to-day tasks. He is a good communicator and is gaining confidence in his knowledge of turf management.
“I think golf course superintendents do get the recognition they deserve due to the education efforts of the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America. I believe most members at most clubs know their superintendent and recognize the great effort that is put in to reach the high expectations of the membership. The assistant superintendents are the unsung heroes, and Brian and my other assistant, Andrew Christesen, are doing an outstanding job. Their hard work and knowledge is showing on the course.”
To Conlon, the weather is one of the most challenging aspects of his position, the Time reported.
“Not many jobs rely on the weather as much,” he said. “It could be 100 degrees one day and we’re out there watering with hoses for 10 hours. Two days later, it could be cooler with a lot of rain or there could be a lot of humidity. You need to be a step ahead, because you don’t know what’s going to happen.”
Burning Tree hosts the Lincoln Women’s Met Open Championship on August 21-22, and the maintenance staff will soon get the course into tournament shape, the Time reported.
“The met area is known for having the best courses in the country, so the bar is set high, which is what we want,” said Conlon, who aspires to be a course superintendent by the age of 30. “You can’t really sit back; you have to keep on top of things.”
Visiting each hole at Burning Tree, he looked with pride at the sprawling layout, the Time reported.
“As the day goes on, we get to see everything we did come to life,” he said. “It’s a slow process and you don’t get to see your results right away. That’s the toughest part of the job; you don’t get immediate satisfaction. But you know it’s coming, which keeps you going.”