My immediate takeaway was just how much “assistance” this impressive group of assistants promises to provide to the future well-being of our industry.
Last month, I had the privilege of spending two picture-perfect early-fall days at the 280-acre research facility and training center operated by Bayer Environmental Science in Clayton, N.C., outside of Raleigh. I was there, with 50 of the industry’s best and brightest assistant golf course superintendents from some of the leading club properties throughout the U.S., for the 6th Annual Green Start Academy, sponsored by Bayer and John Deere Golf.
“Privilege” is the operative word for this event, because the 50 assistants who were there represented the top third of a larger group that applied to attend. In addition to recommendations from their superintendents, the application process involved submitting answers to essay questions about current challenges in the golf industry. The applications were reviewed and graded by some of the country’s leading superintendents. Those who made the cut and were invited to attend then had the privilege of getting inside looks at cutting-edge agronomic research being conducted at North Carolina State University and Bayer’s facility, and also hearing presentations from prominent superintendents and other industry experts.
While these types of events can often subject those in attendance to a non-stop barrage of promotion for the sponsors and their products and services, in this case that was all kept, impressively, to a very low-key minimum. So much so, in fact, that I’ll give the Green Start Academy a free commercial here: GMs and superintendents should make it a priority to have deserving assistants on their staffs apply to attend this event in the future. If your assistant earns the chance to go, it will definitely be worth the time spent away from your property, not only for his or her own development, but for what he or she can bring back to help improve your overall operation.
In future issues, we’ll include details of what was covered at this year’s Green Start Academy. My immediate takeaway was just how much “assistance” this impressive group of assistants promises to provide to the future well-being of our industry—and not just by being cost-effective as they keep golf courses in great condition. When given the opportunity to ask questions of the superintendents who made presentations—an elite group that included Bob Farren of Pinehurst Resort and Country Club, Pat Finlan of The Olympic Club, Paul Grogan of TPC at Deere Run and Chris Carson of Echo Lake CC—the ensuing discussions quickly centered around two big-picture issues: 1) how can I, as an assistant, contribute more to the overall health (and survival) of my club, and 2) how can I best assure my own professional future and advance my career to become a superintendent, or even a general manager?
I’ve seen and heard this same type of earnest desire to make more of an impact now, and also commit to the industry long-term, among sous chefs or catering directors who attend our Chef to Chef Conference, and also when I talk with many non-department heads when visiting individual properties. The dictionary defines assistance as “the act of giving aid, or help,” and that’s certainly something no club can get too much of right now. If you’re not doing all you can to engage every assistant on your staff in discussions of how they can best help your property, now and in the future, you’re letting an invaluable resource that’s always at your fingertips go to waste.