This golf season will be one for the books.
But despite unprecedented schedules, navigating a global pandemic and extreme heat in the country’s two biggest provinces, golf’s superintendents were there as they’ve always been – solving problems and giving golfers an opportunity to play the sport they love.
That’s why International “Thank a Golf Course Superintendent Day” means even more in 2020.
On September 23, the Canadian Golf Superintendents Association, in concert with other global superintendent groups, recognized those who keep the game going and enjoyable. All together the global groups represent more than 31,000 golf course management professionals. Look for a commercial to run on the Golf Channel and other media outlets, along with social media content.
Golfers and others are encouraged to join in the conversation online using the hashtag: #ThankASuper.
“Supers aren’t just people who grow grass. They’re an integral part of a team at any golf course,” says Kathryn Wood, chief operating officer of the Canadian Golf Superintendents Association.
Just as most superintendents were gearing up for their season, that’s when COVID-19 really spread aggressively worldwide, with sports leagues – including the PGA TOUR – pressing pause. Luckily superintendents were able to maintain an essential, minimal level of maintenance at golf courses (British Columbia was different insofar as courses were not mandated to close).
Wood says she has been so impressed by the resilient, smart, group across the country.
“Looking back, there have been challenges presented for every person in the pandemic, but golf course supers are pretty ingenious, proactive and flexible and can come through any type of challenge pretty well,” says Wood. “They are very flexible and able to deal with the different challenges they’re faced with.”
At Cutten Fields in Guelph, Ont., head superintendent Bill Green tells a story of adaptability – a key for 2020, more than ever, he says.
He says he had one-person work for him this year – Ashton DeBello, a second-year chemistry student – who last summer worked in the halfway house at the club. Her bosses loved her and wanted to her back in 2020. But when the course opened, there was no halfway house due to COVID-19. She joined Green’s team – along with a chef and a clubhouse maintenance worker, who pivoted gigs to help keep the course in top shape – where DeBello learned construction skills.
Now? She’s operating an excavator, installing drainage and building bunkers.
“It’s brought the entire club, staff-wise, closer,” says Green about having people from other parts of the club’s business see what it takes for superintendents to get their jobs done. “Even if it’s just a few people, they understand what we’re doing on the golf course a little more. The members know my staff. Usually we’re in the trees and no one sees us.
“I think anybody in any business or any walk of life… everybody has had to adjust and change their life in many ways in a lot of cases and we’re no different.”
In Manitoba, Darren Kalyniuk is president of the Canadian Golf Superintendents Association and the superintendent at St. Boniface Golf Club. He, like Green, says the staffing and budget issues were the biggest challenges they had to face in 2020.
Still, superintendents did what they always do – persevere.
“A lot of superintendents put on their rally caps and really did whatever they had to do with limited resources to get the courses back up and running properly,” says Kalyniuk.
“Everyone was asked to work with limited staff because there were so many uncertainties with revenues at the beginning and it put a little bit of a challenge on the courses and supers to do more with less.”
Doing more with less has been demanded of so many across Canada. Combine that with the increased safety measures installed at workplaces, and you’ve got a challenging season – not to mention there were record-breaking numbers of people coming out and playing golf, too.
But David Hunter, the superintendent at TPC Toronto at Osprey Valley’s Hoot and North Courses says he’s seen his staff embrace the challenge.
“We’ve been really excited to provide great course conditions for the whole season,” says Hunter. “It’s been a banner year for our staff and we’re incredibly proud of this group of people.”
As Canadian golfers, we should all be incredibly proud of superintendents from coast to coast.
And to them, on September 23 and every day, we say thank you.