Golf Course Management

SEP 2018

Golf Course Management magazine is dedicated to advancing the golf course superintendent profession and helping GCSAA members achieve career success.

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40 GOLF COURSE MANAGEMENT 09.18 I once did. I wasn't arriving at 4:30 a.m. and wiping down the job board. I wasn't there to do that sort of thing, lots of things. But I still needed to keep tabs on my staff, my assistants. I still needed budget num - bers, input information, all that stuff, and I needed remote access so I could dial in from wherever I was: the hospital, my house or halfway down the turnpike. "I used to be the sort of super who went in on Sunday night, just to get this sort of thing in place — to get everything in place — for the week to come," VanBuskirk says. "Looking back, I can see my work-life bal - ance was not good. I just didn't realize how bad it really was until Gloria got so sick." The all-American dream VanBuskirk had always been a man with a plan. He was in a hurry too. e Massa - chusetts native grew up outside Boston, in Framingham. At 15, once he started work - ing course crews at nearby Wayland Coun- try Club, he got it in his head to become a golf course superintendent. He graduated from the turf program at the University of Rhode Island in 2006, with the goal of a head superintendent's gig by the time he was 30. Before he'd even left URI, he was offered an assistant's position at the private Oakley Country Club in Watertown, Mass. He was 21 when he met Gloria Bennett. She was 18. VanBuskirk fell hard, he says, for this "fiery little redhead with no filter." "I was pretty green, but I threw myself into the job. It was a great facility, a place where I could try all sorts of cultural prac - tices that might not have even been at- tempted at a private club. I got involved in the New England (golf course superinten - dents) association and built a network. I learned a ton from those guys. And like I said, I was the resident geek, the techie they came to with all those types of questions. "At Stow I had a staff that, in turn, I was able to raise up and teach and mentor," he says. "We hosted a Junior PGA and all sorts of Massachusetts Golf Association champi - onships. Great ownership. Two great golf courses. I worked ridiculous hours there, did a lot of cool things and had a lot of fun." A 'gut-wrenching' life change In late 2013, with the Christmas holiday approaching, Gloria VanBuskirk started complaining of stomach pains. When they didn't pass and actually worsened one night, Jason rushed her to the local hospital. Every - one thought she suffered from ulcers. Jason figured they'd head home straight away with some medication, maybe schedule a follow-up. But doctors kept her that night, then the next night, and the next. On day four, she experienced a grand mal seizure, lost consciousness and suffered violent muscle contractions — the type of seizure most people associate with an epilep - tic episode. Indeed, a grand mal seizure is VanBuskirk (far right) developed Turf Cloud along with his partner, Stephen Ohlson, as a tool to help superintendents manage a property's relevant data. Here, he reviews the product with superintendent Matt Powell (standing, second from right) and his team at Dedham Country and Polo Club in Dedham, Mass. "We met young. We were both kids," he says. "But I knew from the get-go I was going to marry her. We grew up together, and from the beginning, we agreed that I would work work, and she would work home. First four years, that's just what we did: job, house, dog, kids, white-picket fence — the all-American dream." After VanBuskirk had been at Oak - ley two years, there was a changing of the guard. e head superintendent left, and the resulting chaos left a bad taste. He wasn't ready for the head job, he reckoned, but the routine of an assistant's life didn't thrill him, either, so he bolted and took a job with Scotts Lawn Care. "I wanted to try something else in the industry, and that was a good gig in a lot of ways," VanBuskirk says. "I learned a lot of things — but one of those things was, I don't want to be pushing a spreader all my life." After five months, he applied for an assis - tant's position at Stow Acres Country Club, a 36-hole, daily-fee facility located just in - side I-495, Boston's outer beltway that just happens to be dotted with dozens of tech companies, from giants to wee startups. Outside of Silicon Valley, it's one of the larg - est concentrations of tech in the country. "After nine months, my boss at Stow comes to me and says he's leaving. I was not ready, but I put in for it — and got it," Van - Buskirk recalls. "at was March 2008. I was 24. I had met my goal, six years early.

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