Golf Course Management

MAR 2019

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

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ecutive who served as the club president at Boca Grove. "If you're passionate and you're energetic about your work ... those personality traits will inculcate your staff and those around you. For me, that's what Rafael has brought here and why he has such a great team working for him." Mike Gibson, Boca Grove's general manager, saw first - hand the influence and deep connection that Rafael has in the industry during a trip to the John Deere Classic last year. "I think what I learned the most was how deep his network is and the respect that people have for Rafael," he says. "at really is a product of who he is as a person, but it's also a prod - uct of GCSAA, how people view that organization and what they've been able to create." One of Rafael's best friends in the business, Rafael Mar - tinez, the GCSAA Class A superintendent at Hacienda Golf Club in La Habra Heights, Calif., adds, "As a golf course su - perintendent, Rafael has been very successful, not only on the agronomic side, but he also has a great ability to communi - cate and connect with people in our industry, at home and abroad. He is always willing to help people and will take the time to talk with you, whether it's about agronomy, business, GCSAA, or life in general." Quick study When the family moved to the U.S., Barajas spoke no English and knew little about life in America. But inside of two years, he had found work on the golf course at Sunset Hills — where his brother Jose had already established him - self as the assistant superintendent — and, unwittingly, a ca- reer that would become his life's passion. He showed an almost immediate affinity for the job. A year after starting at Sunset Hills, he was managing the club's weekend maintenance crews. One year later, he took a posi - tion as the assistant superintendent at Mountain Gate Coun- try Club in Los Angeles. After two years there, the man- agement company that oversaw the facility, American Golf, added the municipal golf courses for the city of Long Beach, Calif., to its portfolio and asked Barajas to manage one of those properties. "I was a little shocked," he admits now. "I was only 20 years old. No school. No degree. Limited English, because it was my second language. But I was never afraid to figure out how to get the job done. My belief was always that if some - body else could do it, there was no reason why I couldn't." Barajas might have convinced others that he could do the job at that point, but he hadn't necessarily convinced himself of the same thing. Oh, he was plenty confident that he could handle the work and accomplish the tasks set in front of him on the golf course. He just wasn't quite as confident that a long-term career in golf course management was going to be for him. Until, that is, he picked up a golf club for the first time. "One of the members at Sunset Hills gave me a set of golf clubs — Arnold Palmer VIPs with aluminum shafts," Bara - jas says. "So I started playing, and I just fell in love with the game. And I figured the only way I was going to be able to keep playing and afford to keep playing was if I stuck with the job and started to move up the ladder." to do that," Rafael says. "All of our family and friends were there, just to show him a good time and how much we all ap - preciated everything he did for us. He's a very special man." Indeed. To hear Rafael tell it, the confluence of events in San Diego was an appropriate one because much of the credit for all that he has achieved during his golf course manage - ment career can be traced back to the lessons of his parents. Most notable, at least as it relates to this story, are the work ethic and positive attitude that Pedro tried to instill in all of his children. Although he worked many jobs after immigrat - ing to the U.S., his frequent work on golf courses made the biggest impact, not only on Rafael, but on two of his broth - ers who also now work in the business. His younger brother, Hector, is the GCSAA Class A superintendent at Sierra Lakes Golf Club in Fontana, Calif., and his older brother, Jose, works as the assistant superintendent at Sunset Hills Country Club in ousand Oaks, Calif. Asked whether his father was proud that Rafael would be spending the next year as GCSAA's president, Rafael said, "He is proud, but he is proud of all of us. He's happy, and I think he feels that he accomplished something in life because not only me, but all of my family members, my brothers and sisters, we're all doing great. I think that makes him the hap - piest of all." And if Pedro talked to others about the son he raised in Rafael, that pride would likely only grow. "One of the things that's important to me is that people bring passion and energy to their jobs. Clearly, Rafael has both of those," says Frank Maddalena, a former hospital ex - 42 GOLF COURSE MANAGEMENT 03.19 Barajas' immediate family includes (front row, from left) his daughter, Veronica, and wife, Yolanda, and (back row, from left) his three sons — Marco Antonio, Dan- iel and Rafael Jr., who is currently in the U.S. Marines stationed in Japan. Photo courtesy of Rafael Barajas

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