Golf Course Management

APR 2019

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

Issue link: http://gcmdigital.gcsaa.org/i/1094722

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20 GOLF COURSE MANAGEMENT 12.18 Cheesebrough makes an array of golf products, including wooden rakes, flag - sticks, stakes and markers, all built with either domestic or exotic hardwoods. Fabric flags, sewn by employees in Michigan, have become increasingly popular and are a major part of the company's future. Cheesebrough builds its flagsticks anticipating they will provide four years of service in typical environments and under normal use, and clubs with a regular mainte - nance program do better. Approximately 80 percent of Cheesebrough's sales are rakes and flagsticks. In the mid-1990s, Van Tol took the plunge into golf. "I thought we needed to become involved in another industry, and golf was it," he says. Cheesebrough, however, wasn't an overnight success. Not even close. Van Tol returned to the drawing board with his products, time and time again, after pay - ing heed to potential customers. "I don't think I sold a thing at our first show," Van Tol says, "and, really, the first couple of years we didn't sell much. But they (patrons) patiently allowed us to make mistakes, offered us advice, and we got it straightened out." When Van Tol went to GIS in 2013 in San Diego, he was thrilled how far Cheesebrough had come. "I finally felt there was some hope. I saw the attitude of people, the respect they had for us, and they felt more confident in what we do. They seemed to see the durability, the value. It's gotten to the point where I use the trade show to gauge our whole year," he says. Yet only a month after returning from GIS that year, Cheese - brough suffered a devastating setback. A fire destroyed everything on March 28, 2013. The Van Tols live on a hill nearby and were awakened around 3:30 a.m. by the fire. "Some of the wood had been there 150 years," says Van Tol's son Hue, who oversees day-to-day operations and is one of six family members who make up about half the workforce at Cheesebrough. Ken Van Tol says his company is following founder Job Cheesebrough's example of introduc - ing more modern equipment (including specialty machines Cheesebrough designs itself) to control costs. "Modern equipment allows faster and more detailed rough-in, which improves the quality of the final hand - work," Van Tol says, "but we will stick with handwork in secondary and fin - ish operations." Van Tol hopes Cheesebrough's story serves as an ex - ample for other businesses that may not have big marketing budgets and shiny, mass-produced gadgets. Cheesebrough may be a throwback in many ways, but Van Tol views his pride and joy as essential and needed. His ultimate wish is that small businesses such as Cheesebrough band to - gether and make something happen to prove their viability. "The race to the bottom in a competition to offer the lowest-cost goods has made it difficult for small American trades and crafts to compete. My driving force over the past 30 years has been to develop a platform for old Amer - ican products, trades and services in the global market- place, to compete," Van Tol says. "I felt that Cheesebrough had the history, authenticity and product to open that door. Our doors are still open, thanks to the great people in golf and the Golf Industry Show." — Howard Richman, GCM associate editor He excels in Alabama Travis Cook never saw this coming. Oh, sure, he had given talks before. He even was a guest speaker during GCSAA's Golf Industry Show in San Diego. He prepared his speech, as he always does, when he is invited to talk. A month before that, in January, Cook was invited to speak to members at their annual banquet at the Country Club of Birmingham, where he is an assistant superinten - dent (pictured on the right with Lee McLemore, CGCS, di- rector of golf course operations). The topic? Renovations. Oh, Cook came prepared. He didn't prepare, though, for what happened when he arrived for the event. Alan Brown hopped aboard the GCSAA bandwagon early. In fact, he helped drive it. As a student at the University of Tennessee, Brown co-founded the school's GCSAA student chapter more than two decades ago. "We had a pretty good group when I was there," Brown says. "We wanted to take the initiative to get GCSAA into our program and take advan - tage of all we could from it." The chapter took it seriously — based partly on the coup it scored for one of its roundtable discussions. It landed then-Augusta National Golf Club superintendent Marsh Ben - son and David Stone from The Honors Course in Ooltewah, Tenn. Brown, a Tennessee native, has proved his GCSAA- fueled background travels well. Nowadays, he oversees Timuquana Country Club in Jacksonville, Fla. It will host the USGA's U.S. Women's Amateur Four-Ball, which is scheduled April 27-May 1. "It's a big deal for our club. We have a little bit of history with the USGA," says Brown, a 20-year GCSAA Class A member, noting that the private club hosted the 2002 U.S. Senior Amateur and has been the site of USGA sectional qualifiers. The Donald Ross design along the St. Johns River was redesigned by Robert Trent Jones Jr., with subsequent alterations by George Cobb and Dave Gordon and renovated again in 1996 by Bobby Weed to help restore the original design. Part of the club's renovation was a historic partnership with the U.S. Navy in which the club negotiated with the Navy to include an effluent water program to irrigate the course. Brown's road to Timuquana five years ago was preceded by overseeing one of the top courses in America. He was golf course manager at The Alotian Club in Roland, Ark., ranked No. 31 by Golf Digest in its 2019-2020 "America's Greatest Golf Courses" rankings. Timuquana CC certainly has produced some great golf. Major golf champion David Duval learned to play there. Brown — whose support sys - tem includes wife Carlyn, sons Knox and Hudson, daughter Dylan, and his crew, highlighted by assistants Josh Urbanec and Justin Fontaine — also still relies heavily on the GCSAA roots that he helped grow. "We're a good industry but not a large industry, so being able to have network connections on all kind of issues is the lifeline to our way of living. I don't think we could do without it, and I lean on it a lot," Brown says. — H.R. ACT ON COURSE OF 20 GOLF COURSE MANAGEMENT 04.19 A fire in 2013 destroyed Cheesebrough's facility in Freeport, Mich. Photo courtesy of Ken Van Tol

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