Golf Course Management

SEP 2013

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

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Inside GCM by Scott Hollister Night watch yields a gem When I have the opportunity to speak with golf course superintendents about GCM and what goes into the production of each issue of the magazine, they're often surprised at just how involved the process is for our staff. They're surprised at how far in advance we work, how carefully we plot out each issue and the intricate thought that goes into each and every story that makes its way into the magazine. Yet despite a planning process that rivals the most detailed golf course renovation you can imagine, sometimes the best story ideas simply fall into your laps. And that's defnitely the case with the lead feature story in this issue of GCM, Howard Richman's thoughtful and detailed look at a vanishing breed in the golf course management industry, the night waterman ("The night life," Page 42). Earlier this year, I received an email from Marvin Seaman, the superintendent at Pole Valley Players Club in Hartford, N.Y. In that email, the six-year GCSAA member told me the story of Hal Robbins, a longtime night waterman at this selfdescribed "mom-and-pop golf course," who had died unexpectedly late in 2012. He asked me if GCM would be able to do anything to honor Robbins' memory. At frst blush, I honestly didn't think we could. I receive a number of similar emails every year from superintendents all over the country. They all tell compelling stories of individuals dedicated to both their jobs and their families, and they all tug at my heartstrings. But realistically, we can't feature them all in the pages of GCM, and if we can't feature them all, we probably can't feature any of them and remain fair in our treatment of our readers. There was something about this one, though, that made me pause before sending Seaman my regrets. Robbins was a true character, an eccentric who would have ft in as comfortably on an episode of "Duck Dynasty" as he did at Pole Valley. He had worked at a job that, frankly, I didn't think existed in our industry anymore. And he had worked at the kind of course I'm always looking to showcase more often in the pages of GCM, the quintessential small-town, family-owned and open-to-the-public "little guy." So instead of saying, "no," I passed the story idea along to Richman for a little further examination. If nothing came from it, we fgured, then so be it. It was at least worth a phone 18 GCM September 2013 call and a little more digging on our parts before we dismissed it out of hand. That phone call confrmed to us that Robbins was as much of a character as Seaman had suggested in his original email. But, almost as important, it got us thinking about night watermen. They were once commonplace in the industry, but had gradually been rendered unnecessary by the advent of computerized irrigation technology. Still, if there was one course in upstate New York employing a night waterman in 2013, that meant there had to be others, right? Robbins was a true character, an eccentric who would have ft in as comfortably on an episode of "Duck Dynasty" as he did at Pole Valley. Right. As Richman would discover as he dug deeper and deeper into what was becoming a much broader story, the job of the night waterman isn't quite the lost art we frst thought. There are still courses that rely on the work of these night owls to keep their greens, tees and fairways in top condition. And even at golf courses where that job is no longer needed, there remain fond memories of the position and the men and women who plied that trade, some of whom used the work as a gateway to other jobs within the profession. And what became of the story that started this whole thing, that of Robbins and Pole Valley? We're sharing that one in this issue, too, as a featured sidebar to Richman's main story. It's the least we could do for Seaman, the folks at Pole Valley and to honor the memory of someone as unique as Robbins. GCM Scott Hollister (shollister@gcsaa.org) is GCM's editor-in-chief.

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