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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George Jennrich had an interesting experience as a night waterman. and I drove it to move the sprinklers four or fve times a night. I made 50 cents an hour." When he was superintendent north of the border in Ontario, John Grightmire made certain his night waterman earned a tad more for it. "I paid a little bit extra, 25 cents (extra) an hour at that time. It was worth it," says Grightmire, a 52-year member of GCSAA. Considering what night watermen had to put up with sometimes, the money was well earned. On occasion, there were forces working against the night waterman. In the early 1970s at Lawrence Country Club in Lawrence, Kan., Brian Wright was a young teenager who lived on Princeton Blvd. that runs along the northern perimeter of the club. Wright, who has caddied in the PGA Championship, recalls how he and some friends had fun at the night waterman's expense. "Summer was like having your own 150acre interactive playground and you didn't Onef Halu y o a g Hal Robbins wore rubber boots. Always. No doubt that he left his footprints throughout Pole Valley Players Club, where the last green was seeded on Sept. 11, 2001, a day that will live in infamy for other reasons. "His main job then was watering those in," says six-year GCSAA member Marvin Seaman, who oversees Pole Valley. "Summer nighttime irrigation is your lifeline. Really, Hal did everything. He was invaluable." Seaman speaks about Robbins in past tense. Robbins died one year ago this month, Sept. 29, 2012, but his impact on Pole Valley lives. Robbins was night waterman at Pole Valley, which Seaman describes as a "small, mom and pop course" located in Hartford, N.Y., 9 miles west of the Vermont border. "Because of fnances, we couldn't put in irrigation. Hal grew in 90,000 square feet of greens surfaces with a hose," says Pole Valley co-owner Steve Forbes. Robbins, tall and lanky at 6-feet-4 and 185 pounds, had eccentric written all over him. He possessed a thick beard, trademark cap, tie-dye shirt and a jacket that Forbes gets the honor of describing. "I'd say, 'When are you going to change the oil in that jacket, Hal?' If you saw him, you probably would run away from him," Forbes says, "but he was one of the neatest guys. Extremely intelligent, a walking encyclopedia of sports, well-versed in 48 GCM September 2013 Hal Robbins politics. He loved the Washington Redskins." One late evening, when Robbins was watering greens, Forbes went to check on him. "I walked up from behind to spook him," Forbes says, "and later I said, 'I hate to leave you alone.' He just said, 'Schizophrenics are never alone.'" According to Forbes, Robbins' mother found him dead in his car, on the passenger side, and the radio still on. Later it was determined that Robbins died from undiagnosed cancer. "He was dedicated to his work. The knowledge he had is something he took to the grave with him," Forbes says. Robbins left behind a legacy on the golf course and beyond. "It's pretty rare, at least from my experiences, that you fnd people who are there just for the golf course," Seaman says. "He'd do anything to make Pole Valley better." Forbes never will forget Robbins — for all the right reasons. "He was the most honest, trustworthy friend I ever had," Forbes says. — H.R. need a driver's license, " Wright says. "We'd play cat and mouse (with the night waterman). You could see his lights coming four holes away. We'd be lying there, all quiet, like we were playing Army. We were more of a nuisance than a threat." At times, Wright wished he could be that night waterman. "I always thought that it was the coolest job around," he says. "You're out at night, dragging a hose around, you're on a golf course, driving around in basically a big Go-Kart. It sure would beat de-tasseling corn on the Kaw River." Speaking of watery scenarios … I was driving the Cushman. About the seventh hole, I fell asleep, drove into a pond. I got a chain, a tractor, and I pulled it out. It was one of those nights I was really tired. — George Jennrich, whose summer job as night waterman at Somerset Country Club in Mendota Heights, Minn., helped pay for his college tuition. Jennrich was forgiven and kept his job. Other night watermen that had issues weren't so fortunate. Tadge, 53-year member of GCSAA who served as the association's president in 1979, recalls handing a pink slip to a night waterman who crossed the line. "I had one bad experience with a night waterman. I didn't realize he was an alcoholic," Tadge says. "I went to a function, and later was coming back from it, drove by the golf course, and the sprinklers were in the same spot. When I saw him (night waterman), he had a bottle of whiskey, was having his own party. I fred him." As part of Paul R. Latshaw's frst job out of college at Sewickley Heights Golf Club in Sewickley, Pa., he did night watering, which was no simple task. "Bear of a job," says Latshaw, 48-year GCSAA member. "You ran yourself ragged all night long. When I got into the business, usually the superintendent did it himself because it was hard to fnd good people. I don't think anybody … regrets not having that job." There are night watermen so good that superintendents remember them, even 50 years later, such as Raymond Burroughs. He worked for Maples at The Standard Club in Atlanta, where they used a singlerow, snap-valve system for night watering. It wasn't a perfect system. Leaks would occur,

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