Golf Course Management

MAR 2015

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

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48 GOLF COURSE MANAGEMENT 03.15 Now, it's apparent where that somewhere turned out to be. Late last month, O'Keefe was elected the 79th president in GCSAA history. Those who know him well think it is the perfect ft. "Natural born leader," says Tracey Holli - day, GCSAA Class A superintendent at Ster- ling Farms Golf Course in Stamford, Conn. She worked with O'Keefe at the beginning of his career at Longshore Club Park in Westport, Conn., and later served on his staff during O'Keefe's tenure at Westchester Hills Golf Club in White Plains, N.Y. Greg Boring, GCSAA Class A superinten - dent at the Country Club of Scranton (Pa.), and a past assistant superintendent at Preak - ness Hills, says, "John is a leader and a mentor. I look at John more as a friend. He basically showed you how things should be done." O'Keefe is a giant in the business, according to Brian Gjelsvik, who worked as an assistant superintendent for O'Keefe at Preakness Hills in the early 1990s. "He is built for this moment," says Gjelsvik, who now owns Seeton Turf Warehouse. "What he has accomplished will have an impact on this business for a very long time." O'Keefe, who turns 59 this month, wants to continue his contributions — while he is in offce and beyond. "Whatever I can do to help advance careers, educate, give people a chance to succeed, re - mains important to me," O'Keefe says. "I love giving back to this industry." The making of a superintendent O'Keefe's drive and determination started at an early age. "Mom always had to work to provide for us," O'Keefe says, "and we didn't have a lot of extras. Whatever I needed, I had to go out and work for it." O'Keefe is big into mentoring. He simply is returning the favor for all of those people who mentored him as he climbed the ranks in his profession. They include Ronnie Woodger, whose landscape business provided opportuni - ties for O'Keefe when he was a young teenager in search of a way to make his life better. After high school he didn't think col - lege was a possibility, but O'Keefe was able once again to make the most of an opportu - nity that was afforded him by David Roche, a local bank executive who thought that he was bright, personable and had a strong work ethic. Roche hired him to be the manager of grounds at a luxury condominium community in nearby Pittsfeld. "I was making more money than my friends," O'Keefe says, "but it was a job and not a career." Every day, O'Keefe drove by Pittsfeld Country Club on his way to work and ad - mired the beauty of the golf course. Toward the goal to fnd a career, O'Keefe decided to take the leap and pursue his college education. His appreciation for the beauty of golf courses encouraged him to fnd out all he could about the business. He soon knew that he had to be "Whatever I can do to help advance careers, educate, give people a chance to succeed, remains important to me. I love giving back to this industry." — John O'Keefe, CGCS Above: O'Keefe with his namesake, grandson John "J.T." Sharples. Right: The O'Keefe clan: (front, from left) Maureen Shar- ples with J.T. and Adrienne O'Keefe; (back, from left) Tom Sharples, Margaret O'Keefe, John O'Keefe and Dale Huettenmoser.

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