Golf Course Management

NOV 2012

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

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ered himself a golf course superintendent in those first few years. It's not that he thought less of himself as a person. It was a feeling that the other members had earned their stripes and took the education to become professionals. I don't think there is any question now that he knows his stuff and deserves everything he has earned." To this day, the eight-year GCSAA member still attends both spring and fall Peaks & Prairies chapter conferences, one of which recently included a 1,140-mile round trip by car. And while still an introvert, he doesn't miss the opportunity to interact with his fellow super- intendents to ask questions or engage in discussions about turf management. "The best aspect of being a member of the chapter and national association is the net- working, without a doubt," Rootes says. "I cannot speak for other professions, but I think it would be hard to match the support superintendents give to each other. We all have the same problems. It's just that some have them on a larger scale." Support from the top Some superintendents in Rootes' position would find it impossible to pursue professional development opportunities. His budget averages $175,000 including labor and capital expen- ditures. He has a seasonal staff of five to seven people, with no assistant to delegate respon- sibility. As a municipal operator, he is a department leader in an environment where budgets are scrutinized and cut. Still, Rootes gets strong support from his executive director, who happily writes checks for chapter and national dues. "My boss sees the value because he sees the golf course has improved," Rootes says. "The reason is we are smarter and know more about what we are doing. I think our dues are a steal. We get great value. The costs for being a member and participating in education have repaid themselves many times over. I would call that an investment with good returns. "I know the challenges small-budget courses face in making dollars stretch. I have to somehow get my parks director and board to support spending big money on a new pump station. But that's what golf course superintendents are — salesmen. If you want to be a mem- ber and take the education, you have to sell it." A part of the community One of GCSAA's core attributes is the sense of community it builds among members, offering the opportunity to share common perspectives, goals and solutions. A popular program aimed at fostering community and building leadership skills is the associa- tion's annual Chapter Leaders/Executives Symposium. Volunteer chapter leaders and executive staff gather at GCSAA headquarters in Lawrence, Kan., to participate in the program, learning concepts and ideas to support chapter effectiveness. Speakers come from various backgrounds including lead- ership development, financial management, communications and program management. The program, funded in part by the Williams Leadership Endowment through the Environmental Institute for Golf, also offers a review of GCSAA programs that can enhance chapter operations. A series of networking activities are also provided for attendees. The next symposium will be conducted in March 2013. Dan Rootes, an eight-year GCSAA member from Ponderosa Butte Golf Club in Colstrip, Mont., calls the symposium "one of the most rewarding things I have done since becoming a superinten- dent." A member of the Peaks & Prairies GCSA board of directors, Rootes was "blown away" by the resources that are available to members and chapters. "I really did not know what to expect coming to Lawrence, but I found myself valuing my member- ship even more," Rootes said. "It was very rewarding to interact with members all over the country to share ideas and seek help for problems. For someone like me who did not have a formal turf educa- tion, the ability to pick the brains of other members has been invaluable." Lori Russell, a veteran chapter executive and multi-year attendee of various GCSAA leadership events, finds that these opportunities tend to unleash the talents of GCSAA members who have never been placed in such a position. As the Peaks & Prairies executive director, Russell knows sustained chapter success depends on cultivating leaders to facilitate a smooth transition. In Rootes, she saw a person with potential, despite being somewhat reserved. "Dan was not one of our officers, but we asked him to attend the symposium because he was a 72 GCM November 2012 person we knew would be a chapter president at some point," Russell says. "Dan comes from a different background than most other mem- bers, and that has resulted in his maximizing his membership. Coming to headquarters and interacting with other superintendents from different parts of the nation was a great experi- ence for him." For GCSAA Chief Executive Officer Rhett Evans, Rootes' experience should serve as an example for others, especially during a time when golf courses face challenges from a dif- ficult economy, government regulation and the ever-present weather threats. "The last thing anyone should do when times get tough is crawl in their shell and isolate themselves," Evans says. "That is why GCSAA membership is so valuable. The as- sociation provides a wealth of resources and opportunities to advance your career and ben- efit your facility. I remember talking with Dan at a break at the symposium and sensing his excitement about what the event provided him. I could tell his chapter and GCSAA experience were vital for his career." — J.B. Rootes continues, "I also think super- intendents from smaller courses might feel intimidated to join because they might feel what they share would not apply to others. But I found that never to be the case. We are all in this together." A final word of advice Rootes remembers all too well those early days on the golf course, thinking all he had to do was water the grass to keep it green and then mow it. He does not know what he would have done if he had not heeded the advice to join his chapter and GCSAA. "I probably would not be a golf course superintendent today if I had not joined. I am not sure I could have kept my job," Roo- tes says. "Every superintendent should be a member. If your employer cannot pay, then pay for it yourself. It is worth it many times over. But it is more than just being a member. You need to use your membership. There is so much available to us." GCM Jeff Bollig ( is GCSAA's senior director of communications.

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