Golf Course Management

MAR 2018

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

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42 GOLF COURSE MANAGEMENT 03.18 at the nearby Seminole Golf Course, a public tract owned and operated by Florida State. He was interested enough in the game to dabble in backyard architecture, and also didn't dismiss out of hand those suggestions that he explore work on the golf course when little else in the professional world was holding his interest. And that first time he pulled on his boots to go to work at Golden Eagle G&CC, everything just seemed to fall into place. "I just fell in love with the work, and never looked back," he says. After just a few months on the job at Golden Eagle G&CC working for then-superintendent Jeff Vietmeier (a 32-year GCSAA member who is now the superintendent and owner of Sweet Water Golf Course in Pennsburg, Pa.), it became clear to Davis that his best next step was to earn a college degree in turfgrass management. He looked into the two-year program at nearby Lake City Community College (now Florida Gateway College), but at the gentle urging of Vietmeier and former Golden Eagle superintendent Dave Gardner — both Penn State grads — Davis turned his atten - tion to the storied turf program in State College, Pa. He was accepted into the program on his first try. Unburdened from the self-doubt and uncertainty that had troubled him after high school, Davis dove headfirst into his studies at Penn State, fully embracing the opportunity to learn at the feet of the program's longtime patriarch, Joe Duich, Ph.D., GCSAA's Old Tom Morris Award winner in 2006. "I was on a mission, no doubt," Davis says. "I wanted to get an A in every single class, take advantage of every op - portunity that the program offered." Those opportunities included a six-month internship at Augusta National, return engagements at Golden Eagle dur - ing school breaks, and, ultimately, his graduation from Penn State near the top of his class in 1991. The only thing he didn't have immediately upon gradu - ation was a job, but that quickly changed when he received a phone call from his former boss, Marsh Benson, Augusta National's veteran director of golf course and grounds. "Marsh asked me if I had a job yet. I said, 'No sir, but I've applied here and there,'" Davis says. "He said, 'Well, Augusta National is a great place to do a job search, and I'd love to have you back.' And that's not something a 23-year-old kid turns down." So he returned to Georgia as a spray tech at Augusta, actu - ally living behind the first hole on the par-3 course in a cabin that he shared with Brad Owen, who would go on to a job as Augusta's superintendent before eventually taking over the club's top agronomic position when Benson retired in 2015. Davis' time at Augusta wasn't quite as lengthy as Owen's, but it was no less of a springboard for his career and what would become a lengthy stint of his own back in his home state of Florida. Olde Florida GC was one of the first courses in the state of Florida to earn Audubon International Cooperative Sanctuary status when it achieved the designation in 1995. Shown here is the par-4 first hole. Photos courtesy of Darren Davis

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