Golf Course Management

JUN 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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40 GOLF COURSE MANAGEMENT 06.18 in Wheaton, Ill., in March 2000 to restore the esteemed facility, which was founded in 1892 and claims to be the oldest 18-hole U.S. course. He was enlisted to do the same in March 2012 at Shinnecock Hills, which began play in 1891 (as a 12-hole course) and features what it says is the oldest clubhouse in America. e hiring of Jennings at Shinnecock Hills was historic in its own right. He is believed to be the only golf course superin - tendent who has overseen more than one of the five charter clubs of the USGA. Besides Chicago GC and Shinnecock Hills, the other founding clubs are St. Andrew's Golf Club in Yonkers, N.Y.; e Country Club in Brookline, Mass.; and Newport (R.I.) Golf Club. "It wasn't part of the plan. It wasn't my career target," Jennings says. "But it is pretty amazing to have your name associ - ated with two clubs of such renowned stat- ure," Jennings says. "It came with progress. Resources. And the desire to be the best you could be." It is no coincidence that Jennings is the person to accomplish the feat, according to Paul Vermeulen. "He is an overachiever in every way imaginable. He has more physi - cal energy than any human being I have known. He's always prepared for opportu - nity when opportunity knocks," says Ver- meulen, director of championship agron- omy for the PGA Tour, who was a college student intern with Jennings at Olympia Fields (Ill.) Country Club. "I think you can see that in his career path." Jennings' stamina serves him well. Where does it come from? Ask his father, Tom. "Persistence is one of his major ac - complishments. He gets that from my wife (Fran). When she tackles something, she stays with it until it gets done," he says. Learning curve Neither the road to Chicago GC nor Shinnecock Hills was exactly a straight shot for Jennings. GCSAA Class A superintendent Mike Chrzanowski at Madison (Conn.) Country Club hired him as a 12th-grader. Jennings soon learned he needed to be schooled for this job. "My first day, he had me walk-mow greens with a Toro 500. To this day, I don't think I have ever seen lines on a green that looked so crooked," Jennings says. It was a matter of time — as in being punctual for work — before Jennings straightened out. "He was one of those high school kids on his last warning," says Chrza - nowski, a 38-year association member. Jen- nings and a friend who worked with him at Madison CC devised a way to be on time. A key element in their plan was Jennings' mother's 1973 Ford LTD, a blue station wagon with wood panel siding. "We would go out at night and roll in to the shop at 3 a.m. to sleep in our car. When we heard the first sound in the morning, we'd get out and go to work," Jennings says. Whatever works, right? Jennings began to earn Chrzanowski's trust. "It was ambi - tious that he would sleep in the parking lot," says Chrzanowski, who, more than a decade later, was in Jennings' wedding. e real turning point in Jennings' career occurred at a member-guest event in which the grounds staff was invited to the dinner. Jennings reveled in what he heard. "Mem - bers spoke outwardly about the great work Mike had done preparing the golf course for play. It was shortly after that when I ap - proached Mike and asked him how he got the job," says Jennings, who followed in Chrzanowski's footsteps at the University of Massachusetts. Jennings flourished in college. He earned an associate's degree in golf course manage - ment and a bachelor's degree in resource eco- nomics. He was invited to apply to the Har- vard Business School, among others, upon graduation. For him, though, there was no business like the golf business. Joseph Troll, Ph.D. at UMass, inspired Jennings. "He spoke sternly to us the first day of class. He said, 'In five years, half of you won't be in the golf business.' at scared me to death. I was determined not to be part of that statistic," Jennings says. "Once I had Left: Jennings (second from left) with his assistants (from left) Michael Ford, Bobby Bolin and Lindsay Brownson. Below: Jennings (right) with mentors Mike Chrza- nowski, superintendent at Madison (Conn.) Country Club (far left), and the late Joseph Troll, Ph.D., the University of Massachusetts. Photo courtesy of Jon Jennings

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