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The world as we knew it changed one year ago. COVID-19 landed and we were transported into a brave new world. A world full of unknowns, virtual meetings and real expectations. Golf Course Industry editor-in-chief Guy Cipriano and I had a phone conversation about the challenges our beloved industry was facing in March 2020 and from that conversation came the article There is Always a Way. One year later, we are making progress, but the question remains: Is there really always a way?

First, let’s revisit the key points of the article. The crux of things was some old rural wisdom supplied by my grandfather Ira G. Williams, who often said, “When times are tough, there is always a way. It may be difficult and it may seem unlikely or even impossible, but there is always a way.”

This thing is a marathon

I never imagined we would still be pressed a year later. But I did think we would be forever changed. The first sentence from the original article was, “There are seasons in our lives and careers that seem to define us.” Last year did that in many ways and, yes, we are making progress in this brave new world.

We all started making adjustments, beginning in small triage ways (pool noodles in the cups), then in practical season-long ways (let’s adjust aerations and fertilizer to save money but accommodate more play). We signed up for a 40-yard dash and found ourselves running a trail marathon. One year later I would expand controlling your emotions into managing your emotional health.

We are still in uncharted territory and the journey is a long one (the feelings of loss and lack are real), but success starts with being at your personal best mentally, physically and spiritually, and making good decisions that align with the long-term realities of your situation. The difference in the duration and difficulty of completing anything this epic (pandemics are pretty epic) will cause some to lose heart, but preparation and perseverance will keep you going. Superintendents are experts at both.

Learning the big lessons and embracing change

Last year I wrote about the need to blend tradition with innovation to make the changes necessary to be successful in this world. Identifying the core needs and resources required to keep your operation in the black financially and growing has been the game changer. The superintendents that quickly adapted their people and programs found the golf gold mine in 2020.

I have heard many stories of success from battle-tested superintendents. We all learned what essential maintenance looked like. We saw what a pandemic and fear can do to your staff, members and the world as we knew it. In 2020, golf as a game was reborn and superintendents reinvented themselves as flexible, fierce managers of the complexities that impact the game.

Throughout all sectors of golf, we saw people rally around the game and its many benefits. This was made possible by the synergy created when there is a shared vision. There was a way through this and it was unlikely, but history will show the resiliency of superintendents to make golf safe, profitable and sustainable sparked a fire that started a golf revival.

The will to succeed

Last year was tough. The losses were real. There were also personal stories of triumph and perseverance in the face of great obstacles. I set out to do more than survive in 2020. I wanted to thrive and I wanted others to thrive. That was the whole purpose behind the original article. I connected more deeply to my network and I challenged myself to give a better effort to the things and people that mattered to me. I did not allow myself the easy out of making excuses for a lesser effort or result. It was not easy, but each day gave me blessings that became the fuel for success. I thought even if I have just one more day, let’s make the most of it.

I was not alone. Superintendents across the country embraced the personal will to succeed and then found new skills to make things happen. In the words of Marcus Aurelius, “You have power over your mind — not outside events. Realize this and you will find strength.” We have found strength, we have found faith and, yes, we have found a way. We must carry on.

Anthony L. Williams, CGCS, CGM, is the director of golf course maintenance and landscaping at the Four Seasons Resort Club Dallas at Las Colinas in Irving, Texas, and a frequent Golf Course Industry contributor.