Steven Shavel bypassed a symbolic ceremony and subsequent celebrations for the solitude of Saturday work. The decision has yielded no regrets.
Shavel, the winner of the 2017 Stanley Zontek Memorial Scholarship, earned his degree in turfgrass science from The Ohio State University this past May. Commencement was held at Ohio Stadium, but Shavel spent the morning and afternoon at Double Eagle Club, 25 miles from “the Shoe.”
Memories of the day are stored in a maintenance journal: Shavel executed a PGR application with a walk sprayer. “I had an opportunity to work,” Shavel says, “and Saturday was my day.”
The work ethic stems from Shavel’s upbringing in Garfield Heights, Ohio, a blue-collar community outside Cleveland. He’s the first member of his family to graduate college, earning a biology degree from Notre Dame College in neighboring South Euclid, Ohio, in May 2015. Shavel did attend that commencement ceremony.
A collegiate bowler and recreational golfer, Shavel received his first job at a bowling alley as a teenager. His second job offered more variety, as he landed a position at Washington Golf Course, a nine-hole Cleveland Metroparks course with a bustling practice facility. Washington is the closest golf facility to downtown Cleveland and attracts a variety of customers, ranging from First Tee students to businessmen hitting lunch buckets. Shavel started shagging range balls before noticing the other work happening around him.
“There was the curiosity factor of guys always mowing greens, mowing fairways,” he says. “I was always like, ‘Man, I wish I was that guy.’ It seemed like a cool job. I thought it would be fun to come in at 6 a.m. and work my day.”
Shavel landed a maintenance job and remained hooked despite attending a college without a turf program. Attending school close to home helped Shavel afford tuition, and his interest in golf course maintenance intensified when his academic advisor Dr. Tracy Melander introduced him to a horticulturist position at Shaker Heights Country Club on Cleveland’s East Side. A year later, Shavel graduated from NDC and enrolled at Ohio State. Numerous credits transferred over, and Shavel needed just two years to earn a turfgrass science degree.
The past year has featured some memorable experiences, including an internship at prestigious Canterbury Golf Club, where he helped superintendent Mike LoPresti and crew through a brutal summer. LoPresti entrusted Shavel with a variety of responsibilities, ranging from hand watering greens to spraying acres of storied turf. Canterbury, the site of two U.S. Opens, two U.S. Amateurs and a PGA Championship, hosted the Web.com Tour’s DAP Championship last September. When he returned to school, Shavel joined superintendent Dennis Bowsher’s crew at The Ohio State University Golf Club, which hosted the Web.com Tour’s Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship.
Shavel received his first full-time turf job in March, when he joined the Double Eagle team as the second assistant superintendent. Working with LoPresti, Bowsher and Double Eagle COO Todd Voss positions Shavel nicely as he settles into the industry.
Like the scholarship’s namesake Zontek, the former director of the USGA Green Section’s Mid-Atlantic Region, Shavel wants to make a lasting impact in a demanding industry. Zontek was the USGA’s longest-tenured employee at the time of his death in 2012. Shavel learned about Zontek during a class at Ohio State and he’s heard the agronomist’s name mentioned in conversations at Double Eagle.
“Every day is a new challenge,” Shavel says. “The industry right now, as everybody knows, it’s tough on wages, it’s tough on staffing. I looked at that when I was at Canterbury, and going through Ohio State I told myself, ‘I want to be someone who finds a solution to the problem.’ Even though I’m 25 and I don’t want to overstep my boundaries, I would like to solve some of these problems in the industry. That’s what gets me up in the morning. I don’t know anything else really. That’s how I started off. That’s my passion.”
The scholarship, an unrestricted $2,500 grant, supports a turf student with a passion for the game. Selection criteria include academic performance, advisor/superintendent recommendations and an essay about why the student is passionate about a career as a superintendent.
“We had an amazing batch of applicants this year,” GCI publisher Pat Jones says. “We probably could have selected any one of several really excellent entries, but Steven stood out because of the passion he displayed in his essay and in his commitment to building a career in the profession. I look forward to seeing him carry on Stanley’s legacy.”Guy Cipriano is GCI’s associate editor.
Tartan Talks No. 13
The second season of Tartan Talks started with our first father-son episode as Dr. Michael Hurdzan and Dr. Christopher Hurdzan revealed their thoughts on a variety of industry topics, including why Golden Age tactics are necessities for 21st century golf courses. “Golf courses of 2020 are going to look like golf courses of 1920,” Michael Hurdzan says.
Hurdzan Golf is the midst of a memorable summer. Erin Hills, the Wisconsin course Michael designed with Dana Fry and Ron Whitten, hosted the U.S. Open, while Ottawa Hunt & Golf Club, a course Hurdzan renovated in 2013, hosts a LPGA event in late August. What’s next for the Hurdzans? Enter https://goo.gl/Vdc2f8 into your web browser to find out.