Whether I am reflecting on my career or looking ahead to the future, one word continues to come to mind: community. And while I have been very fortunate to spend most of my career in a single community, I am blessed beyond measure for that community to have been Pinehurst.
Because, at Pinehurst, I’ve learned that while crowned greens and historic fairways may achieve lasting significance, one powerful legacy of the Cradle of American Golf is that of its people.
That legacy, I believe, can be built anywhere.
Superintendents tend to settle into places that fit their talents and interests. Some may prefer to work in the resort or public sector, while some choose to work at private clubs. Some have talents for construction and grow-in and others have a passion to work at sites that host PGA Tour events or major championships. I am grateful for having had the opportunity to do all of this without changing my letterhead or zip code for the past 30-plus years. Regardless of the direction you go or your destination, though, the one thing we all have in common is developing and maintaining win-win relationships.
I sincerely believe we must be intentional in forming and sustaining positive relationships. Our professional relationships are far-reaching and intertwined in many ways. Our involvement in professional associations like GCSAA, USGA, PGA, NGCOA provide the network of common bonds. But don’t ignore relationships with our industry commercial partners and the media. We are all stronger when bonded together with the common goal of making golf healthier.
The recent passing of Arnold Palmer left a huge void not only in golf, but also in the countless ways he touched us with his charitable giving and many acts of kindness. With simple gestures – a thumbs-up, a beautifully legible signature, a handshake – Mr. Palmer willingly showed a caring for all those he encountered. If you ever met Mr. Palmer, you remember what the moment meant to you. Mr. Palmer understood that.
In my time at Pinehurst, I’ve worked with a huge number of interns, assistant superintendents and superintendents. I always try to stress to each of them that their career success is in many ways dependent on building and maintaining relationships in the workplace as well as in the community. Relationships truly are the essence of golf. And it’s been that way at Pinehurst for over a century.
Founded in 1895 by James Walker Tufts, three generations of the Tufts family owned Pinehurst through 1970. In the early 1970s, the Tufts family sold Pinehurst to the Diamondhead Corporation, and Pinehurst lost the family and relationship intangibles that made it so unique. That community dynamic was restored in 1984 when Pinehurst was acquired by Robert Dedman and ClubCorp.
While ClubCorp was a huge golf course ownership company, Mr. Dedman brought the family-like love and passion back into the culture of Pinehurst. Mr. Dedman always viewed himself as more of a steward, or caretaker, of the historic property, and passed that devotion on to his son and current Pinehurst owner Robert Dedman Jr.
Other families have also had successive generations contribute to Pinehurst’s longevity. Don Padgett, as director of golf from 1987-2003, was largely responsible for restoring Pinehurst’s relationships with the PGA, PGA Tour and the USGA. Don Padgett II, as the President of Pinehurst from 2003-2014, continued to strengthen those bonds. That Pinehurst’s return to the major championship stage came in this period is no accident.
I would be remiss, especially in this “Turfhead” article, if I did not mention the legacy of the Maples family and its roots in Pinehurst. Four generations of the Maples family have left their imprints not only at Pinehurst, but throughout the golf industry. The early generations of Angus and Frank Maples worked with Donald Ross in building the first courses at Pinehurst. The next generations included Henson Maples in the greenkeeping roles, followed by Ellis and son Dan in course design roles. Cousins Gene and Wayne Maples continued the agronomic side along with Palmer Maples Jr. as a superintendent at Summit Chase Country Club in Georgia and later in the administrative roles on the GCSAA leadership team.
It is hard to overstate the importance of positive relationships and the impact they have on creating a communal bond that breeds success. Whether that community is your family, your club, your workplace or your industry, the benefits, clearly, are enormous.
Much has been written about the restoration of Pinehurst No. 2. It required a great deal of “relationship capital” to be successful. We were faced with the scrutiny of our members, the United States Golf Association and literally the entire golf community. It is gratifying now, six years later, to reflect on its success and, perhaps more importantly, how it has enabled us to apply some of the same management principles to the other Pinehurst courses.
The media coverage of the restoration, along with the success of the back-to-back U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Open in 2014, has been a tremendous platform to highlight the sustainability of all aspects of golf. But sustainability in all walks of life can easily be found in the relationships and communities we build together.
Bob Farren, CGCS, is the director of grounds and golf maintenance at Pinehurst Resort in Pinehurst, N.C.