Give me a G! Give me a C! Give me a S! Give me an A! Give me another A! In 1926, Colonel John Morley brought together a group of greenkeepers to foster and establish collaboration and information sharing among course managers. Colonel Morley firmly believed, “No life is, or can be, self-existent. We depend on each other.” In other words, he knew for golf course superintendents to be successful, we need to lean on each other for knowledge and support.
Now I realize there are many really good superintendents who go at it alone, and each of us probably know someone like that in our area. But sharing and collaborating with fellow professionals makes life more fulfilling in my opinion. I proudly joined GCSAA in 1997 while a graduate student at Virginia Tech studying turfgrass science. There was something about receiving that membership card (green in color) and my first issue of Golf Course Management (sorry GCI) that created a true sense of belonging. I knew immediately I was now part of something bigger than myself.
Fast forward seven years, and my wife accompanied me to San Diego for the 2004 GCSAA Education Conference and Trade Show (it wasn’t called the Golf Industry Show until 2005). I had recently landed my first golf course superintendent position at Swan Point Yacht & C.C. in Issue, Md., less than two years earlier and this was the first time she would experience the size and scope of GCSAA. She didn’t realize how big and important golf course superintendents are until she witnessed what GCSAA was all about.
In 2005, I became golf course superintendent of Carolina Golf Club in Charlotte, N.C., and I was immediately busy with construction and grow-ins as we embarked on a four-phase master plan renovation. While attending the 2007 GIS in Anaheim, Calif., I had a chance encounter with a local guy and he strongly encouraged me to attend meetings that season. In fact, he said if I didn’t attend, he would send guys to get me. Two years later, I was elected to the board of directors of the North-South Turfgrass Association (the NSTA is one of 13 local associations comprising the Carolinas GCSA) and in 2013 I had the good fortune to serve as its president (so thank you Mike Pilo). During my tenure as NSTA president, I preached hard on the value of attending meetings. I recently “heard” Andrew Jorgensen (@LowBudgetSupt) say he never attended a local meeting where he did not learn something new, and I firmly believe you get out of your membership what you put into your membership. If you are unwilling to invest your time to gather with and engage your peers to collaborate and share, then you’re missing out.
Now I understand not every golf course superintendent, assistant superintendent, and/or equipment manager has the good fortune to work at a facility where membership dues are covered by their employer. I also understand this situation helps steer the narrative by some that GCSAA only cares about the “Big Boys,” but I don’t buy that.
I came from modest beginnings as my first golf course work experience took place on the only golf course in the entire county. Lake Bonaventure Country Club was a nine-hole private club, and here I learned to string trim with the best of them, play liars poker and gin rummy, and cuss like, well, you know what I mean. What 19-year old wouldn’t love that? Through the years, I have invested my time in continuing education offered by GCSAA. I have met some tremendous people, made the best of friends and felt connected to what I believe is the greatest profession on earth.
When I was a senior in high school, my classmates voted me “Most School Spirited.” I wasn’t thrilled at first, but the more I thought about it, I realized I did bleed blue and white (Castlewood Blue Devils) and was always willing to do what was necessary to rally teammates or classmates. Nowadays, I channel that same energy into my profession. I know I would not be where I am today without everything that has come with my membership these past 19 years. I encourage you to join your local, state or regional affiliate chapter and become an engaged, active participant and maximize what GCSAA can do for you. Because to get something in return, you must first make an investment.
Matthew Wharton, CGCS, MG, is the superintendent at Carolina Golf Club in Charlotte, N.C.