On how he got started...

After the Navy, I came home to work on the farm but I saw an ad posted looking for someone who could operate a tractor. That turned out to be Bruce Denning from Frosty Valley CC (in Danville, Pa.) who really took me under his wing. I’d never seen a golf course before and it was tough work. But it paid off because Bruce saw something in me. He let me run the crew and showed me how to talk to the chairman and such. He got a hold of Dr. Joe Duich at Penn State and managed to get me into the turfgrass program there. I never had another thought about farming.

On how the profession has changed...

In the late 1970s a fertilizer company sent out a flyer with a picture of a dirty looking fellow who was supposed to be a superintendent that said, “Is this man qualified to make your purchases?” That made me crazy but it was kind of true at the time! Now, lots of clubs have realized that the superintendent is the main guy in their operations and maybe even the highest-paid person at the club.

On the changing point in his career...

Once I had the ’78 PGA Championship at Oakmont, from that point on, I became sought after. I was the right guy in the right place at the right moment. After that, my career grew from there. Augusta National, Wilmington CC ... and my salary went up tremendously. That was nice for me and my family, but it was also beneficial to everyone in the business. A rising tide lifts all boats.

On the disparity between superintendent and assistant superintendent salaries...

It’s the superintendent’s responsibility to fight for good salaries for assistants. The reason for my success was to surround myself with good people and you can’t do that if you’re not willing to pay them what they’re worth. You gotta stick your hind-end out there and take that risk with the club to get the best people. This business is all about finding the best people!

On the best advice he ever got...

Way back when, my general manager at Oakmont told me, “If you want to be successful in anything, you gotta take risks and ‘pull out the stops.’” People who know me know I say that all the time but it’s true. If it’s worth doing, you got to go at it 100 percent and pull out all the stops.

On the Old Tom Morris Award he’ll receive in Orlando at the GIS...

I’m still dumbfounded. That’s a pretty elite group on that list. The letters and comments I’ve received have just been amazing. So many of the men who worked for me over the years have gotten in touch. They’re like kids to me. They’re like sons. And Phyllis was like a mom to them! I’m very proud of every one of them.

On his son Paul B. Latshaw of Muirfield Village CC...

You should understand Paul’s success is from his mother, not from me. The things that make him successful are things he learned from Phyllis. Second, it’s great he’s surpassed me. It was hard for him at first because of the comparison. The name may have helped a little at first, but once you get a job you have to prove yourself. That boss asks, “What are you gonna do for me now?” Well, he’s done plenty.

On the future...

I keep preaching that supers should be more of a general manager. Those opportunities always present themselves and they need to be ready. The board may not have a true picture of what’s really going on unless they’re hearing from the person who runs the course. I think many superintendents are more than ready for a higher role in the management of the club. If the golf course improves, the bottom line improves.

On how communications and technology impact supers...

I was never much of a communicator. That’s my military background. There are rules, everyone knows them and they are enforced. That was simpler! It does seem technology is always going to go forward, but we’ve become too techy. No one wants to get their hands dirty anymore.

Final Thoughts...

I’ve never been a rocket scientist. Brainy I am not. If you want success, you’ve gotta set goals and pull out the stops. And you must have a good family life or you’re not going to survive. Remember your families and always balance both sides of your life That’s the key.

Paul R. Latshaw prepared golf courses for nine major championships over 38 years as a golf course superintendent, elevating the profession through his influence and innovation.