OK, kids, gather round and let’s talk one last time about why this is the greatest business in the world.
First, this thing you do … it’s hopelessly inadequate to call it “golf course maintenance.” You are highly professional managers of what are, in many cases, incredibly valuable urban greenspaces. Economically, environmentally and socially, these swatches of earth and plants you care for really do matter. Each one is a gigantic community asset. Never take that for granted.
Sure, there is the daily grind of being overtasked and understaffed. And there’s the nagging feeling that golfers just don’t get it. But few of you lose sleep waiting for that rare compliment from a member. Most of you do the job for yourselves, I think. The instant gratification of seeing lasers mown, edges perfected, bunkers looking just so. And then there are those moments when you’re alone on the course and – just for a second or two – you allow yourself to feel genuine pride in this fabulous thing you’ve helped to create. Sound familiar?
I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve heard the same “origin story” from supers who took a summer job on a course and then were unexpectedly smitten by the beauty and allure of it. In many cases, you were astounded to find out it was an actual career and they taught it in college. I’ve always thought it was telling how many of you said that same damned thing when I asked how you got into this crazy business.
Another commonality: A healthy fixation on making this giant living thing you’re in charge of better and healthier than it was when you started. One of the huge differences between good greenkeepers and great ones is the burning desire to make Baby better than last year. Even if players don’t really notice those little touches, you do … and it makes you smile a little every time you see them.
And that, of course, is why passion is mandatory. No one reading this is likely to get rich or famous doing what you do. Thus, you do it because you love it (and hate it) and can’t imagine not doing it (and constantly think about quitting). It’s often struck me that you seem to be having a tumultuous affair with your own job. It’s been crazy fun to watch that over the decades.
You find camaraderie with nearly everyone who does what you do. Years ago, I started borrowing from Harvey Penick’s famous line and saying, “If you grow grass, you are my friend.” I think that’s true for many of y’all. It’s a tiny, weird world yet those of us who have been welcomed into it are loath to ever leave.
And you find people to love by the boatload in this community. And now I’m crying … so let’s wrap this up.
This is my last column for Golf Course Industry and the official end of my time on the team. I’m very, very lucky I got to work with awesome people like Mike Zawacki, Jim Blayney, Russ Warner and Guy Cipriano, and friends like Tim Moraghan and Henry DeLozier who contributed amazing ideas in every issue.
I’m also beyond grateful that 10 years ago this month, GIE Media’s founder, Richard Foster, pointed me gently toward sobriety. With that came more blessings and joy than I could describe in a million columns.
As for this space, it is time to vacate the premises for a new tenant. I hope I used it to inform, enlighten, irritate, amuse and provoke you along the way. That said, please know how much your kind words about this column have meant to me over the years. Thank you, each and every one of you, for taking the time to read this nonsense.
(By the way, be assured I’m not retiring from writing. That would be like retiring from breathing for me.)
So, what’s next? I honestly don’t know at the moment. As Robert Burns said, “The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” I remain a hopeless optimist, but a little dose of humility was good for my soul.
One thing I’m not humble about: I’m a proud honorary turfhead and I’m never leaving this business. It’s way too much fun and there are too many great stories left to tell. The next couple of decades are going to be a fabulous time in our happy little industry. It’s going to be a smarter, savvier, better market … and I can’t wait to be part of it.
Wishing peace, joy and boundless love to all of you.