I was imported to South Florida about four years ago. I grew up in Northern Virginia, attended school at Rutgers and completed a winter internship in Texas. And where did I begin my career? Florida. The Sunshine State was never part of the plan. It just sort of happened.
Attending school in the North, we focused more on cool-season grasses. We covered warm-season grasses in class, although it wasn’t with much depth. I remember sitting in classes about warm-season turf and telling myself, “I will never have to use any of this information. This is pointless.” A year later, I started working in Florida, where we maintain wall-to-wall Bermudagrass.
My girlfriend, now my fiancée, informed me of a job opening in Palm City, Florida, in 2015. She was scrolling through online job boards, helping me find my next step after I graduated from Rutgers. Her father lived near a golf course that was hiring. She told me to apply – and that I could live with him. I applied for the position, and with some persistence, I received an interview. I flew to Florida and immediately fell in love with the palm trees, warm breeze off the ocean and, most of all, the golf courses.
I landed the job as the assistant superintendent at Piper’s Landing Yacht & Country Club, a private club in Palm City designed by “Gentleman Joe” Lee in 1984 and then renovated in 2007 by Gene Bates. The course has a reputation for offering challenging holes while being surrounded by beautiful tropical scenery.
Once I had come onboard, I immediately entered the fire, beginning work in January 2016, the heart of Florida’s busy season. Our club has a year-round membership, but most members are snowbirds who live in Florida from mid-October until early May. The job introduced me to new grasses, schedules and cultures of workers. It was great.
Adjusting to the year-round grind presented a new challenge. The slow golf season represents our harder season, as we use the summer to tackle projects and conduct cultural practices. I have personally come to love this time of year.
Fewer rounds of golf allows us to get to the meat and potatoes of our agronomic practices. We scalp, aggressively verticut and aerify wall to wall. I originally thought this would kill the grass and it would have no chance of coming back. But it does recover. In fact, it comes back better and stronger.
After we grind through the summer and early fall, we get into our main season. I learned that it’s still a grind, but in a different gear. Instead of putting in long hours in grueling heat, we’re now more focused on details. I see it as going from a physical grind in the summer to a more mental grind during the winter into the spring.
Moving to Florida and working with a crew consisting of non-English speaking workers presented another challenge. We have a few team members who can translate and get my main point across, but there is always information lost in translation. I was fortunate. Crew leaders who speak both languages wanted to help me learn how to communicate better with every member of our staff. Picking up a second language has helped me better lead the crew and build a better bond within our team.
Being part of a team and working together through the heat of the summer and the stresses of seasonal play is how I have learned to handle the year-round grind. You have to take care of the people who take care of the golf course and ultimately our livelihoods. I enjoy going to work each day knowing there is a staff that has my back — and each other’s back. There are times I must push the crew to get through tough situations to produce a high-quality product. I also keep in mind that these are the same people who work six and sometimes seven days a week. They are extremely important. They need to rest and relax. Balance is the key.
Making a bold career decision to move to Florida has been great! Living miles from the beach, having the great weather, being surrounded by hundreds of golf courses … there is a lot to be grateful for here. Having a great golf course with a phenomenal staff makes me proud to be where I am. I couldn’t imagine where I would be if I did not take the chance and move to sunny South Florida.