In a different writing life, I covered the people who competed atop manicured turf. A significant part of that job, especially the college football beat, involved speaking with coaches.

The public words and actions of successful coaches serve multiple purposes, ranging from appeasing fans and boosters to motivating players. Beneath every word and deed, they are attempting to reach the group most responsible for their long-term success: recruits.

The Dabos, Nicks and Jimbos spend more time thinking about how 16- and 17-year-olds interpret their words and behavior than how they are perceived by the adults who sign their checks. Connect with the right teenagers and the wins, job security and gigantic checks will follow. Recruiting is a nonstop, cutthroat part of the major college football business. It can rip the zest from film and formation junkies. Integrated with proper development, recruiting can separate good from great.

Nice stuff, Mr. Former Football Writer. But two quickies: Why aren’t you covering football anymore? And how does any of this relate to golf course maintenance in 2021?

We’ll tackle the second question first.

Anybody responsible for the well-being of a golf facility must recruit. You have something terrific to sell potential employees. Don’t believe it? Then you might not be in the right industry. You work outdoors providing a soothing product. The overwhelming majority of your co-workers and customers are pleasant people. On most days, the product looks and feels better than when you started your day. Vast acreage promotes more work variety than a confined cubicle or space behind a counter. As Firestone Country Club director of golf course operations Larry Napora says in our cover story (Under the water tower, page 16), “You just never get bored in this business.”

Napora’s ability to communicate the joys of golf course maintenance to others is a big reason why he has spent more than 30 years in high-level positions. He knows how to recruit, retain and develop quality employees.

Recruiting will be the most important thing you do in 2021 … and 2022 … and 2032. No matter how much you know about plant physiology, Golden Age architecture or irrigation cycles, you will never succeed in this industry simply through knowledge. You need the help of others. Good luck trying to achieve what Jim Roney, Lee Hancock and Ryan Semritc (Maintenance multiplied, page 38) accomplish on grand scales without constant recruiting and development.

Solid employees are becoming tougher to find, so you must be thinking about recruiting nearly everywhere you wander. The Club at Carlton Woods director of agronomy Tim Huber found an aspiring turf professional in a grocery store parking lot. Huber’s forward-thinking employer is currently helping a pair of young and determined workers, including the one Huber met at a Houston-area H-E-B, advance their education (A brighter, greener future, page 32).

Unfortunately, the golf industry struggles recruiting women. Perhaps that will change if more people take the time to listen to Sue Spahr, the first guest on Rick Woelfel’s Wonderful Women of Golf podcast series. You can read about Spahr this month (page 12) and we also suggest downloading the podcast on the Superintendent Radio Network. Her voice tells the story of somebody who found the ideal career fit. Success stories are often the best recruiting tools we possess. Sharing the podcast with others might inspire a young woman — and a few of her friends — to consider working on a golf course.

Relentless and enthusiastic recruiting produces a multiplier effect. Imagine a situation where the time and energy you invest into recruiting this year creates a long-term employee pipeline, giving you one less thing to fret over each season.

OK, Mr. Former Football Writer. We get it. So, why aren’t you covering football anymore?

Because the success stories in this industry are more fascinating than anything that happens on a playing field — and because great turf recruiters, unlike so many of their gridiron counterparts, are actually willing to share ideas and knowledge with others.


Guy Cipriano