Golf course superintendents are a talented lot, so it shouldn’t be surprising that their talents are often expressed in endeavors outside of our profession.
I have, for example, watched with a keen eye those who have writing skills. From national journals to textbooks, a significant number have inspired people with their ability to express themselves, usually centered around golf turf. For example, Mike Bavier and Gordon Witteveen’s book has recently been translated to Chinese, following the availability of a Spanish edition.
A visit to GCSAA headquarters or a trip to the British Golf Museum puts a statue of Old Tom Morris on display, the product of a golf course superintendent/sculptor. Superintendents become lawyers, play competitive golf and hockey, and show excellent musical skills. The list goes on.
But I have never met a superintendent who had the talent and mind to write poetry. Until recently. Let me introduce you to Rob Ganson.
Rob is the superintendent at the beautiful Apostle Highlands Golf Course on the shores of Lake Superior outside of Bayfield, Wis. The course is on a promontory overlooking the largest fresh water lake in the world, with the Apostle Islands in view. He has been a superintendent for 32 of his 60 years. He joined AHGC during its construction and has been there ever since.
Rob was fully engaged in the work on the golf course – work boots, blue jeans and a flannel shirt on the day I visited. But his longstanding interest in fescues for golf turf and his unique IPM programs born out of necessity show his approach to the management side, too. From the mechanical harvesting of cutworms to putting green fertilization with straight CHO products, Rob’s work resulted in his course being selected for the Travel Green Wisconsin designation, the first north of Highway 8 to be noted.
Rob started writing poetry 12 years ago. An NPR interview of a poet who wrote a poem each day for a year provided inspiration, and he thought he would give it a try. He is still writing a poem each day. Halfway through his first year, he joined a poetry group and was encouraged to submit a piece to a poetry journal. The first few were accepted and printed.
His success can be measured by the four complete volumes of poetry he has published, in addition to contributions to collections, reviews and anthologies. His writing has been used in university classrooms as far away as New York City.
Although hardly a connoisseur, I enjoy poems that are inspiring, that capture beauty and remind me of wonderful moments in my life that can easily grow dim with time. The right poem can stir your emotions and make you smile. Some poems are political and speak to current issues. There are poems that rhyme and poems that use no punctuation. Rob has composed poems in both verse and rhyme.
Inspiration comes to Rob, ultimately, from nature and from the human condition. The golf course inspires him – a great view with the fresh air of outdoors and a line pops into his head. “I’m run over by poems,” he says. His cellphone has made such moments a lot easier for him to record. Similarly, a local issue might be the catalyst for a strong poem that puts the politics into a focus that he feels.
For eight months of the year, Rob Ganson is consumed by the golf course he manages. The winter months in northern Wisconsin give him the time to reflect and write.