For decades, more and more twins were born in the United States.
The number of twin births per 1,000 live births recorded across the country climbed every year but five from 1980 to 2014, according to statistics recorded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, nearly doubling in the process and peaking that last year at 33.9. That works out to about one set of twins for every 30 babies born. Twins weren’t necessarily everywhere, but if it seemed like there were more, there were. The number was a little lower, just 25.9, or one set of twins for every 39 or so babies born, back in 1996. That was the year future turf pros Cody and Owen Stone entered the world.
Inseparable mirror images of each other — Cody is left-handed, Owen is right-handed — they played any sport imaginable growing up in Littleton, New Hampshire, and they broadened their interests and horizons as much as elementary and middle and high schoolers can, but a couple early photos snapped by their mom, Angel, provide evidence that they were destined to work on golf courses: In the first, they are maybe a year old and sitting in a sandbox. Their tool of choice then was a plastic shovel, but the bunker rakes were surely just out of sight. In the second, they are 2 or 3 years old and tending to the backyard turf around their swing set. They each parked a wheelbarrow nearby.
“They were very good babies, always happy, good-natured little guys,” Angel says. “They always had each other to play with. I say I was blessed to have twins — I always wanted two.”
What separates the Stones from the millions of other twins in the United States, though, is their profession and their parallel early climbs up the ladder. After studying turf and turfgrass management at Texas State Technical College in Waco — not far from their maternal grandparents, Cal and Candy Gnage — they both worked at what was then called Twin Rivers Golf Club near campus, then interned at The Quechee Club in Vermont. After splitting up for nine months — Owen worked as an assistant superintendent at Hudson National Golf Club in New York, Cody worked at Oyster Harbors Club in Massachusetts — they returned to The Quechee Club, starting four months apart, this time as assistant superintendents.
They have worked there together, albeit on separate courses, for the last five years.
What is it like to work with not just your sibling, but with your identical twin? “People thinking you’re the same person is a pro and a con,” Cody says.
Early during their 2016 internship at The Quechee Club, Owen says, “If Cody made a mistake, some people thought I made the mistake, because they thought we were one person.” Near the end of their internship, there were still a few folks who told him they thought there was just one Stone and that he must have had a great summer because he was everywhere.
“Growing up, all through high school, if someone called for Cody, I would think they were talking to me,” Owen says. “You just get used to it. The fulltime guys can tell us apart.”
“I don’t think it bothers them at all,” Angel says. “If it does, they don’t show it.”
The Stones do show some physical differences. Owen sports a beard these days while Cody is clean-shaven — though when they started at The Quechee Club, their hirsute pursuits were reversed — and Owen weighs about 10 pounds less. If you catch them with a club in their hands, Cody golfs lefty while Owen is a more conventional righty. And, according to both Angel and Quechee Club superintendent Brett Bailey, Cody is a little quieter and Owen is a little more outgoing. “I think they’re very not similar,” Bailey says. “I have no trouble telling them apart.”
Working with your twin can provide more tangible benefits, too. The Stones work on different courses at The Quechee Club, a 5,500-acre property located along the Connecticut River and about 90 miles southeast of Burlington. Even though they spend little of their work day together, traversing the 600 or so acres dedicated to the Lakeland and Highland courses, they still talk regularly, especially when they discover something they should both know or need to pass along to one of the other 50 or so crew members.
“If I learn something he doesn’t know, I tell him, and vice versa,” Owen says, “so he knows everything I know and I know everything he knows.”
“We think alike,” Cody says. “We’re very competitive — extremely competitive. If I don’t like what he’s doing, I’m not afraid to say it. I won’t say it in front of people, but I’ll tell him.”
“Sometimes not everybody will tell you every mistake you make, but I’ll tell him every mistake he makes and he’ll tell me every mistake I make,” Owen says. “I think that speeds up your progress and maturation through your career.”
Their communication and their lifelong competition — a trait more common among fraternal twins than identical, though the Stones might have broken a Sony PlayStation or two growing up after one of them lost a game — has provided Cody and Owen with an ideal skill set to succeed in the industry.
Before they started their first job, working at Chutters Candy Store — home of the world’s longest candy counter, 112 feet — they asked Angel, who worked there, how to punch in, how to run the register, how to clean the glass jars filled with sweets, on and on. Their manager, Angel says, “still begs them to come work for her whenever they visit.” Bailey, meanwhile, repeatedly praised their work ethic, describing them as “old souls” and saying they rejuvenated his career.
“Just seeing them wanting to learn and asking questions all the time is awesome,” says Bailey, who remembers working with one other pair of twins, teenage children of a member, during the early 1990s. “My job has changed. I don’t get to work on the turf as much as I want to anymore, but when you have the right people, you’re confident you can take care of the other things you have to and you don’t have to worry about the turf as much. I still worry about the turf, but that’s just my nature.”
Their curiosity and determination, he says, will help as they learn more about managing people.
The Stones know that their time together is limited. While they still hunt, ski, and ride motorcycles together, they live their own lives off the course, no longer sharing an apartment. And though they both plan to remain at The Quechee Club through a renovation project that is scheduled to wrap up in spring 2023, they are both at least glancing at what superintendent jobs are available.
“It’s been great watching them grow,” Bailey says. “I’ve enjoyed it. It’s always fun watching somebody love the industry. I don’t want them to leave, but I’m also excited to see where they go.”
And where will the Stones be in, say, a decade?
“I hope they’d be running their own club somewhere,” Bailey says. “And hopefully I’m meeting them on a Harley and we’re going for a cruise — they both have nicer bikes than mine.
“They’ll be successful whatever they do. It’s just who they are.”