I was sitting in the Francis Marion Presidential Suite of the Myrtle Beach Sheraton last November with good friend Rodney Hine from Boston Golf Club. It was the final day of the annual Carolinas GCSA Conference and Trade Show and we were taking a moment to bask in the glory, if you will. There may or may not have been some good Scotch sipped. I can neither confirm nor deny!
I was wrapping up my year as president while Rodney and his family were first-time exhibitors for his invention Turf Trainer. We met and became friends at the 2015 Syngenta Business Institute. Rodney quickly established himself as the E.F. Hutton of the group. When Rodney spoke, you listened. I fondly remember our conversations that ran late into the night in the Billiards Room.
We crossed paths again in January 2017 in Harrogate, England, at the BIGGA Turf Management Exposition. We made it a point to attend a class together. It was an experience I will always remember.
So, back to last year. We sat on the sofa, soaking up the week and the year that was 2019. We talked about the trials, tribulations and challenges we each faced on our respective golf courses when our senior assistant superintendent Eric Sosnowski walked into the room.
Eric was promoted to senior assistant when his predecessor left for another opportunity last June. Thus, this was also Eric’s first time attending the Carolinas Show. I introduced Eric to Rodney and began to tell Rodney about Eric’s time with me.
Eric grew up in State College, Pennsylvania, and is a Penn State graduate with a four-year turf degree. I hired him straight out of college as an assistant-in-training. Our senior assistant at that time was involved in the interview process and approved of selecting Eric, but it quickly became apparent Eric didn’t live up to the expectations formed by our assistant.
Wanting to trust our assistant, I made the decision that Eric needed to spend time as a crew member, gaining valuable work experience as well as learning how to survive in that environment. Believe it or not, Eric took a demotion and a pay cut, and continued to come to work every day. I must say this is the only time in my career I have taken such a drastic step.
Eric outworked everybody on the team. He is like a racehorse with blinders. When given a task, he performs it to his fullest. He is not the biggest, fastest or strongest, but his effort will impress anyone. Sometimes this mindset is detrimental in his current role as it impacts the ability to delegate vs. just taking on the responsibility personally. We are working on that.
This period of demotion lasted about a year. When the assistant departed, I promoted our then-second assistant to senior assistant, hired a new second assistant and asked Eric to resume the duties of AIT. After about 18 months, I replaced that second assistant with another new hire. Yes, Eric was passed over, but he was not deterred.
Within five months, the senior assistant left for a superintendent’s position, the second moved up to senior and Eric earned his overdue promotion to second assistant. Twenty months later, when the senior assistant departed for some South Florida life, I rewarded Eric for all his hard work, determination and loyalty with the coveted senior position.
As Rodney listened to this story with Eric sitting across the room, he turned to him and said, “you’ve got grit, young man,” and then turned to me to ask if I had read Angela Duckworth’s “Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance.” I am embarrassed to admit I still have not read it, Rodney, but I promise I will this offseason.
Grit is defined by Merriam-Webster as “firmness of mind or spirit: unyielding courage in the face of hardship or danger.” New Harbinger describes grit as “passion and perseverance for long-term and meaningful goals. It is the ability to persist in something you feel passionate about and persevere when you face obstacles.”
We hear stories every day about this new generation, and most of it is not favorable. Heck, over the past two seasons, I have made 16 hires — and not terminated one. Only two remain. Of the ones who left, only one provided a two-week notice.
But not all the ghosts were young, and if there is anything this world could use more of right now, it is grit. I know a 29-year-old who celebrated his seven-year work anniversary last month and has plenty to go around.