Shaune Achurch hails from Queensland, Australia. Seeing the splendor of American courses while watching televised golf events convinced him to move across the world to pursue a turf management career.
Steve Ellis landed a job with an agriculture cooperative and started working in a fertilizer production facility in 1983. He has spent his career in Tennessee, helping farmers and subsequently turf managers improve the quality of their respective products.
Consider them the unlikeliest of ideal professional matches.
Achurch is the superintendent at The Governors Club, a private golf community in Nashville’s rapidly growing south suburbs. Ellis is a territory representative for Simplot Turf & Horticulture who covers most of Tennessee and parts of northern Georgia, northern Mississippi and southern Kentucky for the expanding company. The pair has cultivated a mutually beneficial relationship since Achurch arrived at The Governors Club following a stint as an assistant superintendent at famed East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta.
Needing to learn a new market and growing environment as quickly as possible, Achurch immediately contacted people connected to the Tennessee turf community. He made a new friend on his first day at The Governors Club.
“I got Steve’s number through a vendor who was in Atlanta and we struck it up on the phone,” Achurch says. “I said to him, ‘I’m going to be in Tennessee. Drop in on the first day.’ I think it was right around 9, 10 o’clock my first day, Steve showed up. We got straight down to business creating a program.”
From helping Achurch control weeds in The Governors Club’s 60 acres of fescue areas to conversations that extended into personal realms, Ellis instantly helped a middle Tennessee outsider adjust to a region where warm- and cool-season turf thrives (and sometimes struggles). The Governors Club features four acres of MiniVerde Bermudagrass greens and 70 acres of Meyer zoysiagrass hitting surfaces. “With Bermudagrass greens, the challenge is in the wintertime and cooler temps and making sure we make the right decisions for the greens,” Achurch says.
Helping others handle freezes and summer stresses represents Ellis’s work focus for nearly four decades. He moved from the fertilizer plant into the materials department before leading GPS fertilizer and spraying demonstrations for farmers in the 1990s. When the agriculture industry started to contract, Ellis became a custom applicator who provided services to golf courses. He moved into a golf and turf sales job in the early 2000s and joined the Simplot Turf & Horticulture team in 2018. “Understanding all aspects of the business instead of just being generally one-sided … I’m thankful for that,” Ellis says.
And Achurch is thankful somebody as experienced and dedicated as Ellis covers his territory. “Steve was a big help with the fescue and pre- and post-emergent and that sort of stuff,” Achurch says. “We work as close as probably two friends do. I know Steve is there for me when I need him, and he wants me to succeed as much as anyone.”
Ellis views success in his role as a matter of trust. That fast start with Achurch has evolved into a candid relationship.
“I enjoy listening to their ideas and bringing new ideas to them,” Ellis says. “Superintendents moving into a new area really need to get to know their sales reps, especially if they have been there for a while. They can put their heads together and come up with an agronomic plan and programming that’s going to be the best for them. It might not be exactly right the first go-around, but things can be adjusted to be successful.”