In early November, the turf industry lost a dear friend. Steven Wright, CGCS, was the epitome of a superintendent. Most of us often struggle by reaching for the seemingly unobtainable: harmonious work life balance. Steve had it. He had it more than any superintendent I have ever met. He had it more than any PERSON I have ever met. He was the one guy that we all looked up to. The joyful, gregarious friend. The empathetic listener. The husband, father, superintendent, captain, friend and mentor.
Steve’s example is enormously important because that “seemingly unobtainable” balance has been a very active topic recently throughout the industry. It is very difficult this day and age to find a positive balance between work and home life. Fortunately, stress management and mental health are being discussed openly more than ever before. It is finally “socially acceptable” to discuss some of the issues that we once kept to ourselves.
The golf course consumes so much of our time that we become literally attached, sometimes neglecting important responsibilities and relationships. It seems to me that most superintendents fall into one of two categories – the husband who spends too much time at work and not enough time at home, or the superintendent who doesn’t work “enough” hours, possibly neglecting responsibilities at the golf course. Rarely – and I mean very rarely – does a superintendent find that perfect balance with a healthy personal life and a golf course that is always in tip top shape and “G2G” (a Steve-ism for “good to go”). I think that’s what drew so many of us to Steve. He radiated success and happiness and made it seem so effortless.
His ability to lead and set the bar high from a turf management standpoint was only one small notch in his belt. It was his passion for life which resonated so much with others. His infectious smile and humble, calm demeanor was addicting. He had a positive influence on everyone he came across.
I remember traveling to Orlando with him many years ago when I first moved to South Florida. As a young kid fresh out of school cutting my teeth in the industry, I was more excited to spend time with him in the car and pick his brain during the three-hour drive than I was for the trip itself! The chance to spend some one-on-one time with such a well-respected superintendent was quite intriguing. Turns out, we didn’t really talk much turf. All he could talk about was his wife and kids, and how important it was to balance career and family. I knew at that point that I needed him as a mentor.
He rose to the top of the industry while keeping his happiness, sanity and family life at the forefront of his attention. His passion for the turf industry and helping others was visible through his most recent service as vice president of the Florida GCSA, past president of the Palm Beach GCSA and the Carolinas GCSA. He served at nearly every level and most would consider him an ambassador here in the state of Florida by championing many great causes and issues affecting turf professionals. Words just can’t capture the respect that fellow superintendents across the nation had for Steve. He was the go-to guy for advice on issues ranging from agronomic problems all the way to professionalism and ethics. He was the one we all called when we had personal issues or battles to overcome. He was the one writing in industry magazines offering advice on relaxing techniques for the busy superintendent and how to make a positive impact on someone’s life. And he was the one passing out donuts to his crew while they were walk-mowing greens on Christmas morning.
Many who never had the opportunity to meet Steve followed him on social media. His Twitter and Facebook posts almost always embraced the perfect #sflalife he lived and cherished. If he was not working, he could often be found fishing, golfing, traveling and spending time with his wonderful family and friends. The love for his wife and three children was more than evident. To say he lived his life to the fullest would be an understatement.
That impact that Steve had on so many men and women throughout this industry will never be forgotten. More importantly, the lessons he directly and indirectly passed on to others will have a lasting impression on everyone who met him. Yes, he helped shape MANY great superintendents. But I think the greatest lesson that we can learn from his wonderful life is that the dream we all chase in the pursuit of happiness is easier to obtain than we may think. Work hard. Play harder. Love others. Keep it simple and we will all be G2G.