Friday, December 11, 2009

Blast from the Past (part 1)

I will be writing this post to help Members that have not been here for the past 15 years (my tenure) to watch our club slowly grow into what we have today. A lot of what I will be posting will be from memory with some pictures added to allow you to see how our club has grown. I will start with my initial hiring and work to the present from there. This will be a multi-part post done over the next few weeks. Please enjoy.

How I got here

I was hired in late January 1995 and started February 1st 1995. I remember interviewing for the position at Mr. Jimmy Hymels shop off of Airline Drive on a Monday. The truth was that I had just accepted the Superintendents position of Colional C.C. the previous week after going through three interviews. At this time I had seven years experience as an assistant to Donnie Savoie at Chateau C.C. Not knowing Mr. Hymel before this interview left me a little nervous and I really did not think it was an interview as much as a talk about my qualifications and my personal life. I did not even know that there was a position open at the time but rather what may be an interest. I know I was pretty confident of myself due to my just being hired as a Superintendent. I took an immedient liking to Mr. Hymel because he did not seem like the tight coats I had to meet through my three interviews at Colional C.C. After about an hour of discussion between us, I was asked if I would mind coming by the club the next night to see a few more people. I was really surprised when I showed up to see so many people there (Apparantly it was a board meeting) that wanted to ask me questions. I think this was the point that it really struck me that I was indeed in an interview. I answered every question asked of me honsetly with a confidence that had been generated from the fact that I already had a Superintendents position I had accepted the previous week. Three things interested me about this club. The most important of them was the fact that I owned a house less then a block away and grew up in the neighborhood just three houses from there. The next thing was the great finiancal position of Riverlands C.C. club compared to Colional C.C. And the third was the courses many large trees which I have a fondness for, and was one of my highest priorities in where I wanted to start my career. The one thing I remember the most about the meeting was my solem promise that this job was made for me, that where I knew I was going to give Colional C.C. a 110% effort, I could give Riverlands A 130% effort because I lived just down the street. I remember that the interview did not seem very long (maybe 30-45 minutes) and was thanked for taking the time to attend and I left. I also remember that it only took me about four minutes to get home in which my wife was standing next to the counter with the phone in her hands waiting for me, it was Mr Hymel and he just offered me the Superintendents position at exactly what I had been promised from Colional C.C.

Probably the hardest thing I have ever had to do in my life to this point was walk into the Pro-Shop at Colional C.C. and tell Wayne Fusilier that I had to back out of the Position and explain why. While I know he understood why I made the choice, it did not make him happy.

Starting my new position

I cannot remember much about the first days and weeks on the job because they were mostly spent trying to get acquainted with the workings of the club and its people. I do know that I spent a lot of long days and nights trying to learn everything I could about the mechanics of this particular course. We had issues that needed to be addressed but the crew was not one of them at the time. I come from a strong mechanical background and found that the current mechanic did not see I to I with my practices and decided to leave. This was for the best since Riverlands needed a lot of out of the box thinking with the rag tag fleet of equipment they owned. The rest of the crew turned out great and was amazed that I would get down in the trenches and work with them. I am a true hands on person and believe that the people that work and live with you will perform better when you lead by example. The first year was mainly used to try to make minor adjustment to the way Riverlands had been being taken care of like a municiple course to trying to make it look more like a golf course with definitions to the fairways and such. I also spent time learning how to handle a budget, which I was not taught by my mentor Donnie Savoie. Working with Stan Burke was a pleasure since he was thrilled to work with me in making Riverlands a better golf course.

The first big project on our list was #15 Fairway. It had been started the previous year when they had dug out the ponds and used the soil to elevate the fairway. A makeshift irrigation system was being moved around with water being pumped from the ponds to try to grow rye grass in the new soil. Over the next month I had noticed that the soil used was mostly clay and was cracking drastically due to not enough water to keep it from drying out. Some of these cracks could swallow a golf ball. WE ended up looking a two options to fix this problem. The first was install an irrigation system down #15 fairway which would allow me to water the whole fairway as often as needed to keep it from drying out, the second was add 1/2" of soil over the top to cap it in hopes that that would end the drying out. I presented the Board with both proposals with the irrigation system being my choice and a cost of $1500. I remember Stan being giddy after the meeting about Riverlands getting their first fairway irrigation system. This was just the start since I knew that if I could prove what an irrigation system could do for the fairway we may be able to install the rest of the course down the road. Needless to say the system work perfectly and solved the issue with the hole. Sweet Success.

Two huge defining moments!

I distinctly remember two things that happened that year that helped define the person I am now. The first an probably the most important was when Stan Burke delivered a computer from his store to my office. I did not expect this because I had never used a computer before in my life. Stan must of seen my apprehension becasue he told me it was an old computer and I could not do anything to it that would hurt anything, he advised me to just play around with it and see where it takes me. Now look at me, I actually ruan my own blog and rebuild computers on the side as well as build my own from scratch, who would of thought! The second thing was someone told me that I need to make a five year plan on what I would like seen accomplished at Riverlands in that time. This was a turning point becasue while I had always set goals they generally were in the 1-3 week type, never long term. The goals were to give me something to shoot for as well as to track my progress.

Remember this was 1995 and Riverlands was considered by many to be a "Goat Ranch". But my mother had always told me if you are going to dream, why not dream big! Even if you do not reach those dreams at least you do not short sight yourself. So I envisioned Riverlands as a regular golf course where people would want to come and play and no one ever said "what that goat ranch" if asked to come play here. Superintendents do have a lot of pride in ourselves and our work, it is what drives us.
My goals for Riverlands at this point went pretty much like this
Install an irrigation system to the whole course
Rebuild the 30+ year old greens with a more modern turfgrass
Acquire a Backhoe which would allow me to do more projects in house
Get a larger budget which would allow me more weed control
Acquire more needed golf course equipment to maintain the course better
Start adding some contours to the course to make it more interesting
Rebuild needed bunkers
Change from pull behind gang mowers to hydraulic mowers
Install a tree pruning program
Add some plant beds for a change in color

A lot of these goals were looked at like "that will never happen" from the few people that I show them to. Sometime during that first year I had pushed that 5-year goal sheet to the back of a drawer in which I did not see it again till somewhere during my fourth year when I was cleaning out my desk. At that point I was shocked in that I had actually knocked out all but one of my goals, We never got on that much needed tree trimming program.

To be continued: