Green Start Academy, a leadership and development program by John Deere and Bayer, has graduated more than 550 assistant superintendents during its 12 years. Below is a snapshot of this year’s event, which took place October 25-27 in North Carolina.

Tyler Otero, golf course superintendent at the North Jersey Country Club, welcomed attendees and also delivered a presentation on how to identify whether jobs, clubs and bosses are a good fit for your career goals.


Lukus Harvey, director of agronomy at the Atlanta Athletic Club, told attendees to be ready to spend some money on professional printing services so your portfolio of work is presented as professionally as possible.

Bob Farren, director of golf course and ground management at Pinehurst Resort, works with attendees during a breakout session. He talked about the Pinehurst business model that included 280,000 annual rounds for resort visitors and Pinehurst’s 3,000 members. He also discussed golf’s economic impact and philanthropy.

Patrick Finlen, general manager of The Olympic Club, said although labor budgets might constitute 50% to 60% of annual maintenance budgets today, robotics likely will change that makeup in the next 10 to 15 years.

Shelia Finney, GCSAA senior director of member programs, discusses services and benefits of association membership. She also unveiled an assistant superintendent certification program that focuses on business management.

Carol Rau, golf career consultant and owner of Career Advantage LLC, said all assistant superintendents know how to grow grass, so job applicants need to articulate the reasons you are better, different or most qualified for a position. This variant perception is the reason an employer invests their time and money in you instead of another candidate.

Andy Morris, golf course superintendent at the Country Club of Peoria, discusses the value of zero-based budgets versus historical budgets. “You need course standards to begin the budgeting process,” he said. Without a stated agronomic plan, how would you know what to budget for?

Ed Ibarguen, general manager and PGA director of golf at the Duke University Golf Club, said superintendents are the most important position in the golf club. “We are only as good as the superintendent. If you don’t give us a good product to sell, then we have nothing.”

Michael Stevens, Southeast regional director of agronomy for Billy Casper Golf, said meeting golfer expectation is the definition of a good golf course. That expectation changes depending on how that property is positioned in the market and what its agronomic goals are. Once a property is positioned properly, then it is up to the superintendent to execute on behalf of the management team.

The Olympic Club’s Patrick Finlen hosts a breakout session. He told attendees that golf’s emerging conflict will be about water, and that in California, the new normal is practically no precipitation from April until September.