Takes on Industry Happenings

Hadn’t heard from my old friend Maurice “Moe” Greens in a while, so I gave him a call. He’s the golf course superintendent at Pretentious Golf, Polo, Yacht, Bridge and Country Club. I can’t tell you the club’s real name because they’d fire Moe. If I mentioned the name of the club even without mentioning Moe, he’d still get fired because this is a turf magazine. (Rumor has it a former general manager was relieved of his duties and escorted off the property after muttering the name of the club in his sleep while on a mostly empty flight to his mom’s 110th birthday celebration in Norway.)

Moe was telling me about his latest green committee meeting. His green chairman, Charles Emmet Blair Devereux, was just back from taking part in the annual member-guest tournament at Wampummaggog Golf Club, about 10 miles away. The club is named for a Native American tribe that once lived in the area. Devereux plays in the event every year with Wampummaggog member Chip “Skippy” Hastings VII. The Hastings and Devereux families have been friends since the early 1790s. Their great-great-great-great-grandfathers met while participating in the raiding party that wiped out the last remaining members of the Wampummaggog tribe. The Hastings family founded the Wampummaggog Golf Club.

According to Moe, during the meeting, Devereux, as is his annual tradition, pointed out how much better the conditions are at Wampummaggog in comparison to Pretentious. This year, he singled out the greens as being “eminently superior” to those Moe maintains. Devereux even brought to the meeting photos of the Wampummaggog putting surfaces with nary a blade of Poa annua.

Moe said he took it all in stride, let Devereux finish, then informed him Wampummaggog’s greens were resodded last year with bentgrass after a former employee vandalized them.

As Moe tells it, Golf Committee Chairman Charterfield C. Hobart-Taylor was nodding in agreement the whole time. When it was his turn to speak, greens were also the focus of Hobart-Taylor’s grousing. He said he found the surfaces to be far too fast when putting downhill and far too slow when putting uphill.

Moe said he’d look into it.

Victoria Douglas-Findlay said she had no gripes with the greens, but did criticize the condition of the bunkers for the State Ladies One-Day Invitational, held two weeks prior. The bunkers, she said, were wet, and some even had puddles in them. She wondered if they could be covered nightly to prevent such a reoccurrence from happening.

Moe pointed out that the event was held one day after a record rainfall of 11.47 inches in a five-hour period. The previous mark was 2.3 inches. Douglas-Findlay said she didn’t realize that and apologized.

Let me just say that Moe does a wonderful job with the golf course. The conditions are fantastic considering he’s working with a tight budget, especially for a club with such a wealthy membership.

His first few years on the job, he had tree issues to contend with thanks to the Highbottom brothers, Issac and Saul. They owned a local nursery and served as club president for a combined 32 years. Their stated goal was to sell as much stock, mostly trees, as they could every year to Pretentious. Board minutes from the early 1980s indicated that the course ran out of room to plant the trees, at which point the Highbottoms quit their membership and moved on.

As soon as Moe came on board a decade later, he set about removing trees and improving turf. It wasn’t easy, but Moe went ahead with it, ignoring death threats and all.

Moe takes it all in stride. He came from a municipal golf course where five of the eight members of the town’s golf committee couldn’t find the course if you gave them a GPS and Lewis and Clark, and his staff were rejects from the public works department. His pay was rotten, and the golfers there had even less respect for what he did than the golfers at Pretentious.

Last year, while standing on the tee of the par-3 second at Pretentious, I asked Moe why he stayed in this business. Why not get a job in sales?

He striped a six-iron to about a foot and was in thought as we walked to the green.

“I’m a golf course superintendent. It’s what I do,” he said before sliding in the birdie putt. “It’s who I am.”