The sadness oozes from Armand LeSage’s voice – and it’s no act.
LeSage feels for those who have been beaten down by excessive demands, tight budgets and long hours. He has seen it happen to too many of his friends. It doesn’t have to be that way, he says, his voice trailing.
LeSage speaks of having learned the lesson by attending the school of hard knocks – a 43-year career in the industry. But new experiences late in his career have him wistfully thinking about what he might have done differently to release pressure in what was, at times, a stressful occupation. Though no longer in the industry, he remains in contact in part so he can share his story.
“Almost everyone needs to reinvent themselves at some point in their careers,” the personable western Massachusetts native says. “And I mean that, whether you lose your job or if you stay in the same position for a long time. You don’t always see it in yourself, but you can get stale. You have to keep that edge. When you lose it, work is no longer enjoyable or rewarding.”
Most see “keep that edge” as code for staying competent with technology and in the science of turf management. But, LeSage says, it’s equally important to keep emotionally sharp. He points to his joining the local Rotary Club a few years ago, where he volunteered for service projects to help those less fortunate.
“It might have been the most rewarding decision I have ever made,” LeSage says. “I felt good about myself in helping others, and I realized others have more challenges than me. It changed my outlook on life in many ways. It impacts how you go about your work. You have to shake things up a bit to keep sharp and focused. But that doesn’t mean you have to leave the job you’re in.
“Oftentimes we do it to ourselves,” LeSage continues. “We are our own worst enemies. We spend too much time at our courses and too much time worrying about things we can’t control. I regret that I missed some family experiences because I was too concerned about grass. That’s is not healthy.”
Few golf course superintendents have completed the ultimate makeover like LeSage. A graduate of the Stockbridge School of Agriculture at the University of Massachusetts, he got his start in golf at an early age as a caddie at Taconic Golf Club, including looping in the 1963 U.S. Women’s Amateur. His golf maintenance career followed a steady progression, with a few assistant positions (interrupted by a highly decorated stint in the Vietnam War) before he became superintendent at Race Brook Country Club in Orange, Connecticut in 1980. He later moved from New England to New Jersey, where he was the superintendent at White Beaches Country Club until 2001. He then took a huge leap of faith as he moved to California and Lake Arrowhead Country Club.
In 2006, LeSage decided he needed a change and became a consultant. A few years later he ran into local resident Chuck Marra, who was a director and actor. Marra suggested LeSage try out for a part in a local theater production. He got the part, and, since then, he has been busy in various types of productions (he has since ended his consultancy). In fact, since June of last year he has appeared in 18 film productions.
“Acting is hard work,” LeSage says. “It’s like being a superintendent, because the hours can be long, you have to be attentive to detail and, at the end of the day, the exhaustion is often more mental than physical. But I love it.”
Though retired as a superintendent, LeSage keeps up on the profession by reading industry publications and attends the Golf Industry Show, though now only when it’s on the West Coast. He’s appreciative of his experiences in golf course management and the friendships he built along the way.
“I’m having the time of my life, but I said that years ago as a superintendent,” LeSage says. “I just needed a change.”
Photo above: Former superintendent Armand LeSage (left) is having the time of his life as an actor. He recently starred on stage in “A Christmas Carol.”