It’s autumn. The leaves have fallen and are being blown about by an increasingly cold wind.
Unfortunately, a number of golf course superintendents will be scattered about as well, let go for insidious reasons. Some green chairman, club president or general manager will reach a conclusion – no matter how hard they have to look – to get rid of the person who takes care of the club’s most valuable asset. It’s as inevitable as a car accident at the Indy 500.
It’s already happened at one private facility in New England. The longtime superintendent was, as the story goes, given the opportunity to resign. It had nothing to do with the conditions of his turf. I was on the course not too long after he “chose” to depart. Everyone in our group of well-traveled players complimented the conditions.
The club is in a neighborhood with more prestigious brethren. The members where the superintendent was booted think they are on that upper tier, too. They are not. All you have to do is look at his maintenance budget compared with that of the club down the road, which makes the condition of his course that much more impressive.
What must the internal dialogue be in the heads of a green chairman, president or general manager when their personal dislike for a superintendent overtakes rational thought and prevents them from fairly assessing work performance, especially when they have no more than a modicum of turf knowledge? This isn’t the kind of acumen that makes one a successful businessman, I’m venturing to guess.
It’s a perilous situation for any golf facility employee when a powerful member comes to think of the club as his or her own fiefdom. Within short order, the superintendent, chef, pro, general manager or banquet manager can be escorted off the property with baffling justifications for the move.
How gigantic must the ego of a club president be, for instance, to come to the conclusion that virtually every department head is screwing up and can easily be replaced by a more competent person, most likely for less money.
This is an overabundance of self worth that is of historic proportions.
It’s like saying to one’s self, “I (Mr./Mrs./Ms. President) think all of my predecessors were bamboozled by these raving incompetents, and I am the only one who can clean this house and elevate the fine club to the level at which it should exist. When the time is appropriate, please place the statue of me on the far side of the first tee.”
Not too long ago, I was with some golfers who belonged to a club where a superintendent was unceremoniously dumped a number of years ago after turning the course around both agronomically and architecturally. Back then, it appeared, everything was wonderful except for a small group who despised the faster greens, the tighter fairways and the more consistent rough.
In the far back dimly lit corners of the grill and locker rooms, though, a plot was unfolding. A few years later when these conspirators came to power, they set their sights on the superintendent – nitpicking, criticizing and waiting for him to eventually make a mistake, which he would. Everyone does.
What did this man do to deserve such disdain? No one seems to know.
The gaffe was made, the ax fell, and a superintendent was out of a job.
Years later, the current superintendent tends to grass just as the powers instruct him to do, undoing much of what his predecessor did. There is dissatisfaction among a group of members who long for the recent past and lament not only the conditions of the course (which was excellent), but also that they allowed the witch hunt to occur.
When asked why they didn’t stop the move to oust the superintendent when they had the chance, they all just shrugged their shoulders.
I’d like to say I can comprehend how this happened, but I don’t. I don’t belong to an upscale private golf club, so I don’t grasp the dynamics. Maybe if I did and there was a move against a head chef or golf pro or a superintendent, I’d let it happen.
I’d like to think, though, that I would have something to say rather than let an egomaniac take a good man down.