Featured photo: Jason Dorn (right), superintendent of Portland Golf Club, returned to volunteer for the PGA Championship and hang out with his former boss, Mark Kuhns. Photo credit: Lawrence Aylward
While roaming the golf maintenance complex on his first day back at Baltusrol Golf Club in five years, Jason Dorn couldn’t walk far without high-fiving an old co-worker.
The 47-year-old Dorn, previously the golf course superintendent on the club’s Lower Course, returned to Baltusrol on Friday to volunteer on the maintenance crew for the PGA Championship. Dorn traveled from Portland, Oregon, where he is in his sixth season as the superintendent at Portland Golf Club.
“It’s like coming home,” says Dorn, who grew up in Minnesota but honed the art and science of golf course maintenance, like many others, under the guidance of Mark Kuhns, Baltusrol’s director of grounds. “When you are here for 10 years, you develop a lot of relationships. You just get a strong bond with people.”
Dorn stayed through Sunday, helping in the battle against the elements to make the course playable as part of the 150-person crew. Kuhns asked Dorn to come to New Jersey to volunteer on the crew. Even though Dorn was busy readying his course for its member-guest tournament this week, he couldn’t say no to Kuhns.
“That’s the kind of impact he has on me personally. But he [impacts] everybody like that. He helps develop superintendents, but more importantly, he helps to develop people,” Dorn says.
Dorn was the assistant superintendent on the Upper Course in 2005 when Baltusrol last hosted the PGA Championship. Shortly after the tournament, he was named superintendent of the Lower Course.
“I did that for five years … five incredible seasons,” he says. “That job opened doors for me, and I was lucky to land at Portland.”
In addition to overseeing the hallowed ground that is Baltusrol, Kuhns also takes it upon himself to oversee the success of his employees. He aims to teach them not just about agronomics, but navigating through life.
“Mark molds leaders,” Dorn says. “He is really good at that. He is a natural-born leader.”
Sitting in the office complex at the maintenance facility, Dorn was enjoying the spiritedness around him. The facility was abuzz with activity, as people came and went, from visitors to crew workers’ family members.
“There is always something going on here,” Dorn says. “I know it is magnified now, what with the tournament going on. But even during an ordinary day, I remember this place as always being active.”
What also impressed Dorn about working at Baltusrol — and is something he has brought to Portland — was (and still is) the “relentless effort” by crew members that is required to achieve top-shelf conditions.
“To get to a level like this, everybody has to be committed,” Dorn says. “Everybody has to believe in each other.”