At the ninth-annual Green Start Academy event in October, Golf Career Consultant Carol Rau spoke to the assistant superintendents in attendance about distinguishing themselves from the competition to take the next step in their careers to become superintendents. It was a theme throughout the two-day conference.
“What sets you apart from the competition?” asked Rau, owner of Career Advantage in Lawrence, Kansas. “Your experience might not be enough.”
The 50 assistant superintendents might’ve looked around the room at each other and wondered what credentials they had that their peers didn’t. The irony is that now they all have one thing in common to differentiate themselves they were selected to participate in Green Start Academy, sponsored by John Deere Golf and Environmental Science, a division of Bayer CropScience LP. The event was held in North Carolina at John Deere Golf’s headquarters in Cary and factory in Fuquay-Varina, and the Bayer Technical Training Center in Clayton.
“I wish that something like this was around when I was an assistant superintendent,” said Jeff Corcoran, manager of golf courses and grounds at Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, New York.
One of the speakers at the event, Corcoran talked about labor management, how to find the job you want, and how to keep it. The assistant superintendents were all ears when Corcoran, whose club hosted the PGA Championship in 2013, described what he looks for in an assistant superintendent.
“I want type-A people who are ready to rock and roll, and learn every day,” he said. “I want them to be hungry.”
Corcoran wants his assistants to be looking for the next best thing — that’s right, he wants them to be thinking about ascending to superintendent positions.
“I don’t want anybody to become sedentary in an assistant’s position,” he added. “I want to hire people who aren’t afraid to speak up about getting to the next level.”
Don’t get Corcoran wrong, though. He realizes some assistant superintendents are content to stay in that role.
“It works at some places, but it’s just not my style,” he said.
Corcoran, however, was speaking to the right group — all Green Start Academy attendees are aiming to take the next step in their careers. When applying for a superintendent position, Corcoran advised the assistants to go all out with a cover letter, résumé, references, PowerPoint presentation (with or without voice-over), website, etc.
“Go over the top,” Corcoran said. “It’s an indication of what you will bring to the job on a daily basis. Nobody is going to say, ‘We didn’t hire him because he went all out in the interview.’ ”
While going all out is vital, Ed Ibarguen, general manager and PGA director of golf at Duke University, advised the assistant superintendents not to jump at the first job thrown to them in his talk, “Your Next Job: How to Find the Perfect Fit.”
“Before you jump, make sure where you’re going will be a good landing for you,” he said.
He offered more advice for when they do become superintendents.
Ibarguen, who has seen the damage that can be done between a golf maintenance staff and a pro shop staff that doesn’t communicate or get along, said, “One thing you need to try and do is to try and stop the separation between the golf staff and the maintenance facility.”
Bob Farren, director of golf course and grounds management at Pinehurst Resort, advised assistants to be the “go-to person” at their facilities now and later when they become superintendents.
“You want to have relationships with each of the departments at your facility that if they need anything no matter what it might be you will be the first person they think of to get it,” Farren explained. “That way you will build up a lot of relationship capital.”
Farren noted the importance of cultivating relationships with staff from a course’s other golf departments.
“The key word there is cultivating,” Farren added. “Relationships just don’t happen; you have to be proactive.”
Tim Sims, an attendee from Des Moines (Iowa) Country Club, said at the beginning of the conference that he was “thrilled to be here.” Afterward, the 26-year-old Sims was just as excited.
“I loved it,” he said. “It was a great opportunity.”
Sims, who was recently promoted to superintendent of the facility’s South Golf Course, noted that he spent about two hours working on the application for the event.
“It’s hard to show your passion for this industry on paper,” he said.
His advice to assistants considering applying for the 10th-annual Green Start Academy next year is to “speak from the heart” when filling out the application.
In other words, distinguish yourself.
Superintendent’s Lawrence Aylward can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.