The late Stephen Covey, a top authority on leadership, said one of the most important habits of successful people was to “sharpen the saw,” which he said was necessary in “preserving and enhancing the greatest asset you have – you.”
Simply put, sharpening the saw, according to Covey, is a process of self-renewal physically, socially/emotionally, mentally and spiritually. Regardless of profession or call in life, it was Covey’s opinion that everyone needed to engage in activities that recharge the batteries to improve performance.
This is not an earth-shattering revelation. It’s something golf course superintendents have heard repeatedly. Find a hobby. Engage in an activity. Volunteer for a cause. Exercise. But these activities take time, and for golf course superintendents that can be a challenge.
And it can also be an excuse – not only for golf course superintendents, but for other time-starved individuals as well. Taking time for rejuvenation should be viewed as part of a routine, just as we change the oil in our vehicles, mow our lawns or take out the trash. When it becomes part of a habitual routine, we are more likely to complete the activity.
X’s and O’s everywhere
Paul Cushing, assistant deputy director of the golf division for the City of San Diego-Torrey Pines Golf Course, is sheepish when asked about his athletic career. A baseball and basketball standout at Upland High School in Los Angeles, he once held a future NBA player below double digits in scoring in a state tournament game, and he was solid enough on the diamond to earn a scholarship to California Polytechnic State University.
His interest in sports never waned, but working 70 to 80 hours per week early in his career as a grow-in superintendent left little time for him to enjoy his passion. That changed as he took on more traditional course management positions, and he became an assistant basketball coach, first for his alma mater, Upland High School, and for the past three years at Del Norte High School.
“I believe we all should have a passion for something other than work,” Cushing says. “I think we need a release, and for me that is coaching. I look at it as a way to give back. Without a doubt, some of the most influential people in my life have been my coaches. If I can help in the positive development of young people, then I feel I’m honoring those who helped me.”
Cushing also helped create a junior basketball program sponsored by the high school and has started a youth baseball club in San Diego. He spends some portion of every day dedicated to his basketball or baseball team. He says it forces him to be organized, efficient and a delegator. Those skills were honed as a course manager and further enhanced on the playing fields.
“What I do as a coach and what I do on the course are very similar in terms of organization and communications,” Cushing says. “You establish roles and create accountabilities. My job is to put my players and my staff in the best position possible to be successful. The two roles have been mutually beneficial.”
With Camera and Whistle
Jim Fitzroy found his hobbies, photography and basketball officiating, through a most unusual means – his work. He had been interested in photography since he was a teenager, but never enough to pursue it with vigor. He continued to dabble in photography almost by necessity when he became a superintendent.
For 38 years, Fitzroy was the superintendent/general manager at the county-owned Presidents Golf Course in Quincy, Massachusetts. To communicate updates on the course, Fitzroy regularly took photos and sent them to county staff and commissioners. As technology advanced and the ability to quickly and inexpensively edit and manage photos became easier, Fitzroy found himself becoming more smitten with the activity. In fact, the Presidents Golf Course website regularly featured his photos.
“I was always busy, so I really didn’t have the time to dedicate to it,” Fitzroy explains. “But once digital cameras came around and I found I could edit them myself, I began to get more involved at work and away from it. Today, I’m not sure there is a superintendent who doesn’t consider photography as one of his more important tools, both for course management and communication purposes.”
Now that he’s retired, Fitzroy finds he’s even more of a shutterbug. He snaps just about everything, and has a fledgling business taking high school senior portraits. Fitzroy had been asked to do it for family and friends, and now others seek him out. Still, golf courses are his favorite subject, with Pebble Beach Golf Links topping the list.
For 21 years Fitzroy has officiated high school basketball games. He was a youth basketball coach, but got into officiating after fellow golf course superintendent Ken Mooradian suggested he join him. Fitzroy took lessons, went to clinics and grabbed a whistle. He would be somewhat anonymous until others would question his work. Kinda like being a golf course superintendent, huh?
“There are parallels no doubt,” Fitzroy says. “I think being an official and being a superintendent benefited my work in both activities. You have to be able to handle the reactions of people and maintain composure. Officiating was also good for me because it kept me in shape during the winter months, when I was not as active with course maintenance.”
Take time for yourself
Bob Randquist, the certified golf course superintendent at Boca Rio Golf Club in Boca Raton, Florida, says he made it a priority early in his career to engage in other interests, and it’s something others should focus on as well. Over the years, he has participated in family activities, played pickup basketball, sang in the church choir, learned to play the piano, taught seminars, and is a passionate follower of sports.
“It sounds selfish, but it’s not,” Randquist says. “You have to make time for yourself so that you are more valuable to others. I firmly believe that you need to get away from your job, no matter how much you love it. There comes a point when you hit the wall. Having an outlet has been vital for me, and for others around me.”
A special time
Certified Golf Course Superintendent Bill Rohret and his wife Dian made it a point early in their married lives to focus their free time around their two children. The Rohrets found themselves attending sporting events and musical performances virtually every free moment. When the children went off to college, the Rohrets became active in Special Olympics.
“We were so engrossed in our children’s activities that I hadn’t really given thought to getting involved in something else,” Rohret says. “Then the children leave for school and my wife and I look at each other and say ‘What are we going to do now?’ I knew if all I had was my job I would go absolutely crazy.”
A casual conversation with a friend turned into one of the best decisions Rohret ever made. The Special Olympics program in Las Vegas was in need of volunteers.
That was in 2001, and since then he has been going full speed as a coach for basketball, golf and track. He was recognized by the state of Nevada as the Special Olympics Coach of the Year in 2008, and he and Dian were honored by the PGA Section in 2013 as Citizens of the Year for their work. Rohret is so ingrained in the program that he turned down a job because it would have interfered with his ability to participate in Special Olympics.
“I wish I would have done it earlier. The volunteers and the athletes are family,” Rohret states. “Sometimes as superintendents we get worked up about a pump station or the greens, but this provides perspective. I feel I get more out of it than I put into it. I can’t see myself ever not being involved.”
Now semi-retired and working as a spray technician at Highland Falls Golf Course in Sun City, Nevada, Rohret looks back on his 43 years in the industry somewhat wistfully. He sees young professionals doing what he did working 70 to 80 hours a week for extended periods. He says that’s a prescription for trouble.
“It’s not about the quantity of time, but the quality,” Rohret says. “That applies to your job and your hobbies. Make your time count and you will be able to fit it in.”
Singing while you work
It’s not unusual for the staff and members of Kearney Nebraska Country Club to hear Superintendent Scott Schurman humming or singing while he goes about his work. That in itself doesn’t make him unique, but the fact that he is an accomplished “barbershop” singer has him in demand throughout the community.
“I have always loved to sing, but did not get involved in barbershop until a member of our church convinced my father and I to attend a practice session in 1996, when I was 30 years old,” Schurman says. “We both were in the church choir, but that was the extent of it.”
Immediately hooked, Schurman joined a barbershop chapter in northwest Arkansas, and then in Minneapolis and western Nebraska as he moved for his career. Similar to a Golf Course Superintendents Association of America chapter, barbershop chapters meet regularly and put on regional meetings and competitions. They also offer their services to the communities in which they serve.
“We do singing Valentines, perform at weddings and funerals and other special occasions,” Schurman says. “In 2013, we sang for a few events around the 100th year celebration of the Lincoln Highway, which passes through Kearney. They said our audiences totaled 10,000 people.”
Schurman sings the lead and is a member of the 1733 Chorus. He feels fortunate to be involved in two activities, his profession and his hobby, that allow him to be part of a professional and dedicated brotherhood.
“I only wish I had started singing barbershop before I was 30,” Schurman says. “It is a perfect release for me. I love music. When you are up on stage singing and you see the people tapping their feet or smiling with wide eyes, you know you are making people happy. It takes your cares away. And the people I do it with are outstanding. It really is a great deal of fun.
“I don’t care what profession you are in, you need to do something that gets you away from thinking about it 24/7.”
PHOTOS COURTESY OF PAUL CUSHING