Today marks the completion of my 10th year at Midland Hills. A decade. During my final-round interview, sitting in the board room of the clubhouse 10 years ago, I was a nervous Nellie, with big ideas, trying to sell my skill set. What I told everyone in that room that day was that I wanted to be part of a team that worked well together, with a common goal of improving the course, with short and long-term goals. We all had to take “the leap” that it was the right fit. As an Assistant Superintendent, I just needed someone to take a chance on me, to get me to the next level, to allow me to implement my philosophies, and execute my ideas. I will forever be appreciative to those members, and staff, in that room that day.
10 years have gone by fast. Really fast. So much has happened. Lots of ups, and a fare share of downs. I’ve made some mistakes, and I’ve taken chances and scored big. I’ve always thought that successes were great, and appreciated mostly by the masses, but during times of failures and losses, it was then that I’ve learned the most. Along the way, I’ve been extremely fortunate to work with so many great people. Most important, I’ve had great support. Support from Committees, Board Members, the Membership, and Tim Ivory. I’ve had (and currently have) fantastic Assistants, some of who’ve gone on to do great things past their time here, which I’ve taken an incredible amount of pride in. I’ve had two of the most amazing mechanics, that continue to blow my mind to this day, with their talents and ownership of maybe the most underappreciated aspect of Golf Course Management. I’ve lost count of all of the seasonal employees who’ve worked extremely hard trying to grasp why the consistent execution of the fine details are so important, when “it’s just a summer job.” I’ve had two goose dogs, I’ve been here so long! My relationships with the club’s Department Managers, and office staff, I believe, is second to none.
What many don’t realize is how slowly it takes to make real change to a golf course. Positive (and negative) evolution takes years. From an agronomic, and turf quality, standpoint, we have evolved an incredible amount. Most of the changes that have occurred with our percentages of turf stands have taken a full 10 years. I’ve kept a notebook of goals, and those lists has evolved along the way. Most of the goals I’ve set are 4-8 years, because the reality is that you cannot flip a switch on something that is alive and breathing, and expect a transformation. We struggle to offset even the weather most days. It takes planning, implementation, and long-term training. A lot of what many consider changes happening on the course recently, is actually us just changing it back to the original way the course was designed, and intended to be enjoyed. The golf course was much better for every skill level player to enjoy, when Seth Raynor laid it out 99 years ago.
With the Master Plan being implemented this year, it will be written in our Board of Director minutes (which dates back to 1919) that we will embark on the largest (and most significant) golf course project since the founders of this club broke ground. This Master Plan process started, informally, over 5 years ago, and has been a monumental effort by everyone involved to bring to fruition. Being a GCS, restoring a Seth Raynor golf course, with an architect that is considered one of the greatest minds of understanding Raynor’s intentions, in Jim Urbina, could be a once in a lifetime achievement. To be honest, I always had hope, but never really thought, that during my time, we would unlock the true potential that the golf course possesses. If you are a fan of history, you will be a large part of it, by supporting the changes that will take place 6 months from now.
Maybe one thing that hasn’t changed in my 10 years is the culture of Midland Hills. When I was hired, I was told by others that the one thing I’ll enjoy the most is the membership. Honest, humble, and genuinely kind people, that enjoy the game of golf, is what makes Midland great. For every decision that is made as a GCS, to the golf course, someone will appreciate said decision, and someone will not. Trying to make everyone happy can be a maddening goal in managing a golf course. Being able to do what I believe is best for the property on a daily basis, and for the long-term, without interference, but instead guidance and support, is a gift. The understanding, and patience, that change takes significant time to see results, isn’t a common theme many GCS get to experience. Everyone involved deserves credit for the direction of where this club is headed, it is greatly underappreciated in my opinion.
Life is short, and your career encompasses a large part of your life. There are personal sacrifices in any career path. But if you don’t enjoy what you do, you can never be great at it. Creating a culture in our department, which our employees enjoy their work, is one of my greatest accomplishments. Having a culture at Midland Hills that has allowed me to enjoy my job, is one of my greatest appreciations. It has created an environment that promotes creativity, expertise, trust, and understanding.
So after a decade, I still have plenty of big ideas, and I still have that book of goals. I feel like we’re just getting started.