A superintendent at city hall

For nearly four decades, 32-year GCSAA member Tom Kasner has had Albany, Minn.’s best interests at heart on and off the golf course.


Tom Kasner at city hall
Albany, Minn. golf club superintendent Tom Kasner also serves as the city's mayor. He has been at the Albany Golf Club since 1987. Photo by Jack Evens

For nearly four decades, Tom Kasner has had his town’s best interest at heart — on and off the golf course.

A 32-year GCSAA member, Kasner is entrenched in Albany, Minn. Located about 65 miles northwest of the Twin Cities, Kasner has served as superintendent at Albany Golf Club since 1987. By no means does his service end there. In November, Kasner was elected mayor of Albany for a second term.

“My dad (Bill) was involved in civic organizations. The one thing he told me was just get involved,” Kasner said.

Kasner was raised in Foley, Minn. Golf is a way of life for his family. Kasner’s father, Bill, and grandfather, Tony, helped build golf courses and both loved to golf. Kasner’s brother, Mike, sparked Tom’s interest in the possibilities golf had to offer. Mike spent 46 years in the industry, including 36 as superintendent, before retiring 10 years ago at Wapicada Golf Club in Sauk Rapids, Minn. His guidance set a path for his younger brother’s emergence.

“We both love working with our hands. We were greenkeepers, mechanics, plumbers clearing out sewer lines in the clubhouse. Whatever it took,” says Mike. “I also was on the city council in Foley. For Tom, being mayor, it’s a good fit. He’s a people person, a problem solver. His golf course is right there in the middle of the city.”

Tom recalls how nervous he was changing cups as a preteen for Wapicada’s main event, called the Wapicada Short Stop. “There were a lot of good golfers from the area, and that was the first time I did it (change cups) by myself. I think I got a $10 bill for that,” Kasner says.

He went to school for two years at St. Cloud Technical College for water and waste treatment, but most jobs he sought in that line of work were filled. It might not have mattered anyway. “I went to school for something different, but it (golf) is in my blood,” he says.

Kasner found his happy place in Albany, a bedroom community of approximately 2,800. Shortly after marrying his wife, Lori, and while working two jobs in the mid-1980s at a discount golf center and at Wapicada, he saw a posting for a superintendent at Albany. “I was 23. I applied for the job, interviewed and accepted their offer. We moved out here with our firstborn son, Danny, who wasn’t even a year old,” Kasner says. Thirty-six years later, he’s still there. Although he had the background, being in charge was a different animal. He leaned on others as resources once he embarked on this more-than-three-decade run. “My brother. Sales reps. They gave me a lot of help, advice to solve problems,” he says. “It was a challenge, a lot of newness to it.”

Kasner overcame the learning curve quickly, says Tom Schneider, Albany city administrator, noting that Kasner’s superb people skills are evident as superintendent and mayor. “He does a fabulous job communicating with the public. He’s fair with everybody,” Schneider says. “He’s a very caring person, cares about the quality of the product. He’s a good communicator, a good listener, brings ideas to the table. At the golf course, he works. On his days off, he’s working. They’re committed there. And I remember him as someone who hit the golf ball nearly 300 yards off the tee.”

The teeing grounds at Albany are a source of pride for Kasner. Before he arrived, 12 new greens were built out of native soils with an extremely high silt and clay content. “They were very firm. Grass was thin, and they wouldn’t take up water or nutrients. We purchased a new greens aerator, and for the first six to seven years, I aerated twice a season, removing the cores and topdressing back with mostly just good quality sand,” Kasner says. “The next six to seven years, we aerated those greens with a deep-tine aerator with ¾-inch tines down 12 to 16 inches deep and filled with sand to improve drainage. Every year they improved, and that was all that mattered at the time. My goal was to get them consistent with the other greens, which were built out of a surprisingly good soil mixture for being built in 1959-1960. From about the 2000 golf season to the present, we aerate just one time per year and either reincorporated existing topsoils back in, removed cores and topdressed with sand, or used solid tines without removing any soil and just filling the holes with sand.

“The greens now all have a similar look and feel. We have reconstructed five out of those newest 12 greens over time, mostly because of their size or the need to be moved or raised up due to a river that dissects our course. Changes over time have increased stormwater runoff from surrounding areas creating issues that needed to be dealt with to keep the course playable during excessively wet weather patterns.”

One of the people who was along for the ride a while ago is GCSAA Class A superintendent Chris Tritabaugh, who in 2016 hosted the Ryder Cup at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minn. Tritabaugh worked multiple summers for Kasner. There is a reason why he kept coming back. “He just made it enjoyable. I learned how effective a group of people can be when they enjoy their job,” says Tritabaugh, a 23-year association member. “We did really good work and had fun doing it.”

As mayor, Kasner has learned a lot and enjoys serving, in part for the good the city has witnessed. New decorative lighting and refurbished buildings that showcase how they looked a century ago are among the initiatives completed on his watch. “Some of what we have done and are doing is a work in progress. It makes it easier to get things done when you have support and work together,” he says.

His son, Ben, has worked by his side at the course for several years as his assistant. At some point, the son is going to take over for the father. “He’s ready to take the reins,” Kasner says. “He’s brought a lot of modernization to the table and is absolutely ready to carry on. He’s been a very large part of making sure this course evolves into what it needs to be. Ben has worked closely with everyone responsible with the construction, landscaping and setup of a new, state-of-the art Toptracer driving range.”

Ben, a 10-year GCSAA member, has watched and learned from his father for 20 years. What makes his dad tick is clear. “It’s the work ethic. Always do things the right way. No cutting corners. If you mess up, he won’t jump down your throat. He’ll work with you. He’s always been good with the crew,” Ben says.

People ask Tom Kasner whether he is a Republican or a Democrat. His standard response, which he shared with GCM? “It really doesn’t matter,” says Kasner, whose mayoral term runs through 2024. “What does matter is, the thing to do is make things better for people of this community.”

Howard Richman is GCM's associate editor