Finding a future as an assistant golf course superintendent

Arturo Hernandez came to America from Mexico to build a future. He found it on the golf course.


Arturo Hernandez
Arturo Hernandez has shined as an assistant superintendent from New York to Texas. Photos by Kelly Richman

Ronald Reagan was president. The Patrick Swayze song “She’s Like the Wind” was a top-5 Billboard Hot 100 hit. As for Arturo Hernandez … well, this teenager packed a purpose.

It was March 7, 1988. For Hernandez, that Monday 36 years ago would result in more than even he could have imagined. He left his home in Mexico to come live with his uncle on the East Coast. Hernandez didn’t intend for it to be a lengthy stay.

“I was coming for a year or two, make money to help my parents back home,” Hernandez says. “I found out I could make more money here than back home, so I decided to stay a little longer. I’m still here.”

The golf industry has benefited from his extended presence in America.

An assistant superintendent for The Club at Falcon Point in Katy, Texas, four-year GCSAA member Hernandez departed his comfort zone south of the border to make a living and a name for himself in the United States. Besides becoming a U.S. citizen, Hernandez blossomed as a dependable force in his profession. It wasn’t easy. Besides having to learn a new language, Hernandez had to earn the trust and respect of those who afforded him a chance to prove himself.

Imagine being young and starting from scratch in completely new surroundings away from family.

“It was like, ‘Drop yourself in Turkey and go to work.’ Very impressive what he did,” says Ken Benoit, CGCS, executive director of the New York Golf Course Foundation, 28-year GCSAA member and 2023 recipient of the association’s Excellence in Government Affairs Award. “He’s a man who made an impression on me, not only to go through what he did, but to excel doing it.”

Arturo Hernandez and Paul Purdom
Hernandez has gained the respect of the crew he oversees for superintendent Paul Purdom.

The start of something special

If anything, Hernandez possesses a go-for-it mentality. Look where it got him.

Hernandez made his golf industry debut in August 1991. At the time, he was working at a Connecticut restaurant when his uncle Salvador Macias suggested to him that he consider applying for a job with the crew at Quaker Ridge Golf Club in Scarsdale, N.Y., where Macias was employed on the maintenance team. Hernandez, obviously unafraid to take on a job, decided to inquire. “I never had worked in golf,” he said. “I had no clue what to do. But I said, ‘Yeah, why not?’ I can learn.”

He was hired and vividly remembers that first day. “Trees were down, debris all around, rain was falling,” he says, “but I never regretted that I had come there.”

Hernandez was guided by then-superintendent Tony Savone, who recalls Hernandez as a “very happy person, happy go lucky.” Savone, a 58-year retired member of GCSAA, invited his staff to Friday night barbecues at his home. It was one of his ways to take care of his staff. In fact, the club was phenomenal at rallying around its own. “The club had a lot of respect for people, a lot of respect for foreigners. They were good that way,” Savone says.

Hernandez is a prime example of their efforts — and undoubtedly it catapulted him to quite a career. The next superintendent Hernandez worked for at Quaker Ridge, Steve Renzetti, saw promise in his staffer and asked him about advancing his knowledge. “He came to me and said, ‘You’re pretty smart. I like what you’re doing. You ask questions. Are you interested in going to school?’ Anything about learning, I’m into it,” Hernandez says.

Arturo Hernandez mowing
Ask anyone whom he has worked for and with, and they’ll tell you Hernandez can handle any task.

He attended Rutgers University’s golf turf management school. Good move. “I didn’t like it. I loved it,” he says. Hernandez also adored those who made it possible. The club paid for his tuition, even covering his gas and toll expenses. Hernandez will never forget the generosity. “They want to give you a chance so you can have options, whether you want to stay at Quaker Ridge or go somewhere else because of what you have done for them,” he says.

In the meantime, his workload was hefty. Besides his job at Quaker Ridge and taking college classes through Rutgers, Hernandez spent some nights at English classes while continuing to work away from the golf course, including as a bartender at a restaurant where he first met Renzetti before he ever worked for the man (Renzetti started in the fall of 1999 at Quaker Ridge). Benoit, who spent time in the early days alongside Hernandez under Renzetti’s charge, says Hernandez had a firm handle on his duties. “Without a doubt, he was the undisputed leader of the crew. He was naturally himself, and guys followed,” Benoit says.

Hernandez lightened the load for Renzetti, a 39-year GCSAA member and now owner of Pinnacle Turf who remains quite the Hernandez fan. “I was fortunate Arturo already was on the staff when I arrived. Hard-working guy. Family-oriented. He became my go-to guy. He knew the hows when he started, and he was still learning the whys. What he was lacking was why we did things, but he was never afraid to ask how we could improve, and his suggestions more times than not made sense. He continually had an impact on how we used our team. He was my interpreter for daily chores, conflict resolutions and regulations. He had a great knack of seeing the big picture and moving the staff around in the best way possible. If I came back (to be a superintendent) and had the opportunity to recruit my dream team, Arturo would be on the starting five for me.”

Arturo Hernandez mowing
Soccer is in Hernandez’s blood. Pictured second from left, he played it in his youth and now is a referee for high school, college and semi-pro games. Photo courtesy of Arturo Hernandez

Parental guidance

Here’s a little side story on what drove Hernandez to be motivated and reliable, traits that sold people such as Renzetti. It has much to do with genes.

There was a time he worked multiple jobs, meaning sleep was minimal for a segment of his life. Hernandez didn’t have to go far in his youth to see the definition of hard work. As a young boy, Hernandez would fall asleep to a familiar sound. When he awakened the following morning, that sound remained. Often it was constant all night long and deep into the wee morning hours in his family’s home. As he prepared for school, Hernandez listened as his mother — Maria de Jesus, given the nickname “Chuchita” by her family — took care of business. “She would be doing embroidery, making baby blankets, tablecloths. She was at it day and night. Barely slept,” he says.

His father, Julian Hernandez, was no slouch when it was time to work. Besides his job at a hotel, he toiled in a milk-processing factory. He suffered the loss of his left-hand fingers in an accident there, yet eventually returned to the job. “He still worked day and night, wouldn’t stop,” Hernandez says.

It’s no surprise, then, that the family built its own house, room by room. “My parents showed me how you provide for your family. It’s like what I have tried to do for my family,” he says, “to be sure they have everything they need.”

Arturo Hernandez mowing
In October 2023, Hernandez attended The Toro Co.’s Experience for Assistant Superintendents. Photo courtesy of The Toro Co.

Moving on

After 18 years at Quaker Ridge, Hernandez relocated. It had much to do with home.

“I bought a home in 2007 in the Houston area. I wanted to be closer to my family in Mexico,” Hernandez says. In 2008, he was hired at Blackhorse Golf Club in Cypress, Texas, at the time overseen by current GCSAA South Central Field Representative John Walker, who didn’t waste any time landing Hernandez after receiving a glowing review about him from a previous employer. “He left New York, came to Texas with his family and walked into Blackhorse, and I hired him immediately,” says Walker, who started Hernandez as his irrigation foreman. “He did so well, I put him on special projects for our 36 holes. If there was something out of the ordinary, I put Arturo in charge of it. He could do it all.”

Example: Hernandez led the way during a massive 111-bunker renovation. “I thought, ‘I’ve got to take the challenge.’ That’s the way I like it,” he says.

Eleven years ago, Hernandez accepted a job as assistant under then-superintendent Sean Wilson at The Club at Falcon Point. Buoyed by Wilson’s leadership and the latitude he allowed his assistant to operate, Hernandez seized the opportunity. “He gave me 100% authority of what I do. He said, ‘It’s all you.’ I owe him a lot,” says Hernandez, whose time at Falcon Point was elevated when he was able to attract his former co-worker at Blackhorse, irrigation standout Jose Noriega, to the course in Katy.

Wilson doesn’t mince words about his feelings for Hernandez. “Probably the best assistant I ever had. I never met anybody who works as hard and as much as him,” says Wilson, a superintendent for 26 years. “There wasn’t anything he couldn’t do. We were talking about cutting down some trees, and I was thinking about hiring somebody. But he and our foreman (Noriega) decided to get it done. It wasn’t just done. It was done well.”

About five years ago, Wilson broached the subject of Hernandez’s possible interest in becoming a superintendent someday. The lure of that proposition just isn’t alluring to Hernandez. “I’m happy where I’m at, doing what I’m doing,” he says. “I’m happiest being outside, not sitting in an office doing paperwork or attending meetings.”

That’s absolutely fine with his current supervisor, GCSAA Class A superintendent Paul Purdom, an 11-year association member. “We have an old hydraulic irrigation system, something that I never had worked on before I got there. He helped me out constantly. He’s a self-starter. He came into the industry not knowing a lot. But he’s persistent. Sometimes he has better ideas than I do. He’s extremely intelligent, strong-willed and a little bit stubborn. He has knowledge, and he works well with the crew. They put a lot of trust in Arturo,” Purdom says. “He talks with members a lot, and they really like him. He tells them exactly what he thinks, and they really respect him for that.”

At 53, Hernandez still has the fire. In October 2023, he traveled to Minnesota and attended the Toro Co.’s Experience for Assistant Superintendents, a multiday professional development event for assistants from throughout North America.

Way back when, four months after he launched this journey at Quaker Ridge, Hernandez married Olga. They have three children: Arthur, Melissa and Annamaria. As he reminisces, Hernandez sounds serene. Happy. “When I was 17, none of this crossed my mind,” Hernandez says. “I made it here. Married the girl of my dreams. Made money to feed my family.”

Oh, and he never forgot who helped make his story possible when he chose to remain in the U.S. for (quite) a while longer than he originally anticipated all those years ago. “I bought my mom a kitchen cabinet she wanted. Brought it to her. I was so glad to see her face when she got it,” Hernandez says. “I kept my promise.”

Howard Richman ( is GCM’s associate editor.