The point guard of golf course maintenance

When it comes to jobs on the course, there's not much Terry Pullen hasn't done.


Terry Pullen
Terry Pullen is a fixture in golf maintenance at Bella Vista Property Owners Association in Bella Vista, Ark. Photo courtesy of Bella Vista POA

If there is an equivalent to a basketball point guard in golf course maintenance, Terry Pullen fits the profile.

A nine-year GCSAA member and the vehicle/central golf maintenance manager at Bella Vista Property Owners Association in Bella Vista, Ark., Pullen is akin to a distributor on the hardwood court in hoops. With seven golf courses spread over 30,000 acres at the community located in northwest Arkansas near the Missouri and Oklahoma borders, Bella Vista POA keeps him busy with multiple tasks.

Similar to what a point guard does in basketball, Pullen logs assists by dishing the goods to course technicians and superintendents for them to have what they need. On occasion, point guards are known to take matters into their own hands and shoot the ball with proficiency. In similar fashion but on turf, Pullen can take control when he climbs on a mower or changes the oil to help the cause.

To GCSAA Class A superintendent Kyle Soller, Pullen is the ideal playmaker. That sure sounds like a point guard. “If he has a task, he gets it done. He also is good at incorporating the team into it,” says Soller, who’s stationed at Bella Vista’s Scottsdale Course. “He’s a good, honest guy who is going to give it to you up front. He’s the guy to keep things going.”

Pullen is a San Diego native who spent 10 years in the U.S. Air Force as a fuel-systems technician. Starting in December 1990, he participated for six months in the Gulf War, working on the flight line. Pullen worked up to 17 hours a day, seven days a week, part of that time at Ramstein Air Base in Germany. After exiting from the military, Pullen started his own lawn care business before moving to Arkansas in 2000. The following year he met a technician at the Bella Vista POA who was about to be sidelined by back surgery. “He asked if I could come help. I did,” says Pullen. “More than 20 years later, I’m still here.”

In 2013, Pullen’s workload increased. Besides his duties in charge of all fleet maintenance, which consists of over 600 pieces of equipment ranging from trucks to construction equipment, he was assigned to golf course maintenance operations. Although he never had worked on a golf course, Pullen was game for it. “I had been in the automotive/aircraft industry. I figured, how hard could it be to do lawn equipment?” he says. Pullen has two offices on the property, including the central office in the middle of Bella Vista POA, where he is in charge of maintenance and construction.

“I’ve hauled dirt, rebuilt pump houses. I can cut your tree down and grind the stump. In a tournament, I’m your rough guy,” he says. “I do everything.”

Two young men working on a classic car
Pullen’s sons at work on their dad's 1949 Studebaker. Photo courtesy of Terry Pullen

Pullen was joined in 2014 by a new employee, an industry stalwart who had ample experience with equipment and pretty much all things golf. Keith Ihms, CGCS, arrived from the Country Club of Little Rock, Ark. That same year, Ihms was elected as the 78th president of GCSAA.

One of their initial goals was to ensure each of the golf courses plus a practice center and driving range had an equipment technician covering the facilities. Early on, Pullen had only three technicians. Now, Pullen works alongside five technicians. Three of them oversee three 18-hole courses, while the other two technicians each oversee one 18-hole course and one nine-hole course. Meanwhile, he still has primary responsibilities of managing central golf maintenance.

Ihms, director of golf course maintenance, says Pullen has advanced in his role, including an understanding of other divisions at Bella Vista POA, such as budgeting. “He knows equipment and maintenance, and we got him up to speed on things like grinding and sharpening. He’s very open to doing things,” says Ihms, a 43-year association member. “He’d go out to aerify. If something breaks down, he can fix it. He not only works on equipment, he can operate all of it. Terry’s really important because he gets them (superintendents and technicians) what they need. If he left, it would be hard to find somebody that I could drop in that place tomorrow because of his knowledge of equipment.”

In his spare time, Pullen is a drag racer of vintage hot rods in the region, in places such as Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma. A 1949 Studebaker and 1941 Willys Gasser are among his wheels. He shares his racing moments with his son Kyle, who is employed at Bella Vista POA. The one part of the golf business that befuddled Pullen is picking up a golf club and using it to his advantage. After all, he’s got quite a grasp on everything else at the facility. He says, “My kids tell me I look like I’m killing snakes when I golf.”

In his job, Pullen has been killing it at Bella Vista POA. Obviously, that point guard thing isn’t in his title, but he has scored plenty of points with those there who’ve seen his production on the premises. “I’m pretty fortunate that I get to do what I do, work where I work,” Pullen says.

Howard Richman is GCM's associate editor