Walnut Creek superintendent earns pilot's license

Scott Rettmann's passion takes him above the clouds


Scott Rettmann wearing a blue shirt, posing with a small gray airplane, which is parked outside a hangar
GCSAA Class A superintendent Scott Rettmann at Walnut Creek Country Club in South Lyon, Mich., is the proud owner of a pilot license. Photo by Brandon Folsom

Scott Rettmann is flying high these days.


Sure, he is thrilled that things have been looking up in his job as greens superintendent at Walnut Creek Country Club in South Lyon, Mich. The golf course never looked better than it did mid-summer, he says.

Something else, though, has him soaring — his plane.

When you have your own pilot’s license, the sky’s the limit. A GCSAA Class A superintendent and 15-year association member, Rettmann secured his pilot license Jan. 14. “I wanted to be a pilot for as long as I can remember,” Rettmann says. “Now I’m in the front seat.”

His first lesson: Aug. 4, 2021, at the Ann Arbor (Mich.) Airport. “I flew with a woman who gave me an intro. I sat in the airplane on the taxiway. We talked to the tower. I remember saying, ‘This is a lot; this is cool,’” says Rettmann, a Michigan State University graduate whose first flight took him over the football home stadium at the University of Michigan, his alma mater’s rival. “She let me take controls for a while. We were in the air for about 30, maybe 40 minutes. It was both intimidating and exciting. I was like a kid at Christmas.”

It cost Rettmann roughly $15,000 to acquire his license. It was no simple decision to move forward with the plan. A high school friend’s father owned his own plane and died in a crash. “I was 20. I wondered if it was safe. I put serious thought into it, like why did it happen? Accidents can happen. Pilots make errors. I figured I’m not getting any younger. I said, ‘Go for it,’” Rettmann says.

His wife, Ashley, has faith in her husband’s decision. In fact, one of her main concerns wasn’t only about safety. “At first, my reservations were about the time commitment,” says Ashley, a University of Michigan coordinator in research studies. “I was more worried about it all early on.”

Her mood now is more upbeat, especially when recalling the first time she and their children, Ellie and Grayson, looked upward when Scott was on his maiden solo flight on Feb. 21, 2022. “The kids pointed to the sky and said, ‘Is that dad up there?’ It’s been fun so far,” she says. “Him being up above the clouds is the coolest thing.”

He vividly remembers it, seated in a Cessna 172, tail number N572RJ. “It was beautiful. Cold day. Couple clouds. I wore a golf pullover,” Rettmann says. “I did three loops in the pattern, essentially an oval shape around the airport. So exhilarating. I was confident because I had done it a hundred times. Before I went out, I was like, ‘Holy cow, this is going to happen.’ On the downwind leg, I thought, ‘This is incredible.’ It felt like such an accomplishment.”

Rettmann’s achievements are applauded by his instructor.

“He’s great. He makes it fun, too. He always has a smile, very positive, always prepared,” says Grace Hu, Rettmann’s certified flight instructor who is now a pilot for Delta Connections. “It’s not always smooth during training. There are some curveballs, like how to handle the aircraft when it’s stalling. Some have a fear to put it in that position. He stayed positive and handled it very well.”

Ellie Rettmann, a young child in a floral dress, holds up a picture she has drawn in marker on a paper towel of her father in an airplane.
Ellie Rettmann, daughter of Scott and Ashley, shows her artistic side in honor of her father. Photo courtesy of the Rettmanns

Hu even caught a glimpse from up high over Walnut Creek CC, a 27-hole facility located about 45 miles west of Detroit. “We flew over it. Really nice golf course. He showed me things they were working on. It all looked great to me,” Hu says.

Dan Meersman has known that for quite some time. Chief planning officer/director of grounds and facilities and a 23-year GCSAA member at Philadelphia Cricket Club, he hired Rettmann, a fellow MSU graduate, as his first intern there. “It was a good starting point. Quickly, he was like an assistant,” says Meersman, who has no doubt that Rettmann has what it takes to be a pilot. “He’s a really smart guy, careful, cautious guy, not one to be flying by the seat of his pants. He’s awesome. He’s the kind of guy you would be happy for your daughter to marry. He has consistent, positive energy every day. Nothing ever seemed to get him down. That’s an attractive quality.

“Would I fly with him? Absolutely.”

Currently, Rettmann is licensed as a single-engine land Visual Flight Rules (VFR) pilot and is allowed to fly up to 17,999 feet mean sea level until he earns an instrument rating to exceed that limit. He earned a high-performance endorsement to fly airplanes with over 200 horsepower and he is currently in ground school to earn his instrument rating. He can only fly under VFR, which means no flying through clouds and maintaining proper spacing above, below and side-to-side from them. He can fly night or day as long as conditions are in VFR. For now, he can only fly a single-engine prop plane, but there is no restriction on where he can travel.

Already he has capitalized on his license by flying assistant Luke Martell and mechanic Victor Anderson to a Michigan GCSA/Wee One Foundation event in northern Michigan. Rettmann also is a member of the Ann Arbor Flyers, one of the oldest aviation clubs in the country, having been in continuous operation since its inception in October 1940.

When he flies the four-seater, Rettmann carries his ID, pilot’s license and iPad, plus a paper map in case his iPad fails and an aviator Bose aviation noise-canceling headset. One thing not by his side is water. “I don’t drink in case I have to go to the bathroom,” says Rettmann, who is airborne two or three times monthly.

Meanwhile, Rettmann understands what keeps him grounded when he’s not up in the air. “I love to fly,” he says, “but I also have a real job with a wife and kids.”

Howard Richman is GCM's associate editor