Man on the move

Kenton Brunson has always displayed a desire to explore all the industry has to offer, including a  move from Phoenix Country Club to Bermuda's Mid Ocean Club.


Kenton Brunson
GCSAA Class A superintendent Kenton Brunson went out with one last big hurrah. Brunson, who oversaw the Charles Schwab Cup Championship that ended Sunday at Phoenix Country Club in his role of director of agronomy, is starting a new job Monday with the same title at The Mid Ocean Club in Bermuda. Photos by Howard Richman

Kenton Brunson doubled as driver and tour guide on this ride around Phoenix Country Club.

Under an hour and counting before the first tee shot Nov. 10 in the PGA Champions Tour’s Charles Schwab Cup Championship, the final seconds, minutes and hours were ticking away on his time there. Brunson informed his passenger that like the talented 50-and-over golfers’ season-ending outing, this was a grand finale for him too.

“I accepted a position at The Mid Ocean Club in Bermuda. That’s what makes this bittersweet,” Brunson said.

Fast forward to now. Today, Brunson is on his way to Bermuda. He’s scheduled to begin his new as director of agronomy on Monday. Less than two years after arriving at Phoenix CC, Brunson is taking another step in his industry journey. His ambitions are as lofty as that jet which is carrying him to a new destination. No matter where he lands, Brunson is determined to go places. He has a career log that travels well. It features stops at Pebble Beach in California and Desert Mountain in Scottsdale, where he was an assistant before going to Phoenix CC.

“My goal is to be a GM. Maybe a CEO. I have high aspirations,” he says.

Brunson, 30, a six-year GCSAA member, has been director of agronomy at Phoenix CC, and is in the process of accumulating the goods to ascend in the business. He has been at it a while. Brunson already has an MBA from the University of Arizona and a degree in crop and soil sciences from Washington State University. He’s been a GCSAA Grassroots Ambassador and participated in both the Green Start Academy and Syngenta Business Institute.

Phoenix CC turf crew
Here’s those who make the magic happen on the grounds at Phoenix CC. They worked overtime to prepare the course for the Charles Schwab Cup Championship.

Currently, Brunson is closing in on achieving Certified Golf Course Superintendent status. In his spare time, he works on achieving the certified club manager designation with the Club Managers Association of America. It’s obvious to Phoenix CC operator Troon’s senior vice president of global science and agronomy Dave Nicholls that Brunson has the mettle to rise in his chosen profession.

“He has an MBA. His level of sophistication has raised standards of the superintendent within the club. That’s not easy,” Nicholls says. “Not every superintendent has his background. It’s hard to reach his level.”

Brunson has performed at a high level in other ways as well. He contemplated an appointment from the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, where he had the chance to play football and baseball. He decided to stay close to home, which led him to a greenskeeper position at Walla Walla (Wash.) Country Club working for Jeff Blanc, CGCS, now that club’s general manager. In time, Blanc became his father-in-law. Brunson’s wife Chantel (they are parents of an infant girl, 5-month-old Palmer) is the director of shared accounting for Troon.

Phoenix CC assistants
Brunson’s assistants who served as his right-hand men at Phoenix CC are, from left to right, assistant Oscar Castillo; assistant Esteban Sanchez; assistant Ethan Bierman; equipment manager Luis Munoz; and assistant equipment manager Miguel Hernandez.

At The Mid Ocean Club, Brunson is walking into a somewhat similar situation to what he is leaving behind. Mid Ocean, ranked No. 33 in this year’s World’s 100 Greatest Golf Courses by Golf Digest, has renovation plans under general manager/chief executive Austen Gravestock. A few years ago, Mid Ocean was recognized as the first workplace in Bermuda to earn gold accreditation by the Investors In People (IIP), which helps organizations worldwide to lead, support and manage people effectively to achieve sustainable results.

“They (Mid Ocean) want to build a team, get everything right. I always want to be challenged. That’s a challenge,” Brunson says.

Brunson was involved in similar processes at Phoenix CC, where architect Andy Staples is overseeing a master plan to modernize components of facility. PGA Champions Tour golfer Steven Alker likes what Brunson has done with the place.

Brunson and Jeff Blanc, CGCS
Brunson had a very familiar volunteer at the Charles Schwab Cup Championship. Jeff Blanc, CGCS, is not only the general manager at Walla Walla (Wash.) CC; he’s also Brunson’s father-in-law.

“The golf course is in great shape. There’s some rough out there to keep you honest. Greens are rolling as pure as ever,” said Alker last Thursday, who when all was said and done on Sunday claimed the 20022 Schwab Cup.

Now that Phoenix CC is part of his past, Brunson future means to follow a blueprint that has worked for him. It has much to do with work. He also spoke about a willingness to broaden his horizons. Well, game on as Brunson goes abroad to tackle the next opportunity.

“We have the hardest job in the world. It’s a difficult job. A rewarding job,” Brunson says. “If you’re going to do something, just do it. It’s easy when you enjoy what you do.”

Howard Richman is GCM’s associate editor.