Leveling up at Green Start Academy

Assistants get a crash course in the multifaceted role of superintendent during day one of the 2018 program.


Bayer Green Start Academy
Green Start Academy participants talk turf with members of the Bayer Crop Science team. Photos by Andrew Hartsock

Just a couple of months ago, Carlos Arraya, CGCS, was under the scrutiny of millions of eyes, however indirectly.

Arraya is director of grounds and agronomy at Bellerive Country Club in St. Louis, which played host to the 100th PGA Championship Aug. 9-12.

A couple of states and a couple of months removed from that fishbowl, Arraya found 56 peering pairs of eyes considerably more intimidating.

“I’m more nervous standing in front of you guys than I was being on the Golf Channel, talking about the Championship,” Arraya, a 19-year GCSAA member, said Thursday, the first full day of Green Start Academy in the Raleigh, N.C., area. “The Championship is nice, but this is impactful.”

Arraya was among the industry heavy hitters speaking to the assistant superintendents in attendance at the 13th annual Green Start Academy. He and Lukus Harvey, GCSAA Class A superintendent and director of agronomy at Atlanta Country Club, tag-teamed a talk entitled, “How to Be Ready for the Job You Want and Keep It.”

Grant Murphy, associate golf course superintendent at The National Golf Club of Canada in Woodbridge, Ontario, and a 15-year GCSAA member, spoke about getting the best from your staff. And Bob Farren, CGCS, director of golf course and grounds management at Pinehurst (N.C.) Resort and a 38-year association member, discussed cultivating business relationships.

Thursday was bookended by a pair of tours, first of the John Deere Turf Care factory in Fuquay-Varina, and finally of the Bayer Technical Training Center in Clayton.

John Deere Turf Care facility
Green Start Academy attendees tour the John Deere Turf Care facility in Fuquay-Varina, N.C.

Bob Farren Green Start Academy
Bob Farren, CGCS (right), director of golf course and grounds management at Pinehurst Resort, leads a small-group discussion on labor management.

It made for a long, informative day.

“It’s been really good so far,” said Conrad Pannkuk, first assistant golf course superintendent at The Club at Wynstone in North Barrington, Ill., a five-year member of GCSAA and GCM contributor. “There was a lot of great information.”

Green Start Academy is co-sponsored by Bayer and John Deere. Running annually since 2006, it aims to provide a crash course for assistant superintendents hoping to make the jump to superintendent. Over a span of two-plus days, attendees — this year’s chosen 56 were culled from 117 applicants — are schooled in subjects ranging from budgeting to networking.

Arraya, for instance, preached the importance of “the unknown recruiter,” whom he defined primarily as a course’s players and guests, any one of whom may factor into a future job opening.

“I say to the guys all the time, ‘You’re being interviewed every day,’” Arraya said.

Harvey, an 18-year GCSAA member, stressed that superintendents must wear many hats, but that agronomy is at the heart of the job.

“Provide the conditions, and you will have a job,” he said. “At the end of the day, we have to be the best at what we do.”

Murphy delivered an uplifting talk about managing courageously and the importance of hiring the “best people.”

“Our task is to make this career sustainable for those who love it,” he said, “not to work hard to accommodate those who don’t.”

For Pannkuk, Murphy’s words, in particular, resonated. “The biggest thing I took away was to keep putting myself out there and to stay confident,” Pannkuk said. “I just need to be confident in myself.”

Green Start Academy attendees
After a long day in the classroom, Green Start Academy participants tested their golf mettle in a series of fun skills challenges.

The legendary Farren wrapped up the day’s talks with his message about relationships. “I don’t think you can distinguish between a personal relationship and a business relationship,” he said. “They’re all personal relationships.”

After Farren’s presentation, the assembled superintendents toured the Bayer facility and tested their skills in various semi-serious golf challenges, which nicely echoed Farren’s parting thought. “Don’t forget,” he said, “to have fun.”

The 2018 Green Start Academy will wrap up today with talks on interviewing and job searching, budgeting, and charting a career path.

Andrew Hartsock is GCM’s managing editor.