A Green Start jump-start

East Lake Golf Club superintendent Charles Aubry is an alumnus and huge proponent of the Green Start Academy assistant-development program.


Charles Aubry
Charles Aubry has a simple bit of advice for the 56 assistant superintendents headed to Raleigh, N.C., for this week’s Green Start Academy.

“Take your business cards,” says Aubry, superintendent at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta and 2011 Green Start Academy graduate. “Take your business cards — and get business cards. You never know who you’ll meet who will tell you something about a job you’re applying for or know somebody who puts in a reference for you, or somebody who will just be there and support you for your career.”

From Aubry, a 12-year GCSAA member, such statements aren’t mere hypotheticals.

While attending that 2011 Green Start Academy, Aubry met and bonded with Adam Wilhite, who at the time was lead assistant at East Lake.

See where this is headed?

“Adam and I clicked,” says Aubry, who back then was first assistant superintendent at The Lodge at Ventana Canyon in Tucson, Ariz. “We enjoyed visiting. I knew that in the near future I was looking into making a move into the greater Atlanta area, and we kept in contact.”

Six months after his Green Start trip, Aubry became first assistant superintendent at Atlanta Country Club, where he worked for three years. When a similar job opened at East Lake, Wilhite was among those who alerted Aubry to it.

Wilhite had moved on from East Lake to Harrell’s, where he still works as golf, turf and landscape territory manager for the Southeast region. But back in 2015, “He still had great connections at East Lake,” Aubry says.

The importance of such networking is part of the foundation of Green Start Academy, which since 2006 has served as a leadership and development program for assistant golf course superintendents.

The 13th annual Green Start Academy, co-hosted by Bayer and John Deere, will run Oct. 24-26 at the Bayer and John Deere facilities around Raleigh.

Fifty-six assistant superintendents from 21 states and three Canadian provinces will learn from industry veterans about the importance of networking, career development, budgeting and labor.

If it sounds like a crash course in making the jump from assistant to superintendent, it should.

“There’s a lot of valuable information kids can take away, especially when they’re close to making the transition,” says Aubry, 31, who was officially promoted to golf course superintendent in January. “The education was really well-rounded. It was holistic to an assistant’s development. It wasn’t just solely agronomics. They did a good job rounding things out, making sure assistants were exposed to things they would deal with in the future. They help you gain a better understanding of the things you need to worry about when you make the next steps.”

One takeaway Aubry put into practice immediately after Green Start Academy was the importance of preparing a portfolio. Upon returning home, he built an online portfolio that was eventually viewed by Ralph Kepple, CGCS, a 36-year GCSAA member and the director of agronomy at East Lake.

“I developed a website that Ralph said he was really impressed with when he got the call about me,” Aubry says. “When he looked at my background, he was able to quantify that with what I was saying and what was being said about me.”

Curiously, Aubry says he regrets neglecting the one discipline from Green Start Academy that helped him land where he is — networking.

“Oddly enough, one of the things I didn’t home in on as much as I should have was the networking aspect,” he says. “Who knows what would have happened or where I might be if I had done a better job with that? Networking got me to where I am now.”

Aubry encourages this year’s Green Start Academy attendees to take advantage of the networking opportunities at Green Start Academy. “They should take the time to step out of their comfort zone a little bit. Just because they’re your equals now doesn’t mean they can’t help you in the future.”

Would Aubry be where he is now — at storied East Lake, home of the Tour Championship — without Green Start Academy?

“No,” he says after a short pause. “Probably not.”

2018 Green Start Academy

Andrew Hartsock is GCM’s managing editor.