What’s the big idea: We’re all recruiters

Outreach programs play a valuable role in recruiting the industry’s future.


How did you end up in the golf course industry and the position you’re currently in? I’ve been asking myself the same question as I think about my own trail toward teaching, research and extension in academia.

I enjoyed working with my father in our lawn as a child, and that enhanced my interest in plants. I remember a field trip to a local garden center in seventh grade. The experience left me impressed and made me want to learn more about horticulture. A nearby high school allowed students to attend a couple of classes even if you weren’t enrolled in that school — credit was still received.

This led to my involvement in the FFA competition on plant identification at Kansas State University and was my first exposure to the school at which I’ve now been on the faculty for 30-plus years. Interaction with students from kindergarten to 12th grade can have an impact on their career interest and on the golf industry.

I remember visiting with one of my kid’s kindergarten classes and talking about putting greens and golf at a local golf course. I was conscious that such interactions could spark interest in the industry. Since then, however, the GCSAA has impressively initiated the First Green program.

This summer, I was fortunate to be involved in two of the three First Green events hosted by the Heart of America GCSA. Sixth graders from local schools attended and rotated among stops that provided information on soils, putting greens, equipment, etc., and they also had the opportunity to putt and eat lunch (pizza!).

Efforts such as First Green can impact the industry by sparking interest in golf course maintenance for those headed to college. With an ongoing labor problem — including shortages of superintendents and assistants — you should be aware that we are all recruiters, too. Perhaps you have individuals working for you who haven’t outwardly expressed career interest in the industry but seem happy with what they do at your facility. Those are ideal targets to approach about pursuing a post-high school education that focuses on turfgrass management. Even if young people have never stepped foot on a golf course, you can still consider recruiting them. A tour of a golf course might be all it takes to get them interested in the business.

Involvement in junior golf events can be a recruiting tool as well. I’ve enjoyed helping as a rules official with junior events in Kansas. There may be opportunities for those involved in junior events to provide a short overview of career opportunities in the golf course industry. It’s likely that those involved in golf may be more interested in the industry than those who haven’t been involved in the sport.

Finally, there’s this: After 10 years of providing a column for GCM, I’m pleased to submit this as my last one (No. 60!). I’ve had the freedom to express thoughts regarding science and the industry that are most impactful in my mind, with no refusal by GCM editors. I’m quite thankful to GCSAA — specifically Scott Hollister, editor-in-chief; Howard Richman, associate editor; and Teresa Carson, the recently retired science editor — for the efforts they put into editing my writing and the guidance they often give to authors. Howard and I were classmates at K-State, lived on the same residence hall floor and played together on the basketball team (intramurals, not Big 8 competition). I feel like I’ve still been on a team with him and the others through this enjoyable journey. Thanks, all!

Jack Fry, Ph.D., is a professor of turfgrass science at Kansas State University, currently working at the school’s Research and Extension Center in Olathe, Kan. He is a 26-year member of GCSAA and the recipient of GCSAA’s Outstanding Contribution Award for 2022.