Geeked on Golf

A Celebration of the People & Places that Make Golf the Greatest Game

Journey Along the Shores – Part 16 (Super Changes)

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There is only one constant in life – change.  Life at Canal Shores is no different.  The course continues to evolve, as do our plans for its future.  This season, those plans changed when we learned that our team was not going to be the same.  Tom Tully, our Superintendent, decided to relocate to Colorado.  He will be missed.

After a brief moment of panic, the search for Tom’s replacement began.  Our Board President Chris Carey and Grounds Chair Steve Neumann shoulder the work, and scored us a winner – Tony Frandria.  Tony is a highly experienced Greenkeeper, who was most recently at Glen View Club.

I am excited to be collaborating with Tony and wanted to learn more about him.  In the midst of getting prepared for the season, he gracious agreed to a GoG interview.

Before getting to the interview, there is more change news to spread – the Canal Shores Grounds Committee now has its own blog that will have frequent updates on course improvements, volunteer opportunities, master planning and more.  Check it out here.  I will continue to write about golf geeky aspects of the Canal Shores transformation, but for the full story, the G&G Blog is the place to go.

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Our volunteer Jeff Hapner created multiple headers for the blog and this one didn’t make the cut.  It was too good not to share (yes, that is Steve Neumann playing the role of Spackler).

On to Tony’s interview…


THE INTERVIEW

How did you get introduced to golf?

When I was a Senior in High School, the town I grew up in, Palos Hills IL, built a 9-Hole municipal golf course (Palos Hills Municipal Golf Course).  I was looking for a summer job so I went over to the course when it opened to see if they had any openings for summer help.  I started working in the Pro-Shop, which at first was just a small trailer, taking tee times, working in the snack shop, driving the beverage cart, washing golf carts and then eventually working on the grounds.  I got my first set of clubs soon after and began to play golf every day.  The best part about the job was that it was free to play!  That’s when I developed a passion for the game, and that’s when I also took a real interest in working on the golf course grounds.  As time has passed my passion for the game remains, but I currently don’t play as much golf as I did when I was younger.  I plan to change that moving forward, but I still have a tremendous passion, admiration and respect for the game of golf.

When did you know that the game had a hold on you?

The 1991 Ryder Cup matches at Kiawah Island “The War on the Shore”– that was when I really began to love and appreciate the competition and truly understood the deep passion that the game of golf can bring out in people.

What are the biggest lessons you have learned in your career thus far?

There are several lessons I’ve learned in my career, but the most important I would say is communication on so many different levels is imperative.  Being transparent with the people you represent is also important.  People want to know what’s going on – that’s why I really enjoy sharing information to let people know what they can expect when they come out to the golf course.

Another lesson I’ve learned is you can’t be too hard on yourself – I tend to wear my heart on my sleeve and sometimes take things too seriously.  That can be a good trait, but you must learn how to manage yours and your employers’ expectations because there are so many factors that you can’t control when caring for a golf course – like weather!

The other lesson I would say is something that a mentor and great friend of mine told me a long time ago.  Don’t fall too much in love with the property because it’s not yours.  One day you will leave the course for whatever reason, but the course will remain and the operation will go on without you. The most important thing is that you do the very best job you can during your tenure so you can leave the course in great shape when you move on and someone else takes the reigns.  Then, hopefully you’ll be able to look back at your achievements and be proud of what you and your team accomplished.

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Where do you see agronomy and course maintenance headed from here?

Water usage is going to become a greater and greater issue as time goes on.  Creating agronomical conditions that can allow turf to thrive with less water use is going to be a huge challenge moving forward.  Pesticide and fertilizer usages are also becoming more and more scrutinized which challenges turfgrass breeders to develop more sustainable turf species that need less water, are more disease resistant, and tolerant to adverse weather conditions.

We as turfgrass professionals, as well as golfers, must manage aesthetic expectations and accept the fact that lush/green turf doesn’t necessarily promote the best playing conditions.  I like the “firm and fast” slogan – which is also better for the environment.

The technology we have at our fingertips is also moving very fast.  Now there are computer programs for just about everything – programs that track your chemical, fertilizer and water usages. Programs that track labor, equipment maintenance, and weather.

Turf equipment is also becoming more and more complex as nearly everything has some sort of computer module that operates the engine, cutting units, etc.  It’s all commonplace now.  Therefore, it’s very important to have a solid Equipment Technician on staff in some capacity to maintain the multifaceted pieces of equipment needed to maintain fine Turfgrass.

It’s vital to keep up with these trends, and in the future, I’m hoping to implement many of the technologies currently available to the Canal Shores operation.

You have worked with Dave Esler and Jim Urbina.  What is it like to collaborate with architects of that caliber?

I’ve been blessed to have worked with these two fine architects.  Both have their own style and personality, and like me, they possess an unbelievable passion for classic “Golden Age” golf course architecture.

The most significant lesson I learned working with these two guys in particular is that I needed to allow them to do their job and to support their vision, but to also offer input on design aspirations that might affect future maintenance.  Golf course architects are basically artists and the golf course is their canvas.  When a golf course engages an architect, they do so for their design expertise, so the architect must be allotted the space to compile multiple renderings and concepts, particularly in the early stages.  It’s important to allow them to be creative without too much scrutiny from outside sources.

Why did you decide to take on the Canal Shores opportunity?

The future vision for the property is what truly intrigued me about the position.  In my career, I’ve planned and managed several high end and multi-faceted golf course projects.  I love planning and executing projects – it’s something within our profession that can add variety to the responsibility of everyday maintenance.  The proposed project at Canal Shores is so unique, and the passion I felt from Chris and Steve during the interview process was really refreshing.

I’ve worked at three private country clubs in my career – this opportunity will also allow me to utilize my experiences in the private sector to build the Grounds Department into an even better functioning facet of the overall facility – much the same as a country club’s Grounds & Greens Department, but on a lesser scale considering the size of the property at Canal Shores is much smaller than what I’ve worked with in my past experiences.

What do you anticipate being the biggest “shock to your system” coming to Canal Shores after 13 years at a prestigious club like Glen View?

First and foremost is obviously the budget.  Canal Shores’s budget is significantly less than what the budget was at GVC.  This isn’t a negative thing, as you must take into consideration the expectations of the golfer, the size of the property and the overall dynamics of the operation on a 12-month basis.

At GVC we had activities occurring all year long. When the golf course closed for the season we had to maintain the grounds surrounding the fall and winter activities available to members such as the paddle tennis facility, skeet and trap shooting, winter ice skating, sledding hill, cross country skiing, and snow removal so it was necessary to keep a sizable staff on year-round.

Canal Shores is clearly a much different operation.  The size of the property is 20% the size of GVC, and the golfer expectations will vary greatly from a private country club.  When the snow flies the operation will mostly be dormant.  I look forward to managing every dollar wisely to exceed expectations in both property maintenance and the overall golf experience of each golfer’s visit.

What are the keys to successfully managing a large golf course construction project or renovation?

Planning and communication.  I’ve seen so many projects within the industry fail due to improper planning and communications.  If the plan isn’t properly vetted in can end up drastically over budget and even if it turns out great, in the end, being over budget is never a good thing.  Every last detail must be properly planned for and budgeted.

It’s also important that the planning is taken on by a sub-committee of the Grounds and Greens Committee.  From my past experiences, I’ve learned that too many irons in the fire can be detrimental to the success of any project, particularly large scale projects with a lot of moving parts.  Typically, four or five committee Members along with the Golf Course Superintendent, Construction Project Manager, and Golf Course Architect are plenty for a successful sub-committee.

It’s also important to always budget for the unexpected – I like to call it “contingency budgeting” as it’s a certainty that some sort of adverse situation will arise at some point during the project that will cost money to rectify.

Communication is extremely vital when taking on a large-scale project.  The clientele should be kept in the loop as much as possible.  Taking pictures and posting them on a blog is a great way to easily allow others to keep up with what’s occurring and how the project is progressing.

What do you love about practicing your craft?

The job can become pretty stressful at times, but when a plan comes together and things look great and the course is playing well, the job is really rewarding.  It’s also a real privilege to be able to work outside and not be confined to an office all day.  I would go crazy if I were locked in an office all day.  I really enjoy driving around the course in the evenings near dusk – there’s something about watching the sun set on the golf course that just relaxes me.

What courses do you most want to see or play next?

I’m extremely fortunate to have developed relationships with so many talented Superintendents around the country.  These relationships allowed me to visit some of the finest courses in America and to become part of a network of Superintendents that’s become a brotherhood.

I’ve been fortunate enough to have visited some great courses throughout my career – Oakmont, Merion, Pine Valley, Saucon Valley, Augusta National, Riviera, Cypress Point, Oak Hill, Winged Foot, Philadelphia Country Club, Huntington Valley, Muirfield Village, just to name a few off the top of my head.

I’ve never been to Long Island though – so I would love to see Shinnecock Hills, Maidstone, and National Golf Links of America.  My colleague and former GCS at Chicago Golf Club Jon Jennings is the GCS at Shinnecock Hills – they’re hosting a US Open in two years, so hopefully that will be my chance to see Long Island as I plan to volunteer during the tournament.

I would also like to get to Scotland one day.

When you are not working or playing golf, how do you spend your time?

My family is extremely important to me, so when I’m not on the golf course I like to spend time with them.  My family and I are also die-hard Cubs fans so we try to get to as many games as we can throughout the year as well.  Go Cubs Go!!


More Journey Along the Shores posts:

 

 

 

Copyright 2017 – Jason Way, GeekedOnGolf

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