I am the… Director of Sports Turf Operations
For the… University of Arkansas
What field care product/piece of equipment could you not live without? For natural turf, probably an aerator. For synthetic turf, a groomer with vacuum ability.
Complete this sentence: “If I weren’t a field care pro, I would be… A hotel clerk, who is a house painter on my lunch hour and a finished parts clerk on my days off … and also working the night shift at the local packing house. I guess that hits all of my life highlights before I found my niche.
What’s your favorite sports movie and why? “Remember The Titans.” It shows the adversities we run into through the course of our lives; not just the people we work with, but in the everyday obstacles we encounter daily.
What path led you to a career in sports field management? I was laid off from a factory job in 1973. So I bought a motorcycle and visited a friend at the Country Club of Little Rock. Then, in the spring of 1974, I became a groundskeeper. I attended Michigan State and after graduating, I worked at Four Hills Country Club in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I then became an assistant superintendent at Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester. My first superintendent job was at El Paso Country Club. My longest stint was 12 years, at Texarkana Country Club. Later, my world changed after an illness in the family, which resulted in a move to Arkansas. When the position of sports turf manager opened here in 2001, it was a natural fit.
What types of fields and turf areas are you responsible for? All athletic building and facility common grounds and ornamental beds, including irrigation systems as well as snow/ice removal.
What are the biggest challenges in maintaining the facility? We have a very progressive university athletic department that takes into account the current and future needs of our athletes and continues to develop high-quality facilities. With that comes the added responsibility of keeping all of the facilities maintained to the highest level, and in doing so comes added expenses. Fortunately, the athletic department acts accordingly.
What has been the most memorable moment of your career? When I worked in the golf side, it was working a PGA Championship. In the sports turf side, it’s receiving the Distinguished Friend of Horticulture Award from the University of Arkansas Horticulture Department.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned on the job? Always ask for the best and plan accordingly.
How do you predict the sports field industry will evolve in the future? We’ll ask more of our facilities and demand more of our turf managers. Education and networking will become critical avenues to success.
What do you wish spectators/players/coaches knew about your job? That our surfaces are living entities. I once asked a past football head coach to stop walking across the stadium grass. His response was ‘It’s just so nice.’ So I suggested he take the football team to his own house and let them walk around on his lawn. Leaders lead by example and great fields deserve respect. It worked, and the coach began walking around the grass instead of on it.
What is the most important quality required to be a successful field manager? Be true to yourself. Delegate responsibilities among staff.
What advice would you give aspiring field managers? Realize there’s still an art and a science to great field maintenance. Also, train your senses to observe the keys that nature gives you every day.
Who have been your biggest influences/mentors? Dick Bator (a golf course consultant), Dr. Garald Horst (the University of Nebraska) and Roland Kunkle (of RK International Sports Consulting).
PHOTOS: PATRICK BERGER