Golf Gazette/Jay Dempsey: He’s a meteorologist, farmer, PR man and much more

06/27/2011 1:55 PM |

How difficult can it be? We’ve all pushed a lawn mower, spread some fertilizer and watered our lawns. No big deal, right? So how hard is it being a golf course superintendent?

Ladies and gentlemen, being a golf course superintendent requires the skills of a meteorologist, a farmer, a horticulturist, a public-relations expert, a personnel manager, a bookkeeper and a salesman.

Oh, one more thing. You had better like going to bed early, waking up hours before the sun rises, and working 15 hour days, seven days a week.

I recently had the opportunity to sit down with the Laurel Links Country Club superintendent, Bill Shuford, to talk about his job.

“I consider myself like a farmer who looks at his soil and decides what needs to be done,” Shuford said. “Most of my time is spent riding the course, looking around.”

With the help of two assistants, Shuford drives the course up to 15 times every day, taking detailed notes along the way.

Like vineyards, golf courses have micro-climates. “We can have a 15-degree temperature difference from one section of the course to another,” said Shuford. “Every night we set up our plan for the following day based on soil samples and by checking moisture levels. We decide what areas to water, fertilize and are in need of treatment.”

JAY DEMPSEY PHOTO | Bill Shuford's job as the Laurel Links Country Club superintendent is a multifaceted one.

In addition to the daily hands-on duties the job requires, Shuford is also responsible for making regular reports to governmental agencies regarding the chemicals used on the course.

Shuford’s love of golf began when he was 5 years old and continued into his college years.

“I couldn’t afford to play golf when I was in college, so I got a job working on a golf course,” he said. “I never considered golf course maintenance as an occupation, but once I did it, I loved it.”

After graduating with degrees in sociology and psychology from Lenior-Rhyne College in North Carolina, Shuford took a trip up the East Coast watching baseball games and playing golf.

“I played at a course on Long Island and spoke with the superintendent,” he said. “I told him I really loved golf course maintenance and asked him if I needed to go back to school for it.”

The superintendent responded, wisely, “Do you think you can talk to a blade of grass and get it to grow?” Shuford got the message and went on to the University of Massachusetts, receiving a degree in turf management.

After working at Atlantic Golf Club in Bridgehampton for eight years and at Island Hills Golf Club in Sayville for almost three years, Shuford landed at Laurel Links where he has been for the past decade.

Shuford continues to educate himself in his field by attending conferences, taking continuing education classes and reading trade publications. “The day I stop learning I might as well just pack it up,” he said. “If I think I know everything, I’m done.”

When Bill is not working, which isn’t too often, you can find him spending time with his wife, Patricia, and sons, Liam, Ryan and Tyler. The Weather Channel is a constant in the Shuford household along with reruns of “Seinfeld.”

Shuford ended our chat with a statement which summed up why the course conditions at Laurel Links are phenomenal. “I welcome input from our members,” he said. “When someone tells me how great the condition of the course is, it makes me work that much harder to make it even better.”

TEE TIMES Island’s End Golf and Country Club professional Ed Burfeindt qualified for the New York State Open, shooting a 71 at The Hamlet in Mount Sinai. Burfeindt finished tied for 11th place in a field of almost 100 players. The finals will be held at Bethpage Black in July. … Cherry Creek Golf Links in Riverhead will hold junior player development programs this summer. Age groups vary with programs available to both experienced and inexperienced players. Contact Vince Scheraldi at (631) 369-6500 for information.

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