The Ryder Cup was many things to many people, but for me it was the opportunity to see something up close that I have thought about a great deal. This blog has touched on many things and has hopefully created a balanced framework for many of us to look toward. But it wasn't until I got to spend a week at Hazeltine with Chris Tritabaugh and his crew, that I finally found what I have been searching for: a truly Mindful Superintendent.
Chris embodies all of the traits that one would aim for if one chooses to work mindfully in this industry. Those of us lucky enough to be behind the scenes working turf at the Ryder Cup were treated to an experience that we may not fully appreciate for a long time.
I finally found what I have been searching for: a truly Mindful Superintendent..."
Below you will find a few of the characteristics that we were truly blessed to see and experience firsthand:
Humility - if you didn't know who Chris was, you would never have known he was in charge. His simple dress code, calm demeanor, and unassuming nature were so refreshing. He was always quick to give the credit to his staff and kudos to anyone but himself.
Graciousness - Even before we walked the course for the first time, Chris took the time to introduce every member of his crew and every one of the 100 volunteers, personally. Not only that, he made a personal connection with each one of us. It was masterful.
Throughout the week Chris was always quick to return a compliment with a follow up thank you (see @ct_turf
if you think that I'm lying). Every time one of us thanked Chris or any one of his crew for allowing us the opportunity to work alongside them, they quickly deferred and thanked us more.
Vision & Intention - Chris's vision for this event extended far beyond the turf and the golf course. He and his team attended to every detail of the volunteer experience and made sure we all had the best possible time together. He mentioned time and time again that he had seen everything that was to happen years before in his mind's eye, and they simply set about to make it a reality.
Processes - Even through the crew exuded a humble facade, you knew they had worked hard to perfect their procedures for each task. But the best part was that they still deferred to the professional volunteers if necessary and never stopped trying to improve all week.
Leadership - Continuously though out the week Chris talked about the fact that he leans on his staff a great deal and expects them to be leaders in their own right. He is the antithesis of the micro manager; he is a true delegator. This mentality breeds leaders.
...he leans on his staff a great deal and expects them to be leaders in their own right."
You could see this confidence in the eyes of Hazeltine's assistants, interns, and staff. They knew that they had been given full rein to create the conditions necessary for this event to succeed, and they knocked it out of the park.
Staying Grounded - One of the best parts of the experience for all of us was having Chris's friends and family surrounding us all week. From our shuttle drivers, to the video crew capturing the volunteer experience (yes, they thought of that as well), to keeping the volunteer lounge rolling along, it was awesome to have that personal connection with those that matter most to Chris. Big shout out to his wife Lindsay, daughters Penelope & Olive (who made an amazing anniversary banner for their mom & dad), sister Emily, and brother Adam, and parents John and Laurie for making the volunteer lounge feel like home.
Moments of Zen - Now I am not sure if Chris specifically sets aside time for any kind of formal meditation (although that would not surprise me in the least), but I do know that he walks the grounds at Hazeltine constantly. One can only assume that his moments of silence and reflection come often during those strolls (plus he takes care of his physical health at the same time).
Grace under pressure - If you did not know that the Ryder Cup was going on at Hazeltine (it was kinda hard to miss), you would have thought it was just another day for Chris and his staff. The calming effect that had on everyone volunteering was amazing.
Fun, Fun, Fun - Chris said early during the orientation that our main goal during the week was to have fun. We all knew that there was a job to do, but we also knew that we were there to enjoy the moment. The team atmosphere was infectious and by week's end we had created bonds that will last forever.
As I sit back and reflect on the week at Hazeltine, I am constantly surprised that I remember so much more than the turf, golf, and the crowds. Don't get me wrong, the turf was unbelievable, the golf epic, and the crowds well, they were crowds. But for me the most memorable moments happened far beyond the glare of the cameras and the roar of the boisterous fans. They are ones of friendship, connection, and being a part of something far greater than the Ryder Cup.
But for me the most memorable moments happened far beyond the glare of the cameras and the roar of the boisterous fans. They are ones of friendship, connection, and being a part of something far greater than the Ryder Cup..."
So once again, thank you Chris Tritabaugh. Thanks to your assistants and team leaders Ryan, Red, Steve, Keith, and Scott. Your mechanics, Ralph and Thomas, and all rest of your crew; Giovanni Pina Avalos, Joseph Brettingen, Tanner Burns, Omar Retamoza Clolico, Amado J Cortex, Matthew Darby, Thomas Day, Roger Denning, Michael Fremming, Jose A Garcia, Ignacio Miranda Garcia, James Gay, Lillia Vences Guillen, Herman Haag, Blair Hawkins, Robert Horoka, Michael Kantor, Gerald Klooster, Aaron Koller, Richard Kruger, Trevor McGuire, Christita Melander, Jesus Chicatto Mendez, Kevin Milbrant, Steve Miller, James Mirick, David Nestberg, Connor Payett, Doug Pernula, Thomas Radke, Martin Richardson, Thomas Roble, Javier Gonzalez Robles, Jack Roiger, Mitchell Ronning, Bradley Schuler, Nathan Shultenover, Glenn Shull, John Shelton, Paul Weatherly, Peter Braun, and Simon Winzar.
Thanks also to all the volunteers and people that helped behind the scenes to make our week enjoyable. Special thanks to all of the volunteer superintendents and assistants from the Minnesota area and around the world for sharing not only the experience, but your knowledge and wisdom.