A few days ago, I heard about a course in Georgia that received 500 applications for a superintendent position. That's some serious competition, the same kind of numbers one would find trying to survive the selection process for an elite special ops unit in the American military.
There's a secret to succeeding against those odds and I know what it is. I witnessed the brutal attrition rate of the aforementioned selection process several times and eventually realized the one trait that all the successful candidates had in common, the secret they knew: They wanted it bad.
To be a GCS in the future, that's what it's going to take. You will have to want it bad. Really bad. I'm talking serious, driven by an inner force, accept nothing else, never give up kind of wanting it bad.
The numbers are against you, unless:
(a) You know somebody
(b) You are amazing, a rising star
© You worked at a big-time course that hosted a major
(d) You know somebody and are amazing
(e) You have the tenacity of a pit bull
My Dad used to stand on his soapbox and rail about how all the scholarship giving and telling kids to become golf course superintendents would come back one day and bite us.
Too late to do anything about that now, let's solve what is currently facing us and that is a dwindling supply of GCS jobs. If you fit the "really want it bad" category, then by all means, drive on, young man, drive on. On the other hand, perhaps you want to explore your options, maybe form a contingency plan . . . or two.
If that's the case, look up at the top of the TurfNet page and click on the TurfNet Sports tab. Might be a whole new career waiting over there for you. Some of the biggest names in Sports Turf Management are already over there, the heavyweights that manage the playing surfaces of the NFL, MLB, college athletic facilities and parks departments.
Sports turf looks pretty interesting to me. It might be just as competitive as golf, but I would bet there are more athletic fields out there needing highly trained, skilled turf managers than golf courses. If athletic facilities at every level aren't currently looking for sports turf experts, my guess is they soon will be, due to the litigious nature of modern times and parents enthusiastically supporting youth sports to offset couch lock.
Another point to consider in the age myth. There are incredibly stupid green committees, owners and general managers out there that actually believe a GCS is finished at fifty years of age. (Either that or the lure of hiring a much younger person for a major cut in salary is a temptation too strong for office jocks to resist.)
I have long been a believer in the Three Phase Career Shift, especially when combined with a positive attitude and a pragmatic approach to change. It also helps to have confidence in your own ability to execute an evolutionary career adaptation.
My brother Mike, when closing in on 50, took his GCS skills and transferred to the sod industry. (Along the way, he rediscovered the game of golf.) Michael Stachowicz, a very reputable, skilled and articulate golf course superintendent, took his grasp of turf science and moved into a high level slot managing turf for the US government.
Check out TurfNet Sports. Meet a few of the guys over there. Even if there are big numbers applying for the jobs, all it takes is to want it really bad. Oh, and it always helps to know somebody. Just don't tell 'em you know me and Buddy.