Once upon a time, I got fired on Christmas Day. . . by a mean, grizzled old course owner who waited until I had performed three years worth of course upgrades and redesigns in one year, increased rounds played by 300% and tripled the stimpmeter reading from 2.5 to 7 feet... and then she fired me on Christmas Day, fully aware that my wife was nine months pregnant.
But, hey, it turned out good. If that hadn't happened, the chain of events that led to my learning I was a crew management genius would never have occurred and the page you are reading would be blank. Now when I say crew management genius', I'm not boasting, because I didn't possess the other skills one needed to become one of the greats in the GCS business, but you work with what you have... and I had the ability to handle really bad crews. Over a couple of decades I had handled psychopaths, LSD crazed maniacs, murderers, serial killers, bank robbers... once, our entire crew was on loan from the Federal Pen in Atlanta... meth heads, golfers, rapists of all types, kidnappers, dog kickers and even a stockbroker.
Over a couple of decades I had handled psychopaths, LSD crazed maniacs, murderers, serial killers, bank robbers... once, our entire crew was on loan from the Federal Pen in Atlanta... meth heads, golfers, rapists of all types, kidnappers, dog kickers and even a stockbroker.
It was back to college and the wonderful world of academia when my brother Mike called and asked me to come to his course and help with a project, a part-time job rebuilding 40 greenside valve complexes. It sounded like fun... especially if I had no actual superintendent responsibilities... so I began the project, aided by a young fellow I selected from Mike's crew to help me dig.
My new helper was soft and given to endless whining, which I'm positive he was relying on to ensure his release from excavation duty, particularly when he found out I intended to dig forty big, deep, dry holes. (I like em dry.) So after a week of nonstop whining, Mike decided to give my helper, whom I had given the temporary name of Princess, a new moniker on the assignment blackboard to help toughen him up. So Princess became Shy-Thead. Mike explained it was Cherokee for "Great Warrior", an honor bestowed only upon the top crew worker. From that day forward Shy-Thead beamed with pleasure and pounded his chest with a fist while shouting, "I am Shy-Thead!"
We were about twenty valve rebuilds into the project when fate intervened and I was summoned to the shop to answer a phone call... no cell phones yet... a superintendent job offer, starting immediately.
I was horrified and quickly fabricated an excuse involving deportation or teleportation or one of those and happily returned to gluing PVC and Iron Ductile Rube Goldberg creations while regaling Shy-Thead with stories of army basic training and how it could cure him of whinitis.
A few days later, another call came, this time from Karen White, the Executive Director of the Georgia Supts. Association. Because I respected Karen and her work, I was polite and told her, gently, that I was not interested. Karen insisted I interview for the Sugar Creek job, a wreck of a muni split down the middle by I-285. I declined, stating I was familiar with the aforementioned swamp, having been on the crew that built it as well as doing hard time as an assistant there for two long years.
The following day, Karen called again, this time armed with new strategy. Her exact words were: "Randy, I know you aren't interested, but I forgot to tell you that Sugar Creek has the reputation for the worst crew in Georgia. They locked the last superintendent in his office and he only lasted a few weeks."
"I'll take it," I answered, and raced off to Sugar Creek.
Because the Sugar Creek crew was protected by a merit system modeled after the old East German Stasi, I could not fire even the most worthless crew member for any infraction short of killing the Queen. My irrigation tech, missing for 165 days, filed charges of harassment against me for calling him at home, just to see if he existed. One equipment operator took eight hours to rake 25 small bunkers every day because his technique involved reading religious material while idling in the bunker. Any attempt to alter this situation landed me in a hearing, on various charges, listening to the crew describe me as Captain Bligh and a master of psychological torture. Apparently the operator wasn't allowed to touch a pig and I had installed steering wheel grips made of old footballs.
The only solution was to utilize lessons from my time at the JFK Center for Special Warfare at Fort Bragg, the most applicable being the Divide and Conquer method.
I sent the crew out on their assignments, while holding back the bunker rake shaman and instructing him to wait for me in the break room. I made sure the television in the break room was in good working order and I left him there for three days.
The crew began to resent him, especially his bragging about how he had it made, and soon they were threatening to cut off his head. The following week, they tried to make good on their promise.
Their solidarity was gone and they began to inform on one another. The resignations came fast and furious.
At this point, using another method verboten by the Stasi, I promoted the irrigation tech up and out, to a position at the very headquarters that chewed me out for cruelty to him. Months later, when they called to complain, I could only respond with evil madman laughter.
Things smoothed out. There were still difficult moments, of course; snakes thrown on my desk, punches thrown at my face, the occasional gun waving, but before long, Sugar Creek boasted radically improved efficiency reports.
I currently teach advanced crew management methods specifically aimed at golf maintenance; watch the video entitled "Taming of the Crew" to become certified in these procedures. Watch it twice and you can put MOG in your job title. (Mystic Order of Greenkeepers)
Oh, and on a side note: Back at Mike's course, near the end of that fateful summer, Shy-Thead was watching as the elder crew members studied the blackboard with great intensity.
"What are ya'll looking at?" asked Shy-Thead.
Ed, a senior crewman, unhooked his thumbs from his overalls and pointed at the boy's blackboard nickname. "You know, boy, if you look at that just right..."
After a long moment's hesitation, "Ahhhhh! They've been calling me... all summer! All summer!"