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John Reitman

By John Reitman

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2013 SOY finalist: Matt Gourlay, CGCS

2013 Superintendent of the Year finalist

Matt Gourlay, CGCS, Colbert Hills, Manhattan, Kansas

a9471e0128285737f275eb19ffa8cdd8-.jpgEach year, Colbert Hills is ranked among the best public golf courses in Kansas. According to many of the golfers who play there, Matt Gourlay, CGCS, is big reason they hold the course in such high regard.

 

Gourlay not only keeps the course in Manhattan, Kan., in championship condition throughout the playing season, he does so with a budget and staff that would make operators at some mom-and-pop facilities blush. He also is recognized by members for his selfless dedication to the facility where he has been known to pinch hit behind the counter in the golf shop and for his ability to manage the course in a way that matches playability with environmental stewardship and sustainability.

 

For his efforts, Gourlay has been named as a finalist for the 2013 TurfNet Superintendent of the Year Award presented by Syngenta.

 

"It is well known that Colbert Hills has won many awards for environmental, conditioning, training, turfgrass research and the development of future golf course superintendents," said Gourlay's father, David, general manager and chief operating officer of Lakewood Country Club in Westlake, Ohio.

 

"It is an honor for me to make a recommendation for Matt Gourlay for TurfNet Superintendent of the Year. Truth be told, Matt should have been recommended each year for the past seven years."

 

The Superintendent of the Year Award winner will be named Feb. 6 at the Golf Industry Show in Orlando, Fla.

 

Colbert Hills is home to dozens of tournaments each year, including, including collegiate tournaments hosted by the men's and women's golf teams from nearby Kansas State University. 

 

"We strive to have Colbert Hills in tournament ready condition every day as we host over 65 tournaments yearly," Matt Gourlay said. 

 

And he does so with comparatively modest resources.

 

Gourlay has a humble annual budget of about $550,000, and he spends about 27 percent ($150,000) of that on irrigation water, according to professional golfer Jim Colbert, the course's namesake and architect. And he maintains the course with a crew that includes a full-time assistant superintendent and a makeshift crew comprised of Kansas State turf students. Although the students bring a certain amount of expertise to Colbert Hills, the staff has a high rate of turnover as students enter and leave the school.

 

Still, Gourlay spends a great deal of energy helping to further the career of others. He teaches at regional turf conferences and 28 of his former employees have gone on to become a superintendent or assistant superintendent at other courses.

 

"I have had at least 50 superintendents in my employ over the last 25 years, and I would put Matt Gourlay at the head of the class," Colbert said in his nomination. "This year Matt, did a great job of restoring Colbert Hills to its top form . . . He did all of this with a total budget of $550,000, and $150,000 was for water - a remarkable feat in this part of the country. Those numbers are well below the norm for just daily maintenance and he has done all of this with a makeshift of talented but part time staff. His dedication to Colbert Hills is unparalleled."

 

Although Gourlay's agronomic and management skills have helped make Colbert Hills one of the premier golf destinations in Kansas, he selflessly lends his expertise to other departments throughout the property.

 

Besides managing the maintenance facility, Gourlay goes above beyond the normal call of duty for a superintendent by sometimes selling merchandise and tee times in the golf shop, and cooking, tending bar and even washing dishes in the restaurant.

 

"Making our golf clientele's experience at Colbert Hills memorable," he said, "is my main priority."

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