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John Reitman

By John Reitman

After 44 years, retiring tech credits Indiana club's family atmosphere


Steve Ott has been the equipment manager at Elcona Country Club for 44 years.

Like so many other golf course operations throughout the country, Elcona Country Club in Indiana has not been immune to the labor crunch that grips the industry. 

One job superintendent Ryan Cummings has not had to worry about was that of equipment manager. Not until recently, anyway.

Steve Ott, equipment manager at Elcona CC in Bristol, Indiana, is retiring this year after 44 years on the job.

"We just all get along here. It's like a family," Ott said. "And everybody here works great together."

Ott, 69, arrived at Elcona in 1978. Then, Grease was No. 1 at the box office, Night Fever by the BeeGees was near the top of the Billboard Top 100 list, the average cost of a gallon of gas was 63 cents and a home $54,000. In that time, Ott has worked under five different superintendents, including current greenkeeper Ryan Cummings.

"When I started here nine years ago, there were six employees here with over 25 years of experience," Cummings said. "It's just a family atmosphere in the shop. I try to improve on that and keep that culture going."

He will stay on for several weeks before riding off into retirement as Elcona's first new equipment manager in nearly a half-century learns his way around the operation.

Ott's plans for retirement include traveling with wife Barbara and spending time with his grandchildren.

"Hanging out with the grandkids, that's what I usually do," Ott said. "How many do I have? Let's see, nine, I believe."

Ott is a self-trained mechanic who learned his way around engines as a kid while helping his dad, who worked at a local northern Indiana paper mill and liked tinkering with cars. Before he arrived at Elcona, Ott worked in a gas station and owned one for a while.

When I started here nine years ago, there were six employees here with over 25 years of experience. It's just a family atmosphere in the shop. I try to improve on that and keep that culture going.

He got his start in golf during high school raking bunkers and mowing fairways at a handful of golf courses around the Elkhart area, which is the RV capital of America. He took those skills to Elcona after getting out of the gasoline business.

"I raked sticks my first day. There had just been a big storm come through," Ott said. "I just worked my way up from there."

Throughout his time at Elcona, Ott has been more than an equipment manager. He also works every day on the golf course when he is not busy in the shop repairing something. His day might also include mowing fairways and roughs and serving as irrigation tech or whatever else Cummings needs.

"He has a wide range of experience at all sorts of jobs out there," Cummings said. "There is not a job on the golf course he has not done or could not figure out in 10 minutes."

Spending time out on the golf course on a regular basis helps Ott when he is working in the shop, as well.

"He takes a lot of pride in the product we produce," Cummings said. 

"Being out on the golf course two or three days a week, he has a good eye on what he has to adjust so it works better out in the field."

Still, it is Ott's skill as an equipment manager that has made him so valuable for so long, especially when it comes to fabricating tools to help Cummings and his team do their jobs more efficiently.

When Cummings needed a way to transport pumps efficiently and easily throughout the golf course to drain water from bunkers into sump pits, Ott transformed old, unused walk mow trailers into pump trailers, with a hook to roll up hoses.

"I told him what I needed, and within four hours he had one made," Cummings said, "It's nothing fancy, but it does the job we need it to do. He's probably made 30 things that make our job on the golf course easier every day."

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