When Liam Doherty, an assistant in training, nominated Kevin Seibel for the TurfNet Superintendent of the Year Award, he described him as an excellent teacher and mentor to his staff. A deeper look into Seibel's resume reveals a pedigree that explains his outlook on education and professional development.
Seibel, 45, has been superintendent at Century Golf Club in Harrison, New York for 14 years, and surviving the Met for that long alone should qualify for some sort of award. The time he spent on the job before joining this Westchester County club prepared him for almost anything and everything. He spent time working at Pine Valley while studying at Rutgers, and worked for Paul B. Latshaw, Greg Armstrong and Matt Shaffer all at Merion Golf Club.
"We're in the heart of the met. Expectations are high, and there is a lot of competition," Seibel said. "There are great courses and superintendents all around you in Westchester County."
That learning period early in Seibel's career was an amazing opportunity to grown, and he's tried to share what he learned then with his own assistants and crew.
"Early on in my career, I was allowed to do my own thing and make mistakes and learn from them. And that was a good experience for me," Seibel said.
"I guess I'm not afraid to let them make mistakes, within reason. If there is anything they are too nervous to do the first time by themselves, I stay with them and help with it. It's just grass. We can fix that."
For his expertise as a greenkeeper, personnel manager and educator, Seibel has been named a finalist for the TurfNet Superintendent of the Year Award, presented by Syngenta.
"Kevin has provided one of the greatest educational experiences a 20-year-old could ask for in the turf industry," Doherty said. "As a superintendent, he takes the time to engage with his staff in their lives inside and outside of work, showing a true compassion for those that compassion for the industry. Kevin never hesitates to tell you exactly why you are doing a greens application, why one pin position is better than another on certain days.
"But it is also more than teaching to him. It is like each of his assistants and interns are his favorite football team, the Eagles. He roots for you, he wants you to make decisions, he wants you to become a successful superintendent no matter what it is you want that success to be."
His expertise as a teacher comes in handy during projects, like an ongoing restoration of this 1927 Harry Colt-Charles Alison design near New York City.
The project, Seibel declined to call it a restoration, includes an aggressive tree-management plan.
The first nine holes of the Keith Foster-led project were completed after Labor Day 2016. The other nine will be completed after the 2017 golf season. Trees were removed before the first half of the project began.
"In 14 years, we've been taking a few trees here and there. We've been selectively taking them out where it was not noticeable," Seibel said. Anything around the greens that affects the turf, we've always had the green light to take those down. It's just evolved. So many other clubs in the area have gone on tree-removal plans and been successful. Keith came in and sold the members on it. He really sells it. He only does two to three projects a year, so each one is high on the priority list. If you hire him, that expertise comes with the territory."
Expertise comes with the territory when hiring Seibel, as well.
"The industry is really changing. There are fewer young people involved and going to turf school," Seibel said. "If we don't keep them in the fold and engages, they will go elsewhere.
"I like to develop my own assistants. I feel like I know the correct distance to keep so they can make mistakes but still be under some guidance from me. I tell them my door is always open. In fact, I need for them to ask me questions. That way, I know they are thinking about what they are doing and thinking about the process."