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John Reitman

By John Reitman

Superintendent of the Year finalist: Pat O'Brien, Hyde Park G&CC

You know you have a big job when you are in charge of a $12 million construction project that includes nothing on the golf course.

011819obrien.jpgAs superintendent of grounds at Hyde Park Golf and Country Club, a Donald Ross classic on Cincinnati's fashionable east side, Pat O'Brien is putting the finishing touches on just such a project that has been five years in the making.

The project, which came in two phases, includes a new pool and baby pool, locker and restroom facilities for the pool area only, upgrades to the bar and restaurant at the pool area, ladies locker room, golf learning center building with four indoor hitting bays and outdoor chipping area and putting green, 160-foot outdoor artificial hitting surface, expanded praced range, new bunkered short game area, racquet sports facility, four paddle tennis courts, two pickleball courts, two hard surface tennis courts and four clay tennis courts.

All O'Brien was responsible for, according to a nomination letter for the 2018 TurfNet Superintendent of the Year Award, presented by Syngenta, by Hyde Park member Nick Spadaccini was coordinating with the contractor, developer, sub-contractors, members, architect and engineers; coordinating with golf course architect Tim Liddy regarding the design of and managing construction of the expanded practice range and short-game areas; managing all landscape design associated with all phases of the project; planning and construction of the racquet sports center;  and keeping the golf course open, immaculate and accessible through all of it.

And he had to do all of this in what many in the eastern half of the country would recall as one of the worst years for weather in recent memory.

Temperatures in Cincinnati were warmer than usual early in the year, and the city recorded the third-wettest February on record. The daytime high of 79 degrees on Feb. 20 was the hottest winter day in Cincinnati - EVER. Nearly 8 inches of rain pushed the massive Ohio River to a depth of 60.53 feet, 8 feet over flood stage. The following month, 10 inches of snow fell in March and another 3 in April - which is a lot considering the latter coincides with the start of baseball season and most golf courses are already in full swing. Furnace-like temperatures soon followed with the hottest May on record.

Summer endured until late October and finally gave way not to autumn, but temperatures more closely associated with winter.

An ice storm blanketed the city on Nov. 15, and many trees, still laden with leaves because of the absence of autumn, came crashing down on utility lines, wiping out electricity across a metropolitan area that is home to 2.1 million people.

You get the idea.

Because of the scope of the work, there were a lot of gray areas," O'Brien said. "We were called upon to fill gaps on things the subcontractors couldn't do.

"I've never been involved in a huge undertaking like this," said O'Brien, who earlier this year completed his path to U.S. citizenship (shown above right celebrating the moment with daughters Brynna and Maeve, U.S. federal judge Stephanie Bowman and wife Jen, left to right).

"We finally started in August 2017. We're just about finished. We are down to one structure; the cold storage building for equipment for the golf course, and that should be finished by mid-February."

Although O'Brien's responsibilities were spelled out in black and white, his duties were, at times, a bit more nebulous - in part because of challenges associated with the weather. Other times, the roadblocks were man made.

"Because of the scope of the work, there were a lot of gray areas," O'Brien said. "We were called upon to fill gaps on things the subcontractors couldn't do."

That included working with zoning officials when the city mandated additional fencing, landscaping and paving of maintenance parking areas during the project. Much of the work to meet city demands was completed in house, shaving about $88,000 off the cost of the project.

The project ground to a halt when drawings by the architects and engineers did not match, and subcontractors stopped working until there was a consensus on drawings, especially those on grading of tennis courts, sidewalks, patios and driveways. Only when O'Brien brought all parties together on nearly a daily basis did the project get back on track.

A year of record-breaking weather trends in 2018 complicated things even further on the construction project and managing the golf course, which O'Brien concedes he delegated almost entirely to his assistants Dan Lawendowski and Aaron Garrett.

"The best thing about work is the guys I work with. They are fantastic and they know what they are doing," O'Brien 

"The weather was awful this year, and they did a fantastic job running the golf course. They had to make a ton of decisions because the majority of my time was spent on the project. They made choices I didn't even know about until afterward. They made so many good decisions. They really nailed it, because it could have been an ugly year."

Edited by John Reitman

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