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John Reitman

By John Reitman

Superintendent of the Year finalist: Ryan Gordon, The Club at Snoqualmie Ridge, Snoqualmie, Washington


Ryan Gordon has turned his hearing loss into a positive by focusing on communication at The Club at Snoqualmie Ridge.

Ryan Gordon likens his career to the disease triangle. The host is his personality, the pathogen is the collection of life experiences he has encountered, and the environment was a matter of him being in the right place at the right time, which included his time at Oregon State studying under Tom Cook and Brian MacDonald.

soygordonmug.jpgWhen checking the boxes for criteria on which nominees are judged for TurfNet Superintendent of the Year, Gordon meets most of them.

He works to further the careers of his employees at The Club at Snoqualmie Ridge, provides tournament-ready conditions daily for members and an annual Tour event, deals with all the unexpected headaches that arise on a daily basis, manages the local environment to ensure the club is a sound environmental neighbor in the Seattle area.

That he does so facing the communications challenges he does is nothing short of amazing.

"My philosophy for managing turf is very similar to how I approach my relationships with people," Gordon said. "I seek to create a sustainable, continually improved upon operation with smart, repeatable systems in place that provide consistent conditions for our members and their guests."

Superintendent at Snoqualmie Ridge since 2012, Gordon was born with a 90-percent hearing loss that makes communication much more of a challenge and his accomplishments much more significant. For his accomplishments at Snoqualmie Ridge, Gordon was named one of five finalists for the 2019 TurfNet Superintendent of the Year Award, presented by Syngenta.

One of the biggest challenges for superintendents in the Pacific Northwest can be water. There are times of the year when there is far too much it, and other times where there is not nearly enough. Drainage was added throughout the course to ensure that the course stays dry when rain is plentiful, and added quick couplers to keep the turf alive when water is scarce.

The end result has been a reduction in water use of at least 15 percent.

Ryan is a servant leader that is always willing to help out across all departments at the club or anyone who may reach out that needs it.

Communicating effectively at Snoqualmie Ridge requires a different approach to some tasks, including mowing practices.

"Ryan expanded the yardage book of the club and made it an agronomy guide of the do's and don'ts of the maintenance department," wrote Dean Miller, vice president of agronomy for Arcis Golf, the Dallas company that owns the club. “It details out mowing patterns and how to get to areas of the golf course and allows them to verbally communicate while also giving the team members a visual on where and how to get the job done. First of its kind that I have ever seen and has proven to be a great tool for the club."

Gordon's hearing impairment is something that he, his team and everyone else he works alongside at Snoqualmie Ridge have learned to overcome through utilizing non-verbal communications technology like Google Docs, the use of assistive-listening devices, some sign language and Gordon's own mad lip-reading skills. In fact, effective communication is such a non-issue that when pro golf's senior circuit tees off next week at Snoqualmie Ridge, no one who knows Gordon or is in anyway affiliated with the Boeing Classic will give his hearing - or lack of it - a second thought.

"Ryan is a servant leader that is always willing to help out across all departments at the club or anyone who may reach out that needs it," Miller said. "Ryan lives by the 5 P’s – Perfect Planning Prevents Poor Performance – and pulls it off on a daily basis. He is one of the best in the business."

In a story that appeared on TurfNet last summer, Ryan Ingalls, operations manager for the Boeing Classic, an annual Champions Tour event played at Snoqualmie Ridge, said: "I would say I've never met anyone who cared for a golf course more than Ryan does, and that bleeds out to other people."

Edited by John Reitman

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