I was standing in the lunch buffet line at Woodmont Country Club in Rockville, MD (great crab cakes as I recall), during a USGA seminar back in 1995. In only the second year of TurfNet's existence and knowing very few people in the room, I was surprised when a tall, distinguished-looking fellow about my age approached me and stuck out his hand. "Hello, Peter, I'm Walter Montross," he said in his characteristic deep voice. "I just wanted to tell you that I enjoy TurfNet very much."
So began a professional relationship and personal friendship that lasted 25 years until yesterday — Easter Sunday and in any normal year, Masters Sunday — when Walter passed away after an almost four-year battle with a rare form of melanoma. He leaves his wife of 38 years, Linda (a retired high school Latin teacher), daughter Tracy (an executive with American Airlines in Charlotte, NC), son Geoff (head golf professional at TPC Potomac at Avenel), and two grandchildren.
Walter and Geoff attended the TurfNet trip to Bandon Dunes in 2012, as Walter noted in a subsequent email, "Very much enjoyed our trip. The hospitality was special, the golf was magnificent and time spent with my son was priceless."
A Maryland native who graduated from the University of Maryland in 1975, Walter was a golf course superintendent in the Mid-Atlantic area for 40+ years. He started under Lee Dieter, CGCS. at Washington Golf & Country Club (Arlington, VA), then went to Springfield (VA) G&CC for eleven years, and in 1990 moved to Westwood Country Club in Vienna, VA until he retired in 2011.
Lee Dieter recalled, "Walter supervised the building a state of the art maintenance building at Westwood, and was put in charge of supervising the construction of a new clubhouse. While doing all this supervision he still maintained a spotless and well maintained course. He was a true credit to our profession."
Also during his tenure at Westwood Country Club, Walter hired an innovative equipment technician with a large personality and a penchant for videography. He subsequently introduced us to Hector Velazquez and the rest, as they say, is history. Hector went on to film almost 100 video segments for TurfNetTV under the Hector's Shop banner.
Active in industry associations, Walter earned his CGCS status in 1984, was one of the first Americans to earn Master Greenkeeper (MG) status from BIGGA in 2000, and was also a member of the Canadian GSA. He served on the Mid-Atlantic chapter board for 12 years (including president in 1989 and 1999), and received the Virginia chapter's President's Lifetime Service Award in 2006.
Only six months older than I am, Walter and I compared notes over the years via email or an annual phone call on subjects ranging from retirement strategies to mental health to building a home. We also made sure to connect at Beer & Pretzels every year. Walter always made a point to ask about my family.
In the years leading up to his retirement, Walter and Linda built their dream to-be-retirement home in Heathsville, VA, on the Chesapeake Bay, where Walter could pursue his love of fishing, boating, crabbing and an occasional Silver Bullet. He joined the Coast Guard Auxiliary and rose to the rank of Flotilla Commander.
Shortly after moving to the Northern Neck, Walter sent me the following email and photo:
"I recently had a bunch of 'old' superintendents down to visit and spend a day on a charter fishing trip. The back story is that around 50 years ago these gentlemen were the first college graduates from turf schools to move into the Washington, DC area. There was even an old Washington Post article announcing them as the 'Young Lions' of the industry. In the mid 1960s they would get together every Tuesday and go charter fishing out of Chesapeake Beach, MD. This continued until the late 1980s when some moved away and others retired. I worked for Mike and Lee and joined the group in 1979 when I became a superintendent. I polled each one about the length of their careers and you are looking at 357 years of service to the golf industry."
Early in 2019 Walter shared with me some of the details of his cancer affliction, and retirement.