Heart superintendents grab media's attention
Editors Note: For 10 years, the Heart of America Golf Course Superintendents Association has conducted an annual media day event where Kansas City-area media pair up with chapter members to participate in a scramble format tournament. The event features a continental breakfast, golf, a lunch buffet and a brief presentation to the media by a chapter member, GCSAA official or other special guest. Hosted by Todd Bohn, GCSAA superintendent member at Creekmoor Golf Club in Raymore, Mo., this year's event brought immediate and continuing media coverage. The media day is just one of several activities the chapter conducts to position itself with the media, employers and avid golfers. Other events include an annual historic cemetery clean-up, a weekly radio program and various media placements. The following account of media day was presented by the Kansas Golf Association online magazine, Kansas Golfer.
The Heart of America Chapter of the Golf Course Superintendents Association held its annual Media Day recently at the new Creekmoor Golf Club in Raymore, Mo (May 12). The venue just happens to be a new stop on the KGA Senior Series schedule later this season and hosted a U.S. Open local qualifier two days after local media invaded for the superintendent event.
The Heart, which includes members from many Kansas courses, some from as far west as Hutchinson, invites various regional media representatives each spring for a day of free golf and free food (always big sellers for media types). And we're talking nice courses. Stops have included Overland Park's Deer Creek, Basehor's Falcon Lakes and Kansas City's Shoal Creek in recent years.
A speaker or presentation on a golf course superintendent-related topic is usually included in the day's outing, and depending on how technical it gets, media members usually stay tuned in long enough to get something out of the discussion. Face it, golf media, those not employed by GCSAA anyway, have little or no interest in basal root rot, PH levels or pythium blight. And that, to varying degree, probably represents the average golfer's interest in those topics as well.
The one thing HAGCSA Media Day does is put turf professionals in front of people who can write and/or film/tape stories about the good things these highly trained professionals are doing these days for the world of golf and just how important superintendents are in the giant scheme of things.
"The purpose of this day is to try to raise the profile of the golf course superintendent in the eyes of the media and show them what we do, in these kinds of events and then in everything we do every day at our club," says Steve Wilson, superintendent at Meadowbrook Country Club in Prairie Village. "In front of our members or customers, what ever the case may be, it's important to raise the superintendent's profile as an essential member of the facility."
The gathering gives area superintendents a chance to let "the unsung heroes" of the game provide media a chance to croon a little. Wilson says he thinks that's important, especially when it comes to the casual golfer.
"I think people in golf have known that for a long time, but just getting the casual golfer or the casual member to understand what we do is a big part of that," he said.
To some degree, the media has taken notice over the last several years. Those covering many of golf's biggest events, including tournaments contested in Kansas and the Kansas City area, have, at the GCSAA's urging, called on the golf course superintendent's prospective and that benefits the profession.
"That's a role I think superintendents fill more and more," Wilson says. "When we have events here in town, whether it's the ladies of the Duramed Futures Tour or the Senior Tour that used to be here, you see those superintendents doing radio interviews and on TV a lot more than you used to and that's kind of the goal and that's something the GCSAA's helped out with a lot."
Behind the scenes
Fading into the background is a hurdle the profession has been trying to clear since the days Old Tom Morris first started worrying about how the grass was growing on the Old Course. Golf professionals, club administrators and even bag boys and cart girls often carry a much higher profile on the course.
"There are a lot of times that our GMs and our club professionals are the face that everybody sees as they come into the golf course," says Gary Breshears, former superintendent at Kansas City's Hillcrest Country Club and now a sales rep at Kansas City Turf Supply. "But the reason (golfers) are really there is because of the work the golf course superintendent does. So you really have to try to get people to understand exactly what it is that you do and exactly how important your role is to the golf course's success."
Breshears added even the most talented golf course administrators cannot be successful if the course isn't "up to par."
"You can have the greatest GM in the world and the best golf pro on the planet, but if your golf course is not well taken care of and you don't have a high-quality superintendent, it just doesn't matter," he says. "It really comes down to, if the (players) are going to come back, it's because of the golf course."
Breshears says Media Day is a chance for members of the profession to put a name with a face and that might help down the line.
"When you come back to these events, if you see somebody, it's a recognition thing," he said. "It's like ‘Hey, how are you doing?' You've at least opened an avenue for the media to at least have a good contact with you. I think that's important."