Jason Pierce (‘00) was tired of teaching guys making more money than him how to fix irrigation leaks on the golf course. Having grown up in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, right next to Blackhawk golf course, Pierce had truly been around golf courses his entire life. As soon as he was old enough to work, he was hired at Blackhawk and worked as part of the groundscrew from 1988 until 1995. In 1995, Pierce moved to Ocean City, Maryland and found work on the Eagles Landing golf course groundscrew. “I thought that hard work and dedication would mean advancement… I wanted to earn the respect that I deserve… but that’s not the way the business world works,” said Pierce. “You need that piece of paper [an education] in this industry.”
With that in mind, Pierce worked at courses in Ocean City for a couple years until he heard about a colleague who had recently graduated from the Rutgers Professional Golf Turf Management School and had immediately gotten an assistant superintendent position. That was enough for Pierce, who enrolled in the “local and highly respectable” Rutgers two-year certificate program in 1998.
In school, Pierce was impressed by the wide variety of golf course turf management subjects covered by the Rutgers program as well the no fluff approach. The classes were “golf course specific,” said Pierce. “This made it interesting. Rich Buckley was my most challenging instructor. He got the best out of us. Ned [Lipman's] class [Management and Communication] made us think. It gave us time to evaluate our management style which I believe is important,” said Pierce.
As to whether his theory of an education being necessary to advance in this industry was correct; Jason Pierce was getting golf course assistant job offers as early the middle of his first year of school. It was the “single hand most important thing that I did to jump-start my career and start moving forward,” said Pierce.
Now a golf course superintendent employed by Kemper Sports Management and working at Heron Glen Golf Club in Ringoes, New Jersey, Jason Pierce frequently comes back and gives talks at Rutgers. Now more aware of the value and prestige of education, he is also working on becoming a certified superintendent through the Golf Course Superintendent Association of America.