Taking Control: See What Good Leadership Can Do
When Ray Waddell became superintendent of Elmhurst Country Club in Moscow, PA, in 2005, the golf course was in bad shape. Large areas of the five greens were dead, memberships were down, and many members were embarrassed by the condition of the course. Luckily for Elmhurst, Waddell was acquiring technical skills and management expertise at the Rutgers Professional Golf Turf Management School that were necessary to turn things around. The course, now host of the prestigious Professional Golfers' Association (PGA) Northeast Pennsylvania Classic, wouldn’t be what it is today if it weren’t for Ray Waddell’s leadership.
Two-Year Turf Means Long-Term Success
Waddell began his turf career in 1998 at Glenn Oak Country Club in Waverly, PA. He started out
cutting grass and "really enjoyed the work," and he eventually worked on irrigation, obtained his pesticide license, and even became a crew leader. But when he applied for an assistant position at Glenn Oak, the Club told him he would need a formal turf education before he could move up into management.
Living in eastern Pennsylvania, Waddell considered receiving his turf certification from both Penn
State and the Rutgers University NJAES Office of Continuing Professional Education's (OCPE) Professional Golf Turf Management School. Rutgers offers Three Week and Two Year Certificates. The two year program runs for a total of twenty weeks, allowing students to work fulltime for nine months and attend two ten–week class sessions per year. This schedule accommodated Waddell's professional aspirations, and so he chose Rutgers.
After completing his first year of the two-year program, Waddell got a job as an assistant at Elmhurst. His assistantship didn't last long, though; with only half of his training completed and just four months under his belt, Waddell was quickly promoted to superintendent. Suddenly, getting the course that had seen better days back in shape was his responsibility.
A quality turf education is vital for superintendents, and Waddell was able to turn the course around using what he learned at Rutgers. "I thought that it [the program] was very practical. It was a pretty intense program," he says, recalling his instructors and the disease management section of the program as especially challenging. But the people he met in the program proved to be just as valuable as the information he was taught, and one instructor, Dr. Rich Hurley, has made a lasting impression on Waddell and his career.
Hurley first met Waddell while teaching in the program. "He was a good student and a nice person," Hurley says of Waddell, but they did not really get to know each other until the program had ended. Hurley was brought to Elmhurst as a consultant not long after Waddell finished at Rutgers, and together the two men worked to bring the tattered course back to life. Sound agronomic practices and four years of hard work have brought about extraordinary improvements to the course. "They [the greens committee] did see something in me, I guess, and it worked out great," Waddell says. "Right after I became superintendent…everyone noticed right away the difference in playing conditions."
Achieving PGA Approval
The improvements on the course came just in time for the PGA to take notice. The PGA was looking for a new place to hold the Northeast Pennsylvania Classic in Lackawanna County. "A lot of the players that play on the regular tour play on this tour," Hurley explains. "It's right up there, almost on par with the regular golf tour. So it's a big, big tournament." The PGA liked what they saw at Elmhurst, and the 2008 Classic was such "a big success" at its new location, it is returning to Elmhurst again in 2009 and 2010.
Hosting the tournament has been a wonderful experience for Waddell and for Elmhurst. It challenged his crew and refined their skills, increased exposure for the course, and brought more play to what was already the busiest private club in the area. Waddell continues to be grateful to Hurley, but the instructor gives all the credit to his former student: "This is not a 'high-end, lot-of-money' course. He didn't have big bucks to deal with. He turned this around on a shoe string, pretty much, and he did it with good, solid management and a lot of good decisions."
Elmhurst Country Club is located in Moscow, Pennsylvania. For information about
memberships, call 570-842-7691 or visit http://www.elmhurstcc.com.