Gene Westmoreland knows how to throw a party but you can be sure that he won’t break any rules in doing so. As assistant executive director and Senior Director of Rules and Competition of the Metropolitan Golf Association, Westmoreland oversees nearly 80 regional amateur golf tournaments per year. He’s also an enthusiast about the rules of the game of golf.
Westmoreland uses his passion for the sport of golf and his vast personal knowledgebase of golf information to teach future superintendents in a class at Rutgers Professional Golf Turf Management School called “How to Prepare Your Course to Host an Event.”
“The best way to learn is to teach,” said Westmoreland. “Some questions that students may think are very rudimentary help me in my ability to explain it to a group. So I enjoy the opportunity. Superintendents are one of my favorite groups in golf and I get a thrill when I’m out and meet people who say ‘Oh, I was in your class at Rutgers.’ There have been half a dozen or so guys already and as years go by they’ll be more and more. I get a kick out that.”
Even having been with the Metropolitan Golf Association (MGA) for nearly 30 years Westmoreland still “feels a tremendous sense of satisfaction at the conclusion of each and every MGA event – from junior tournaments and qualifiers right on through to the majors. When an event is a success, I know it – whether anyone says anything or not. It makes me feel good when all the effort that goes into planning results in a good event.”
Admittedly, Westmoreland teaches his students that the key to tournament success is planning. “For a superintendent to be part of a successful event preparation before the event is the key. Ask questions, know who is playing – because it not simply another day of golf. You do not want to be surprised on the day of the event to learn that it is a qualifying round for the U.S. Open you are hosting as opposed to a local seniors tournament and that can happen if the only information you are provided with is 'tournament today' on the club calendar. A smart superintendent should want to know who is playing, how many players there will be, what time they plan to start along with other important details."
"I don’t know how a superintendent could properly prepare to host an event without all of this information and preparing without details has led to some embarrassing mistakes – like green speed and hole locations worthy of the U.S. Open when the club was hosting a club managers event."
Having worked closely with golf course superintendents for many years, Westmoreland is aware of the complexities of their job and the increasing complexity of their responsibilities. “No longer is the superintendent simply a greenskeeper but rather a sophisticated manager in charge of the club’s most valuable asset. Superintendents must be conversant with today’s employment and environmental laws, control a large budget and staff while staying on top of technical changes and they must be articulate and able to deal with an upscale membership and board,” said Westmoreland. They should also know, at least, some basic rules of the game. “I think that the golf course superintendent’s credibility is enhanced when he has a knowledge about the rules. So that when he’s talking to the club champion or the golf committee and they’re talking about something that involves the rules of golf…and he is not totally ignorant…I think he’s putting himself in more a professional position when he understands the rules of golf,” said Westmoreland.
The Rutgers program teaches students what they will need to be golf course superintendents of the future. “I’m impressed, number one by the numbers [of students] that are here year after year. Clearly the business keeps changing. It’s a complicated business now and the superintendent has to be on top of all those things. Records keeping, budgeting, personnel development and supervision, dealing with members, public speaking, writing, the ability to write and communicate with members. The Rutgers program is geared to prepare them to be a better superintendent,” said Westmoreland.