WHAT'S YOUR REACTION?

Andrew J. Jorgensen, CGCS

Director of Golf Course Maintenance Operations 

On Top of the World Communities

Ocala, FL

Interview with Matt Ward

 

 

INTRODUCTION —

Andrew Jorgensen, CGCS, has been named the recipient of the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America’s 2022 President’s Award for Environmental Stewardship.

Jorgensen, the director of golf course maintenance operations at On Top of the World Communities in Ocala, Fla., will officially receive the honor at the GCSAA Conference and Trade Show in San Diego in February.

The President’s Award for Environmental Stewardship was established in 1991 to recognize an exceptional environmental contribution to the game of golf; a contribution that further exemplifies the golf course superintendent’s image as a steward of the land.

The 22-year GCSAA member oversees course maintenance at three golf courses – Candler Hills Golf Club, The Tortoise & Hare and The Links, which are all part of On Top of The World Communities. Jorgensen has held this position since December 2005.

 

BACKGROUND —

I am 42 years old and serve as the Director of Golf Course Maintenance Operations for the previous 16 years.  I started in this industry at 16-years-old working at Honey Creek Country Club in Conyers, Georgia.

I am a two-time winner of the Environmental Leaders in Golf Award and past-President of the Florida Turfgrass Association and current President of the Florida Golf Course Superintendents Association.

 

THE JORGENSEN STORY —

Growing up as a member of a country club just down the road from our house propelled me into this industry. I spent my youth playing golf and really enjoyed the time spent outside. Manicuring and grooming the grounds became a passion and the Superintendent I worked for at the time encouraged me to pursue a career in this industry.

 

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You wake up in the morning — what’s the driving passion?

I love providing a product that can offer recreation and enjoyment to many others. This industry has allowed me to grow as an individual, a mentor and a leader. I have never felt like I was going to work, rather that I was following a passion I have for the game and the industry.

 

You’ve been a superintendent for a number of years — what’s the biggest misconception the general golfing public has in terms of what you and others like you in the profession do each day?

That we are polluters of the environment when really the opposite is true. The entire industry goes to great lengths to provide an exceptional product within the constraints of a budget. Golf courses, and turf in general, really are the greatest filters for the environment. There really is a science behind it.

 

You hear the words “sustainability” — what is the concise definition of the word when it comes to the operation of a golf facility in terms of turf preparation?

Sustainability to me means ensuring the operation has a continued legacy for the generations that come behind us. Whether it is employment for the surrounding community, or protecting the land and water resources so that minimal impact occurs. Without some form of sustainability, the operation would cease to exist.

 

Environmentalists have long viewed golf courses as a major infringement on the sanctity of land. Can common ground be found between those in the golf industry and those outside of it and if so, how?

I think we are making great progress with environmentalists as we continue to communicate our story. These groups are beginning to see we aren’t the bad guy anymore. In fact, the trend seems to be turning, albeit very slightly, that we want to protect the environment as much as they do. Afterall, we live here too.

 

Water usage on golf facilities is a major item of concern. Is the industry doing its utmost in conserving water or will it be necessary for government intervention and if that should happen what would be the consequences?

Golf course water usage has been trending downward for quite some time now. Golf courses also provide a perfect opportunity for the use of reclaimed water – something that was previously wasted. The use of reclaimed water in-turn reduces ground and surface water withdraws. We are already seeing governments impacting the operation through the use of reclaimed water, annual water usage permits and prioritizing conservation practices.

 

You visit a golf facility for the first time — what’s the first thing you notice?

Details! I was always taught that the first 100 yards you see when driving into the parking lot reflects how the rest of the golf course will be maintained. However, with budget and time constraints, I understand where this can be lower on the list of importance. That being said, take care of the obvious within your abilities.

 

You do a monthly contribution to a community newspaper. What was the genesis in doing that and how important do you see being for other superintendents to do similarly?

Honestly, the newspaper is owned by the guy that signs my paycheck, so it’s part of my responsibilities. However, it is a great way to get the word out on any projects we may have that could impact adjacent, non-golfing homeowners, as well as to communicate the environmental positives we do on a regular basis. The golf industry has a great story to tell, and I think this is one platform that is not geared specifically to golfers that helps with this.

 

You installed solar panels in 2011 at Candler Hills on top of the maintenance building. The savings have clearly been a big boost in a number of ways. Are other facilities doing similarly in Florida?

Our solar project has spawned other installations within our community, including a new pro shop, an entire neighborhood where solar is included with construction and a few other recreation centers. Since installation, we have had several other golf facilities nationwide reach out for more information. I even installed them on my own home in January of 2020.

 

During the pandemic it’s become clearly apparent that securing personnel has become an increasingly difficult situation. How have you fared and what strategies do you see being needed to get people interested in taking the various positions available?

Fortunately, we have had very minimal turnover even with the booming construction industry around us. I believe in treating people like you want to be treated, and this has created a fun and relaxing work atmosphere. When turnover does occur, our current employees are our greatest recruiters and we have been successful getting employee’s friends and family to join the ranks.

 

Related to that — what steps should superintendents take to avoid burnout?

Take time off and encourage your staff to do the same. It is amazing how even one day away is a great way to recharge and refresh. We strive to do our best to keep the workweek to 40 hours, and we don’t work to just work. There is always tomorrow, and if there isn’t, what’s the point of working today.

 

If you could change one thing in golf unilaterally — what would it be and why?

Golf course superintendents have always been known to have great camaraderie from helping the course down the street with a problem, to loaning out equipment during a breakdown. We bend over backwards to help out the competition. Unfortunately, you don’t see that much in the other parts of the operation. Undercutting pricing hurts all of us and there will be no winner.

 

Best advice you ever received – what was it and who was it from?

A few come to mind:

“Don’t expect anyone to do anything you wouldn’t do yourself” – my first employer, Ed Moore. “Take the vacation.” – current supervisor, Lynette Vermillion. “Inspect what you expect. Don’t assume it is being done to your liking.” –  from several people. And finally –delegate, delegate and delegate — from several people.