Leadership, financial management stressed at golf seminar

Courtesy Photo / gvsu.edu
The Meadoes Golf Course


Courtesy Photo / gvsu.edu The Meadoes Golf Course

Derek Wolff

They say the grass is always greener on the other side.

Learning how to keep his greens in the best possible condition was only one of the things Ron Dahlin, superintendent for Grand Valley State University’s The Meadows Golf Club, learned while attending an executive professional seminar in December at the Syngenta Business Institute at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C.

Dahlin was one of 28 golf superintendents from around the country selected to partake in the intensive three-day seminar. Participants learned about financial management, human resource management and negotiation skills.

The program, paid for by Syngenta, aims to provide ideas and tools to help superintendents with their careers and benefit the courses and staffs that they oversee. 2009 was the first year it was offered, and yearly seminars at the Graylyn Conference Center at Wake Forest are planned for the future.

Dahlin was one of 80 golf superintendents asked to apply out of a field of nearly 20,000 superintendents nation-wide. He said being chosen for the seminar and getting the opportunity to help his course and improving relations with his staff was exciting for him.

“We focused on developing leadership, personal development, negotiation skills and finances, all of which I think will be beneficial for our course,” Dahlin said. “I’m fortunate to work with young people as well, so I’m hoping to use some of the skills that I learned to help as well.”

Dahlin exchanged information and tips with the other superintendents attending the seminar. A wide range of public and private courses from California to Florida and New York sent representatives.

The golf course industry is in a state of decline, said Wake Forest representative Ken Middaugh, a trend the seminar is hoping to stop.

“Golf course maintenance is first and foremost a business, but it’s a business in decline with some courses going out of business and going bankrupt,” Middaugh said. “Superintendents have to run large budgets and have large staffs, so effectiveness in managing is essential to the survival of both public and private golf courses.”

The program combines top-rate business innovations and techniques with golf course management, a proposition that Syngenta found lucrative when they first approached Wake Forest University about hosting the seminar two years ago.

“Our intention was to create a program through a leading business school that supplemented and complemented their existing knowledge base,” said Scott Cole, golf market manager for Syngenta. “A professional educational program like this is unheard of in this industry.”

Dahlin said the different combined aspects of communication, business management and course upkeep will help him give back to the community.

“Attending the seminar helped me to realize that there are aspects of my job that are easier than others,” he said. “Agriculture is easy, while dealing with people is a little more difficult. But what I learned (at Wake Forest) will help to give me a broader view of how to best serve the community and the university.”

The seminar is expected to run again in December this year, giving a new group of golf course superintendents the hope for greener pastures next season.

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