2 1/2 Acres of Greens, 5 Acres of Tees and 30 Acres of
by Scott A. Sumner
Most golfers drive out to the course, put on their shoes and walk on to the course ready to play. They almost expect the course to be perfect or at least pretty good. Nice smooth greens, lush fairways, great tees boxes is what we want. That happens most of the time because of the hard work behind the scene of your golf course superintendent and staff.
A familiar face in the golf course greens staff has been Jeff Parker. The 46 year old was born in Ottawa and comes from Trenton. "I played all sports growing up, from hockey and baseball to lacrosse, golf, basketball you name it. When I was 15 I got a job at the CFB Trenton Golf Course at the airforce base and worked there for two years. Then it was the Bay of Quinte Golf Course in Belleville working for Shorty Jenkins, probably more well known for making ice," says Jeff Parker. Parker enjoyed working on golf courses but went to school taking sports medicine. He worked at the University of Guelph in their sports medicine clinic for a year and didn't enjoy it. Jeff liked working on golf courses more so went back to school at Seneca College in Turf Management, a two year program. He worked at Hilton Head Island, South Carolina in between semesters at the Long Cove Club for a year. Then it was off to Glen Abbey Golf Club, Oakville, Ontario as the assistant superintendent there for three years. Next he went to the Hamilton Golf and Country Club, better known as Ancaster as the Asst Superintendent. Incidently this course, which held the Canadian Open in 2003, is one of the best in Canada. From there Jeff worked for a Golf Course Architect out of Washington, DC - Tom Clarke.
They were building a golf course in Korea and Jeff worked in South Korea for a year, a hour and 1/2 outside of Seoul. He then came back and worked in British Columbia building Westwood Plateau for a couple years in the early 90s for a construction company.
"I was back in Ontario doing construction for a few years and then worked for a friend in Pembroke for a year and got out of golf construction before coming up to Fort William in 1997 for about 5 or 6 years. The opportunity came to work on a new course, Whitewater Golf Club and stay in Thunder Bay," smiles Parker. "It's great here. I was in charge of the growing more than anything. There were a lot of people out here - Brunos Contracting, Golf Trax of Kingston who did the shaping as well as Sunshine Sod staff. We started late May, early June and pretty much were done by October 31st. There were a lot of people involved who put a lot of hours. At any one time over 100 people were involved in the construction phases, a combination of all people. On a regular day there were between 50 to 75 people."
"The guys from Sunshine Sod were here every day. We sodded the rough and seeded the fairways, tees and greens. It is a huge undertaking to build something like this with irrigation, drainage and shaping the greens and tees," states Parker. The whole property is around 500 acres. We have 2 1/2 acres of greens, 5 acres of tees and 30 acres of fairway s to maintain. It's a big job. We cut the greens every day and change the pins, cut fairways an tees three time a week and the rough is cut as it needs it on a weekly basis. We try and do other jobs in between - catch up jobs, whether tree work or drainage or sodding repairs out on the course."
Jeff parker has a staff of 14 or 15. There are two assistants Brad Hill and Brian Milani as well as full time mechanic Duane Dalliare. "We have a hard working staff," notes Parker. "In addition we have about 40 or 50 pieces of equipment with good suppliers from Winnipeg and Thunder Bay who take care of us."
"We fertilize as the grass needs it. You are on a schedule with the greens pretty much every two weeks. The tees and fairways every 3 or 4 weeks or as it needs it. We are on a very sandy soil so it is good for drainage and the nutrients leach into the soil. We don't use a lot of chemicals here as we don't have the disease pressure that you would have in Southern Ontario due to the humidity. Our nights are a little cooler so that helps us out a lot as well," smiles Parker. "The greens are good. Sometimes you are not as happy as other times. It's bent seed velvet bent grass R7200 Originally Tom McBroom didn't choose that as he wanted to put on something else. We talked to him and ended up going with the Velvet bent grass. They were using that grass on a course they were building in Finland at the time for Matts Sundin. It was also going in at Eagles Nest in the Toronto area, there only two course in Canada to have this seed. Tom was great to work with - really good. Anytime you needed help they were always accommodating. He did a great design.
Water is nice to have on a golf course and Whitewater Golf Club is fortunate in that regard. "We have a holding pond that we pump into of 10 million gallons and you pump out of that. We would like to see a little more rain. Being able to control the water is key through the system. We have very good soils here so it drains well. You monitor it," notes Parker. "We are still running off a generator here, but once we have power out there it will make a difference. we will be able to use our computer a little bit more. We have satellites on the course and a central computer that we will be able to run the irrigation off once we are up and running with hydro. Hydro One are going to the subdivision and sewer treatment pant. We are in line."
An average day for Jeff Parker is coming in at 5 or 5 30 am. There is no traffic or golfers. He takes a quick drive around the course and a look to make sure the irrigation is working fine. "I see what is like out there. The guys are out at 6am and away they go. We cut the greens right away. The first tee off time is 730 or 8am. We need some time to work on the course." states Parker. "Usually it is a 8 hour day but if I ask people to stay a little longer there is usually no problem. Last year when we were doing certain job they were here until the work is done. The staff might normally go home at 3 pm. They work 7 days a week and work every second weekend. It's physical as they are outside all day. Sometimes its hot - sometimes cool and rainy. Some people don't like it and they dont last very long. The ones that stay enjoy being outside. They work on their own." Parker and the mechanic work in the winter. The rest of the staff start in late April or early May and stay until first or second week in November. At the end of the year the staff do a cleanup, blow out the irrigation system and fall fungicides on the greens, tees and fairways and go over our equipment.
"Hopefully we get better all the time. There is still some areas to grow and clean up of trees. We are trying to clean things up and cut about 15 dead trees today. We are planting some jack pine trees," says Parker. "It will great to have the subdivision to have people around here - it will be nice - I'm not involved in that. Next year we will have the Ontario Juniors here. It is good for the golf course to have events up in Thunder Bay. Whitewater is as good as any course in Canada. It's a great layout. The holes are straight ahead of you.
"The greens superintendent position is important. The reason people come to the golf course is play golf. It is a responsibility looking over the greens, fairways, tees, the irrigation system and equipment. There is quite a bit involved. You have to enjoy what you do, smiles Parker. It's not too bad up here as we have pretty good weather. I know guys in Southern Ontario and the midwest States are going through tremendous problems due to hot weather and irrigation problems. It's a stressful job. There not much you can do with Mother Nature. They are just trying to survive We didnt anticipate 250 or 300 trees going down all at once last year in the wind storm. It was a pretty big storm. Even at an course like Fort William after 80 years we saw trees going down."
"Last year I golfed between 5 and 10 times. I'd like to get out more often. I'm looking forward to the next nine. It will be a unique project with two holes through the trees and the rest in the gravel bed. We have the bunker sand here already. It will be nice to get it done." states Jeff Parker.
Something tells me the golfers of Whitewater know why we have such a great course to play each day.