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Prepare to be the superintendent tomorrow

June 8, 2011  By  Mike Jiggens

WHEN a golf superintendent leaves his position for another elsewhere,
with little or no advance notice, it is up to the assistant
superintendent to step in and assume the vacated role, even if there’s
no assurance he will be inheriting the position, Capilano Golf
& Country Club assistant Jamie Robb said in March.

Speaking in Vancouver at the Canadian International Turfgrass Conference and Trade Show, he said his superintendent had left the club for a position in Ontario. With the golf course open for play 12 months of the year, it was important for him to seamlessly step into the position in an interim basis, whether or not he would be awarded a promotion to the vacated office.

“Prepare every day as if you’re going to be the superintendent tomorrow.”

Robb’s address outlined the steps an assistant superintendent should take in the event he finds himself in a situation in which he must assume the superintendent’s responsibilities at the drop of a hat.


“Perfecting your job on a daily basis is something that has to come as an assistant,” he said. “Knowing your job inside out is imperative, and you won’t be able to step up to the next level unless you’re fully qualified at the job that you do.”

Robb suggested the assistant superintendent maintain a portfolio of such items as articles or newsletters written and should continue to expand on his writing and speaking skills on an ongoing basis.


“When the transition period comes, you don’t have a lot of time to go back and do those things because you’re focusing on new tasks.”

The assistant superintendent must also have good interviewing skills and have a solid network built for himself, Robb said.

If the assistant has the necessary requisite skills and experience and feels he is ready to step permanently into the job, his interests should be made known to the golf club, he said.

“Communicate you want the job. I think after the shock of realizing that your superintendent is going to be leaving, there are a few things you want to do to communicate to membership, to committees, and to other staff that you are interested in the position.”

He suggested inquiring into the club’s hiring process so that the assistant can learn if he will be outright offered the job or whether it’s to be advertised or filled through an interview process. It’s also good to know, he added, if the interview process will involve separate interviews or with only the general manager. Other questions needed to be answered include:

• Will there be a selection committee or a recruting agency?

• Will other superintendents be contacted?

“The more you can know about the process they’re going to go through will aid you and try to determine what they want in a superintendent.”

Some courses conduct personality testing to help determine if a candidate is right for the job. Robb said that’s not something an assistant can prepare for, but he should be aware that it’s a possible hiring strategy a club may use.

“Let the club know you want the position.”

That, he said, might mean joining the general manager and head professional for lunch in the clubhouse or meeting with selection committee members.

“The better they get to know you, the better chance you’ll have of understanding what they are looking for. When you go to these meetings, have topics you want to discuss.”

Robb suggested have a number of intelligent questions prepared and to dress appropriately when meeting such influential people.

During the interim period, own the position, he said, adding the assistant should attend committee and management meetings.

“Show that you’re the go-to person in the department. Don’t come across as cocky or arrogant, but, on the other hand, you have to let them know that you do want the job and that you’re qualified to do it.”

In the meantime, the assistant can move into the superintendent’s office and note on his voice mail that he’s the “interim superintendent.”

He should also seek the support of former superintendents or other superintendents to help in the transition toward becoming a superintendent.

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