Canada’s top young guns in the industry

Turf & Rec presents its list of the ‘top 10 under 40’
Turf and Rec Staff
May 08, 2018
By Turf and Rec Staff
The future of Canada’s professional turf and grounds maintenance industry is in good hands. From coast to coast, several bright, young superstars have been making a difference in the industry, paving the way for the next wave of up-and-coming professionals.


Turf & Rec is pleased to recognize Canada’s top 10 movers and shakers in the professional turfgrass industry, whether they are employed in the golf, landscaping, sports turf or other sector of the industry. These individuals under the age of 40 have made significant contributions to their profession over the years and are setting an example for their peers.

Earlier this year, Turf & Rec launched its inaugural search for the “Top 10 Under 40.” The online call for nominations produced several responses from which we have chosen the cream of the crop.

The following individuals are our “top 10,” listed in alphabetical order.

Wade Borthwick, 39, equipment technician, Uplands Golf Club, Victoria, B.C.
Borthwick made an immediate impact at Uplands upon his arrival four years ago. Equipment failures were happening less often, repair costs were down, and the quality of cut on mowers had vastly improved. His knowledge of equipment is shared with students at a Victoria community college where he teaches equipment maintenance part-time.

Additionally, he helps organize and host an equipment technician program in Victoria in conjunction with the Canadian Golf Superintendents Association, and regular contributes articles to the CGSA’s GreenMaster publication. Borthwick is a frequent speaker at CGSA, Alberta Property Managers and Washington State Superintendent Association conferences, and holds numerous round-table meetings in Victoria to improve networking opportunities for equipment technicians.

Borthwick stepped in to help a neighbouring golf course that was without a mechanic for three months, even though he was employed at Uplands, and has helped other clubs without the right resources to sharpen and maintain their equipment.

He stays current with his education through the University of Minnesota and has developed his own software program that keeps track of maintenance costs and scheduling. In 2016, he was recognized by the CGSA as its equipment technician of the year.

A husband and father, Borthwick regularly helps with school field trips with his two young children.

T-Jay Creamer, 37, assistant superintendent, Victoria Golf Club, Victoria, B.C.
For the past 12 years, Creamer has been employed at the Victoria Golf Club, which is consistently ranked among Canada’s top 25 golf courses. A knowledgeable assistant, he is known for taking things to the next level, including consulting for smaller nine-hole courses in the area. The course conditioning at these courses has improved significantly since he became involved.

Creamer has served on the Vancouver Island Golf Course Superintendents Association board of directors for several years and continues to give back to the industry. He has been instrumental with cutting edge technology, including the use of robotic greens mowers, which is a first in Canada. He also engages the daily use of a drone to collect data for agronomic planning usage.

Well-versed in computer knowledge, Creamer makes his own management documents with Google Docs for agronomic planning and record keeping, human resources management, equipment management and more. He has spoken several times at conferences in Western Canada on the use of Google Docs and the use of computer-generated documents.

In February, Creamer was recognized by the CGSA at its conference in Quebec City as the 2017 assistant superintendent of the year.

He is considered a role model for the next generation of superintendent with his creative knowledge and expertise.

Brett Finlayson, 37, director of grounds maintenance, Golf BC, Victoria, B.C.
Finlayson has been with Golf BC for seven years and currently serves as president of the Vancouver Island Golf Superintendents Association. He has been around the game of golf his entire life, being introduced to the profession by his father who worked on the crew at Pinebrook and Willow Park golf courses in Calgary.

As a 14-year-old, Finlayson began working for his father who had gone on to managing his own landscaping company. His first golf course job, however, was at Point Grey Golf & Country Club, where he realized a career in golf was for him. Among his early career highlights was the role he played in grooming Point Grey for the 2003 LPGA Canadian Women’s Open.

In 2004, he moved to Capilano Golf & Country Club, becoming the course’s first “environmental manager” before becoming its second assistant in 2007. A move in 2008 to Quilchena Golf Club sharpened his management and leadership skills, leading to his first superintendent’s position in 2011 at Golf BC’s Arbutus Ridge Golf Club on Vancouver Island. He later transferred to another Golf BC property, Olympic View Golf Club, and has since become director of grounds maintenance within the organization.

Finlayson finds time to give back to the industry and spent a couple of two-year terms on the Western Canada Turfgrass Association’s board of directors, including its vice-presidency.

Sam Geleynse, 30, general manager, Prestige Landscape Service Ltd., Kelowna, B.C.
Geleynse joined Prestige Landscape Service in the middle of 2014, arriving at the company through a friend’s referral. He joined the company having just gone through a difficult period in his life that spent him both physically and emotionally. He proved, however, to be a hard worker and eager learner.

By 2016, he became a crew foreman and a year later was promoted to division manager. This year he became general manager.

Over the course of his four years with the company, Geleynse has consistently built on his skill level in landscape maintenance and his leadership qualities. In 2017, he identified and spearheaded a necessary financial turnaround for the entire company. “Unbilled time” in 2016 had gone unchecked, resulting in a year-end company financial loss for the first time in 16 years. As a result of his investigation and subsequent identification and correction of one detail, 2017 became one of Prestige Landscape Service’s best financial years.

Geleynse has been told that without his passion, drive and leadership, the company would not be where it is today.

Mark Jull, 39, western Canadian manager, Target Specialty Products; technical support/development, Turf Fuel, Calgary.
Jull has been in sales since 2007 after leaving the golf profession as an assistant superintendent. In 2014, he and a business partner started their own company.

For more than 10 years, Jull has become a well-known resource in the Western Canadian turfgrass industry. In 2014, he founded Plant Health Division, a company that began with two employees and has grown to become a leading supplier in Western Canada of fertilizer, chemicals and seed. He is a supporter of turfgrass managers and a mentor to superintendents and assistants.

Jull is currently responsible for managing the Turf Fuel business unit across North America, which puts great demands on his time, but he makes himself available for advice and discussions when needed. Another initiative that he has focused on is providing educational opportunities for customers. One such example is the Target winter workshops throughout Western Canada that began in February.

A free seminar, in which Jull is one of four speakers, is being provided, allowing pesticide applicators in attendance to obtain re-certification credits.

In spite of the tireless work Jull does, he finds plenty of time for his wife Patrice and two sons, Findley and Theo.

Community is also important to Jull. During the winter months, he can be found at the local outdoor rink maintaining the ice surface with a group of volunteers or on the mountain volunteering as an official at his son’s downhill racing events.

Jull has taken a number of big risks in his career. In four years, Plant Health Division has gone from being a small local supplier to being a leading division of being one of the world’s largest turf industry suppliers – Target Specialty Products. Through perseverance, hard work and a desire to help others, he has always found success.

Jordan Kitchen, 27, associate superintendent, Hamilton Golf & Country Club; president, TarpDevil, Puslinsch, Ont.
Kitchen has come a long way since graduating from the University of Guelph five years ago. He sought a career in the golf industry because of his love of the outdoors, beginning as a high school student at Century Pines Golf Club in Troy, Ont. and continuing summer work there while studying political science in Ottawa. Upon his graduation from the University of Guelph’s diploma course, he was hired at the Hamilton Golf & Country Club where, as assistant superintendent (and more recently a promotion to associate superintendent), he has integrated a number of new protocols aimed at sustainability and the member experience.

Two seasons ago, he and superintendent Rhod Trainor hosted a new technology field day at the club, which Kitchen organized.

Perhaps his most noteworthy accomplishment, however, was his invention of the TarpDevil, a tractor attachment that simplifies the deployment and collection of turf covers on golf courses and sports fields. He realized there had to be a better way of putting covers down, collecting them and storing them that would be less labour intensive and add shelf life to the covers.

Along with an engineer friend, the TarpDevil was born. It has been showcased at such events as the Canadian Golf Superintendents Association conference and trade show and has generated plenty of viewership on YouTube. Since its introduction in 2017, TarpDevil has established exclusive Canadian distribution partnerships with BrettYoung and Turf Care Products Canada. More recently, TarpDevil entered into a partnership with GreenJacket, a U.S.-based manufacturer of turf covers. The unit has now entered the global market.

In his quest to achieve greater sustainability, Kitchen said the TarpDevil fits the bill, making people’s lives easier and promoting enhanced efficiency. He gives much credit to the Chimera Group’s John Bladon for planting the seed of TarpDevil in his head. Hamilton is a customer of Bladon’s, and Bladon has since become a partner in TarpDevil.

Kitchen is in the final stages of obtaining his master’s degree at the University of Guelph with a specialization in food and agri-business.

Travis Olson, 31, superintendent, Kamloops Golf & Country Club, Kamloops, B.C.
Olson has been with the Kamloops Golf & Country Club for 15 years. The story of his love of turf is similar to that of others in the industry. As a teenager, he began at the Kamloops club, spending his summers in the pro shop cleaning clubs and carts. In 2005, he joined the club’s maintenance staff – the “dark side” as he puts it – while completing his bachelor of business administration and arts degrees at Thompson River University in 2009. He furthered his education at Kwantlen Polytechnic University, graduating in 2011 after studying turf management.

As impressive as two university degrees and a turf management diploma are, his story began a new chapter in 2011 when he joined a select list of individuals who received the Toro/CGSA Canadian Future Superintendent of the Year Award. By winning the award, he spent six weeks in the United Kingdom working at more than a dozen golf courses.

Olson took over the reigns of superintendent at Kamloops in 2013, becoming the host superintendent for the 2014 B.C. Women’s Amateur Championship.

As a relatively young superintendent in a demanding position, he ran for a position on the WCTA board of directors in hopes of having a positive impact on the turf management industry, stating in his director candidate profile that he is a strong supporter of continuing education and mentorship. In a few short years, Olson became the WCTA’s first director of finance – a position created in 2016 – for which he has been actively involved with all aspects of the association, including teaming up with Cameron Watt to manage the association’s social media program.

Leasha Schwab, 29, superintendent, Pheasant Run Golf Club, Sharon, Ont.

After getting her start at the Cedarhurst Golf Club and moving on to Foxbridge Golf Club, Schwab has become an industry leader with her current post as superintendent of Pheasant Run Golf Club. During her three seasons at Pheasant Run, she has made significant improvements to the golf course’s conditioning and has built a team and a culture that is getting noticed by the industry and golfers alike.

Schwab has embraced putting Pheasant Run on a sustainable path. Specifically, she has collected annual and seasonal data on the course for planning and decision-making purposes, which are the hallmarks of sustainability.

She initiated the club’s “Pheasant Run Honey” program, collecting honey from an on-site apiary, which has since become a staple in the pro shop and within the local community.

Lastly, Schwab has used her current position and leadership skills to become a voice for women in the industry and more importantly create an all-inclusive atmosphere, having organized a successful inaugural women’s networking event in San Antonio, Texas during February’s Golf Industry Show.

Cameron Shaw, 36, communications and outreach coordinator, University of Guelph, Ont.
An OAC gold medal recipient and multiple award winner at the University of Guelph, where he studied turfgrass management in the associate diploma program, Shaw held positions as turf club co-president and turfgrass representative to the student federation of the Ontario Agricultural College. Since his graduation in 2012, he has matured into a dedicated and enthusiastic member of the turf management industry.

Shaw volunteers with multiple industry associations and has had more than a dozen articles published in various trade magazines, including the Ontario Golf Superintendents Association’s On Course and the CGSA’s GreenMaster. He currently sits on the OSGA’s On Course editorial committee, helping generate ideas and content for the quarterly publication.

In 2012, he had the honour of winning the Toro/CGSA Future Superintendent of the Year Award. It allowed him to spend six weeks in Scotland and Ireland where he gained experience working with and learning from a number of elite greenkeepers and turf managers from across the United Kingdom. In 2017, he was one of three recipients of the OGSA’s Hugh Kirkpatrick Award that is presented to promising assistant superintendents who display strong leadership, commitment and career accomplishments.

Shaw has been working in the golf course maintenance industry for 17 years. Highlights include serving as supervisor at Jasper Park Lodge Golf Club, interning at TPC Boston, working as second assistant superintendent at Burlington Golf & Country Club and serving as assistant superintendent at Piper’s Heath Golf Club near Milton. In October of 2017, he made a career change to work at the University of Guelph as the communications and outreach coordinator for the Guelph Turfgrass Institute. He has also taken on the challenge of providing instruction in the turf program from which he graduated.

Cam Watt, 37, assistant superintendent, Redwoods Golf Course, Langley, B.C.
Watt has been involved in the turf industry since 2000 and has been assistant superintendent at Redwoods for the past five years. He received his diploma in turfgrass management from Kwantlen University in 2004 and cut his teeth in the Okanagan region where he grew up, working at three different golf courses.

An opportunity to become an assistant superintendent at Kananaskis Country Golf Club presented itself in 2012 but was short lived when the 36-hole facility was devastated by flooding, forcing the resort to close. He shortly afterward landed the assistant’s position at Redwoods where he has been since.

In 2014, he was one of 50 selected candidates from North America to attend the ninth annual Green Start Academy in North Carolina. He has volunteered at two PGA Tour events – the 2008 Telus Skins Game at Predator Ridge and the 2015 U.S. Open at Chambers Bay – and has written two published articles for Inside Golf magazine and GreenMaster, regarding the Kananaskis flood and the Green Start Academy, respectively.

Closer to home, he helped host Canada’s second ever First Green event at Redwoods. The interactive program for school students uses golf courses and sports fields to teach STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) learning. Watt has also planned and executed a mentorship seminar at the past two WCTA conferences that are designed for assistant superintendents, foremen and others looking to advance their careers. Along with Travis Olson, he heads up the WCTA’s social media program.

He is starting his second term on the WCTA’s board of directors.

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