Friday, November 11, 2016

A rewarding internship program

It was a pleasure to join the Baltusrol Director of Grounds and GCSAA past president Mark Kuhns, CGCS, along with his staff, Upper Course superintendent James Devaney and Lower Course (Championship Course) superintendent Dan Kilpatrick for the 2016 PGA Championship. I found my eight days to be extremely busy, fun, and very rewarding. While I hope my tasks were helpful to the grounds leaders and staff, I would like to explain more about the people involved than the challenges of preparation on the course.

Kuhns is not unlike many long time superintendents in this industry: He has touched the lives of many professionals through the years and developed a turf family tree of sorts. Most of those on the grounds team for the 2016 PGA Championship were members of that family. While stops at Laurel Valley, Oakmont, and Baltusrol may lead you to believe building this tree has come easy, I can say with certainty that has not been the case.

Kuhns and his senior staff work hard to populate a very rewarding internship program. They must engage universities and students, try to offer great benefits and opportunities, and deliver an experience that will enable those who take part to be successful in the future, just like many of you strive to do. Kuhns is a Penn State graduate (and very proud of it). It is a relationship he utilizes. The GCSA of New Jersey has a tremendous relationship with Rutgers, which he uses to recruit. Kuhns is an active member of the Canadian Golf Superintendents Association (CGSA), so he strives to engage turf students from across Canada to join him for the summer. None of this happens without lots of time and effort. Believe it or not, he continually struggles to fill his intern staff year after year.

How might his program differ? Kuhns makes continuing education a priority for his interns. They attend the annual Rutgers field day, building on their turf school knowledge. Kuhns engages local affiliates to provide beneficial information to his interns on site, adding to those educational offerings. He and the staff cross train the interns on as many on-course duties as possible, broadening their hands-on knowledge base as much as possible.

Offering opportunities like these to your intern may take resources that are not available to you, and that is understandable. Housing, travel expenses, and the loss of a valued staff member for critical times during the summer season might be beyond your facilities ability. Are you focusing on what you can offer? Could you engage your affiliates for educational opportunities at your course? Is it possible for you to take your intern to a UMass or UConn field day? What about an opportunity to introduce your intern to peers at a chapter meeting or other networking event? Can you utilize the successes of your past interns to engage potential new ones? Do you keep in touch with past interns and assist them in furthering their careers, if applicable?

Kuhns success in building an internship program paid dividends at the 2016 PGA Championship. GCSAA documented some of the stories of this success:

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