Thursday, July 20, 2017

New Jersey’s king of hospitality

Ken Kubik, CEO of Grass Roots Turf Products, was an integral part of last week’s 2017 U.S. Women’s Open for many hard-working individuals.  Kubik oversaw the grounds department hospitality, ensuring meals, uniforms, housing and many of the day-to-day needs for more than 80 people were met.

“I used to be called chairman, but there was no one under me, so we dropped the chairman,” explains Kubik.  The ten-to-twelve previous months of planning have been filled with soliciting donations from vendors, rounding up volunteers, and eventually overseeing the grounds hospitality area during the event.

When asked how Kubik became involved with the Women’s Open, Trump National Bedminster Director of Grounds Rob Wagner explains, “we’ve been friends for a long time.  I don’t think either of us asked each other.  It was just assumed.  Not, ‘hey do you want to do it?’, but, ‘when are we starting?’”

Wagner says Kubik’s efforts made a tremendous impact on the success of the grounds department.
“He’s got a ton of experience doing this.  The direction, keeping the timeline and moving [the process] the way it’s supposed to.  If he wasn’t around, everything would have been last minute.  We would have put the golf course first.  He took a lot of the angst off of us.”

This is the tenth time that Kubik has managed the volunteer and hospitality operations for a large tournament.  He enjoys doing it more now than ever because “I get to utilize all the experience I’ve gained doing this over the last 20 years.”

With nearly a full year of hard work involved in preparing and executing the hospitality duties, it leads to the question: why do it?

Kubik’s answer is simple: “The hospitality area is meant to be a ‘thank you’ for these guys for the enormous sacrifices they make by being here.  Besides their skilled work [and] the horrible hours they put in – before four in the morning to up to ten or eleven at night – they volunteer to do this.  They don’t get paid.  The fraternal nature of this industry is a big attribute.”

The "thanks" don’t end there.  Kubik puts a big emphasis on ensuring that the vendor sponsors are secured early, and get as many accolades as possible all year long across as many forms of media as possible.  Sponsors are the key. “If we can’t make expenses we wouldn’t have this extraordinary hospitality area.”

Wagner had a unique opportunity that he used to thank his hospitality leader. “He (Kubik) went on vacation and was gone for quite a while.  He hadn’t been home yet and I wanted to surprise him.  We had an opportunity to go and visit Marine One in a hanger somewhere and I know he loves stuff like that.  I asked him, ‘I need you for something, can you come over?’ Before he even went home to see his wife, he came right here no questions asked.  That’s the kind of guy he is.”

Kubik’s reaction, “it was awesome.  We were told we could take pictures but couldn’t tell anyone where or put them on social media until Monday [four days later]. That was so cool that I told them I’d even wait until Tuesday!”

While the structure of this event offers no financial assistance from the host organization, dollars from previous hospitality endeavors not spent have been donated to area turf and golf foundations, including the EIFG. Through Kubik’s efforts, the hospitality donations have exceeded $100,000 in total over his years of service.

The Northern Trust – formerly The Barclays – will return to Ridgewood CC in Paramus, New Jersey during the 2018 season.  Will Kubik be back in his role as “Mr. Hospitality” (so named by Baltusrol’s Director of Grounds Mark Kuhns, CGCS)?  That remains to be seen.  But if I were a vendor in New Jersey, I would be looking for sponsorship information in my email inbox right after the 2017 Women’s Open champion holes out her last putt on Sunday!

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