05/03/10 — Workin' it -- Par, on the course

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Workin' it -- Par, on the course

By Laura Collins
Published in News on May 3, 2010 2:32 PM

The Job: Greenskeeper

The Company: Lane Tree Golf Club

The Location: Goldsboro

I knew I would like working at Lane Tree Golf Club the moment I arrived.

"Here you just relax. We're so laid back you're going to think you're in reverse," general manager Michael Kelly said.

I liked the way that sounded. So after we ate breakfast at the club restaurant, I got to work on the greens with Chad Matthews, golf course superintendent. Kelly's parting words left me a little uneasy.

"Call me if anything happens. I will kill him," he said of Matthews. I quickly learned that the two of them have somewhat of a sibling-like relationship.

I would say the first awkward incident happened when we both walked to the driver's side of the golf cart we would be taking out to Hole 7. It was like an old Western standoff with neither of us willing to move first.

"I usually don't let women drive," he said.

"You'll get used to it," I said as I hopped behind the wheel.

On the way to the green, Matthews gave me a crash course in everything that's involved in keeping the grounds looking pristine. The precision and attention to detail was enough to make my head spin. Each day, the direction workers mow the grass shifts by a certain number of degrees. If they cut it the same direction every day, the grass will lay down, making it a faster green and harder on the golfers.

When we got to the green, Matthews put me behind the wheel of the mower. He told me to mow in straight lines on the green, alternating directions, and to drive off the green to turn around. He said to drop the blades after I'm on the green, but remember to lift them before I drive off because otherwise I'll cut the fringe the same length as the green.

He also said the club had a tournament that day, so I felt added pressure to make sure my mowing job was perfect. What ended up happening, however, was that I was driving the mower so slow because I wanted it to be perfect that every twitch of my hand on the wheel showed up in the grass. Someone who just got off the Scrambler at the fair could have mowed straighter lines.

Turns out my nervousness was for nothing, however.

"OK, if you would have had the reels down, you would have scalped the fringe," Matthews said.

"What do you mean, 'if the reels were down?'" I asked. Apparently I was not actually mowing the greens, I was just driving a mower at .05 miles per hour for my health. It was probably the best decision.

Later in the day, I was tasked with driving the range picker and picking up golf balls in the driving range.

"You might not have any teeth when you're finished because of all the jarring," Matthews said.

I've heard horror stories that golfers tend to aim at the range picker as part of their warm-up, so I was paying extra attention to the balls being hit my direction.

I learned my attention should have been directed elsewhere when I heard a loud crash and the ranger picker shook. I had crashed into the 250-yard sign.

"What're you thinking?" Matthews said, and made it clear that he wasn't going to let me live that one down. Every golf ball I missed with the range picker from there on out got the same response.

"I bet if that was a metal pole you would have gotten it," he would say.

In the end, though, I consider the day a success. No I didn't actually mow a green and yes, I crashed the range picker, but I made new friends. Kelly and Matthews were great to work with. The hospitality they showed me and their sense of humor made it easy to see why the club has 400-plus members who come back week after week, summer after summer.