Unseasonable warmth challenges longtime groundskeeper
RUTLAND, Vt. (AP) — When you’re buttoning up your backyard for the winter, it might mean one last pass with the mower and rake.
It’s a little more complicated for Karl Larson.
First, Larson’s “backyard” is the Rutland Country Club. Second, this unseasonably warm weather has postponed the end of the golf season and it could be that, with one quick drop in temperatures, the RCC superintendent and his small staff will have to hustle to get everything done.
Not that it would make that much difference. Coming to the end of his 38th year at Rutland, Larson is always poised to improvise because every day can, potentially, bring new challenges.
“We used to get six months of golf and we’re getting sometimes 8, 8 1/2 right now, so something has changed,” said Larson, the superintendent at Rutland since the fall of 1979. “This year is different because of the growth and it’s still growing like crazy.”
When the season’s end is finally in sight, Larson and his staff will fertilize, aerify, cut and top-dress to make sure Rutland’s greens and turf come out of the winter in great shape.
Larson, who lives in nearby Castleton, is blessed to have charge of one the state’s most beautiful and compact pieces of golf real estate. His course consistently draws praise from visitors as well as its discerning membership.
Never does an L.D. Pierce Invitational pass when visitors to the course’s signature event in August fail to comment on how the course “has never looked better.”
They praise the fast, smooth greens, the quality of the fairways and rough, and talk about how everything simply looks picture-book beautiful.
That’s all about Larson, and his longtime crew of K.C. Tindall, Mary Ann Levins and Henry Mahoney.
“They have been with me for years and years and do an excellent job,” he said.
Maintaining a course means that Larson is never completely on vacation for the winter. While he loves to ski, Larson is acutely aware that a course’s greatest assets, the greens, have to be monitored and protected. Ideally a big blanket of snow will insulate them but if there’s a winter rainfall and ice forms, a super has to be ready to take action. That might mean anything from laying down black sand to employing a backhoe to break up the deadly sheets.
“I have had good luck,” Larson said. “You try everything you have in your toolbox to get some air down there. On Dec. 6, 1989, ice formed and it stayed right straight through into March. It was solid blue. We almost lost 18 greens. Once you experience it, you never forget it.”
Larson’s greatest personal asset is his vast experience. He was working with his uncle, Bill Larson, at the nine-hole, then- Lake Bomoseen (now Prospect Bay) layout at age 15. He learned his craft on the job and has passed along his knowledge to his son, Cody, who is now the super at Prospect Bay.
By an early age Karl Larson knew he would be happier spending his time on a mower or tractor than anywhere else. He just had to go through college and become a teacher to have the point driven home.
He remembers a time when he was probably as guilty looking out the window at a beautiful day as his students.
“Once you’re outside you just enjoy every single day,” he said. “I was just looking out the window and thinking that I want to be out there.”
Soon he was, getting his start as the superintendent at Lake Bomoseen.
A typical day for Larson begins at sunup, when he enjoys the peace of a ride around the course to inspect the grounds and irrigation systems.
Each member of his crew has an assigned task. Greens, fairways and rough are almost always being mowed. Cups and tee markers are changed and bunkers raked. If it’s a tournament week and the greens are expected to be at their fastest, they will be mowed a second time, or rolled . or both.
Sometimes routine maintenance falls into a severely compacted time frame, like it was during this year’s rainy spring.
“It was almost constant rain and that definitely changes some of the things you have to do,” Larson said. “It makes a difference in pest control, too. In the warmer weather your insects don’t die off.”
But it’s challenges that help keep the job fresh for Larson who, soon to be 71, can’t fathom the concept of retirement.
“As long as it stays interesting and you stay healthy enough that you can do it, and you have to like what you do,” he said.
“I’ve said this to my son time and again: ‘Find something you love doing.’ “And I’ve found it.”
Information from: Rutland Herald, http://www.rutlandherald.com/