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"I need a support team. In the turf industry,
Tom Irwin is my default."
—Jason VanBuskirk, Superintendent at Stow Acres Country Club
Few public golf courses have the rich history and singular appeal of Stow Acres Country Club in Stow, Massachusetts. One of only three 36-hole courses in New England, Stow Acres traces its history back to 1685, when the property was first deeded to a family that owned it for more than 200 years. That legacy is now in the hands of 28-year-old superintendent Jason VanBuskirk, a University of Rhode Island graduate who has been involved in turf work since he was 14.
18th Hole, North Course, Stow Acres Country Club
Originally designed as a 9-hole course in 1921, Stow Acres was expanded to 36 holes in the 1950s under the watchful eye of noted architect Geoffrey S. Cornish. More recently, the club has twice been named one of America’s 50 best public courses by Golf Digest and it hosted the Monday qualifier for the PGA’s Deutsche Bank Championship for four consecutive years starting in 2002.
“My three biggest challenges? Well there’s probably about 25 of them,” laughs VanBuskirk. “People management is number one, resource management is number two, and number three is trying to convey the scientific material that you know and need into terms that people you work for and the people who play your club can understand.”To address those challenges, VanBuskirk brings a younger person’s perspective to the job – for example, by using social media. Twice a month, he attends a Google+ hang-out with Penn State’s Dr. John Kaminski. “I’m a tech freak,” VanBuskirk says. He, Kaminski, and others get together for an hour or so to talk about everything from new products to how to put a course to bed for the winter. “It’s networking completely different than a show or GCSAA atmosphere.”
The rest of the time, VanBuskirk networks the old-fashioned way, relying heavily on Tom Irwin, a company he has been associated with since his teenage years at Wayland Country Club.
“In the turf industry, Tom Irwin is my default,” he says. “Chris Petersen no longer is a sales rep to me. He’s a valuable friend. I can reach out to Chris any time. You don’t often find that.”
VanBuskirk appreciates that Chris not only visits the course on a regular basis, he is also available to look at digital photos or do a video chat when out of the area. “I like that the guys at Tom Irwin are plugged in to modern media. It’s an added value you don’t get from other vendors.”
VanBuskirk also counts Fred Murray, Tom Irwin’s valued customer relations manager, and his former boss Eric Koskinen of Precision Laboratories, as his mentors. Their support has been critical, particularly in his early years as superintendent, when challenges were constantly laid before him. “It’s great to have such a valuable network of friends and colleagues, people who know this business inside and out,” VanBuskirk explains.
1st Hole, North Course, Stow Acres Country Club
The Tom Irwin team provides VanBuskirk with moral support, too. “It’s July. You haven’t had rain in two weeks. Your irrigation system is acting up. You’ve already had three main breaks. You have no isolation valves so you have to have shut your pump down, constantly turn it back on. You’ve had to keep your greens alive with a spray rig, the syringe. But you are a perfectionist, so it still doesn’t look the way you want it to,” VanBuskirk sighs. “At times like that, you just need a little Fred.” So Fred Murray comes by and delivers a little positive reinforcement. “And then you walk away saying, ‘Oh, all right. I guess we’re gonna be okay after all.”
Jason welcomes you to contact him if you have any questions about his experience with Tom Irwin: firstname.lastname@example.org