Kirtland CC's Mark named Superintendent of Year
In his 10 years as a golf course superintendent, Chad Mark has spent a great deal of time on matters that have nothing to do with turf maintenance. He meets regular with general manager Mark Petzing and managers in other departments through The Kirtland Country Club to help make the private club in Willoughby, Ohio, the best it can be for its members.
"I do it because I plan to be there for a long time," Mark said. "If you don't plan on being somewhere for 10 years, you're not going to be."
For his dedication to customer service at the 90-plus-year-old club, Mark was named winner of the TurfNet Superintendent of the Year Award, presented by Syngenta.
TurfNet, an online service for superintendents, is owned by Turnstile Media Group, parent company of Golfweek.
Mark was chosen by a panel of judges from a field of six finalists that included Matt Gourlay, CGCS of Colbert Hills in Manhattan, Kan.; Brad Jolliff of KickingBird Golf Course in Edmond, Okla.; Curtis Nickerson of University Park Country Club in University Park, Fla.; Josh Saunders of Longue Vue Club in Penn Hills, Pa., and Matt Shaffer of Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pa. He was nominated by a group that included his club president, grounds chairman, general manager, several members, colleagues throughout the industry and former employees.
The award is presented annually to a superintendent who excels at one or more of the following: labor-management, maximizing budget limitations, educating and advancing the careers of colleagues and assistants, negotiating with government agencies, preparing for tournaments under unusual circumstances, service to golf clientele, upgrading or renovating the course, dealing with extreme or emergency conditions.
Previous winners include Meersman (2012); Paul Carter, CGCS (2011); Thomas Bastis, CGCS (2010); Anthony Williams, CGCS (2009); Sam MacKenzie (2008); John Zimmers (2007); Scott Ramsay, CGCS (2006); Mark Burchfield (2005); Stuart Leventhal, CGCS (2004); Paul Voykin (2003); Jeff Burgess (2002); Kip Tyler (2001); and Kent McCutcheon (2000).
The common thread in each of the nominations Mark received, a devotion to customer service, the golf course and his staff. Mark's 10-year career at Kirtland has been defined by constant enhancements to the course, including ongoing drainage improvements, ushering the 1921 Charles Hugh Alison design through a major restoration and an irrigation upgrade project that, despite a flood event, went on without interruption.
"Mr. Mark provides, and helps ensure others from his staff provide, only the highest level of service to our membership and our guests at Kirtland Country Club," said club member Andy Sikorovsky. "Each year since his arrival, Chad seemingly gives more and more of his time and expertise to enhancing the client experience at our golf course. He seeks to understand the various and countless challenges and opportunities to improve the course from year to year. He helps the membership prioritize needs, set expectations, build consensus, and then delivers more than the membership expects within budget. He is very approachable and communicative. He eagerly welcomes suggestions and seeks critique of his work. He leads by example and isn't afraid to get dirty. Member satisfaction seems to be the sole point on his compass."
When the Chagrin River that runs through the course flooded in 2013, it threatened not only to derail Kirtland's playing season, but an $800,000 irrigation upgrade project that included installation of a new pump house.
Instead, Mark and his crew had the course cleared and reopened in a matter of days while the irrigation project and pump house installation went on uninterrupted.
"We kept on running," Petzing said. "He did both at the same time without stopping.
"He's a team player and an integral part of the management team. He is part of long-range planning for the club and sits in on board members with me. He sees the big picture."
Among those celebrating with Mark after the announcement was 2007 Superintendent of the Year John Zimmers of Oakmont Country Club. Zimmers hired Mark as an intern at Sand Ridge Golf Club in Chardon, Ohio, when Mark was a student at Ohio State.
Zimmers said it was clear early in Mark's career that he was focused on customer service.
"You could tell that first year that Chad was driven, focused and had all the talent to be very successful in this profession," Zimmers said. "Chad was very loyal, and dedicated to always trying to do the job right. I got to know his family, and you could tell he was being taught great values. I am proud to say that I had a small part in Chad's successful career to date. I would consider Chad to be one of the best young superintendents in the country, and more importantly, a great friend, mentor, husband and father to his wonderful family."
He communicates regularly with members via email updates on course conditions as well as by his attendance in committee meetings and entries in the club's newsletter.
"I cannot imagine any group being better informed than we who are Kirtland members," said Kirtland member Paul Mouguey.
For Mark, taking on a leadership role at the club reflects his passion for golf and giving back to the game he loves.
"I feel like I add a lot of value because I love for the club, love for the profession, and I want to see the club sustained for another 85 years," Mark said. "It's important to me to be as involved as I can so it is a well-rounded facility."