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Rich Tuten, 39

superintendent of golf courses

city of St. Petersburg

What are your primary job responsibilities?

The head superintendent manages maintenance operations on all the city golf courses, of which they have three: Mangrove Bay, Twin Brooks and Cypress Links. Before being promoted, I was the assistant golf course superintendent for the city for 10 years.

What kind of experience do you need for this?

When I started, I didn't have any experience, and it was all pretty much hands-on. I learned from a lot of other people along the way. When I became the assistant superintendent at Twin Brooks, I took some classes and I joined the Florida West Coast Golf Course Superintendents Association and the Florida Turf Grass Association.

How long have you worked here?

Since 1987, so 17 years.

How did you get started?

I'm a St. Pete native, and when I got out of high school, I went into the (military) service. When I got out, a friend of mine that I grew up with worked at the golf courses at the time, and that's how I started working here. I was 22 when I started as a part-time greenskeeper.

What other jobs have you had here?

Everything from picking up trash, to cutting cups, working on greens, on fairways, fertilizing, just general maintenance of all the turf areas on the golf course.

How many acres are you currently responsible for?

On Mangrove Bay there is approximately 185 acres, Cypress links is 17 acres, and Twin Brooks is approximately 30 acres. Mangrove Bay is an 18-hole championship course, and Cypress Links is a 9-hole short course.

How large is your staff?

I have a staff of 14 here on Mangrove Bay, and there is a staff of four at Twin Brooks.

What hours do you work?

5:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday and 5 a.m. to 9 a.m. Saturday and Sunday. The golf courses are open 363 days a year.

Is that a 40-hour week?

Right now I'm working 40 to 50 hours a week. The way we have it set up, myself and two other individuals are active supervisors on the weekends and we share shifts and usually work every third weekend.

How does your day start?

I do some scheduling the day before because a lot of jobs we have to do every day on a rotating basis. Like as far as mowing, if you mow (hole) No. 1 today, and you finish No.1 and then you start on two and three and it's a rotating basis, it just keeps revolving.

What are some daily maintenance duties?

As far as greens, we mow greens every day, cups and pin placements are changed every day, flag placements are changed every day and tee markers are moved every day. We mow tees and collars three times a week, and fairways we try to mow every day.

What is the standard height for mowing?

Greens are mowed at one-eighth of an inch; tees are three-eighths of an inch, fairways are one-half inch, slopes are 1 inch and roughs are 2 inches.

How has rain affected the mowing schedule?

When we have a dry day, it's great, but all the rain has put us behind. So when we have a dry day, we mow as much as we can.

What kind of grass is used on city courses?

Our greens are Tiff Dwarf Bermuda grass. It's golf course-grade grass that can withstand being mowed down to one-eighth of an inch. All the grass on the city golf courses is Bermuda grass, just different hybrids.

Do you guys have much trouble with pests?

Our biggest nemesis as far as pests are mole crickets, and we try to just spot treat them.

What is your daily schedule like?

I come in and get all the jobs assigned and get the crew out there. Then me and the irrigation man will ride the whole golf course (Mangrove Bay, Cypress Links) to check for damage or vandalism. . . . The ride takes approximately 20 to 30 minutes, and then we'll check in with the people here at the clubhouse and let them know what's going on.

So you basically decide whether the course is playable?

Yes. The clubhouse opens at 6:30 a.m. and people start calling for tee times, so we have to let them know if the course is open and playable by then. Obviously, if the golf course isn't playable, it's because we had too much rain and there's too much standing water everywhere.

Do the courses close often?

This summer it's happened quite a bit actually because of all the rain in July and August.

What is the rest of your morning like?

While the crews are doing their first jobs, I would leave Mangrove Bay and go down and check on Twin Brooks Golf Course. . . . I'll ride the course and make notes of areas that need attention there. When I come back, I'll do all my orders for any supplies that I need and then I go to work. I pick up a job that nobody's doing and then I go out and do it.

What kind of job assignments do you pick up?

Oh, mowing fairways, or mowing slopes, trimming trees, or bushhogging roughs, raking bunkers, adding sand to bunkers; there's always something on a golf course to be done.

What is your favorite thing about your job?

Working outside and seeing the sun rise every day.

What is your least favorite thing?

Probably the paperwork, just because it's so time consuming, but it's got to be done. And working around rain. Rain is my least favorite this year.

Do you actually work in the rain?

No, the golf courses have a lightning detection system, and if there's lightning in the area, we don't work. We'll wait for the lightning to blow over.

Any hidden hazards of the job?

You have to watch out for golf balls because you can get hit. We try to wear hard hats in areas of play, in case somebody's out there and hits a ball in your direction. When you're on equipment and have earplugs on, you can't hear somebody yelling at you.

Do you play golf?

I play golf occasionally, when I have time.

How does your lawn at home compare to the golf course here?

It's a different kind of grass, but I try to maintain it the same way. I have a good lawn at home and I have a pretty good lawn here, weather permitting.

How much money do you make?

I won't tell you, but as a superintendent you can

make from $30,000 on up, depending on your education and experience. With your private courses, some of those guys are probably making $100,000 a year.

What is your dream job?

If it wasn't working on a golf course, it would probably be working at a national park somewhere like Yellowstone or Glacier National Park. I'd have to be outside somewhere.