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“I knocked it out of the park. I’ve had the best four years that I’ve ever had, top-shelf conditions; conditions the membership can be proud of.”
-Tony Girardi, Superintendent at Rockrimmon Country Club
Being in charge of a premier Country Club like Rockrimmon in Stamford, Connecticut can be a tremendous challenge, especially when a greens-killing problem like anthracnose just won’t go away.
Hole #3 at Rockrimmon Country Club
Tony Girardi, CGCS at Rockrimmon Country Club, was up against the wall four years ago. Although the course straddles the Connecticut/New York border, there is no room for borderline practices at Rockrimmon. “You have to be humble enough to realize that you don’t have all the answers,” he says. It was an epiphany to realize that he didn’t have all the answers…and that he shouldn’t be expected to know everything. For that reason alone, he relies on two key inputs, his own good sense, and Jeff Houde of Tom Irwin, Inc. “I view my relationship with Jeff and the rest of the guys at Tom Irwin as a team of agronomic partners, not order takers.”
Since 1947, there have been only four superintendents at Rockrimmon Country Club. Not too long ago, Girardi realized he needed to step up his game if there wasn’t going to be a fifth superintendent there soon. Rockrimmon was in transition: massive tree removal, extensive bunker renovation, upgraded greens drainage, and a new irrigation system showed the club’s commitment towards keeping Rockrimmon on top. For several years, the course was dug up, and after bringing it back to playing condition, anthracnose struck.
“We got nailed pretty good. We just couldn’t control it, no matter what I did” Girardi recalls. He talked to other superintendents, consulted university experts, read everything. Nothing worked. It was a pretty lonely time.
“I was reeling. I needed to step back and look at my agronomic plan, what I was doing and where I was going,” he says. His greens chairman told him to get busy solving the anthracnose blight. Then, Jeff Houde stopped by. “He was still new at Tom Irwin,” Girardi recalls. “Tom Irwin has a different philosophy on how they look at golf course management and how they work with the superintendent,” Girardi says. “It’s so different. Their commitment to your success is total. At first, you think it is disingenuous. It seemed too good to be true.”
Girardi and Houde developed a plan. It worked. “I knocked it out of the park. I’ve had the best four years that I’ve ever had,” Girardi says. “Top-shelf conditions; conditions the membership can be proud of.”
“I eliminated synthetic fertilizer from my golf course,” Girardi continues. He now uses EarthWorks 5-4-5 organic fertilizer rather than what he terms “synthetic ‘crack’ cocaine fertilizer”. “The golf course stays green eight months a year because it is more self-sustaining,” he says.
While his schooling and experience are superb, Girardi is happy to have a friend at his side in Jeff Houde. “You don’t feel alone,” he says.
He loves the depth of the Tom Irwin team and the fact that his rep never comes in with an order pad in hand. “They help with inventory tracking and control. How many companies do that? It’s not how many cases can they sell you or what quota they have to meet,” he says. “You never hear that from a Tom Irwin representative.”
Better yet, Girardi knows that if one team member does not have the answer to a problem, then another one up the chain will.
“They’ve made my job easier,” Girardi says. “I actually drive around the golf course with a smile,” he chuckles. That is because he does not have to think about problems all the time. He is confident in his successful plan.
“I went all-in with Irwin that year,” Girardi recalls. His fight with anthracnose “wasn’t won overnight, it was a steady progression until finally none could be found.” That kind of progress confirmed his decision to team with Tom Irwin, Inc. “With those guys, you’re not on an island,” Girardi concludes.
Tony welcomes you to contact him if you have any questions about his experience with Tom Irwin: email@example.com