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"They had the right chemicals, a lot of expertise, and they’ve worked hard to support me."
—Roger Turcotte, Superintendent for Montaup Golf Club
Looking at Montaup Country Club, it’s hard to imagine its condition back in 1966 when Roger Turcotte was named superintendent. Today, the Portsmouth, Rhode Island course’s long, verdant fairways and stunning views of Mount Hope Bay suggest a rich heritage dating back to its founding in 1923.
Nothing could be further from the truth. When Turcotte took over in 1966 after working as the assistant superintendent at nearby Sakonnet Golf Club, Montaup was a humble, flat 9-hole course with more sand than grass on its fairways, very few bunkers, and not a single water hazard.
In fact, as Roger Turcotte remembers it, no one was too impressed with Montaup back then, based on its appearance from the road. “We had an old, rickety barn – it looked like we were on our last legs,” he explained with a laugh. “So people would drive right by and go to Newport.”
Unbeknownst to those drivers, Montaup was about to be transformed. “We had a membership that wanted to get the club going, so we had a lot of money to invest,” recalled Turcotte. Before long, he had expanded the 143-acre course to 18 holes. Over the past 46 years, Roger Turcotte has personally made virtually every improvement in the course – right down to the landscaping.
Hole #16, Montaup Golf Club
That meticulous care and attention to detail have paid off handsomely. Today, Montaup Country Club is one of the premier golf courses in Rhode Island, with an eight-year waiting list for membership.
For most of Turcotte’s tenure, Tom Irwin has been at his side. Norm Irwin’s successor, Wayne Ripley, made a strong first impression when they first met four decades ago.
“I had just built the new barn and he popped in one day,” said Turcotte. “I was working on mowers at the time, so I said, ‘Wayne, I could use a small can of lapping compound.’ He says, ‘Oh sure, I can take care of that for you.’ A couple of days later, he pops back with a little $8 can of lapping compound. I thought, if this guy is willing to bring me a can of lapping compound, maybe I should look into doing a little more business with him.”
The relationship grew from there. Turcotte soon discovered that there were many advantages to working with Tom Irwin. “They had the right chemicals, a lot of expertise, and they’ve worked hard to support me,” he said. “For a while now, they’ve been doing an early order program, which gives a club a chance to put the necessary funds aside. That’s very beneficial to clubs and helps us out with our budgeting.”
The Club House at Montaup Golf Club
For Turcotte, personal service is everything, and he enjoys a close relationship with his current Tom Irwin representative, Greg Misodoulakis. “If I’ve got a problem, I call Greg and he’ll say, ‘I’ll get there this afternoon, and if I can’t, I’ll be there tomorrow.’”
“I’ve got a computer, but I don’t use it. I don’t do emails. If I want something, I want to talk to the guy. I want him onsite or a reliable telephone call,” said Turcotte, before laughing. “But I’m 72 years old!”
Keeping a golf course in shape – particularly a course like Montaup that’s open year-round – is a tougher job than ever, according to Turcotte. Membership is more demanding now,” he said. “They watch a golf course on TV and expect their local course to look the same. When I started, if you mowed the greens, you were a hero – they wanted to give you a raise,” he laughed. “Superintendents have to be more knowledgable today because the members are more knowledgable.”
With retirement still a few years off, Roger Turcotte continues to rely on Tom Irwin. “They never leave me hanging out to dry,” he said. “I’m kind of a loyal guy, and those kinds of things are important to me.”