Former GCSAA president Riley Stottern dies

The longtime western states superintendent leaves a lasting legacy on and off the golf course.


Riley Stottern GCSAA

Riley Stottern, CGCS Retired, spent more than half a century — 53 years — as a member of GCSAA.

He served as the association’s president in 1986 and was on the board of directors from 1981-88.

A third-generation golf course superintendent, Stottern was involved in the design and construction of eight golf courses and claimed a long list of honors and awards from various local and regional golf associations.

But to measure Stottern — who died Thursday, Aug. 30 at his home in St. George, Utah, at age 75 — simply in golf terms would be to sell the man short. So says Don Hearn, CGCS Retired, a 49-year member of GCSAA.

“Riley was a wonderful friend and, more importantly, a wonderful person — very caring and family-centric,” says Hearn, executive director of the GCSA of New England. “When we were younger and on the GCSAA board, our families would spend time together at the Conference and Show, now the GIS.”

Hearn says Stottern’s reach went far beyond the golf course.

“Riley would always take the kids to a place they wanted to go and enjoy the time spent with them,” Hearn says. “I would tell him he would win that year’s Father of the Year award. Well, he won so many times, he retired the trophy. He was a person of strong faith in his God and always practiced kindness and caring toward others. Riley will be remembered by me and his many friends as a kind and considerate person who helped make our world a better place.”

Born May 5, 1943, Stottern essentially grew up on a golf course. His father, John Lee Stottern, and his maternal grandfather, Wilford Harry Thorne, were golf course superintendents. John Lee Stottern and Thorne were superintendents at Broadmoor Golf Club in Colorado Springs, Colo., where Riley Stottern worked as a youth.

Stottern graduated from Olympus (Utah) High School in 1961 and studied turfgrass management at the University of Guelph.

When his father’s assistant superintendent at Willow Creek Country Club in Sandy, Utah, suddenly quit, Stottern was hired.

Stottern told GCM in 1981 that he’d learned the trade at “the school of hard knocks” during eight years at Willow Creek before becoming superintendent at the 18-hole Oakridge Country Club in Farmington, Utah, in 1967.

His storied career as a golf course superintendent included stops at Desert Inn Hotel and Country Club (Las Vegas), Jeremy Ranch Golf Club (Park City, Utah), Shadow Creek Golf Club (Las Vegas), Players Island Golf Club (Mesquite, Nev.) and Southern Highlands Golf Club (Las Vegas).

Stottern was a two-time president, in 1968 and 1978, of the Intermountain GCSA, and he won the IGCSA’s Distinguished Service Award in 1999.

Though quick to point out the challenges all superintendents face, Stottern made it plain he wouldn’t have it any other way.

“You need lots of talents,” he told GCM in 1981. “You’re an agronomist, a weatherman, a mechanic, carpenter, personnel manager, accountant, public relations liaison with your crew, the members, the directors and the community. ...

“It’s like having your own business without investing your own money. We’re managers. We manage money and staff and make technical decisions all the time. Best of all, we get to work on a golf course. The job is always challenging and always interesting. What more could you ask?”

Stottern was preceded in death by his parents and three brothers, Bob, Steve and Dru. He leaves behind his wife, Barbara Jean Bradford, whom he married June 17, 1965; three daughters, Tracy (Gary) Hannay, Johnelle (David) Homer and Leslie (Jonathan) Truman; 11 grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.

Andrew Hartsock is GCM’s managing editor.