Equipment technician Jon Rybicki in the shop at Pebble Beach. Photos by Scott Hollister
Back in 2008, the last place Jon Rybicki could have envisioned himself being in the future was somewhere like Pebble Beach for a U.S. Open, working as the famed layout’s equipment technician.
Back then, Rybicki was nearing the end of a stint as the equipment manager at The Ridge Golf Club in the Sacramento, Calif., area. He enjoyed the work and definitely saw a future for himself in the golf course management business. He just figured that future wouldn’t necessarily be in the shop.
“I was getting a little burnt out on the job at that point, and we were going through some changes at the club,” the eight-year GCSAA member says. “So when The Ridge offered me the position of assistant superintendent there, I thought, ‘Why not?’ I had a little experience, I thought I was a good leader, and it was something that really interested me.”
And for the next six years, Rybicki embraced his responsibilities as assistant. He went to school at the University of California, Riverside, in pursuit of a two-year turfgrass degree (which he earned in 2014), and he generally assumed his days as an equipment manager were past him.
That is, until Pebble Beach came calling. Pete Bachman, the current superintendent at The Links at Spanish Bay, was an assistant at Pebble Beach at the time and reached out to Rybicki to let him know the course was in the market for a new equipment manager and to see whether Rybicki would be interested in talking about the opening.
“I certainly wasn’t looking to get back into the equipment management side of the business again, but it was Pebble Beach,” he says. “If there was one golf course that I would go back to being an equipment manager for, this was it. And here I am, five years later.”
Rybicki hoses off the cutting units on a fairway mower after morning maintenance rounds on the Wednesday before the 2019 U.S. Open.
Like anyone involved in golf course management at a major championship, Rybicki and those assisting him this week — fellow equipment managers from neighboring golf facilities along with folks from Pebble Beach’s primary equipment provider, Jacobsen — are putting in long hours to make sure the tools of the trade for the crew of nearly 125 full-time staff members and volunteers are up and running.
A day in Rybicki’s life actually begins the night before, when equipment is prepped and staged for the following morning. After crews take to the golf course, Rybicki and his assistants follow suit, putting out small fires and checking out quality of cut and other performance metrics. When morning work is finished, there are reels to grind, adjustments to make and equipment to prepare for evening rounds. Then, the whole process starts over again.
“I’ve always heard that no one can change the look of a golf course quicker than a golf course equipment manager,” Rybicki says. “If something doesn’t go out just right, things can turn on a dime. So I take all of this really personally, especially this week. Chris (Dalhamer, CGCS, Pebble Beach’s director of golf course maintenance) puts a lot of trust in me, so we’re doing everything we can to prove that trust has been earned.”
Scott Hollister is GCM’s editor-in-chief.