Sharon Golf Club's Bogdanski equips the next generation

2023 Edwin Budding Award winner Gary Bogdanski is more than just a great equipment manager. He’s also an unparalleled problem-solver and teacher.


Gary Bogdanski
Gary Bogdanski has worked his entire career as an equipment manager at The Sharon Golf Club in Sharon Center, Ohio. Photo by Liza Sue Studebaker

Perhaps, given Gary Bogdanski’s initial career interests, it doesn’t seem surprising he’d end up making a long, distinguished career out of taking things apart and putting them back together.

After all, before he decided to make his way by making things work, he was most intrigued by the things that make things, well, things.

“I was really good in chemistry,” says Bogdanski, equipment manager at The Sharon Golf Club in Sharon Center, Ohio, for more than three decades and winner of GCSAA’s 2023 Edwin Budding Award. “I was the guy who would break the curve. If the teacher gave a test worth 110 points, I’d get 110 points. They stopped putting me in the curve.”

A figurative chemical reaction in college threw Bogdanski’s career plans a curve. Three years into his studies in chemical engineering at the University of Akron, Bogdanski had a change of heart.

“I always liked chemistry and thought it might be something worth getting into,” he says, “but I realized it was going to be more like a desk job, not really working on chemicals themselves. I was always good at working on equipment. I always liked the mechanical side of things, seeing how things work and being able to put them back together and maybe even improve them.”

At the time, his mother was working in the kitchen at The Sharon Golf Club, and there happened to be a vacancy for a mechanic. Bogdanski, a self-described “farm kid” with a fondness for machinery, took the job, changed majors — to mechanical technology — and hasn’t left.

“It’s the kind of job where there’s something different every day,” says Bogdanski, an eight-year GCSAA member who has been the facility’s full-time mechanic/equipment manager since 1988, three years before his graduation from Akron. “Very seldom is there a day I don’t look forward to going to work.”

Gary Bogdanski
Since 2019, Bogdanski has taught or co-taught a pair of courses at Ohio State University Agricultural Technical Institute in Wooster, Ohio. Photo courtesy of Gary Bogdanski

‘Gary’s talents are unbelievable’

Frank Dobie remembers well the day Bogdanski walked into his life.

“He came in and said, ‘I need to make some money to finish college. I’m applying for a job here, but I can only work for a year,’” recalls Dobie, a 66-year life GCSAA member who only just recently retired from The Sharon Golf Club after a distinguished 56-year run as superintendent/senior agronomist/general manager there. “Needless to say, he didn’t leave after a year.”

He did, however, leave quite an impression.

“Gary’s talents are unbelievable,” says Dobie, winner of GCSAA’s Distinguished Service Award (now the Col. John Morley Award) in 2011. “Not only is he a great mechanic; he’s a great detective. Give him a problem, and he’ll figure it out. He’ll go online, talk to other people. He’s great at solving problems. He’s what I call a problem-solver. On staff, that’s what I’d look for, people who wouldn’t get stopped by a problem and would take it as a challenge.”

The challenges through the years were many, and Dobie can recount how Bogdanski rose to meet every one.

When Dobie wanted a new storage building at the golf course, he put Bogdanski to work on it. Same for a cart building and housing for the irrigation control panels.

“Whenever I had a problem, whether mechanical or construction, I’d go to Gary,” Dobie says.

Dobie recalls when, 20-some years ago, he caught rumblings that Ohio was going to pass legislation restricting how businesses stored their chemical inputs. Dobie asked Bogdanski to design a pesticide-storage building that would pass the strict standards established by codes in California.

“I knew we were faced with it soon,” Dobie says. “Gary started investigating pesticide-storage buildings and came up with all sorts of things that were innovative at the time. The USGA asked Gary to write an article for the Green Section Record about it, which he did. That’s the kind of thing he relishes. When he doesn’t have a challenge, he gets bored.”

Dobie remembers a time when greens rollers first started having a moment in golf, having been imported from grass tennis court maintenance. Dobie, however, found them too expensive and a pain to transport. He asked Bogdanski to come up with a solution that would work with the club’s existing equipment. Bogdanski removed the cutting units from aging triplex greens mowers and substituted rollers — first plastic, then steel. “We could roll all our greens faster than we could mow them,” Dobie says. “We still use them today.”

And then there was the time the Bogdanski-Dobie duo essentially designed a sub-surface ventilation system eerily similar to the one that was just beginning to be used at Augusta National Golf Club, home of the Masters. 

“Whenever I needed a mechanical thing, I’d have a concept, and Gary would make the mechanics fit the concept,” Dobie says. “I saw right off the bat his talent, and I made it worth his while to stay. As time went on, he was probably the highest-paid mechanic in the area. I wanted to keep him.”

Gary Bogdanski
Bogdanski, left, with The Sharon Club’s current superintendent, David Willmott, center, and former longtime superintendent/GM Frank Dobie. Photos by Liza Sue Studebaker

The next generation

But Bogdanski’s contributions go far beyond the workshop. 

After all, the Edwin Budding Award, named for the inventor of the lawn mower, is given to an EM or related innovator, technician or engineer who has made a significant impact in the golf course and turf industry.

Not long into his career, Bogdanski took stock of his profession and found its future looked uncertain.

“I started thinking of the younger generation and wondering who would take my place, not just where I work but around the country,” he says. “A number of us agreed we needed to be creating something. We needed to get the younger generation excited about this career. There weren’t a lot of people coming out of school who know about this career. We needed to get involved, publicize it, talk about it. That’s what keeps me motivated. I could show up to work every day, do my job and go home. A lot of guys do that. It’s hard to get out of your comfort zone. I always strive to get out of my comfort zone and try to put some passion into it.”

A frequent presenter at the Ohio Turfgrass Conference and the GCSAA Conference and Trade Show, Bogdanski helped in the development of GCSAA’s key equipment manager programs, including the Equipment Manager Certificate Program and the Certified Turf Equipment Manager program.

“My main goal is to give back to the industry that has given so much to me,” Bogdanski says.

Gary Bogdanski
Bogdanski (and his Budding Award) in the shop at The Sharon Club.

A teacher, too

An encounter with Ed Nangle, Ph.D., while serving on GCSAA’s Equipment Manager Task Group gave Bogdanski yet another way to give back.

Nangle, associate professor and coordinator of the turfgrass equipment manager certificate at Ohio State University Agricultural Technical Institute in Wooster, Ohio, was looking for someone to teach as part of that program.

“He wasn’t our first choice to teach the reel-grinding class,” Nangle says, “but that was just based on proximity. We thought he’d be too far away to be interested in coming all the way down to teach for us. But Gary was absolutely no-questions-asked all-in. Ever since that day, we look at ourselves and wonder, ‘How have we been so lucky to have Gary on board?’”

In fact, Bogdanski was so impressive from Day One in 2019 teaching “Turfgrass Reel Mower Maintenance” in the winter, the school scrambled to find a way to get him to spend more time in the classroom. Bogdanski also co-teaches “Turfgrass Equipment Operation and Maintenance” in the fall. 

“His side of the industry is renowned for not being very communicative,” Nangle says. “Gary is almost the polar opposite of that. We’ve never had a student say a bad word about Gary. They’re all, to a student, appreciative of the time and knowledge he shares with them. I can’t say enough good things about Gary.”

And he has plenty of good things to say about his students.

“At first I wasn’t sure. It took a little bit of courage,” Bogdanski says. “But you keep going every day. After the first semester, I started to feel pretty good about it. And the students are great. That’s the biggest part, the students. They have such young, active minds. They’re like sponges absorbing everything.”

Now that he’s made his way as an equipment manager and as a teacher, does Bogdanski prefer one over the other? Bogdanski pauses, and it becomes obvious he’s relieved he doesn’t have to choose.

“Even as equipment manager … I’ve got a new assistant, and I’m teaching in a way. I gravitate toward the teaching part,” he says. “But I like the variety of working on a golf course. You’re working on something every day. School becomes a little repetitious. The students change, but it’s the same curriculum. Teaching part-time helps.

“But I’d say I’d probably stay at the golf course.”

Andrew Hartsock ( is GCM’s editor-in-chief.