Brent Borelli (left), a GCSAA International Superintendent Member, is helping with the construction of River Bend Golf Course in Pyeongtaek, South Korea. Sim Eun Yong (right) is a golf course shaping specialist for the project. Photos courtesy of Brent Borelli
Where Olympic athletes are striving for gold medals, superintendent Brent Borelli believes he has struck golf course gold.
The Winter Olympics are underway in Pyeongchang, South Korea, and the worldwide event has obviously taken center stage. Approximately 80 miles away, Borelli is part of an ongoing event that will change the United States’ global footprint.
Borelli is employed by the U.S. Army and has been overseeing Sung Nam Golf Course in South Korea. That course, though, will close in April. In the meantime, Borelli has been driving 90 minutes from Sung Nam to help build the new River Bend Golf Course in Pyeongtaek, South Korea, a Robert Trent Jones II Golf Architects design located near U.S. Army Garrison Humphreys. When that course opens — perhaps by this summer — Borelli will be its superintendent. The new golf course is part of a major transformation at Humphreys, which is 40 miles from Seoul. A massive base expansion is underway that is expected to nearly triple the size of the camp to almost 3,500 acres, making it the largest U.S. overseas military base.
“I’m very proud to be taking care of the U.S. Army course for our brave soldiers,” Borelli tells GCM.
Borelli, a 21-year GCSAA member, is a long way from his native South Portland, Maine. He attended Bentley University in Waltham, Mass., and during college, he spent a summer working at Riverside Golf Course in Portland. That opportunity, working for then-superintendent Joe Esposito, sparked an interest in the industry for Borelli, who took Esposito’s advice and enrolled at the Stockbridge School of Agriculture at UMass Amherst after graduating from Bentley.
The new River Bend Golf Course near U.S. Army Garrison Humphreys.
Borelli had other mentors along the way, such as Jeff Wentworth, CGCS, of Pelham Country Club in Pelham Manor, N.Y., and Wentworth’s assistant, Larry Taylor. Borelli interned under them, during which time he was part of the addition of a new maintenance facility and irrigation system. After moving on to work at a couple of private courses in the New York metropolitan area, Borelli entered the Army’s stable of golf courses when he took a job at Picatinny Arsenal Golf Club in New Jersey. He worked there one season before being sent to Texas A&M University for a two-week training course. That’s where he met the general manager of Sung Nam Golf Course, who asked Borelli whether he’d be interested in coming to work for him in South Korea. Borelli made the move, and, nearly nine years later, he’s still based in the country currently playing host to the Olympics.
“Living in Korea is a huge challenge because it’s a transitional climate, with monsoon rains at the worst time (July and August). It’s not uncommon to receive 50 inches of rain in July and August when it’s hot and humid, and you are dealing with cool-season grasses,” Borelli says.
Still, the opportunity to serve those who serve the United States overrides any agronomic challenges Borelli may face. “It puts work, and life, into perspective,” he says.
Howard Richman is GCM’s associate editor.