Coming home to Alsatian Golf Club

Jay Cockroft, superintendent at the Castroville, Texas club, is finishing his storied career where it began. 


Jay Cockroft
Superintendent Jay Cockroft may be leaving Alsatian Golf Club, but he certainly made a difference in its rise. Photos by Ken Crabtree

“Homecoming” can mean many things, such as high school reunions, visiting for the holidays or welcoming a soldier on leave from duty. 

For Jay Cockroft, it meant coming home to stay.

A GCSAA Class A superintendent and 25-year association member, Cockroft launched his career by helping put Alsatian Golf Club in Castroville, Texas, on the map. He collaborated to breathe life into the place, exited for a while, then ultimately resurfaced for quite the last hurrah. Now, as he completes the final chapter to his story there, the moral of the story is this: You really can go home again.

How he ended up there in the first place has much to do with a Caterpillar. No, not the insect. Cockroft owned a Texas ranch and possessed a bulldozer that was coveted when Alsatian was about to be built. Cockroft used the piece of equipment to shape his career.

On Labor Day 1994, work commenced at Alsatian, and Cockroft was brought on by then-owner Richard Russell to do some of the shaping. Cockroft asked Russell if he could do more. Give the owner credit for believing in the man and for taking on an unproven commodity and making him his superintendent. “I didn’t know anything about growing turfgrass. He said, ‘Don’t worry about it; we’ll make a go of it.’ I took the job,” Cockroft says.

A year later, in September 1995, Alsatian opened. Cockroft leaned on those around him to learn. “I got into the local chapter (Central Texas GCSA), would go to meetings, met vendors. It was a lot of OJT (on-the-job training),” Cockroft says. “I made calls if I needed, probably bothered a lot of people.”

It was no bother at all for GCSAA Class A superintendent Paul Lane, who says he gladly fielded questions. “Jay’s a down-to-earth, what-you-see-is-what-you-get, genuine guy, and he shows that hard work pays off when all is said and done,” says Lane, a 33-year association member at River Crossing Club in Spring Branch, Texas.

In 2007, Cockroft pursued a change of course. Feeling as if he were in a rut, he took a step back, a decision that in time would be the best move he ever made because it led to a giant leap down the road. Cockroft inquired about potential openings elsewhere and landed as an assistant (pay hike included) at San Antonio Country Club under Daniel McCann, who says that Cockroft’s presence was beneficial to them both.

“Jay is just one of those guys I honestly needed early in my years as a superintendent, two years into a pretty high-end gig trying to blaze my own trail, so to speak,” says McCann, a GCSAA Class A superintendent and 25-year association member who now is Southwest territory manager for Aquatrols. “His construction experience, growing grass … I knew he would give me wise counsel. I could lean on him. He was such an asset to our team.”

Jay Cockroft
Superintendent Jody Everett and the Alsatian Golf Club crew are ready to carry on after Cockroft departs.

No wonder then that McCann had mixed emotions when Cockroft returned in 2011 to be in charge for a second go-round at Alsatian. “Obviously, he had a lot invested in that place. Everybody knew Jay. It was the right time for him to go back,” McCann says. “They looked at him in a different way after not having him for four years. Sad to see him go, but it was right for him to go.”

Upon his comeback, Cockroft received a pay raise compared to his previous salary there, and current owner Terry Dickerson has aided the cause by providing more of the tools Cockroft needs, including a set of spiking reels and a roller. Cockroft learned a lot in San Antonio, such as how to organize and guide a crew triple the size he oversaw at Alsatian. Meanwhile, Cockroft never wavered from the goal. “Since I played the game, I knew what golfers expected from a golf course. I knew I had a chance to make a difference to a golf course, make it as good as it can be. Rough. Hazards. Take care of the greens. If they’re not good, you may see them (golfers) only once or twice,” he says. “They’re (golfers) paying my salary, so I want them to keep playing it. I want them to think it’s a fun place and say, ‘Let’s go play it again.’”

On Sept. 1, Cockroft retired. His presence, however, remains. He still is at Alsatian as a consultant for superintendent Jody Everett until around the end of the year. Everett, who has spent five years by Cockroft’s side as his assistant, has been there long enough to see the boss sometimes buy the team lunch out of his own pocket and slip them holiday bonuses on his own dime. As for when Cockroft no longer is there, it sounds as if not much will change. “What he has done works. That’s a pretty good plan to follow,” Everett says.

In 2022, Cockroft received the Central Texas GCSA Superintendent of the Year Award. “It means a lot, because there are many that are deserving of that award,” says Cockroft, 67, who with his wife, Jo Ellen, has two sons, Jayson and Jonathan. “It was a total surprise to me, but such an awesome feeling for me and my crew.”

Alsatian general manager Laura Reed will dearly miss Cockroft. “He has always loved Alsatian, and it shows. Really, it’s amazing what he’s done,” Reed says. “He deserves to ride off on a white horse with a crown on his head.”

Cockroft says he’s uncertain where he’d be now if he had not come back to Alsatian. This thought, though, pretty much best explains why he did return. And what an encore it has been. “This is my baby,” he says.

Howard Richman is GCM's associate editor