Iowa icon Tegtmeier set to retire

Rick Tegtmeier, CGCS, MG, Des Moines G&CC's director of grounds, will retire later this year after a standout career in his home state.


Rick Tegtmeier, Sherry Tegtmeier and Zach Johnson holding a trophy
Des Moines Golf & Country Club Director of Grounds Rick Tegtmeier, CGCS, MG, along with his wife Sherry and major champion Zach Johnson, who has been friends with Tegtmeier for years. Photos courtesy of Rick Tegtmeier

The day he walked into the bank as a 13-year-old, it was only a matter of time until Rick Tegtmeier, CGCS, MG, would profit.

A native of tiny Rockford, Iowa — population roughly 750 — Tegtmeier was motivated to think big. He asked the banker, who just happened to be green chair at the town’s nine-hole golf course, Rockford Country Club, if he could join the maintenance summer crew. He did. Eventually, Tegtmeier settled in at golf courses for all four seasons — and then for several decades.

Soon, though, it’ll be the end of an era for Tegtmeier’s watch. One of the most influential and decorated golf course superintendents in Iowa history, Tegtmeier announced March 21 that he is retiring later this year from Des Moines Golf & Country Club in West Des Moines, Iowa.

“I will be 65 in October. I want to slow down just a little,” Tegtmeier says.

At age 17 (yes, 17), there appeared to be no doubt that Tegtmeier’s industry career was all systems go. After friends and classmates departed for college or other opportunities, Tegtmeier took over at Rockford CC. 

Thereafter, the mile markers of his journey multiplied. Some of them include superintendent roles at Urbandale (Iowa) Golf & Country Club, Hinsdale Golf Club in Clarendon Hills, Ill. and Des Moines G&CC (his first stop there) on the North Course. At Elmcrest Country Club in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Tegtmeier first met a young and future major champion — and still close friend — Zach Johnson. After 17 years there, Tegtmeier returned to Des Moines Golf & CC in 2006 as the director of grounds.

His professional journey was fueled by a desire to constantly prove himself. After he was rejected admission to Iowa State University because of inadequate grades (“I didn’t apply myself,” he says), Tegtmeier embraced an I’ll-show-you stance one step at a time. He went on to attend Hawkeye Community College, studying horticulture science.

In 1979, Tegtmeier’s career intersected with GCSAA. After seeing how Iowa State students earned GCSAA scholarships, Tegtmeier pursued the same. The result? Success. “It was life-changing,” he says. “When I didn’t get in at Iowa State, it was like a sharp stick in my side.” 

Rick Tegtmeier at the 2017 Solheim Cup with Annika Sorenstam
Tegtmeier chatting with golf legend, 2014 GCSAA Old Tom Morris Award recipient and Europe team captain Annika Sorenstam, during the 2017 Solheim Cup at the Iowa club.

Tegtmeier says that initial setback combined with receiving the GCSAA scholarship became a driving force for him. “I was going to be as smart or smarter as much as anyone coming out of school,” Tegtmeier says. “I never got my four-year degree. Basically, I was self-taught. I tried to surround myself with a lot of good people.”

Some of those good people include superintendent Gene Jennings at Hyperion Field Golf Club in Johnston, Iowa, John Ausen from Field Club of Omaha and, certainly, Bill Byers, who helped Tegtmeier take over at Des Moines G&CC when he departed after nearly 50 years at the club.

“To come back and replace a legend is tough. He supported me,” says Tegtmeier, who worked for seven years under Byers during his first go-round there.

In 2015, Tegtmeier became the 67th Master Greenkeeper in the world. The certificate is a professional designation awarded by the British and International Golf Greenkeepers Association to experienced golf course professionals who have demonstrated a high level of expertise in golf course management. Since its inception in 1991, 89 people have secured MG status. “That’s pretty small company,” Tegtmeier proudly says.

More of Tegtmeier’s proudest moments: In 2017, Des Moines G&CC hosted the Solheim Cup competition, which pits standout women professional golfers from the U.S. against their European counterparts. In the four years leading up to that event, Tegtmeier directed an $8 million renovation of all 36 holes at the club. In 2019, Tegtmeier was chosen as the seventh superintendent for induction into the Iowa Golf Association Hall of Fame in 2019.

When he retires Oct. 1, Tegtmeier will have been at Des Moines G&CC for 25 years between his two stints, which includes a large part of his 40 years as a Certified Golf Course Superintendent. As he winds down, Tegtmeier plans to have a smooth transition and tie up any loose ends in time for whomever follows him in his role. Who that will be is the unknown. Among the most experienced crew members is Nate Tegtmeier, Rick’s son, whose been at the club 16 years and oversees the North Course. 

Tegtmeier, whose family along with Nate includes wife Sherry, daughter Lynette and son Eric, estimates at least 30 people who worked for him throughout the years went on to become head superintendents. Asked how he would like to be remembered in the industry, Tegtmeier says, “I just want the membership to say that he always gave 100% and had the best interest of the club in mind. I know I have not always been the easiest guy to work with. I am high strung, a big guy and a loud voice. Many times, many people take that as being mad or trying to intimidate someone. Just the opposite. I am a softie at heart.”

Howard Richman is GCM’s associate editor.