Side by side at the PGA Championship

Valhalla Golf Club’s John Ballard, CGCS, and University of Louisville Golf Club senior assistant superintendent Adam Fisher reunite this week in a spectacular setting.


Aerial view of Ghost Creek golf course
Valhalla Golf Club superintendent John Ballard, CGCS (right) welcomed a familiar face who he previously worked with for years, University of Louisville Golf Club assistant Adam Fisher, who is volunteering for Ballard this week’s PGA Championship in Louisville, Ky. Photo by Howard Richman

Adam Fisher ended up at Valhalla Golf Club after all, even if it is only for one week.

When Fisher, senior assistant superintendent at University of Louisville Golf Club in Simpsonville, Ky., and 8-year GCSAA member, got a call from Valhalla Golf Club superintendent John Ballard, CGCS, Ballard asked if Fisher would like to change cups for the back nine at this week’s PGA Championship in Louisville, Ky.

Fisher’s response came without hesitation. “He was over the moon,” Ballard says. “It is a job I have done as a volunteer in the past and I knew how special it would be for him. He was overcome when I reached out.”

Ballard and Fisher’s friendship began more than two decades ago when the men worked together, first at Audubon Country Club in Louisville and then the University of Louisville GC. “When I was hired at the University of Louisville (in 2016), he was my very first call to come join our team,” says Ballard, a 29-year GCSAA member. “He is a great guy to be around, and his crews really respect him. He manages people and teams at a very personal level and gets the most out of them.”

Fisher has always enjoyed making tricky situations right. “I like being able to take something that looks bad, turn it around, and make it look good,” he says.

Five years ago, when Ballard took the reins at Valhalla GC, he called Fisher to gauge his interest in coming to work for him again. It was tempting for Fisher to consider leaving the University of Louisville GC and land at Valhalla, which two years before was awarded this year’s PGA Championship by the PGA of America. Compared to how fast Fisher accepted the opportunity to change cups for Ballard this week, his decision process in 2019 to join his former boss was not a snap decision by any means.

“I received a call from John a couple weeks later (after Ballard started at Valhalla). I could tell by his voice he was not just checking in. I took at least a week to think about it (the job offer). It was a big decision, a chance to rejoin my mentor at the best golf course in the state. There were a lot of variables,” Fisher says. “I’ve got three boys who’re into sports. I have a son who just finished his freshman year at Louisville. We’re part of the U of L family. I love where I’m at, what I do.”

Ballard understood why Fisher chose to remain at University of Louisville GC. “When I think of Adam, it’s his family, his wife, and his boys. … it’s family first,” Ballard says. “He very much understands the work-life balance and how important it is for everyone.” Fisher’s son Jackson is riding alongside his dad this week, just as Ballard’s father Mike shadowed him when Ballard volunteered at the PGA Championship at Valhalla GC back in 2014.

For Ballard, having Adam Fisher along for this ride was an easy choice. “I wanted someone who I trust completely,” he says.

To be back at it, side by side as the world of golf watches a marquee event, is special for these two men, and it’s a whole lot more than just golf. “If he’s your friend, he’s a friend for life,” Fisher says of Ballard. “When you have someone, a coworker, a friend, like a brother, you don’t have a whole lot of those people. John and I have worked so well together. He trusts me. We’re people who take pride in our work, something we have in common. To be here with him, for this, is an incredible honor.”

Howard Richman is GCM's associate editor.