Conrad Broussard, CGCS, has followed a long and winding professional path to his current position as the director of agronomy at St. James Plantation in Southport, N.C. Photo by Matthew Silfer
Many companies rely on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator personality test to assess employees and potential hires to effectively match folks with jobs that best suit their specific talents, interests, needs, values and motivations. It’s administered as a questionnaire, but if it were mechanized — like a polygraph test — Conrad Broussard, CGCS, director of agronomy at the 81-hole St. James Plantation in Southport, N.C., may just explode it.
“Right out of college, I took a job at a men’s clothing store,” says Broussard, who earned a business degree from Texas Tech University in Lubbock in 1986. “I had worked there during school, and when I got out, I went full time — and I really enjoyed it. I liked mingling with all the folks. I enjoyed the retail mentality. Then I had the opportunity to get into the tuxedo business.”
Wait — the tuxedo business?
“Yeah, the tuxedo business. We had two retail stores, each with a stock of tuxes, all the measuring and tailoring capabilities. Man, it was pretty crazy. May through September was peak season, but we were really busy at Christmastime too. After a while, the guy who owned these two shops wanted to get into the wholesale business. I said, ‘Sure. I’ll try that.’ So I flew to Dallas to study a similar wholesale operation we wanted to mimic. Pretty soon, we bought a warehouse, filled it with tuxedos, and (began) shipping them all over Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico.”
Part of Broussard’s job was to canvas those three states, looking for customers in places like men’s stores, wedding boutiques and other tuxedo retail operations. “If you go to a mall, the shop there might have tuxedos, but maybe they don’t have every size,” he says. “Maybe they can’t handle the whole wedding party. We had hundreds and hundreds of tuxedos, in every size. So our customers, which were often other tuxedo retail shops, would say, ‘This suit and that suit on this date,’ we’d ship them out, they’d get worn for the wedding or the prom or whatever, then they’d ship them back. It was one crazy business. Talk about pressure-packed.”
This coming from a guy who has spent the past two decades in the high-stress business of golf course management. “Well, the stress comes when you’ve got to get those suits out, and they have to fit the order,” Broussard, a 21-year GCSAA member, explains. “But you’re waiting on a bunch of suits to come back in, knowing you have to clean them, alter them and ship them back out in a matter of hours.”
Pinpointing a passion
Broussard relates these vignettes in vivid detail and in an easygoing, South Texas drawl that has been softened a bit from spending years in the low country. He’s a gifted yarn-spinner, but he differs from mere talkers in one important respect: He asks questions — as many questions as he answers — and he listens to the answers.
Broussard lived this go-go, black-tie life for some 10 years. He was successful, and, in certain ways, he thinks he thrived on the pressure. “But 10 years is a long time,” he says. “Eventually, I wanted a change. You know, you have to be passionate about what you do. In order to work hard, you need that passion. I’ve always given it everything I’ve got. They got everything I had — but I was ready to do something else. Now that I’m in the golf business, they get their money’s worth out of me.”
With the tux trade behind him, Broussard did indeed identify a new passion to pursue. He had always loved golf, playing the game in high school and college. Standing in a golf shop hawking shirts and equipment didn’t appeal to him, however — too much like the retail game he’d just discarded. Somewhere along the way, he’d befriended an assistant golf course superintendent, and that world did appeal to Broussard — being closer to golf, being outside, having what he saw as the freedom to plan one’s day around the ever-changing needs of a golf course, a living landscape.
As quickly as he had tackled the wholesale tux business, Broussard enrolled in the turfgrass program at Horry Georgetown Technical College in Conway, S.C., which sits right across Highway 501 from the 72-hole Wild Wing Plantation. Broussard worked on the crew there when he wasn’t in class, and, upon graduation, landed an assistant job back in Texas. A perfect move for this native Houstonian, right? Well, not exactly. The job was limited in its responsibilities and decision-making potential, and besides, Broussard had taken a real shine to the low country.
In 1997, he reached out to Paul Daniel, one of his professors at Horry Georgetown, letting him know he was in the market for a move. In almost no time, another alum, Jim Brown, called Daniel seeking an assistant superintendent recommendation for The Players Course at St. James Plantation. Daniel knew just the guy. Broussard jumped at the chance, eventually assumed the head superintendent’s job at The Founders Course, and today is in charge of all 81 holes.
The art of storytelling
Some would call this a storybook rise, but when the subject is Broussard, one doesn’t use that sort of language loosely.
About 12 years ago, the head super at St. James started committing those storytelling skills to paper — or, rather, a computer hard drive. Every morning (“When the head is fresh and uncluttered”) he devoted 60 to 90 minutes to this new craft. He has since written and self-published three young-adult adventure novels, writing under the name Konnrad. He’s now banging out a fourth — a love story with an agronomic twist.
“I just sat down one day and said, ‘Man, I’m gonna write,’” Broussard recalls. “I’ve always liked to read. I took a lot of English classes at college that weren’t necessarily required, because I liked them. I could’ve been an English major with just a few more classes.
“But the writing is not as easy as people might think,” he continues. “The grammar and punctuation don’t come naturally, even with good training. Putting thoughts down on paper is tough — keeping that plot going in the right direction, where one sentence naturally leads to the next, where one paragraph leads to the next one — it’s an art.”
It took five to six years of practice before he began writing freely, Broussard says, adding, “I feel I’ve really progressed. I go back and read the first stuff and, well, I would do it differently now.”
The first three books from Konnrad — “The King and the Kid” (2013), “Thunderstorm” (2014) and “Swarm” (2015) — all fall under what’s called young-adult literature, though if the comments on Amazon.com are any indication, the audience is wider than that. (“One of the best books I have read in years,” one reads. “Geared toward a younger generation, I am 50, but this book kept my interest and had me not wanting to put it down.”) The trio of books details the exploits of Vince James, his friends, their dog, a mad scientist, some kidnappers and several other less-than-reliable adults. Because Broussard believes one should write what one knows, golf and sports play important roles in all three.
But what about agronomy? If one writes what he knows best, when will Konnrad bring the thrills and spills of golf course maintenance to a wider audience?
“I don’t know; agronomy and cutting grass are kind of boring,” Broussard says. “But there will be some in this book, which is nothing like the first three. It’s a love story. Two guys meet in college — a business major and a geneticist. They hook up on a project, then decide to go farther with it — creating and marketing a grain, like wheat, that is genetically modified to feed the world. The plant adapts to any environment, droughty or lush.
“They become incredibly rich,” the writer continues. “Eventually, the partners each get married and have kids, who grow up together. One guy’s son falls in love with the other guy’s daughter. She’s not so sure about him. Eventually, the two partners have a falling out and don’t want these kids together. That’s where I’m at.”
Genetically modified seeds — that’s the shoutout to his fellow golf course superintendents. “Hey, that’s sort of a hot topic right now!” Broussard exclaims.
No bottom line
Broussard treats his literary career like he treats his fishing: It’s about him, for his own enjoyment.
He doesn’t harbor any delusions of grandeur about where it might take him professionally. His three books are self-published, after all. That means it is he who pays the guy in California to design the covers, and it is he who promotes them, to the extent he promotes them at all.
“I’m way behind on book sales versus what I’ve put into them, financially. I bet I have two grand into the three books,” Broussard says. “That might sound like a lot, but you can’t get a good fishing boat for that.”
The bottom line for Broussard is simple: There is no bottom line. Writing gives him pleasure, and nothing delivers the rush that comes from a happy reader or positive review, like this one about “The King and the Kid,” from Amazon: “Enjoyed watching a friendship evolve among an unlikely combination of kids, with several twists along the way. Did wish we could have seen more of the two kidnappers. I thought their bumbling antics added such comic relief. They reminded me of two such characters in ‘Home Alone.’ Who could hate such villains while you are laughing at their mishaps! A good read with valuable lessons for the tween and teen.”
Not every review is so favorable, of course, but Konnrad is cool with those, too. “You get some good reviews. Some not so good. I can take it,” Broussard says. “When you’re a superintendent, you’re used to people being critical.”
Hal Phillips is the managing director of Mandarin Media. He has been writing about golf and golf course management for 25 years, and is a frequent contributor to GCM.