Doggone delight: George living his best life at his daytime hangout, Hot Springs (Ark.) Country Club. Photo by Kim Rutledge
For gregarious golden retriever George — who graces the cover of the 2020 “Dog Days of Golf” calendar — the best thing about working at Hot Springs (Ark.) Country Club isn’t necessarily the 36 holes of golf free for the exploring. Sure, there are plenty of ponds to paddle, squirrels to chase and golf carts to chaperon, and George takes all of those duties very seriously. But according to Hot Springs Country Club superintendent Trey Rutledge, the job that 15-month-old George relishes most is member relations.
“George absolutely loves people,” says Rutledge, George’s owner and a 26-year member of GCSAA. “When he walks into a room, his tail wags so hard that his bottom moves back and forth. His personality is infectious, and he has made friends with a lot of our members.”
Further testament to George’s lovable-ness? The charismatic canine was recently crowned 2020 Dog of the Year in the annual contest held in conjunction with the “Dog Days of Golf” calendar, presented by GCSAA and LebanonTurf. All the dogs featured in the 2020 “Dog Days of Golf” calendar were in the running for the title (meet them below), and voting took place Jan. 29-30 on the trade show floor at the 2020 Golf Industry Show in Orlando, Fla. George emerged victorious, a feat Rutledge says has been cause for celebration at Hot Springs CC and at home.
“My wife is just ecstatic,” says Rutledge, whose wife, Kim, is an avid photographer, her subject of choice the family’s three dogs. “To her, it was like winning an Emmy.”
Right: George with his owner and Hot Springs Country Club superintendent Trey Rutledge.
Kim Rutledge captured the photos of George that appear in the 2020 “Dog Days of Golf” calendar, and she shares her many shots of George, his brothers, Jackson and Bentley (both golden retrievers), and the trio’s furry pals on a Facebook page.
In addition to all the glory and prestige that come with the Dog of the Year distinction, George’s win included a $500 prize and also earned $3,000 for Rutledge’s local chapter, the Arkansas GCSA.
For George, who has been on the golf course since he was a puppy, the newfound fame hasn’t distracted him. Rather, the social butterfly has kept his focus on perfecting his people skills. Young golden retrievers are sometimes referred to as “land sharks” because of their habit of inadvertently biting, but George has devised a foolproof safeguard.
“George figured out on his own that if he had something in his mouth, he couldn’t bite you,” Rutledge says. “So to this day, when he greets anyone, he will find anything — a stick, a toy, a rock, whatever is available — to put in his mouth so he can safely say hello.”
That’s a good boy, George.
A Q&A with George, 2020 Dog of the Year
Q: What’s an average workday like for you?
A: I do all the stuff golden retriever dogs do, except the stuff I’m not allowed to do — like chase golf balls or dig giant holes in the bunkers. Those are really fun things. Not doing is harder than you think!
Q: What’s your favorite treat?
A: Any treat. I live in the promised land of member treat gratuities. (I know that’s a big word!) It’s like Disney for dogs. But I can’t have treats unless I sit good. I sit good a lot.
Q: When you’re not on the clock at Hot Springs CC, what do you like to do?
A: I play all the time with my older brother, Jackson. He’s six months older than me. He’s bossy. I like being on the golf course and having my own space and making my own decisions.
Q: What’s your secret to being a “good boy”?
A: I was born the goodest. Really, I was. Honest.
Q: How do you feel about being named Dog of the Year?
A: I’m an ambassa-dog now. That’s a cool thing to be.
Q: Any insights for other dogs who aspire to the golf course life?
A: It’s a cool gig. You get lots of fresh air, and there are ponds to swim in. Lots of treats if you’re a good boy or a good girl. Golf carts are pretty fun too. But you’ve gotta be smart and listen. You really can’t be running amok. You have to be a good boy.
Meet the 2020 Dog Days of Golf calendar pups
Juneau, a malamute/shepherd cross, at Westwood Plateau Golf & Country Club in Coquitlam, British Columbia.
Brooks, a rescue dog, at Edgewood Country Club in Commerce, Mich.
Kiley (left), a border collie; Gus (center), a Great Dane; and Neil, a Lab mix, at The Country Club in Brookline, Mass.
Bubba, a corgi, at Onwentsia Club in Lake Forest, Ill.
Maverick, a silver Lab, at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J.
Elbow, an Australian shepherd, at Reunion Golf & Country Club in Madison, Miss.
Marley, a black mouth cur, at Bellevue Country Club in Syracuse, N.Y.
Maggie, a mini goldendoodle, at Heathrow (Fla.) Country Club.
Zelda, a blue merle Australian shepherd, at Schifferdecker Golf Course in Joplin, Mo.
Bowser, a brindle-colored boxer, at Elcona Country Club in Bristol, Ind.
Luca, an English Labrador, at Eagle Eye Golf Club in Bath, Mich.
Rose (left), a border collie, and Ace, a blue merle miniature Australian shepherd, at Signature of Solon Country Club in Solon, Ohio.
Prince, an American Staffordshire/hound mix, at Kona Country Club in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii.
Editor’s note: Think your four-legged golf course companion would look great in the pages of the 2021 “Dog Days of Golf” calendar? GCSAA will start taking submissions this spring — be on the lookout for more information.
Megan Hirt is the editor of GCMOnline.com.