A homecoming at Manhattan Country Club

GCSAA Class A Superintendent Nic Youngers returned to the club where he got his start.


Nic Youngers on the course at Manhattan Country Club
Nic Youngers, superintendent at Manhattan (Kan.) Country Club, has special memories of the place and now is making more of them. Photo by David Mayes

The irrigation leak posed no problem for Nic Youngers. After all, he knew this spot like it was family.

There he was on the 10th green at Manhattan (Kan.) Country Club, fixing that leak during his first day on the job in July 2022. What a homecoming for Youngers, who previously served as an assistant at the facility several years before. This time around, Youngers was there as the club’s GCSAA Class A superintendent. Sadly, the first superintendent he worked for at Manhattan CC wasn’t there to see what was transpiring. From 1981 to 2013, Cliff Dipman oversaw the club, and the man would become more than a boss and mentor to Youngers.

Youngers’ first experience in Manhattan — and how he landed there the second time — is a story (or two) in itself.

He started as a golfer on scholarship at Kansas City Kansas Community College for two years before transferring to Kansas State University in Manhattan as a student in 2008. An early protégé of then-superintendent Jaron Gerber and assistant Austin Murphy at Rolling Hills Country Club in Wichita, Youngers was encouraged by them to go work for Dipman, whose reputation for shaping future superintendents was widely known. So, after enrolling at K-State, Youngers joined Dipman’s crew. He liked the social part of being at a large college, but the school end of it … not so much. “At a point, when you enjoy college life too much, you want to get your life straight,” he says.

He did. Youngers departed K-State and went to school at Highland (Kan.) Community College. Afterward, he decided he was better prepared to give K-State another try and enrolled a second time. It resulted in a resounding triumph.

“I can still see him sitting in my office in my blue, comfy chair, talking about class, trees. This kid came back with a gusto, knew what he wanted, knew he had to work for it,” says Cathie Lavis, Ph.D., a professor of horticulture and natural resources at K-State. “I never forget attitude. I tell students that every semester. He always was cheerful and pleasant. And I’m not at all surprised by his success.”

A major part of Youngers’ revival included connecting with the person he would ultimately marry. Back when he was still at Highland CC, Youngers met Cortney. He was shopping at Target when he encountered Cortney and her mother, Christy Dipman, the executive secretary of the Kansas GCSA. And, yes, also the wife of Cliff Dipman. Christy shared an observation of that meeting with Youngers and her daughter. “My mom said, ‘He didn’t even look at me once.’ I just rolled my eyes at her,” Cortney says with a laugh.

Eventually, Cliff Dipman became Youngers’ father-in-law when Youngers and Cortney married in 2014 while he was an assistant at Manhattan CC under Mark McKain, who took over following Dipman’s retirement in 2013. Cortney was Youngers’ inspiration. They have three children — a son, Easton Clifford (in honor of Cliff), and twin girls, Laila and Leah. “I wanted to provide a good life for her,” Youngers says of Cortney. “For me, it was like, ‘Let’s get this (career progression) together and keep it together.’”

One of Dipman’s final acts before retiring was giving his blessing to Youngers. “I came up to his shop, just Cliff and me. I asked for his permission to propose to Cortney. He said, ‘Of course. We’ve got to have a beer now,’” Youngers says.

Christy Dipman says, “We’ve always kidded that we’re not sure if he asked Cortney to marry him because he wanted to be in our family with Cliff. Cliff thought of him as a son. He saw a lot of potential in him. Nic’s dream was to come back to MCC to grow grass. He is keeping the legacy going.”

In 2019, Cliff Dipman died following a lengthy, determined battle against cancer.

That period was extremely difficult for Youngers. In January 2020, he also lost his father. “I lost both father figures in three months,” Youngers says.

Nic Youngers and Cliff Dipman
Youngers (left) shares one of many moments that he had off, and on, the golf course with Cliff Dipman. Photo courtesy of Christy Dipman

No wonder then that Youngers encountered a swell of emotions when he departed Rolling Meadows Golf Course in Milford, Kan., where he had been the superintendent for nearly eight years, to take the reins at Manhattan CC two years ago.

“It felt like coming home,” says Youngers, a 10-year GCSAA member and Wichita, Kan., native who is also a 2022 past president on the Kansas GCSA Board of Directors. “I learned so much from Cliff. His management of people. We could talk about turf. Could talk about life and anything in between. He had to be resourceful, do things on a tight budget and produce a high-quality product. His communication with membership was second to none. He’d talk to them, would hear them out, and voice his opinion in a kind way.”

Here’s what Manhattan CC regular Brian Fehr has to say about Youngers: “Turf conditions and maintenance practices improved in a month after he got there. You can tell how passionate he is about it. He’s on cloud nine, and we’re on cloud nine having him with us.”

The method that Youngers implements is simple for Fehr to remember. “Verticut, topdress, repeat. The greens are immaculate,” says Fehr, noting how Youngers successfully recovered from severe winterkill, repairing it by placing over 200 hex plugs. “I just don’t know of anybody who loves their profession more than Nic.”

Kevin Fateley sees some similarities between Youngers and Dipman. He should know: Fateley started as an assistant at Manhattan CC two months before Dipman’s arrival. “They’re both hands-on, working superintendents. They’re out there, in a hole, fixing a leak, mowing, doing something extra on the golf course. That’s refreshing to see,” says Fateley, a 34-year retired association member and owner of Wildcat Fitness & Fun in Manhattan.

Youngers’ mother-in-law says her late husband would be proud that their daughter’s husband oversees Manhattan CC. A strong faith guided every aspect of her husband’s life, as it does Youngers. “My move to MCC was faith-driven. I took a leap because I feel God told me to leap and trust,” Youngers says. “He provided as he always does.”

Unquestionably, Youngers provides with all his might. Much of what drives him is what the place means to him, his family, many others in the community and, always, Cliff Dipman’s spirit. “There’s not a day I don’t think about him,” Youngers says. “I just want to produce a course he’d be proud of.”

Howard Richman is GCM's associate editor