Turf titan turned taekwondo champ

A background in agronomy and the discipline it fostered helped Brad Minnick, CGCS, emerge victorious in a world taekwondo championship last summer.


Filed to: Kansas

Brad Minnick CGCS
Photo by Roger Billings

In an effort to promote togetherness, the Minnick family decided to take up an Olympic sport. One of them is getting a kick out of it in a big way.

Brad Minnick, CGCS, needed only five years after his family began participating in the martial art of taekwondo — which means “way of hand and foot” — to conquer it. In July, Minnick won the American Taekwondo Association world championship in his division at its annual international tournament in Little Rock, Ark. Minnick, 45, won a gold medal in combat weapons sparring. He defeated Tommy Buckmaster 10-8 in the final.

“I get goosebumps talking about it. It was the culmination of a lot of work to that point,” says Minnick, a 24-year GCSAA member.

Taekwondo was incorporated into the Olympics 13 years before the Minnicks tried it. Since they started, though, they’ve certainly racked up accomplishments. Brad and his sons, Gannon and Bennett, have earned black belts. His wife and the boys’ mother, Heather, is close to receiving her black belt.

“I love to compete. That’s just my nature,” Minnick says. “We wanted to give the boys self-awareness, have some structure. It was an opportunity for us to work out as a family, and we could do it together.”

A native of Chillicothe, Mo., Minnick graduated with a degree in turfgrass management from the University of Missouri. “At 15, I told my dad I wanted to be a superintendent,” he says.

From 1998 to 2008, Minnick oversaw Lawrence (Kan.) Country Club. Vietnam veteran Peter Conway started on the crew shortly after Minnick began and says he loved working for him. “He was a good guy to work for, and you always could go to him,” says Conway, who was on the scene in late August 2018 when Minnick returned to Lawrence CC for the photo shoot for this story. (When he saw Minnick dressed for the picture, Conway smiled and told him, “I’m glad you and I didn’t lock horns.”)

In 2008, Minnick left Lawrence CC to start his own lawn and landscaping business in town, Green Concepts. He departed the superintendent field for family reasons. “I was gone all the time. I wanted to see my kids more,” he says.

For several years, Minnick was a fixture at GCSAA headquarters in Lawrence, as Green Concepts had been awarded the contract to maintain the grounds. Overseeing the care of turfgrass and landscape for an association that’s heavily invested in that type of work and has thousands of members could be considered a load of pressure, but Minnick welcomed it. “Of course it was a big deal. Think about all those people who were looking at it,” he says. “I have a passion for every property that I have taken care of.”

In 2017, Minnick sold his business and began a new chapter. Currently, he serves as an agronomist and assists in business development for Herfort Norby Golf Course Architects, and he is also a project manager for the Natural Grass Advisory Group, an independent education, advisory, management and analytics firm focused on the improvement of natural grass sports surfaces.

Minnick family
Minnick with sons Bennett (left) and Gannon and his wife, Heather, after his title triumph. Photo courtesy of Brad Minnick

Much of Minnick’s spare time is devoted to taekwondo. And yes, there’s a weapon involved. The combat weapon is padded and 24 inches long. Dressed in a dobuk (it looks like a robe) and head gear with a mask, a participant uses the combat weapon to try to hit the head, body or leg of an opponent to score points.

“It (competition) only lasts two minutes. Two intense minutes,” Minnick says. “I’ve seen broken bones, bloody noses, even with the face mask on. Things can go awry.”

Minnick is constantly seeking improvement in everything he does. “Perfect practice makes perfect. You need to listen to feedback, do your homework, and don’t just spin your wheels. You have to self-evaluate all the time,” he says.

Did we mention that Minnick lost in the final a year ago? It propelled him to new heights this year. “That particular guy (Buckmaster) was good at defending attacks, so I made him attack me, and that worked to perfection,” he says.

Sometimes Minnick misses being a superintendent and the special end result of the job. “To go from so-so to spectacular in a couple of hours that brings out the best in the golf course made it worthwhile,” he says. Minnick sees some correlations between taekwondo and being a superintendent. “It’s the ability to stay focused on what you’re doing,” he says, “That focus, that drive, to make things right.”

Howard Richman is GCM’s associate editor.