Blast from the past: Scott Hollister, GCM editor-in-chief, tackles some bunker work at Pebble Beach Golf Links in advance of the 2000 U.S. Open. GCM staff photo
In June 2000, I wrote what I believe to be the first staff-written opinion piece ever published in GCM or any of its predecessors.
At that time, the magazine featured Viewpoint, a space reserved for superintendents and others in the golf course management industry to share their opinions about the issues of the day. It was seldom overly controversial, but it was usually thought-provoking and definitely served its purpose as a venue for genuine opinion and discussion about the profession.
Aside from editing that piece every month, staff never took part in those conversations. Our view was that the work we did was about the readers, about GCSAA members. We were there to write about their careers, their trials, tribulations and triumphs. We weren’t there to write about ourselves, because, really, did anyone actually care all that much about what we thought about things?
But that began to change a little as we dove into work on that particular issue of the magazine. We had a long-planned preview of the 2000 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach slated for that month. In addition, I had somehow wrangled a spot as a volunteer on the crew that would work at that event and had plans to write about that adventure, George Plimpton-style (Google him, kids), in the September 2000 issue. With that on the horizon, the idea of my writing a column about my hopes, dreams and fears in advance of that experience began to percolate, driven more by other staff members than by me.
Because it was a bit of a departure from the norm for us, we ran the idea up a few flagpoles and got surprisingly little pushback. So I sat down at my laptop and cranked out “Scared straight,” a piece that became the Viewpoint column for that issue (those interested can download it here). To be clear, what I wrote was an editorial in name only — the only opinions I really shared were about my own uneasiness at bringing my amateur golf course management skills to one of the biggest events in golf — but it did start a trend, and staff columns ultimately became a fixture in the magazine, now appearing monthly as Inside GCM.
I’ve thought about that column, my trip to Pebble Beach that year and the story I subsequently wrote about it (“Grooming Tiger’s lair,” which those interested can download here) a lot as we’ve been preparing the June 2019 issue of the magazine. And for obvious reasons: The U.S. Open is returning to Pebble Beach this month, our cover story focuses on that event, and I’m making a return trip to the Monterey Peninsula to lead our behind-the-scenes reporting from the Open.
But as I’ve reminisced about 2000 in recent weeks, it began to dawn on me that those experiences had a much bigger impact on me than just the creation of a magazine column or a chance to spend a week at one of golf’s most beautiful arenas. That time in June 2000 might have been when I first realized that what I had with GCM, with GCSAA and in this industry was not just a job. It was a career.
Although I had attended a few Golf Industry Shows at that point and had gone to my share of other industry events, that week was my first opportunity to spend any real time with a large group of superintendents. We worked side by side. We shared early morning cups of coffee, watched golf together during the day, and hung out until sleep beckoned in the evenings. I started to understand what made superintendents tick and what drew them to a job in this business, and I started to realize how much it all appealed to me.
I don’t know that I ever made a conscious decision to make reporting about superintendents and the golf course management industry a lifelong career; it has mainly just worked out that way. But I have become more aware of how certain things such as my trip to Pebble Beach in 2000 influenced my career journey, and I’m more than excited to get back there and revisit where it all started.
Scott Hollister is GCM’s editor-in-chief.