Colbert Hills Golf Course
Interns learn golf course management from ground up
By Beth Bohn
Workers help prepare the golf course for public use. Several were student interns for K-State's golf management program.
If Drew Paske is a tad protective of "his" turf -- all 315 acres of it -- it's understandable.
After all, the Kansas State University student spent nine months preparing the turf for the university's 18-hole golf course, Colbert Hills, for its grand opening in 2000.
Paske was one of the K-State students who served as an intern at the northwest Manhattan golf course as part of K-State's golf course management program. He and his fellow interns have been learning golf course management from the ground up, literally.
"The turf students have been exposed to everything, including irrigation repair and design, drainage, scheduling of maintenance and seeding of the greens, as well as dealing with all the different types of grasses on the property," said David Gourlay, superintendent of Colbert Hills.
"It's probably been the most intense months they'll have in their careers," he said. "If they had been selected to do their internships at an established golf course, they probably would have been cutting grass all day. Here, they are being exposed to absolutely everything about golf course construction. Most people in the business never get this opportunity."
"It's been a great experience. I hadn't had much involvement with turf care before I worked at Colbert Hills. The experience has taught me more than what I could have learned in the classroom," he said.
As an intern, Paske put in some long days helping to prepare the course's turf.
"Turf care is always a demanding job, especially when you go through the first growing season like we did," he said. "It was important to pay attention to the job. One bad spot of turf can ruin the experience for golfers."
Interns typically work 40 to 44 hours a week and alternating weekends. The internships last six months.
Cody Reed, intern at Colbert Hills, spent his time with irrigation, reseeding and mowing work at the golf course.
"I think this has been a great opportunity for me to work at a world-class facility as it's just starting out," Reed said. "I've been learning a lot of things I didn't know."
Internships at Colbert Hills are part of K-State's golf course management program, which is the first of its kind in the nation to combine the traditional turf management aspect of golf course management with the business, hospitality and food service operations at 18-hole golf facilities.
"Having the golf course management program puts K-State leaps and bounds ahead of other colleges and universities," Paske said. Currently a student worker at Colbert Hills, Paske will serve his second internship at the golf course this summer. This time he'll be learning about clubhouse management.
"I would like to become a club manager, and later, if I feel comfortable, I'll try to become a golf course superintendent," he said.
John Clouse, intern at Colbert Hills, switched his major from turf management to golf course management when K-State made the program available. Serving at Colbert Hills has confirmed his career plans.
"I think I will enjoy running a golf course one day, including battling Mother Nature and all the other challenges," he said.
Even before playing a round of golf at Colbert Hills, Paske, Reed and Clouse said they knew the course well and agreed that golfers are in for a treat.
"This is the most challenging golf course I've seen and have worked for," said Clouse, who added that when he graduates he would consider a position with a golf course involved with a rebuilding or green enhancement project, based on his experiences with developing Colbert Hills.
"The beauty of Colbert Hills is just endless," Paske said. "One of the things our bosses have told us is to 'take pride in this.' I think this will be one of my best achievements to be part of this. It's been a great experience."