After a season that has so far seen several greens burned out because of an equipment malfunction and golfers routinely complaining about playing conditions, the city-owned Frear Park Municipal Golf Course needed little more than some tender, loving care, according to its new superintendent.
Greg Tudor, former assistant golf superintendent at the Schuyler Meadows Club in Loudonville, is now providing that care full-time at Frear Park after working nights and weekends for several weeks to help restore five greens that developed bare spots because of overfertilization blamed on a chemical sprayer officials said was more than two decades old and badly in need of replacement. All five greens are now playable, including on the 17th hole, which reopened a couple weeks ago after it had been expected golfers would have to play on a temporary green for the rest of the season.
Tudor said Tuesday there was no secret formula to bringing the greens back, “just doing everything a little bit better. We’ve been mowing better, watering better, fertilizing better and just being more efficient.”
That matches his overall strategy for keeping the course looking and playing good. He said he is working with city officials to identify and purchase needed equipment and better train workers, with his goal simply being consistency. As a player, he observed, it appeared as if the course was spruced up annually for the Rensselaer County Men’s Amateur Championship, but he wants the course to look and play that well year-round.
“These are going to be the standards,” he said. “My objective is to keep the course at this level moving forward, and that is going to be sustainable.”
Response to the changes by golfers has been positive, he said, while city officials share a similar opinion.
“Bringing in the right person with the proper background to the course was one of the best moves made by the administration,” said Councilman Jim Gulli, R-District 1, an avid golfer and regular Frear Park player who also chairs the City Council’s General Services Committee, whose duties include oversight of the course. “Hiring an experienced superintendent will ensure our golf course will continue to cure and become the highlight of the city, as it once was.”
City officials admitted at an Aug. 22 meeting of the General Services Committee they learned a valuable lesson this season they hoped to rectify by restoring funding for the superintendent’s position. Course revenue for the first half of the year — before the problem with the greens — was down by 14 percent, which officials attributed to an unseasonably rainy spring that kept people away. However, officials said they also expected a huge third-quarter shortfall, as well, as golfers stayed away from the course once the greens problem was publicized, one group cancelled a planned fundraising tournament and the amateur championship was pushed back a month, to Oct. 7-8.
The superintendent’s position was not funded in the 2017 city budget, as officials looked to plug a major shortfall that resulted in a 14.9 percent increase in property taxes. Tudor was initially paid through a vacant greenskeeper’s position that was funded in the budget, but will now be paid an annual salary of $61,522, with nearly $20,000 transferred from the city’s contingency fund to cover it.
Officials initially declined to identify Tudor as the person working with city officials to resolve the problem with the greens, saying he had yet to inform his employers at Schuyler Meadows about his new job. The city only revealed his identity Tuesday, nearly a month after The Record filed a request under the state Freedom of Information Law for his identity.
The job is as much a labor of love as a career move for Tudor, a city resident and SUNY Cobleskill graduate.
“I live in Troy and played in a golf league here for a few years and just fell in love with the place,” he explained.
He said the course appeals to him because it is essentially two courses in one, with the front nine designed by legendary course designer Robert Trent Jones and opened in 1931 and the back nine added in 1964.
“The front nine and the back nine are so different,” he said. “You can play the front, and its a little shorter, but the greens have a little more undulation. The back is a little more wide open, but it’s a little longer. It’s the beauty of having two different courses within one.”
Tudor said golfers are slowly finding their way back to the course and seem happy with the improvements made so far.
“There was some struggles, but we’ve got everything headed in the right direction,” he said. “The city’s been very supportive … the staff’s been great, very supportive. I’m just excited to see the place improve.”
While Gulli said he has yet to sit down with Tudor because he wanted to give the new superintendent the opportunity to get the course fixed up, he said he is pleased with what he has seen.
“All of the greens are open now, and they have a noticeable difference to them,” Gulli said. “They’re tighter and faster than the golfers have seen all season. The fairways and secondary cuts are being taken care of on a regular basis, which is making them stand out also.
“We are finally headed in a right direction with one of our top revenue generators for the citizens of Troy. [I] can’t wait to see what’s in store for next season.”