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Fred Gehrisch, CGCS Highlands Falls Country Club Highlands, NC

How did you get your start in the golf industry?
I got my start in the golf industry when I was in high school. I started mowing greens after school at Aurora CC in Ohio. After that my dad was relocated to Atlanta and I started working at Cherokee Town & CC the day after we moved.

Can you tell us a few things about your early life, where were you born, what high school, first jobs?
I was born in Chelsea MA at a navy hospital while my dad was in the navy. However, most of my childhood was spent in Streetsboro Ohio where I went to school through my junior year in high school. My dad was transferred to Atlanta at the end of my junior year and we moved to Alpharetta GA where I graduated from Milton High School. My first real job was at Aurora CC in Aurora Ohio (it is no longer in existence), followed by a long stint at Cherokee Town & CC in Dunwoody GA.

Fred and His Wife Lynn

Fred and His Wife Lynn

Can you tell us a little about your family, how you met your wife, kids names?
My wife Lynn and I met on a blind date that my brother set up. He had told her I was a superintendent and for some reason she thought that meant I was a janitor. I give her a lot of credit as she still went out with me. We dated for a long time before we got married in St. Lucia. We don’t have kids but we are big animal lovers and have had as many as 6 dogs at once. Currently we are down to 3. Thatch is my beagle mix that comes to work with me every day. He’s awesome at chasing geese and bear.

Where did you go to school for turfgrass management?
I actually started college at the University of GA. I spent one year there as I wasn’t sure I wanted to even go to college since I considered enlisting into the military. While at UGA, I joined Air Force ROTC and loved it and it’s what made me want to stay in college. I transferred to Ohio State after one year at UGA and majored in aviation management. I few classes from graduating, I called my dad and said I was changing my major to agronomy. He had no idea what that was but after I explained to him that I had decided to become a golf course supt. and that agronomy was the educational path for it, he was good with it. Dr. Danneburger was my advisor and also head of the turf department and he let me test out of several classes and other requirements like internships since I had always worked on a golf course.

Who was your earliest mentor in the industry and how did he inspire you?
No question who my earliest mentor in the industry was and still is, Randy Nichols, CGCS and past president of the GCSAA. He believed in me from when I worked on the crew to when I became an Assistant for him. He showed a lot of patience and spent a lot of time teaching me and others the business of golf course management, not just the agronomics of which he taught a lot also. He let me make mistakes and learn from them and put me in positions to lead and grow. I will forever be grateful for those opportunities and I tend to teach and mentor in the same manner. When I left Cherokee Town & Country Club to become a superintendent, I left very prepared and confident in my abilities.

How do you work with people to create a team?
Nothing gets done on a golf course because of one person. It takes everyone on the team doing their part, for the whole product to develop into something that the members can be proud of. Teamwork starts with the management staff. When interviewing my assistants, I spend a lot of time finding out about their personal lives and learning about their character. I want people with a competitive nature and honest character who are willing to challenge themselves and treat everyone with respect. In the end, I want to know if that person will fit into the culture of the Club and our department. When it comes to the staff, I want them all to feel like family. I want them to feel that I care about their needs and that I appreciate their efforts. We spend a lot of time cross training the staff so they do not get stagnant at their jobs and so that they feel inspired with new opportunities. When we do all the aforementioned things, teamwork just happens because we all really care for each other.

What achievements are you most proud of?
Marrying my wife is the achievement I am most proud of. She always encourages me and definitely keeps me grounded. As for career related achievements, being awarded the 2014 TurfNet Superintendent of the Year at last years GIS is an achievement I am very proud of. Another achievement I am proud of is creating the Joe Lee room at HFCC honoring our club’s history and that of Joe Lee our course architect.

What item or person could you not do without at your golf course?
That’s an easy one, my assistant Josh Cantrell. Josh has been with me for 7 years. He is one of the finest golf course managers I know and would be a Supt. now if it wasn’t for that fact that he does not want to move. I feel so very fortunate to have him on my team.

What is your favorite part of the job, least favorite?
I really like mentoring and teaching people in our business. I was fortunate to have a lot of opportunities coming up in this business and I like to do the same for the people around me. As for my least favorite part of my job, anything that has to do with bunkers! I hate raking them, edging them, tamping, etc. But if that’s the worst part my job, then I have it pretty good.

Do you collect anything? Hub caps, license plates, signs…
I’m not a big collector but strangely enough I do collect ball caps from the industry and other courses even though I don’t usually wear a cap. When I accumulate too many I give them to the crew for doing a good job.

What would you do if you won the lottery?
If I won enough, I would retire and spend time traveling the world with my wife.

Few people know I like to…
I like to cook. I make really good spaghetti and real meatballs.

What do you like to do away from work? If you have time to yourself what do you like to do?
When we have time, my wife and I like to travel. We’ve been fortunate to travel to Mexico, Tahiti, St. Lucia, Ireland, and various places throughout the US. We both find it rewarding to experience and take in other cultures. When I have time to myself, I enjoy practicing martial arts, specifically Kung Fu. I try to practice at least 4 times per week. I think its real important to have interests outside of work, helps to keep the mind fresh.

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