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Green and healthy: Par for this golf course

Tim Furan was undecided what to major when he was a student at Montana State University-Bozeman in the late 1990s.

Then the 1995 Great Falls High graduate realized now much he’d enjoyed working maintenance three summers at Meadow Lark Country Club. He also learned MSU has a horticulture major that can lead to a career as a golf superintendent.

Furan earned a bachelor’s degree in horticulture. While some classmates specialized in landscape design, he focused on the environmental science option, especially turf management.

He completed college internships at Powder Horn Golf Club in Sheridan, Wyo., and at Meadow Lark.

After graduating, he was offered a job in 2000 as assistant superintendent at the Great Falls country club.

“I loved Great Falls, and was excited to be back,” he said. “I learned a lot under my first superintendent, Tom Ask. He taught me to put what I’d learned into practice, especially the work ethic it takes to do the job properly.”

Dudley Beard, Meadow Lark’s head golf pro for 24 years who also served stints as general manager, hired Furan as course superintendent in 2005.

“Tim was at least as qualified as any applicant and was a Montana guy who wanted to be in Great Falls,” Beard said. “It was a perfect fit, and Tim has done a great job. He works hard, has been a good supervisor and kept the course in beautiful shape.”

Furan, 33, supervises 15 employees in the summer, including 11 seasonal workers. Summer is the busiest time, when grass needs mowing, members are playing frequent rounds and tournaments are scheduled.

Furan works 45 to 70 hour weeks in the summer, depending on tournament activity and varying weather demands.

He shared credit with his crew, including assistant superintendents Tim Highwood, who specializes on the irrigation system; Ty Moore who does landscaping, and mechanic Larry Wilda, who keeps machinery going.

“I have a good, dedicated and experienced staff,” he said.

In the fall, crew members prep the course for winter, placing protective layers of sand on the greens and tee boxes, and rake and clear the leaves.

During winter, they repair equipment and monitor the course, occasionally watering by truck after the sprinklers are shut.

Spring means assessing the course for winter damage and nursing it back to shape.

Furan likes the physical, outdoors work and daily and long-term challenges.

He has a general working plan for each week and day, but has learned to be flexible.

“Maybe the irrigation system didn’t run the night before, so we scramble to water,” he said. “If winds blows more than 20 miles per hour, not uncommon in Great Falls, we spend a good part of the day removing downed or damaged branches from our 1,200-plus trees.”

Furan often has paperwork to do and meets regularly with a greens committee to discuss plans and occasional complaints.

“For the most part, members have been overwhelming supportive,” he said.

He tries to spend the first couple hours each day working on the course.

“I love to be out on the golf course and consider myself part of the crew,” he said. “I will do anything that’s needed.”

Crews start mowing, replacing cups and raking traps at 5:30 a.m., before golfers hit the tees.

Furan seldom has time to play full rounds in the summer, but likes to play at least a few holes a week, or putt or hit approach shots to judge conditions.

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