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Superintendent Profile: Joey Franco, CGCS

How did you get your start in the golf industry?

My career started with Timbercreek Golf Club in Daphne, Alabama. I was going to school at Troy University and didn’t quite make the grade. A friend was working at Timbercreek (27 Holes) and I needed a job. My first job on the golf course was to weedeat every pine tree on the golf course in preparation for the Alabama Open. The 2nd Assistant gave me a gas can, weedeater, dropped me off at the first tee and said start walking. He said (I will never forget) weedeat all of these trees and when you reach the ninth green you will be done with this side. I asked “How many sides are there?” he said�. So off I went and weedeated all the pines trees in four days (27 holes and no vehicle). At first I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do just as many 19 year old kids don’t know what they wanted in life. After a couple of months of weedeating, edging, digging and all the grunt work a Greenhorn� can handle, I finally got on the bunker rake and fell in love. I loved being outside on equipment and sweating in the Southern Alabama humidity. After a couple of years I was promoted to 2nd Assistant and determined this is what I wanted to do for a living.

Can you tell us a few things about your early life, where were you born, what high school, first jobs?

My parents were both in the Armed Services (Army). They were stationed in Stuttgart, Germany when I was born. We traveled back and forth for 12 years from Texas to Germany alternating every four year assignments. I attended Baldwin County High School in Bay Minette, Alabama (Mothers home town). My first job paid $3.00/hr. and I maintained a boat launch and campground. Similar to my early start with Timbercreek Golf Club, the owner gave me a pushmower and weedeater and told me to cut the surrounding grounds every week. Although the summers are very hot and humid in South Alabama, I wouldn’t have it any other way. LOVE HEAT & HUMIDITY!!!

Can you tell us a little about your family, how you met your wife, kids names?

My family is the backbone of my life. My beloved wife (Peyton) and although biased my son (Will) might be the cutest kid in the world. Family support is essential in any career orientated person, but in the Golf Course Industry you need a strong support staff at home. I knew my wife through mutual friends for several years. One thing led to another and we started dating and now we are as happy as ever. She is a very unique person. Peyton has her Masters in Special Education from the University of Alabama (Auburn fan, so War Eagle!!!!). My son entertains us each and every day with is little antics. He loves music and loves to show off his 3 year old dance moves.

Where did you go to school for turfgrass management?

Originally I attended Troy University and studied Secondary Education. I really wanted to coach football, but that plan didn’t really turn out. So I came home and heard from a friend about a potential job with a local golf course. When I was working at Timbercreek Golf Club a local community college (Faulkner State) had a Principles of Turfgrass Management program. I figured if this is what I want to do, an education would definitely help. As I moved further in my career, education became a big part of my career. I knew additional education would be necessary to succeed in this business. The one great aspect of the industry is the external availabilities of education. Back when I started I didn’t even know or heard of the internet. Now there are some many opportunities to gain education in any field, but especially the Golf Course Industry. The University of Georgia offers a short course certificate in the Principles of Golf Course Management. This is a great opportunity to gain additional education without attending classes on campus. The greatest opportunity for education is Penn States World Campus. Their Turfgrass program is well known in the industry and to my knowledge is the only university to offer a Certificate, Advanced Certificate, Associates, Bachelors and Masters all online. At first I didn’t know if I would have the time to pursue a Bachelor’s Degree. If not for the support of my family and many nights studying while maintaining a golf course, I would have never completed the program. Online learning is very difficult, but I encourage everyone to pursue this opportunity if you do or don’t have advanced education.

Who was your earliest mentor in the industry and how did he inspire you?

When I decided to leave the Golf Course Construction Industry, I got a position with Craft Farms Golf Club in Gulf Shores, Alabama. The Director of Golf Course Maintenance at the time was Shannon Easter (Currently the Director of Golf Course maintenance with The Broken Sound Club). I was very experienced on the golf course construction side of the industry, but gained valuable knowledge under Shannon pertaining to the maintenance aspect. He was very deliberate in understanding the foundation of turfgrass maintenance and growth. After a month as the Second Assistant, I was promoted to First Assistant of the 36 hole facility. We continue to communicate and have been very good friends for a long time. I have the upmost respect for him and his philosophy.

How do you work with people to create a team?

I am very “TEAM”� oriented. My philosophy is treating people, no matter what level, with the same respect you expect. The person weedeating creekbanks is just as important as the person mowing greens. I encourage my staff to communicate their opinions and discus their ideas or concerns. Intimidation doesn’t work, but communication usually ends in the best results. We have 3 huge signs in the breakroom above our electronic job board and are repeated every day before they leave the breakroom after assignments HAVE FUN, GREAT ATTITUDE & BE EFFICIENT. This is the basis of my philosophy. The staff knows if these aspects of our culture are achieved, then the results will come.

What achievements are you most proud of?

Graduating from Penn State University
Achieving Certification with the Golf Course Superintendents Association (GCSAA)
Winning The 2015 Super Social Media Award “Best Blog” Golf Course Industry TWEETITUP!

What item or person could you not do without at your golf course?

No offense to my First Assistant, but the Equipment Manager (Daniel Reavis) with Brookstone Golf & Country Club is one person I can depend on each and every day. His work ethic and determination has influenced our property tremendously. A very good (GREAT) Equipment Manager can make a Golf Course Superintendent’s life much easier. I don’t think these guys receive the credit in the industry. Just this year, Daniel was a finalist for the Most Valuable Technician Award through Golf Course magazine. I am very proud of him and his daily influence on the staff.

What is your favorite part of the job, least favorite?

The sense of accomplishment when my membership is happy, the least favorite is the daily challenge of achieving this (just kidding). I really enjoy interacting with members and working outside. A Golf Course is a continuous growing entity and can provide many challenges. I don’t think of being a Golf Course Superintendent as a job, but a career. I really love what I do on a daily basis no matter what issues or challenges may arise. A challenge is what drives me to be successful. My passion for the Golf Course Industry, specifically as a Certified Golf Course Superintendent, is my favorite part of my career.

Communicating and teaching Members and their guests the processes necessary towards maintaining a golf course is what I truly enjoy. I wanted to find a way that my communication to the members could be better. I started a Golf Course Maintenance Blog (www.brookstonegcm.blogspot.com) I try to update the blog as frequently as possible. Items include: pictures, videos, information pertaining to cultural practices and most importantly recognition of the staff. The blog was fortunate to win Best Blog through the 2015 Super Social Media Awards through Golf Course Industry Magazine.
Do you collect anything? Hub caps, license plates, signs.

I currently have over 100 ball caps. These range from Boston Red Sox to The Masters. I have been fortunate to visit Fenway Park and Augusta National. Buying multiple (way too many) means more than buying from a sports store. My favorite hats are from The Masters. I have just about every color and style. Plus this is my favorite tournament of the year.

What would you do if you won the lottery?

Wow, great question with so many potential options. First I would solidify my family financially. Then I would move to a coastal location and play golf and fish (saltwater definitely).

Few people know I like to…

Study and Read. The golf course industry is constantly changing, whether a magazine or the internet, I am constantly trying different things to be efficient. There is so much information available for a Golf Course Superintendent and I am always trying to keep up with the information.

What do you like to do away from work? If you have time to yourself what do you like to do?

There isn’t much free time in this industry, but spending time with my family comes first. Life goes by way too fast and sometimes you have to stop and put family before anything else. I really love college football. I could watch college football all day and night.

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