Monday, June 8, 2015

A cup of coffee with Hud Haas, superintendent at Waterchase Golf Course

This cup of joe happened while leaning on the bed of a pickup early one morning in Fort Worth, Texas, at Colonial Country Club during the Crowne Plaza Invitational. Hud has been visiting Colonial since the late 70s and comes back each year to catch up with old friends.

You’re a Fort Worth boy, right?
Yep, grew up in Fort Worth, attended Southwest High School and got started in the golf business working as a cart boy at Pecan Valley. Also spent a couple years in military school during some of my more “adventurous” years. It was an awesome experience that taught me a lot about time management, discipline and respect. Very helpful to me throughout my life.

Your family has a long history at Colonial?
We were Colonial members for 10 years during the late 70s and 80s. My father owned a pharmaceutical supply company and we all learned to play golf here. It is a special place for all of us.

Speaking of the Haas clan, can you name everybody in order of age?  

Holly is an instructor at Leonard Golf Links.
I’m next, and the Superintendent at Waterchase Golf Club.
Hans is my Assistant at Waterchase.
Heather lives in Cleveland and has four girls.
Hunter is playing on the tour.
Heidi is a golf professional at Geneva National in Wisconsin.
Hawni works at a golf course in Cincinnati.
Of course, next question is, why all the H’s? 
According to Mom and Dad, absolutely no rhyme or reason, it just happened.

How are your parents?   
They are doing great. Dad is an artist now and is still playing golf. My mom, Karen, is doing very well too.

Cool that 6 out of 7 siblings are working in the golf business. How did that happen?
I attribute it all to my dad’s love of the game and our exposure to it at a young age.

Does your mom play?
True story – she has played one hole in her entire life. Believe it or not, she made a par on #4 here at Colonial and quit while she was ahead. Hasn’t played a hole since.

How long have you been at Waterchase?
17 years. Nick Martin, the owner of the course, hired me in 1998. I have always worked for one owner and Nick is like an adopted granddad to me. He treats me like family and that is why I have been there 17 years. He trusts me and lets me do what I need to do. I don’t even have to ask for permission to cut down a tree.

He built the course as an investment in the late 90s when golf was booming and has stuck with it thru hard times in the golf business. He has now evolved into a part-owner and, at 91 years old, is still involved with the club management. He comes out three to four times per year and even plays the course when he can.

You have a couple of great assistants at Waterchase. Tell us about them.
TB Ruiz has been by my side for 15 years and is an invaluable part of my team. His title is assistant, but he does everything – assistant, mechanic, foreman. I don’t even remember where he worked before he came here – maybe Riverside in Fort Worth, working for David Denley. I am very fortunate to have him.

And, I mentioned my brother Hans who is also an assistant at Waterchase. Yes, it’s challenging to work with my brother, but I have also had my sister Heidi work for me and my cousin JJ Jansen. I know Hans’ strengths and let him do his job. There is never any tension between us.

How did a Texas boy end up at Mississippi State?
Definitely influenced by a former assistant at Colonial, Mitchell Wilkerson. I got to know him when I was playing golf here and we became friends. I was a high school senior and had no idea what I wanted to do. Thought I could go somewhere and play golf but Mitchell talked me into visiting MSU and looking into the turf program. My mom and I drove to Starkville one day, in the middle of the summer, and I signed up on the spot. It is a very special place to me.

Probably the biggest influence on me to get in to the golf business was former Colonial superintendent, Tom Werner. I got to know him while I was a kid playing golf and then worked for him during three summer “tours of duty”. Tom used to let me ride along with him when he was watering greens and he always gave me the “privilege” of dragging the hose. We had a lot of fun naming syringe hoses and Tom’s favorite was Bertha. He has probably been the biggest influence in my career and I appreciate him for it.

How is your family doing?
Awesome. I have two boys, Luke, 13, and Nicholas, nine. Luke announced, just last night, that he is planning to attend Mississippi State and is going to be a superintendent. My wife, Andrea, and I have been married 18 years and going strong. She is originally from Big Spring, Texas, and has a Masters in English from Texas Tech. She is a Pre-K – 4 teacher at Redeemer Lutheran Church School in West Fort Worth.

Who are some of your best friends in the business?
Charlie Trammell and I go way back but I don’t have anyone to play golf with since he moved to Austin. I do business with Jon Treibly and we are also close friends. We have spent a lot of time fishing and skiing together.

You come back to Colonial every year?
Definitely, this is a special place and it gets in your blood. I have a lot of family and career memories here.

OK, now for the touchy, feely stuff, what is your favorite color?
Green – duh. 


And what would be your Fantasy Foursome?
It would be an 8-some with mom driving the cart and keeping score!

Thanks for the coffee, Hud. Good to get to know you a little better.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

South Texas GCSA impacts their community in a big way

I want to share some really incredible work that is going on thanks to some very dedicated members of the South Texas GCSA. The chapter has made a concerted effort to reach out to their community beyond our world of golf. I think it is something that all chapters should consider because it is good public relations, it shows a value to their membership and because it is the right thing to do!

Last year, the South Texas GCSA resurrected an inspiring program that leaders in the past had initiated many years ago. One of their members championed an idea of then President Blayne Sparks of refurbishing a golf cart and donating it to a needy organization. Bluejack National in Conroe, Texas, donated a beat up E-Z-GO cart that became the focus of the project. The champion of the project identified all of the work and replacement parts that would be necessary to make the cart usable. The chapter distributed the list of parts and asked members to either purchase the parts or make financial donations. 

More than 20 courses and affiliate companies made the donations necessary to make the cart new again. When it was finished, they searched for an organization that needed a cart and found a terrific one. 

Camp Hope is a facility in Houston that provides treatment and housing for wounded warriors who are affected by PTSD. The champion, Brandon Cole, Regional Sales Manager for Salsco Inc., says the chapter plans to donate a cart every year and will continue to support organizations like Camp Hope. Great job by the South Texas chapter.

I am sure that many of you are familiar or may be involved with Christmas Toy Drives. The South Texas chapter also has a great toy drive each year and in 2014, they donated their proceeds to the Pediatric Center at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.

Following are two article from the South Texas GCSA Tee to Green newsletter. It describes the chapter's work in their own words. I think you will find them interesting and hope it inspires you to consider similar programs within your own chapter.

The Toy Drive and Golf Cart Charity Project is Complete
Published Jan/Feb 2015

In 2014, President Blayne Sparks had an idea to bring back the
golf cart restoration project that STGCSA did many years ago as well as a toy drive that would mirror the time when we used to collect money at the Christmas Party for Toys for Tots. Director, Brandon Cole, newly named Regional Sales Manager for Salsco Inc., took the golf cart project by the reins. Eric Bauer of Bluejack National Golf Club donated the cart and with the help of many members’ donations, including $1000 from Texas Aggregate and Base

Materials (Steven Stulce), $1000 from Richard Oaks and Carl Tolbert of The Hurt Company/Reladyne, $500 from High Meadow Ranch (Cody Spivey), and $100 from All Seasons Turf Grass (Scott and Irene Sipes). Brandon completed the project in time to show it off at the annual meeting in November at Cypress Lakes. At that meeting, toys and cash were collected to hand out to a worthy cause. 

Both charity projects were completed on December 17 when Directors Willy Plowman, Kyle Brown, Brandon Cole, Past President Sean Wilson and 2014 President Blayne Sparks went to Camp Hope to donate the golf cart. Camp Hope provides interim housing for our wounded warriors, veterans and their families suffering from combat-related PTSD in a caring and positive environment. 

The toys were then delivered to the Pediatric Center at MD Anderson Cancer Center for them to distribute to the kids suffering in the hospital during the Christmas Holidays.

Both projects were a huge success and a collaborated effort from all of our members. We can all be so proud of what was accomplished. Once again, South Texas GCSA members show how giving and dedicated they are to our association and others in need.

Camp Hope, Houston (Update)  

By: Blayne Sparks
Published May 2015

Happy Memorial Day!! What a week, or even just the day to celebrate our service men and women for their many sacrifices made to provide us with the very freedoms that we have today. 

Coincidentally, it happened to be the week of the groundbreaking ceremony for the new housing unit at Camp Hope; that was desperately needed. Once the new structure is in place, there will be an even greater demand on the feeding of nearly 80 of our service people and their families that are returning home only to find themselves broken or lost. This outreach program that is privately funded, meaning there are no government subsidies, has taken on the fight to get these dedicated warriors back to the lives that they knew before they left the very soil that has all but forgotten them, in some cases. Recognizing our association’s willingness to pitch in, I have greatly enjoyed the process of giving back so little to so many that deserve so much more. The generosity of a new golf cart was a great first step, but feeding these heroes can go so much further, especially recognizing that most times, their families are involved with the process of getting their lives back.

Phase I

On Saturday, May 2, 2015, the Board of Directors for the STGCSA were able to mobilize and set forth with the construction of nearly a half-acre raised garden bed. Jack
Hargrove of Hargrove Construction provided over seven hours of labor on both a Bobcat skid-steer and a John Deere tractor spreading and blending over 120 tons of material. Not bad for an old man! Sue Rinehart of Rinehart Trucking donated over 60 tons of topsoil and Daniel Baker provided the remaining 60 tons of mushroom compost material to complete the capping off process in the construction of the garden.

Phase II

This is where everyone can still get involved… and it is desperately needed. All calls out to anyone with gardening experience because this is going to set the stage for a successful yield and get the project started off on the right foot. This year, the STGCSA is going to donate a tiller, instead of a golf cart, so that the Camp Hope veterans can be trained by the time winter crops are ready to be planted. There is still much to do, such as setting up an overhead irrigation system that AMC, Inc., has so generously donated, but needs to be installed.

Jim Norris of John Deere Landscape has donated two backpack sprayers for the maintenance of the garden and Stephen Dolen along with Clint Neely of Harrell’s are willing to donate whatever fertilizers are necessary to develop a garden that our association can be proud of for years to come. We have all been blessed by the sacrifices that these service people have made to ensure that our lives are better, so please remember that we should all take a minute to thank a veteran every chance we get.