Monday, July 11, 2016

Congratulations, Mr. Jim Curlee!

Loyal, professional, committed, dedicated, trustworthy, outstanding:

Words any of us would cherish if someone used them to describe us in a personal or professional manner. These, and many, many more were used when I asked friends and colleagues of Mr. Jim Curlee to describe him following his retirement from Corpus Christi Country Club and the superintendent profession earlier this year. There probably isn’t anyone in the Texas golf maintenance industry who doesn’t know Jim personally, played his course, has worked or learned from him, or who doesn’t know of his great reputation. Jim has touched too many people to include them in this article but I wanted to share some of the comments I received when asking around about Jim.
Jim enjoying his "retirement pose"
Of course, those of you who know Jim will believe that he just couldn’t believe anyone would write an article about him. That sums up his humble and unassuming nature very well. But with the help of his terrific wife Darlene, we even got a few comments out of “Mount Rushmore.” I also did a little fishing and was amazed at the life that Jim and Darlene have lived and the beautiful family they have created together. Darlene was the true “author” of this article providing all of the great details and information about Jim and from their 35 years of wedded bliss.
Spiced within the information are quotes from a few of Jim’s friends and colleagues. I hope you enjoy this information and will join me in congratulating Jim on a very well deserved retirement!

Jim’s early life

Jim was born in Victoria, Tex., the eldest of four children, to Thelma and William Curlee. When Jim was born the family lived in Edna, Tex. After living in Edna and the surrounding area for several years, the family moved to Kerrville when Jim was 14. He graduated from Tivy High School in 1964. He has two sisters, Queeta Hoffpauir from Kerrville and Karen Baker from Round Rock. His brother Bill passed away in 2011.
In 1965, he enlisted in the Navy. He served with the 26th Marines in Vietnam for 13 months from 1966-1967 as a corpsman. After returning stateside, he finished his service in Norfolk, Va. It was there he met a fellow Texan and together they got serious about and developed a love for the game of golf.
Brent Ratcliff — AmeriTurf, Inc
Very seldom in life do we meet people that have the all the traits you look for in a friend and business partner.
Jim Curlee meets all of the requirements! Jim has been a great friend and customer for over 20 years. His professionalism, consistency, and loyalty as a friend and customer are something we should all inspire to be. It showed on his course, with his members and with anyone who showed up just to visit.
Jim kept himself open to new technologies and always strived to produce the best product for his members and guests at Corpus Christi Country Club, proven by his longevity that is rarely achieved in this industry today. In Jim’s 25 plus years at CCCC he was always the ultimate professional.
Jim will be missed by his friends and the TGCSA where he basically ran the organization for his entire career at CCCC. Hopefully, we will continue to see Jim at all the TGCSA and Lone Star meetings. If you have the chance to talk, play or just hang out with Jim….enjoy the moment! Thanks for all you did for me and the Turf Industry!

Jim’s start in the industry and early career

In the early 70’s, after his military service, Jim was living and going to college in Victoria, Tex. During that time, he worked part-time at Riverside Golf Course where he got his first experience working on a golf course.
Jim started his superintendent career at Meadowlakes Country Club in Marble Falls, Tex. in 1976. When Jim started at Meadowlakes, he had no formal training or education specific to golf course maintenance. His education and previous experience was with computer programming.
Jim prides himself on being a self-taught greenskeeper. Soon after starting at Meadowlakes, he drove to Texas A&M in College Station and bought all the books he could pertaining to golf course care. He studied everything he could get his hands on. And, remember, this was before the internet and Google. He started attending Texas Turfgrass Association conferences back when they were all held at A&M. He learned a lot from Richard Duble, Ph.D., taking all of his educational sessions and workshops.
Jim says about his career path, “These days, working your way up the way I did is nearly impossible. I don’t advise doing it this way now, but things were different back then and I worked hard at it.”
While at Meadowlakes, he supervised the construction of the second nine holes. He worked there until 1981 when he was let go. Darlene says, “See, it happens even to the best.”
He worked briefly at the former Packsaddle Country Club in Kingsland and then at Live Oak Country Club in Weatherford, before moving to Brownwood Country Club in January 1983. He was at Brownwood for almost seven years when he was hired at Corpus Christi Country Club in November 1989 where he served as superintendent for more than 25 years.
Jim Brown, CGCS — La Gorce C.C., Kemper Sports Management
I would like to offer some words about Jim Curlee and his dedication to Corpus Christi C.C and impact on the golf course superintendent profession in the Gulf Coast Superintendents Association.
Jim Curlee served as Golf Course Superintendent at Corpus Christi C.C for over 25 years, was president of the Gulf Coast Chapter too many times to count, recipient of the Superintendent of the Year award three times, and active board member of the Lone Star GCSA for many years.
Jim was, in my view, the model for the profession. Professional in the way he conducted course business, committed to providing the members of his facility a first-class experience, and dedicated to elevating the educational and professional development of fellow superintendents in the Gulf Coast Association and the state of Texas.
Jim Curlee, simply, is my great friend and mentor. He guided me through the early years of my career on the many nuances of what makes a superintendent successful in his career and, more importantly, successful in his personal life. We have spent many days together playing golf or enjoying each others company fishing in the bays of South Texas. For my part, those were some very special moments. What makes our profession special is people like Jim Curlee.

Career accomplishments and service to the industry

Jim earned his GCSAA certification status, CGCS, in 1993. He has renewed this certification four times and still holds this designation today. He earned a Texas Irrigators License while superintendent at Brownwood Country Club.
Jim has been a member of West Texas GCSA, Central Texas GCSA and, of course, his home chapter, the Texas Gulf Coast Superintendents Association (TGCSA). He served as president of TGCSA for four one-year terms, the first in 1993 and has served on the board as an officer or director thirteen years. He has served on the Lone Star GCSA board multiple times in his career and was appointed to the Texas Turfgrass Association board in 2014. He has been awarded the Superintendent of the Year Award three times by TGCSA most recently in 2015.
Jim (left) receiving the Superintendent of the Year award from TGCSA President Andy Andress

Andy Andress — TGCSA past president, Victoria Country Club
Jim has always done a great job keeping Corpus Christi Country Club maintained at the high level the membership has come to expect. His course is always well kept and I always look forward to our visits there. He is well-respected throughout our state and very active within our association.
Ricky Heine, CGCS — Star Ranch Golf Club, GCSAA past president 2007
Jim Curlee has been an outstanding golf course superintendent for many years. He exemplifies the qualities that I have strived for in my life and career. Jim is patient, kind and his character is revealed in every single thing that he does. It has been a privilege to serve with Jim on so many association boards and it is an honor to call him my friend.
Keith Ihms, CGCS — Bella Vista Village POA, GCSAA past president 2014
Even though I have been away from Texas, I remember Jim always representing his area and profession very well as part of the various association's he was involved with over the years. He was a man who would always step up when asked. Congratulations to Jim and Darlene on a well-deserved retirement. Enjoy!
Rod Hruza — Helena Chemical Company
Over the years, it was always a pleasure to make a sales call on Jim Curlee. Jim is someone that, in my opinion, is at the upper-echelon of golf course superintendents. He is always respectful, professional, and receptive to all people in the industry. His accomplishment of 27 years at a high-end country club is a testament to his abilities as both a golf course superintendent and a person. I would also be remiss if I didn't mention his involvement in the Golf Course Superintendents Association. He has been a cornerstone in the Texas Gulf Coast Superintendents Association for many years. I wish Jim a happy retirement and hope we continue to get to see him at some of the meetings in the future.

Jim and Darlene — 35 Years

Jim and Darlene, his wife of 35 years, have three children. Stephen and Allie, both of Corpus Christi, and Sadie a student at Texas A&M, College Station. Allie has given them their first grandchild, Ava, and another granddaughter will make its arrival any day as of this writing. Jim also has a son, Duane, in Michigan and daughter, Shannon, of Austin.
When Darlene was asked how in the world Jim landed such a catch, she laughed, “I moved to Texas from upstate New York in 1979 and lived with a high school friend who had married a Texan. Her husband was working for Jim at Meadowlakes at the time and we met two weeks after I got to Texas. We married two years later. Yeah, I married an older man that my parents hadn’t even met yet. Now that I’m a parent, looking back, I can imagine now how my mom must have felt. But, they had a nice reception for us when we went to New York a couple months later.”
Darlene also says of her husband of 35 years, “Jim is pretty humble and not one to like much attention but he deserves it. He’s worked hard and I think the recognition and appreciation would be meaningful to him. He has probably had a greater impact on other people than he knows.”

Jim’s retirement plans

He plans to fish during retirement, and enjoy the things he didn’t have time for when he was working. He’s got several projects to do at their new place in Blanco, like rebuilding the carport shed and tend the land. Jim and Darlene are both looking forward to living in the Texas Hill Country, away from the hustle and bustle of city living to the serenity of small town country living.
He also plans to keep his golf game sharp and would probably welcome an invitation to play from anyone in the Central Texas area. Just make sure he doesn’t talk you into giving him strokes and keep your wallet close to your vest.
This is their retirement home in Blanco. The rocking chairs were a gift from Brent Ratcliff, Jeff Smelser and Jim Brown. Darlene says that anyone is welcome to stop by and rock with them, noting the chairs are really nice and comfortable. As of this writing, Jim is getting the house ready in Blanco and Darlene is packing and getting their house of 17 years ready to sell. She says after that many years, “It’s a project. There’s lots to clean out, sort out and get rid of in addition to packing. Plus, I’m waiting for Allie to have our grandbaby, don’t want to get too far away right now.” 
Jeff Smelser, CGCS — Galveston Country Club
As in any field, learning from a textbook is only part of the process. It’s not just what we learn in the classroom but what we learn from each other that help us to develop into the professionals we are today. I was fortunate enough to have Jim Curlee as a mentor, colleague, and friend for over twenty-five years.
Jim has taught me many things over the years. We have had long talks over everything from financial matters to staffing issues as well as pesticide and cultural practices. We would discuss our local and national associations and the direction we felt they were going whether it was good or bad. Even though Jim is a quiet man by nature, he is a man of many words. There have been many more discussions that have helped me throughout my career and, for that, I will be eternally grateful.
Over the years we have traveled all over Texas, California, South Carolina, Las Vegas, and Florida attending industry shows and chapter meetings. We have had a lot of fun along the way and we have many great memories and stories to tell.
Jim told me years ago, “You can be a great superintendent with knowledge, but you have to be a great leader to succeed in this industry.” I have carried this with me through my own professional journey.
Thank you, Jim, for everything you have taught me over the years and congratulations on your retirement.
Jason Kelly — Superintendent, Corpus Christi Country Club
When I think of Jim Curlee, I think of a man who is respected by so many people. I think of him being a walking book of knowledge. I think of him being a mentor to so many of his past people. I think of a man with so much pride and passion. I think of him as a father figure to so many. Above all, he is one of my closest friends in the golf course business and someone that I could lean on if I need some advice. I know I have some very big shoes to fill at Corpus Christi Country Club and feel as if I have fallen short every day that I leave the course. If I can leave this earth with an eighth of the knowledge that Jim has then I will have lived a very good life. I want to thank him for all the support that he has given me and I wish him all the best with his retirement.
Doug Desive, PGA — Corpus Christi Country Club
I’ve been the Head Golf Professional at Corpus Christi Country Club for the past twenty-five years. During that time I have worked with one superintendent. As I began my career, I dreaded the confrontational aspect of my relationship with my superintendent when I came to CCCC. The horror stories and the past confrontations that I had witnessed between other golf professionals and superintendents had definitely jaded my approach to what I was about to incur.
Much to my surprise, Jim Curlee was easy to work with and a total team player. We had lunch at least once a week and talked on a continuous basis. Ours was a ham and egg friendship. I’m not saying I was perfect, and I am sure there were times when I drove Jim crazy. He made my life easier and I’d like to think I made his a little easier, too. It was a great relationship and while I am sad to see him retire, he really deserves the freedom of retirement. I look forward to the relationship with my new superintendent, Jason Kelley. Jason is a new, higher tech version of Jim. The future is bright at Corpus Christi CC.
Kelly Schmidt — Former General Manager, Corpus Christi Country Club
Jim, you are, without any doubt, the best golf course superintendent with whom I have ever worked. It was a profound honor and a very special privilege to have shared those years at the Club with you. You have my deepest respect and I shall always treasure your friendship.
You are a gentle, giant of a man, Jim. A giant heart filled with goodness, kindness, meekness, gentleness and trustworthiness. A gentle, quiet soul filled with wisdom, skill, honesty, knowledge and humility.
Quite simply, you are a very special “stand-up” guy!
As you continue your life journey into retirement, may you be blessed with joy and with peace. May the windows of Heaven be opened unto you and God’s blessings overflow in your life every moment for the remainder of your days.
Play a lot of golf. Catch a lot of fish. Smell the roses and have fun and laugh out load — a lot!
I love you, my sweet friend, Jim. Take care of yourself and we will be coming to see you after you are moved and settled in. I will bring lots of sweets and desserts for us to share!
God bless you. Sending you a great big hug!

And, a little fun

For fun, we asked a few of the contributors to answer a few questions. Some are heartfelt and some are aimed directly at embarrassing our esteemed honoree. Some names have been changed or omitted to protect the innocent. Thanks for all who helped!
How do you think Jim will spend all his free time now that he’s retired?
Jeff Smelser: Rocking in chair on front porch.
What advice do you have for Jim’s golf game?
Jim Brown: Take lessons.
Jeff Smelser: Incorporate aiming fluid: Coors Light.
What is Jim’s most serious pet peeve?
Jim Brown: Putting mud in his boat.
Jeff Smelser: Losing bet on first tee.
How long will it take before Darlene sends him back to work?
Jeff Smelser: She already has him working on honey-do list.
What is his most “guilty pleasure”?
Jim Brown: I visited him in ICU right after his heart attack and his first words were, "Well, I will be eating boiled chicken from now on.”
Jeff Smelser: Ice cream sandwiches
Favorite music:
Merle Haggard
Next job?
Walmart greeter
If you would like, is there a funny story you would like to share?
Jim Brown: He was mistaken for a famous golfer at the U.S. Open but signed autographs anyway.
An oldie but a goodie from the US Open at Southern Hills.
Smelser (left) Curlee (center) and Brown (right).
Tulsa has never been the same.
What’s the craziest thing you found in Jim’s office so far?
Jason Kelly, new superintendent at Corpus Christi CC: Boy, he really cleaned out pretty much everything! The only thing he left was his cell phone and it has been ringing off the hook since he left.
Does his crew miss him?
Jason Kelly: Hang on, I’ve got to go answer that phone…