By R.J. Smiley
b, the 36-hole facility that will host the 2017 Solheim Cup Matches.
Rick has a passion for his job. Not the job of maintaining and improving DMGCC, the job of overseeing the maintenance of a golf course. He loves his work and takes great pride in the only job he has ever had. Rick is also a great communicator, a storyteller who uses quotes from others to make a point.
Rick’s life long passion for golf courses began in his hometown of Rockford, Iowa at age 13. His first job was laying sod at the 9-hole Rockford Golf and Country. The next summer he pushed a mower around the newly planted trees. Each summer Rick’s duties would increase as he watched his golf course blossom. Over the years Rick become friends with the local bank president who was the Grounds Chairman for the Rockford Golf and Country Club. “What are you going to do when you finish high school?” the banker asked Rick the summer before his senior year. “You have a passion for this industry, I will help you get a school loan to attend college at Hawkeye Community College. Hawkeye has a two year turf program, horticulture science.”
Rick, who was the first member of his family to attend college, graduated two years later. Rick said that the banker also helped several other kids who worked at the golf course attend college and become involved in the turf industry. “He was a real believer in education,” Rick said.
After graduation, with all the experience at Rockford and a two-year degree in horticulture science at Hawkeye, Rick got a job as a 9-hole Superintendent at Urbandale Country Club at the age of 20. 2 years later wanting more out of his career he moved to an 18-hole position as Assistant Golf Course Superintendent of Hinsdale Golf Club in the Chicago area. 2 months into the job, the Superintendent was let go leaving a 22-year-old Iowa farm boy as Superintendent of the Hinsdale Golf Club.
Rick has a great sense of humor and tells stories with a twinkle in his eye. “When I was young I used to run to stay in shape,” Rick said as he patted his stomach. “One day I noticed one of the Hinsdale member running early in the morning so the next day I asked him if he would mind if I joined him for his run.” “Sure,” Jay said. After they had run together for a few weeks, the golf professional asked Rick. “Do you know who that guy is? Rick said that it was Jay from Dubuque, Iowa. The golf professional said that is Jay Berwanger, the first Heisman Trophy winner.” His likeness is the Heisman Trophy!
“He was just a regular guy and we ran together that entire summer.”
Chicago was just too big for the boy from Iowa, in 1983 Rick applied for and was selected as Superintendent of the North Course at Des Moines Golf and Country Club. Rick worked for Director of Grounds, Bill Byers, CGCS who had that position at Des Moines Golf for 49 years before he retired. Rick reflected, “Bill had a saying that he used often. ‘Never tick off a kid. Some day he could be your new club president. You might not remember the incident but the kid will'”
In 1989 Rick took the Superintendent job at Elmcrest Country Club in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. He spent 17 years at Elmcrest and always remembered Bill Byers’ quote, “Never tick off a kid.”
One of those kids that Rick befriended was a young golfer named Zach Johnson, “I have Zach’s cell phone number. If I called him right now he would answer. Great advice from a sage superintendent.
In 2006 when Bill Byers retired DMGCC, Rick got the opportunity to apply and got lucky break and received an offer to fill Bill’s position. A chance to return to the place he loved and fill the shoes of a man who he respected greatly. “It was hard to leave Elmcrest, but this is where I belong.”
I asked Rick, who is 57 if he planned to retire after the Solheim Cup. “No,” he said. “But when I do leave DMGCC I will probably go back to my roots and take over a little 9-holer somewhere.”
Rick Tegtmeier, CGCS MG who is one of only 72 MG (Master Greenkeepers) in the world, learned the value of hard work and an education from a Rockford, Iowa banker.