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Reading the greens

After 42 years working on the links, Colonie resident looks back on career

After almost 50 years of working in the golf maintenance business and 42 years on the greens at Albany’s Wolferts Roost Country Club, Bill Stevens stepped off the grass to retire this past April.

After almost 50 years of working in the golf maintenance business and 42 years on the greens at Albany’s Wolferts Roost Country Club, Bill Stevens stepped off the grass to retire this past April. Photo by Zan Strumfeld.

— Bill Stevens’ first job on a golf course was picking up cigarette butts. Each morning before he went to high school, he’d walk around Wahconah Country Club in Dalton, Mass., where his father had been the greens superintendent when the club first opened in 1930. The shift starting at 6 a.m. may not have been his dream job at the golf course, but merely being out on the fairways and greens was enough for the 16-year-old.

“Depending on how you fast you worked, you could relax and enjoy the beauty … quietness of the golf course,” Stevens, now 65, said.

Stevens spent three summers at the club, eventually upgrading to piloting riding mowers and tractors.

“If you drove the tractors, you were part of the crew. You were semi-important,” he said, laughing.

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Bill Stevens stands at Wolferts Roost, where he spent the last 42 years.

It turns out corralling butts was the start of a long career on the links. When it came time for college, Stevens decided to follow his father’s footsteps by enrolling at the University of Massachusetts for a two-year degree in golf course maintenance in 1966. There, Stevens learned the science of the greens, from how to cut grass less than an inch high to knowing how to cure grass diseases.

After almost 50 years of working in the golf maintenance business and 42 years on the greens at Albany’s Wolferts Roost Country Club, Stevens stepped off the grass to retire this past April.

“With the demands of the job, I kind of neglected the house for a few years,” Stevens said.

Perhaps ironically, Stevens was never much of a golfer and has not played the game at all since rupturing a disc in his back in 1989. Newly retired, he mowed his own lawn last week for the first time in more than a year. After spending 32 years as green superintendent at Wolferts Roost and working close to 80 hours a week perfecting the club’s grass, his own didn’t seem as important. The country club sits on 150 acres of land off of Van Rennselaer Boulevard, with the 18-hole golf course on 130 of them. The greens are “the most important.”

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