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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.

— “They’ll take up maybe two to three acres on a 150-acre site … very intensively maintained. Cut grass at less than an eighth of an inch. At times we’re down to ten thousandths of an inch. We’re talking about grass cutting really low,” Stevens said.

Stevens picked up some of his grass-cutting skills while interning at Waubeeka Springs Golf Course in Williamstown, Mass., during college. There, he was promoted to the foreman’s job, earning a “whole 10-cent raise for working as the foreman over the other students.” He said he enjoyed the responsibilities.

Yet when Stevens graduated in 1968, he didn’t take his diploma and jump directly into a job on a golf course. The day he was supposed to walk at graduation, he headed off to Miami, Fla., instead.

“I became a bum,” he said. “I hopped on my motorcycle and went across the country. I knew I was going to get drafted eventually and I wanted to see the country.”

He spent the next five months traveling to 36 states on his motorcycle, including Hawaii. While in California, he got the call that his letter had come.

“Back in those days, when you went to Vietnam you didn’t expect to come home. Or if you did come home, you thought you were going to be crippled,” Stevens said.

He spent 10 months in Vietnam, getting out early and without a scratch. When he returned home at 21, his father had been commuting from Massachusetts to a golf course at Mohawk River Country Club in Rexford, and told his son the greens superintendent at Wolferts Roost had a heart attack and was looking for an assistant. Stevens moved to Colonie and worked directly under then-superintendent John Espey for eight years.

“I thought I was ready to be superintendent, but he taught me a lot of the art part of it,” Stevens said, adding that there is both an art and science to maintaining a golf course. “You learn the science in college and you learn the art by working for the people in the business.”

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