Rich Spring Superintendent Jimmy Johnson: In the
New tee boxes coming to Rich Spring Golf Club in Cold
Special to the Times
The year was 1961. The Soviets built a wall dividing East and West Berlin and the Bay of Pigs Invasion ushered Fidel Castro into dictatorial power in Cuba. Freedom Riders traveled throughout the South to test and promote integration measures; many were assaulted and beaten.
The first lasers are developed. “West Side Story” was a smash hit film. Joseph Heller’s “Catch-22” was published. The average cost of a new car was $2,850.
It was also the year I graduated from high school and the Rich Spring Golf Club opened.
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For the last 32 years Jimmy Johnson, 57, has been the course superintendent at this Tim Murphy-designed course located in Cold Spring that serves a population of 4,284. After being a starter at the sensational Section 8AAA tournament on June 2 when Alexandria eked out a one-shot victory over Moorhead on the 18th hole, I played the course from the championship blue tees the 8AAA participants played and sat down to talk to Johnson about his tenure at the 18-hole layout.
Johnson grew up in Spicer and learned how to play golf at Little Crow Country Club, which opened in 1969. He graduated from New London-Spicer High School in 1981, and attended the University of Minnesota; he graduated with a degree in agronomy and ultimately became interested in turf management and its companion job to become a golf course superintendent.
The first question I asked was how his job has changed in the past three decades. For Johnson, the most notable changes have been enhanced water conservation and irrigation practices, revamped mowing patterns for fairways and greens, and the judicious use of chemicals as dictated by guidelines from the United States Golf Association to ensure the course is friendlier to the environment.
Another advanced change has been in the use of computers and their numerous applications that monitor a golf course’s condition. Even drones are coming into the picture. The job today requires many new skills for a course superintendent which were unheard of in the 1990s.
While playing the course, I counted seven new tee boxes being constructed. As Johnson stated: “We started a master plan five years ago which concentrated on three main areas, ‘the play it forward’ idea, to incorporate the use of the granite outcroppings which dot the course, and focus on making the course more playable and enjoyable for our membership. The seven silver tees, which will stretch the course to 6,014 yards, will support that playable factor for our senior members and should be completed by the end of June.”
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In conclusion, Johnson was encouraged about the future growth of the member club. He said: “We have been busy during last year’s pandemic season and this year the course has continued to do a brisk business. We are an evolving golf course and similar to players getting better, we and our 14 staff members who work on the course, will strive to make the course more user friendly, better conditioned, and pleasurable to play for all our 230 members.”