Golf a ‘double-edged sword’ for Ross

He looks out the window of the clubhouse, but tries not to think about what he’s seeing.
It’s Sunday and it had rained hard all that morning, and there’s Greg Ross looking out onto the Kitchen Creek Golf Club and thinking about how much work is in store for his greenskeeping crew.
“Lot’s of work,” said Ross, who is the superintendent of the course.
It rained so hard, in fact, that the course was closed for the day.
Making matters worse, it was the Sunday of the Canada Day weekend. A long weekend when anyone with any kind of passion for the game would want to be out on the links, not sitting at home watching them on television.
“I try not to think about it because all we can do is react to the situation that we have to deal with,” said Ross. “It doesn’t matter if we get five days to prepare, or one day or three hours, all we can do is react to the situation.”
But Ross is someone who likes to keep things in perspective.
Sure, there have been times where it’s rained like the tsunami. Sure, that meant the course has had to close its gates. And sure, that means the course isn’t making any money.
But things could be worse, and they are worse in other places nearby. Just look to our friends in Winnipeg, where the banner headline of Saturday’s Winnipeg Free Press read, “Summer floods worst ever.”
Ross sees these headlines. He looks over the devastating pictures. He glances over the words that deal of sorrow and loss. And when he’s done looking at other people’s misfortunes, he takes a deep breath and starts to realize how “lucky we are.
“People have to keep it in perspective,” he stressed. “There are people losing their homes in other places, and then people [here] get upset because they can’t play a round of golf.
“Yeah, that sucks, but put it in perspective.”
Ross is right in downgrading the effect the consistent rain has had on Fort Frances, but he’s certainly not blind in seeing it also has given Kitchen Creek headaches that not even a Tylenol-3 taken with a dry vodka martini could cure.
It has been bad before. There was 1997, when the course got iced out and lost six greens. That was really bad, said Ross, but this summer is, too.
“Last year was the summer from hell and this one is worse,” he remarked. “You put that together with the economic impact of it all and it’s bad. It’s really bad.”
In previous years, Ross and his crew would spend time on areas that would need to be looked at only a handful of times. But now he says they are doing those types of duties all the time—with their minds on “repair mode” rather than “maintaining mode.”
And on a golf course that does more dying than living, because of its location in Northwestern Ontario, where growing temperatures aren’t sometimes seen until June, that’s not good news.
“The thing that I find the most difficult is that it’s like we’re on call all the time because all we’re doing is reacting to how the weather has been,” Ross noted.
“I’ve had my staff come in at five in the morning and not leave until six at night, and that sucks,” he added.
The 44-year-old has been part of the crew at Kitchen Creek since 1982. His only time away was when he went to Humber College in Toronto in the mid-80s, where he took Horticultural Landscaping and Turf Management.
But Ross still concedes he has much to learn. “The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don’t know,” he said. “If you think you know, then you’re a fool.”
He loves his job and has a definite passion for it. You have to, he says, or otherwise he would have left a long time ago. But the passion that players share for the game sometimes has given Ross a sour taste.
“I started out not really knowing what I was getting into, and if I knew then what I know now, I don’t know if I would’ve done it.
“You burn out and spend so much time at it, and you’re dealing with the masses and not everyone appreciates things, and although that’s only a small number of people, they are heard the loudest.
“And it can get tiring. It can get really tiring.”
That’s why Ross decided to stick with the maintenance side of golf than go to a managerial position because “those guys are in the shooting gallery all day, every day, and I never wanted that.”
It’s underestimated how much work is involved in keeping a golf course like Kitchen Creek, about 6,500 yards in length, in shape.
“They think we cut grass,” said Ross. “You can’t expect them to know, but then again, they shouldn’t think they know. Most people think it’s a lawn and you just cut the grass.
“If you went out and hit golf balls on your lawn, it would be destroyed because this is turf and your lawn is a lawn,” he added.
Ross swung his first golf club at the tender age of seven along with his younger brother, Monty, under the supervision of his dad, Dale, at the old Rainy Lake Club by Couchiching.
“We were there all day, every day. That’s all we would do,” said Ross, who, at one point, was one of the most talented golfers in the area (not to mention a pretty good hockey player, too).
And though “youthful exuberance” caused him injuries that have inhibited his play today, Ross still plays the game to win.
He’ll always love the game. He’ll love watching his two nephews get involved in the game. He’ll love getting up in the morning and being the first one at the course while people are still in their beds dreaming of the round they hope to play.
But his involvement in the game also has shown him what is wrong with it—most things are double-edged swords, he says.
“People get so emotional because they are passionate about it. Because for these guys, it’s not just a game, it’s an addiction,” said Ross. “Golf is the kind of game where guys finish a round and they start coming up with ideas on things, and they like to think they know.
“But that’s human nature. Golfers like to think they know, but everything is different when you’re in the frying pan.”
Don’t get Ross wrong, though. He enjoys his work. He enjoys seeing the course in a condition that can provide someone with a release for a few hours after having a bad day at the office.
“We provide a service,” he noted.
Ross’ downtime comes in winter when the clubs are kept in the closet, and he would spend time with the Borderland Thunder as an assistant coach.
But the Thunder are no longer, and Ross said he will replace the time he would have put in with the local Junior ‘A’ team and instead focus on trying to get in better shape.
But when things get to be too much during the golf season, Ross always turns to his air conditioner.
“When it gets hot, I stay at home and turn on the air conditioning just to get relief,” he said with a slight smile.
“I hide in the shade. That’s what I do to get out of the heat.”