NewsBlog Post Hero_Scott Sutton

#ThankASuper Spotlight Series: Scott Sutton

In honor of international “Thank A Golf Course Superintendent Day,” we’re highlighting some of the outstanding superintendents within the KemperSports family.

Scott Sutton
Director of Agronomy
The Club at Sunrise (Las Vegas, NV)

# of years worked at The Club at Sunrise: 9 years

Total years worked in the industry: 43 years

How did you get into the golf maintenance industry?
While attending high school here in Las Vegas, I searched for a job where I would be able to play golf for free. I will never forget the date – February 9, 1980, the day I was hired at my first golf course where I made $2.35 per hour. My paycheck was just enough to cover car insurance and gas, which was $0.93 per gallon back then. My job duties included all the grunt work, such as pulling crabgrass from the greens with a fork, weed-eating and edging bunkers. I loved every minute of it and knew I wanted to “move up the ladder” and one day and become a superintendent.

What’s your favorite part of the job?
While most aspects of my job are extremely rewarding, my favorite part of the day is watching the sunrise and sunset out on the golf course. Many days this occurs on the same day, which is just another part of the dedication required when you love what you do for a living.

What advice would you give to your younger self or younger superintendents just starting out?
Use your vacation time and days off, spend as much time with your family and friends as you can or take some time for yourself. My point is that you should simply plan for some well-deserved rest and relaxation. If you don’t schedule that weekend trip to go fishing at the lake, then it won’t happen. If you don’t schedule to attend your daughter’s piano recital, father-daughter dance, marching band competition, etc. then it won’t happen! And those are the moments worth living for, so figure out how to program a Google Calendar (or ask a younger colleague to show you how) and plan your time away from work, because trust me, the golf course will always be there.

What are a few career accomplishments you are most proud of?
I have been the construction and grow-in superintendent for seven golf courses in the Las Vegas Valley over the last 43 years. I have earned CGIA, CLIA and CIC certifications from the National Irrigation Association. The Club at Sunrise is also known for having the best greens in the Valley, which are the only Platinum TE Seashore Paspalum greens in the entire state. I have been fortunate to serve as the president of the Desert Green Foundation for the last five years and on the board for 12 years. Additionally, I’m the owner and president of the Southern Nevada Irrigation Association, which I helped form and start this year, as well as a member of the Southern Nevada Golf Course Superintendent Association and Golf Course Superintendent Association of America.

This past year, have you and your team worked/completed any exciting construction/renovation projects? If so, what was your team responsible for and how will it enhance the golf course/facility?
There were no major renovations to The Club at Sunrise this year, however we pride ourselves on maintaining our 135-acre property with a total of only nine employees that includes myself, the assistant superintendent, mechanic, irrigation technician, and spray technician. Our maintenance staff is highly experienced, and we have had very little turnover since opening nine years ago. Our greens look better than ever!

What insight do you have into the future of the industry? Are there any innovative practices you’re helping lead to benefit the environment/your facility?
I believe the future of the industry is becoming more technology-based, meaning more smart controllers and central controllers. Everything is remote nowadays. I can turn on each of my sprinkler stations from my cell phone. At The Club at Sunrise, we use the TORO Lynx system, which connects to a weather station on property and provides real-time data, such as ET, wind speed and solar radiation, that automatically adjusts the run-time for each station on the entire property. Talk about technology!

As for looking driving the future of the industry forward, I am the proud president and founder of the Southern Nevada Irrigation Association. We hope that this association will grow and allow us old timers to pass our knowledge of the green and irrigation industry onto the next generation. So far, we have a decent size group of members, and we offer one to two classes per month. We focus on expanding the knowledge and practice of irrigation professionals across Southern Nevada. Eventually, we would like to provide certifications that members earn through classes, much like those offered by the National Irrigation Association. I believe it is important to set the standards higher for our industry and pass along our knowledge, especially here in Nevada, where water is a very precious and scare resource.

What are some of the most helpful forward-thinking practices that have benefitted your facility?
We are currently treating our irrigation water with the following practices:

  • We treat our irrigation pond with a sulfur burner to lower the pH from the high 8.5 – 9.1 range to a constant 6.0 range. This lower pH also prevents protozoa from growing inside our irrigation lines, which was a huge problem a few years ago.
  • We have a complete fertigation system to mix and inject our own fertilizer blend. The seashore paspalum really loves micronutrients and potassium.
  • We inject a very good soil penetrant that helps us maintain a drier golf course in the early morning after an irrigation cycle the night before.
    • Note: Our golf course was built on the lowest part of the valley and our soil structure is a clay loam soil that is very high in clay and doesn’t drain very well.
  • We also inject gypsum and 0-0-50 into our irrigation water, which when combined with the sulfur burner, helps open up the clays particle and improve drainage.

What does the game of golf mean to you and how has that helped fuel the passion you have for your career?
My father taught me to play golf when I was 8 years old. He taught myself and my brothers to play because he loved the game and played at least three days per week, every week, until the day he passed away. He taught us the etiquette and rules of golf before we were old enough to play. He was passionate about respecting the golf course and all the work that goes into making a golf course beautiful. I learned that respect from him, and when I was finally old enough, I took on that passion myself by applying for my first golf course job. I don’t play as much golf these days, but I love a round here or there. Even more so, I love having a 160-acre office, bringing my dogs to work with me every day, enjoying the smell of fresh cut grass, and watching the sunrise and sunset out on the golf course every day.

See below for the full series of #ThankASuper spotlights:

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