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#ThankASuper Spotlight Series: Shaun Donahue

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

Shaun Donahue (pictured left)
Golf Course Superintendent
Tidewater Golf Club (North Myrtle Beach, SC)

# of years worked at Tidewater: 21 years

Total years worked in the industry: 31 years

How did you get into the golf maintenance industry?
I started working at my local club at 15, mainly to save up for a car. I worked summers and any time the club needed extra work and was willing to do anything to help, which helped me learn a lot. The summer before my senior year of high school I was under pressure to pick a college as well as a major. The tough part was that I had no idea where I wanted to go or what I wanted to do. One evening at the club I was mowing fairways and pulled to the side to let a group play through. As I sat there looking around, I just thought, “This is what I want to do.” I took a year off of school to work day in and day out to ensure I was cut out for the trade and wasn’t going to burn out. It was then that I fell in love with the job even more and decided to enroll in turf school.

What’s your favorite part of the job?
I enjoy being around the staff and supporting them to make the property better. Then there’s the morning and evening drives around the course that are simply special.

What advice would you give to your younger self or younger superintendents just starting out?
Become an expert communicator and comfortable talking with your boss about what you want to make your job easier. Learn how to shake hands and look people in the eye and know when it’s your turn to shut up and listen. Be prepared to lose grass because it’s going to happen if you are trying to provide the best surfaces for golf. It all comes down to preparation. What are you going to do? How are you going to handle it? What I’ve learned is how you react to problems and setbacks is often more important than the solutions you have to fix them. But make sure you have solutions.

What are a few accomplishments you are most proud of at your course/in your career?
In 2022, we won the Myrtle Beach Area Golf Course Owner’s Association Golf Course of the Year award as well as the South Carolina Golf Course of the Year award. I’ve also been lucky enough to spend 21 tremendous years at Tidewater, and seeing the groups and people that return to play the course year after year is a true highlight for me. 

What insight do you have about the future of the industry? Are there any innovative practices you’re helping lead to benefit the environment/your facility?
The future of the industry is bright for the time being. Golf finds itself in a good place with plenty of participation and interest. Drilling down to the turf industry, I feel the ship is heading that same way. While a lot has changed since I entered the industry, some things have stood the test of time. I think the biggest changes we will see are a continuation of things that have been rapidly changing for the past decade, and those are all environmental. As regulations become more stringent and resistance to certain products increases, rotating into products that are naturally derived will become more important. We are being left with fewer options from a jug or bag but the pests are adapting. I don’t think this will get better without disrupting status quo.  Doing the same thing year in and year out and expecting different results is maddening and rarely works.

What are some of the most helpful forward-thinking practices that have benefitted your facility?
We’ve been utilizing compost more to make our soil stronger and more productive. Banking soil energy and food for microbes has enabled us to provide better conditions on a daily basis in addition to stretching our watering cycles out a little farther.

What does the game of golf mean to you and how has that helped fuel the passion you have for your career?
The game of golf impacts almost every part of my life. I enjoy playing when I have time, but it’s also what I rely on to help put food on the table. It’s definitely a hobby that happens to be my career. I feel my passion comes from being outside on the course with our people and seeing them happy and engaged, especially when conditions are good.

See below for the full series of #ThankASuper spotlights:

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