A past president of the American Society of Golf Course Architects, Damian Pascuzzo partnered with the famed designer Robert Muir Graves in El Dorado Hills, California. In 2006, Pascuzzo formed Pascuzzo and Pate with PGA Tour veteran Steve Pate, who competed on the great courses of the world during a playing career which yielded six Tour wins and membership on two Ryder Cup teams. Some of his courses include The Ranch Golf Club and Indian Pond Country Club, both in Massachusetts; and in California, Maderas Country Club, Paradise Valley Golf Course, and Monarch Dunes Golf Course.
Like people in any industry or profession, golf course architects experience enriching moments…and frustrating ones, but there seems to be a lesson in either case. Especially when it comes to leadership.
Early in my career I was a design associate working with Robert Muir Graves.
We’d been commissioned to design a new municipal golf course that was to be part of a large hotel and convention center project. As time went on and the project moved into its more critical stages, the city council insisted that they get an in-person report from the various designers on the project every two weeks. So every other Tuesday I had to pack up all the project files, leave the office after work, and drive ninety minutes to the city for a 7 p.m. council meeting.
Sometimes the council would move the consultant presentations up to the front of the night’s agenda so that we’d be out of there by 8:30 or 9 p.m. and I could be home before 11 p.m., but on most nights, we were the last item on the agenda. There was nothing I could do but sit and wait for them to slog their way through the night’s business, hoping that they would get to me before midnight – which rarely happened. By the time I got home I would have logged a seventeen- to eighteen-hour workday.
Once the council did get to the consultant reports, they were as tired and cranky as we were. Needless to say the dialogue would get a little strained between everyone at 2 a.m. The council members thought it was great sport to second-guess the consultants, although none of them had any experience as a designer.
The worst of all was when they would make me wait all night only to tell me, at the end, they had no questions for me. They had just made me sit there for six hours for absolutely nothing, other than to show me who was boss. This happened about twenty years ago, but in all the time since, I have never dealt with such a group of inconsiderate and unprofessional city leaders.
On the other hand, I was once hired by a private club in northern Japan, Otaru Country Club in Sapporo, to do an extensive remodeling of their course. I made many trips there over a number of years as we completed the master plan and then went into the reconstruction of the course. The club president was a much older gentleman and always insisted that we play golf together on at least one occasion during each visit. The games were fun but I never thought of them as more than “client golf.”
After about four years, the project was completed and I was there in Japan for a wrap-up visit. This was our first chance to play all of the newly renovated holes on the golf course. The club president and I made our usual 1,000-yen wager and teed it up. He was really playing well that day, and he insisted we play from the back tees.
Late in the round, I commented to the superintendent, who also acted as translator, that the president was playing very well.
“The president is in his late seventies, but he still plays golf almost every day at one of the several clubs where he holds memberships,” the superintendent told me.
After we finished the round, I took advantage of the traditional Japanese bath available at the club before I went to a dinner hosted by the club president. The dinner was elaborate and wonderful. During our conversations, I learned the president came from an old line, well-to-do industrial family in Tokyo. I began to wonder how they made it through the war when I realized the club president would have been a young man during the time of World War II…just like my father! My dad had served in the Navy and was stationed in the South Pacific during the war.
It was amazing to think that as young men they would have been sworn enemies, but that here, now, some fifty-five years later, things were very different. Here I was halfway around the world enjoying this great experience, and getting paid nicely for it, all because I could help an old Japanese man fix his golf course.