You need to pause, Really Pause to look back on Frank Dobby’s career. And when you think of himself, you have to smile. Dobby was the director and general manager of Sharon Golf Club in Sharon Center, Ohio for 56 years, including two years of construction before the course opened in 1966. This private 18-hole course is 6,400 to 7,200 yards on the Bentgrass Fairway and Greens and was designed by architect George Cobb in 1963.
Cobb was the only architect to work on this course until 2020. Over the years, Dobby and his crew were happy to carry out projects such as dam remodeling (to fit the 15-acre lake to the code), new hole construction, and advancement. Tea (25 years ago, before the epidemic), redesigned bunker (and some additions) and more. Dobie appreciates his long career with excellent leadership by President MG O’Neil, a culture that promotes respect for both employees and members. “I learned early on that I couldn’t manage and satisfy people,” he says.
Dobie has hired a problem solver who wants to contribute. Many TSGC staff have been working there for decades. Dobie also hired a few retirees. Some of them, surprisingly, have been with TSGC for over 25 years now. “We have coordinated some of our day-to-day operations for retirees,” says Dobby. “For example, instead of cutting by hand, triple the greens and tees.”
He over-hired staff to allow everyone to take a vacation (even during summer vacation!). He also allowed employees to play golf six days a week. Employee golf privileges are a great incentive and promote awareness of the condition of the course. People are having fun and working hard. Its success nourishes itself. “The labor shortage didn’t cause such a problem,” says Dobby.
Dobby was empowered by O’Neill. They understood. “He gave me instructions and made me understand how to get it done,” says Dobby. “Our meetings rarely lasted more than 20 minutes. When he hired me, he said,” We’re not going to have a committee. I want to talk to only one person. But that person will be you. ”
Unique relationships promote freedom, trust and productivity, and some of his colleagues had to spend more time on diplomacy, especially when management and committees changed. “All my energy was focused on creativity, and much of their efforts were tied to survival,” says Dobby.
As with Dobie, there are few properties where the director and GM could be in a joint position, but TSGC has always focused solely on golf. Not a social club, events are limited. Dobby warns against the idea that becoming a general manager is a recognized promotion. “I advised people about this route,” he says. The time is different. General managers usually spend less time outside and spend more time managing the business and the entire staff. Anyone thinking of becoming a general manager needs to fully understand their expectations.
Some technological advances that Dobie has pointed out to be very useful are moisture meters, degree day software, and stimp meters. His team stimulated the green every day to maintain the speed and consistency that members wanted. Dobie believes that text messages and social media exist in the industry, but you need to balance face-to-face conversations for optimal productivity. Another advance that Dobie enjoys is PowerPoint and the direction it drives presentation and information sharing. Dobie is interested in promoting education through a variety of media and is working on videos to help players pace their play.
Dobby also continued to participate in the Pennsylvania State Alumni Association, where he began and assisted the Masser International Shibakusa Foundation’s leadership as chairman. Another approach that is close to Dobby’s heart is to preserve the history of the superintendent, starting with the creation of the GCSAA Historical Library and Hall of Fame Committee in northern Ohio. There are many great careers to learn and celebrate. His advice to young people in the industry is to “take care of your story by updating it annually.” Most superintendents don’t like talking about themselves, but you should be proud of what you have achieved. Your story is worth sharing.
Together, O’Neill and Dobby have maintained TSGC’s operating profit for 54 consecutive years. O’Neill’s wise belief is that if you don’t have one, don’t use it. Don’t make it complicated.
Dobby collects more advice from his own renowned career and from his interactions with mentors such as Joe Duitch, Eb Steiniger and Bob Williams. “It was Dr. Duitch who told me to get out of the realm by’living in the problem’rather than always relying on traditional wisdom to solve the problem,” says Dobby.
He believes in managing your staff, so the average working time is about 44 hours including you. Everyone needs to spend time with friends and family. Talk to your senior colleagues and learn from their experience. “Thank you very much to the staff,” says Dobby. Remember that both parties need to ask questions during a job interview. “Be positive and have fun at work,” he says. “If you can’t, change jobs.”
The next time you meet Frank Dobby, pause and answer your questions with a smile.
Lee Carr is a northeastern Ohio-based writer and a frequent contributor to the golf course industry.
– GOLF Sports
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