Monday, March 12, 2018

My Friend Randy Johnson

On Friday March 9 I lost a dear friend, co-worker and life mentor.  There is huge void that will be felt by Stillmeadow Country Club and myself for a very long time.  This loss has obviously resulted in a lot of time for reflection. I thought it would be good to put some of these thoughts and memories down and to maybe try to give Stillmeadow a glimpse of what Randy Johnson meant to me.
I met Randy in 1999.  I was a junior in high school and I had worked at Lindale Golf Course the two summers prior.  At this time I wasn’t too interested in golf as a career. It was simply a summer time job. This would be Randy’s first job as head superintendent of a golf course.  He had no prior experience in the field and to this day have no idea of how he landed the job. Randy did however know the game of golf. He was well known around those Taylor courses as an excellent player and to many a friend.
Randy immediately took charge.  Having little to no experience in agronomy, he took a very common sense approach to golf course management.  I was captivated by this. I was also captivated by Randy’s magnetic personality and by how much he seemed to mean to so many people around Lindale Golf Course.  It was almost as if he were a celebrity! It was during this summer when I worked every overtime hour that Randy would give me that I fell in love with the job and also knew that I had a friend for life in Randy Johnson.
The next summer, once I had discovered that this would be my career path, I opted to move to the pinnacle of Taylor’s courses at time which was Elks Run Golf Course.  While it pained me to leave Randy and the Lindale crew, I felt that the best opportunities awaited me there. During this time I continued to stay in close contact with Randy and to Lindale.  We occasionally shared equipment and personnel so every time I got the opportunity to help them out I did. I can recall many of the countless lunches, phone conversations and course tours that I had with Randy.
Over the next few years I worked as the head superintendent of the Pines.  Another one of Taylor’s courses. Considering that Randy and I were now both in charge of a course we stayed in constant communication about the similarities of our positions.  We would feed off each other. His common sense approach giving me great ideas and with my educational knowledge growing I’d like to think I gave him some also.
During the next 7-8 years Randy ran into some turmoil at Lindale due to unstable ownership.  The course changed hands and Randy would eventually seek employment outside of golf. I continued to try and build upon my career. This journey took me northwest.  I would move on to become an assistant super at Glenview Golf Course and then to become a head superintendent again at Pebble Creek Golf Course. During these years, regardless of rather we were talking about golf management, UC basketball, Tiger Woods, Bengals or just the grind of life we continued to stay in contact on almost a weekly basis.
Around 2009-10 Lindale was purchase by a new ownership group.  I was a friend of the family and they would call me to consult.  During one of these conversations I mentioned that Randy would be a great hire for them and that they should reach out and see if he would be interested.  They did and he was. Randy’s heart was always in golf rather he was playing or maintaining. For the next 2 years Randy was the head superintendent at Lindale once again and as he always did, he kept the course in great condition.  
In December of 2012 I got the opportunity to return home and start employment at the beginning of something special with the new ownership of Stillmeadow Country Club.  I was their first hire. Our second hire was Randy Johnson. I was awarded the title of golf course superintendent and Randy was assistant but I never thought of it that way.  We were a team. Two parts of the whole. Once again, he brought the common sense, reigned me in when I was feeling a bit too risky (in our world this means when I may have been wanting to push the grass plants too hard and risking poor playing surfaces) and he also brought a savvy and personal touch with our employees that helped to maximize our production.  I contributed the training, technical knowledge and the scientific aspect of the job. Together we were a great team and I feel we have delivered a great product to the membership over the last 6 years.
As great of a team as we were maintaining golf courses,  golf maintenance is not what I will think back to when I remember Randy.  I will remember how quickly he could have an impact on total stranger, I will remember all of the hilarious fish stories he would tell,  I will think of him talking me through high school woes, I will think of him telling me to keep my head up while I was trying to work and get through college, I will think of him being one of the few “golf” invites at my wedding,  I will think of him meeting and getting to know my son, I will think of the countless conversations about the love we both had for our families, I will remember the love he had for Jesus and his faith, I will think of all the times he put me before himself, I will think of my friend.
At Lindale, Randy had a little known nickname amongst the original crew….The Legend.

Randy you will always be a legend in my eyes and words cannot describe how much you will be missed.

Your Friend,

Klint Ladd