Dennis Kelly has worked eight years as one of the starters at Austin Country Club. If he is working the morning shift, he arrives at 6:00 a.m. and assists with making the push carts ready for the players. Next he tours the course to insure that the water dispensers and fresh apples are stocked on the course.
Then he reviews the tee sheet to see how busy the day will be and what tee times are open. The word tee sheet is dated because there is no physical tee sheet. It is all done on a computer, so the starter’s laptop and a hand held radio are essential tools in his job. He uses these to communicate with the pro shop and the employees managing the practice range to stay informed about the ever changing situation around the first tee. All of this is coordinated effort to insure that play proceeds smoothly.
If you have played much golf, whether on public or private courses, you know that the starter coordinates who has access to the course. That task can be somewhat difficult at times. Players want to play and sometimes they don’t make a tee time or they are practicing and decide to try and play a few holes on the spur of the moment. The starter manages these requests as diplomatically as possible. Most of the time it all works out but it does require some judgement and finesse, particularly at high end country clubs.
One interesting aspect of the starter’s job is talking to the players and watching their first tee shot. He gets to see a wide variety of players including some famous golfers and some celebrities that play golf. Last week Tom Kite, Troy Matteson played the course as well as Kevin Na. You never know who might show up.
The starter also coordinates with the golf shop and the greens superintendent to provide any information about the course the player needs to be aware of during their round. Often times there are restrictions on where players may drive carts and the starter reviews this information with the players.
Another duty of the starter is to insure that the players are accurately charged for green fees and cart fees. The first tee is where this is managed at Austin Country Club. So accurate accounting becomes part of the starter’s duty at ACC.
According to Dennis, the best part of the job is talking to the members and learning about their interests, their families and just being part of the pre-round chatter on the putting green. His least favorite part is getting up early and being cold when the weather is not good.
Dennis is a well known figure at ACC and the members have confidence that he will do his best to work them into the tee sheet if possible. It all seems to work out. He has some playing privileges and occasionally plays with a group of members.
He started playing golf with his dad at age 10 in Windom Country Club in Windom Minnesota. It was a nine hole course with small greens. The Toro Company used the course to test their lawn movers in exchange for installing a sprinkler system so the course was in good shape with heavy rough. That is where his love for the game got started.
He spent two years in college then spent four years in the Air Force as a microwave technician. Next was an eight year stint in the secret service in Washington D.C. as part of the technical security division. He was assigned to a detail that protected the physical plant for the president. They made sure that the areas the president spent time were secure.
After the Secret Service, Dennis worked 27 years for the F.B.I. as a telecommunications manager in Minnesota and San Antonio, Texas. He was responsible for maintaining radio communications and computer networks. Then he retired.
Dennis said it did not take him long to figure out that he needed something to do. He reasoned that since he loved golf he should find something golf related and he applied to be a starter at Austin Country Club. It turned out Human Resources Director for Austin Country Club had previously been with the FBI so there was a connection of trust. He was hired. It worked out well for everyone.