Golf Super superintendent Shaun Donahue - Fireside Chat
Tidewater has always been blessed with a stunning piece of property and an outstanding design, and those attributes are at the heart of the course’s popularity.
The eight holes that play along either Cherry Grove or the Intracoastal Waterway and the view of the Atlantic Ocean are unforgettable. But Tidewater has been in as good a shape as any Myrtle Beach golf course, and that has been an almost equally important component of the course’s appeal.
The man responsible for those lush fairways and immaculate greens is golf course Superintendent Shaun Donahue, who has been at the course since 2002. As you begin planning your next trip, we wanted to introduce you to Donahue, who works tirelessly to ensure you enjoy superior conditions.
How did you decide to pursue being a golf course superintendent as a career?
I started working on courses when I was 15; I wanted to be a pilot, but they don’t like color blind people flying planes. Between my junior and senior years in high school, I was mowing fairways, pulled off to let golfers play through, and it hit me that this is what I wanted to do.
After high school, I took a year off to do it day-in and day-out to make sure it was what I wanted to do before going to college, and I loved it. I went to Myrtle Beach and got a degree in golf course management with a turf grass emphasis.
What do you like most about the job?
I enjoy the instant gratification of the work you do and being able to look back and see if you did a good job. If not, you keep working until you get it where you want it. In a lot of industries, you don’t know if you’ve done a good job until they tell you. In this business, you know right away.
What has been the key to keeping Tidewater in outstanding shape?
It all starts with support of ownership. We get tremendous support from our owner, and the thing is the desire to produce as good a product as we possibly can. Redoing the greens in 2014 was huge. Every time we undertake a project, the mindset is to make it more enjoyable for our customers, because that is what it is about. Nobody is a bigger believer in that than Chris Cooper, our General Manager. He has made sure we all bought in to customer service being king.
If there was one thing you could ask golfers to understand about the job of a superintendent, what would it be?
I really wish golfers understood how much weather plays a role in what we do and the results we produce. It’s a variable we don’t have any control over. It might sound like an excuse but when you are pushing the limits of grass to grow, weather can throw a monkey wrench into plans. We have no control over it and it affects so much of what we do.
That being said, Tidewater has handled the last couple of winters very well, particularly its MiniVerde greens. What has been the key to that success?
The biggest thing are the covers we have for the greens, which allow us to moderate the soil temperature of the greens and protect the grass during the winter. Bermuda is a warm season grass … and those covers are a huge insurance policy for spring golfers. They make it easier for us to provide the type of conditions golfers love.
What is your favorite hole at Tidewater?
I like something about all of them, but my favorite would probably be No. 11. It doesn’t have the views some of the others have but it’s a really good golf hole and it’s beautiful from the tee box. It’s long so it has all the challenge you want but can be easy if you play it well.
Funniest thing you’ve seen while working at Tidewater?I had an employee who was deathly afraid of snakes. I didn’t know this. I sent him early one summer morning to the first hole to cut the natural area in front of the tees. Around 7:30 a.m., I came down towards the tees from the green and he was running toward me like Usain Bolt, shedding every bit of clothing he had on as he was running. By the time I reached him he was wearing his underwear and that’s all. I asked him what was wrong, thinking he got into a yellow jacket nest, and, short of breath, he said he saw the “biggest snake he had ever seen” while trimming the native area. I asked him why he was naked and he said he “wasn’t taking any chances that thing jumped in my boots and started up my leg!” I then asked him how big it was and he held up his hands about a foot and a half apart. I told him that was a baby. He quit on the spot.