NEW KENT, Va. -- Before the sun has a chance to knock the fog out of the Carolina pines in New Kent County, the mower shed at Brookwoods Golf course roars to life.
Bob Friend is the superintendent at Brookwoods. He is responsible for all the real estate the course uses as well as the staff that maintains the grounds.
By the time many have finished their first cup of coffee, Friend has already set up his course for the day's patrons.
“It's being outside, it's being outside when the sun comes up which is beautiful, peaceful” Friend said of his early morning routine. “I've never worked in an office, but I feel sorry for them. It's great fun and you get to see your work. Your resume is right there.”
“I've never seen anybody quite like him when it comes to work," Dewayne Moritz, a 22-year resident of the Brookwoods community, said. “A lot of times I'll look out my window at 6:30 in the morning and I see him going by on a great big piece of equipment and he`s ready to go to work.”
At age 63, Friend has spent more than a half century in and around golf.
“My older brothers played, and I beat them first time out,"Friend recalled. “They'd been killing me because I was about 12, so this was a sport where I could beat them."
He began playing at courses like Laurel, Oak Hill, and Par 3 of the South. He got himself hired at many of them so he could either play for free or have money for greens fees.
Friend earned a degree in agronomy from Virginia Tech and has worked at about a dozen courses in Virginia as everything from assistant superintendent to club pro to General Manager.
“I've seen some superintendents who send the crew out then get a cup of coffee,” Brookwoods golf pro Tim Cockrell said. “They'll go check on the work, but Bob is definitely hands on doing what it takes to get it done.”
Friend came to Brookwoods, a smaller family-owned course right off the Bottoms Bridge exit to I-64, about seven7 years ago. Being a golfer gave him different insight into how to set up a course frequented by players whose love of the game can far exceed their ability.
But when the former owners decided to sell, Friend had visions of Brookwoods becoming another corporately-owned course that might not have catered to the specific needs of the clientele he had come to know.
“I worked for a management company at Stonehenge,” Friend explained. “Great members, I didn't care for the way they ran the business. If I didn't buy it, somebody could come in here and just fire everyone and start all over. That's what big companies tend to do.”
So Friend bought the course.
He now not only cuts the grass, but he cuts the checks too.
Even with his name on the bottom line, in his mind, the course still really belongs to the players.
“If you start thinking it's your golf course, and I'm going to do it my way and I like super hard greens and 15 on the stimpmeter, you're probably going to make people mad," Friend said. “You have to find out what the customers want and try your best to give it to them."
“I hear it on a daily basis,” Cockrell added. “They know what Bob is doing out on the golf course and what projects he's doing that he's putting money and effort back into the golf course."
“You've got great guys coming out here and enjoying the golf course and saying nice things about the golf course and the staff,” Friend said. “That's all the thanks I need.”
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