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Chris Vollett – Living The Turf Life

Chris Vollett (Photo: Joe McLean, Flagstick.com)

Chris Vollett fills his days as the golf course superintendent at the very popular eQuinelle Golf Club in Kemptville, Ontario. To him, it is more than a job; it appears that he has been groomed for this position since the early years of his life.

Flagstick Golf Magazine recently had the opportunity to sit down and talk to Chris and what came through in the interview was the passion he has for his family, his job and life itself.

FGM – What was the early attraction for working on golf courses?

My Uncle Bruce in Kitchener was a superintendent at the Conestoga Country Club, and I spent a week or two with him in the summer when I was aged 10-14, cutting grass and helping out on the golf course.

I loved working outdoors with my Uncle and I got the bug.

Our family moved to Orleans / Cumberland from Durham, Ontario in 1986 and I commuted from Cumberland to Rockland every day when I started working at the Outaouais Golf Club (now Rockland Golf Club) in Rockland, Ontario. I worked on weekends during the school year and full time during my summer breaks from Cairine Wilson Secondary School in Orleans and the University of Ottawa where I was taking Administration courses. I started at Outaouais when I was 16, enjoyed the work and I’ve been at it ever since.

FGM – Did you get to play much golf when you were young?

I played a lot of golf with good players and members at different clubs through the years, but never competitively as I was never a member. I had playing privileges as part of my job working at various facilities.

FGM – What facilities did you work at during your career?

I worked at Outaouais from 1987 to 1993. In 1994/1995 I worked at the Ottawa Hunt & Golf Club where they were hosting the du Maurier Classic and I wanted to be part of a major professional event. I went back to the Outaouais Golf Club for the 1996 season and then went to work for Darin McCorriston and his Golf Recreation Management Team at the Thunderbird Golf Club in Kanata, Ontario and then the Amberwood Golf Club in Stittsville, Ontario which was also being managed by TMSI Sports Management.

In 2002, I joined with a friend and we started our own irrigation and drainage company. In 2004, I went back to Thunderbird and in 2007 through the middle of 2008, I was involved at Ben Franklin Park again through TMSI with the landscape design, seeding and irrigation install of the two soccer fields.

In July of 2008, I started working at eQuinelle Golf Club for the 2nd half of the construction of the golf course and the grow-in of the full course.

FGM – What education do you have relating to your superintendent job?

I took the Turf Management Short Course at Guelph University in February 1995 and I continue my education through seminars and trade shows put on by the Ottawa Valley Turfgrass Association (OVTA) as well as by various suppliers. We receive points for attending these seminars and by doing this I maintain my accreditation as an IPM (Integrated Pest Management) agent.

FGM – What challenges have you faced at eQuinelle?

We have had to adapt to ongoing changes in the development with housing construction and new roadways being built and how they affect cart paths with new homes backing on to the golf course property. We had to deal with the construction of the new clubhouse 4 years ago and how it really changed the facility for the better. Construction is ongoing now on the outdoor pickleball courts and a tennis court by the driving range.This year we have faced new adversity in getting the golf course in shape with the extreme weather conditions. This seems to be a recurring theme over the past few years.

FGM – What appeals most to you about your job?

Apart from enjoying being out in the fresh air, I take pride in seeing the results of our work on a daily basis (usually very quickly). It’s very easy to measure the work at the end of the day and I’ve always been a very active, hands-on superintendent. I have a good crew of around fifteen part-time and full-time workers, the core of whom have been here from the beginning of the course.

FGM – Do you have any hobbies away from the golf course?

I enjoy playing golf when I can with friends and fellow OVTA Superintendents, especially on different courses. In the winter I enjoy recreational beer league hockey and snowmobiling in Eastern Ontario and Western Quebec.

In the winter I also have my own commercial snow contractor business in the Greenbank/Hunt Club area.

FGM – Do you have any regrets or things you would like to do over in your life?

No. I still enjoy the golf business. It has been nice to have had the opportunity to work on numerous start-ups and being a part of the grow-in of a golf course where I’ve spent the last 11 years. A bonus working for TMSI was meeting my wife Katharine at the Thunderbird Golf Club back in 1997.

FGM – What do you see for yourself in the future?

I don’t contemplate any career changes and I’m quite happy to continue in my job.

On a personal note, I’m looking forward to watching our son Carter progress in his competitive hockey journey. Carter has been part of the Kemptville 73’s midget AAA and junior A program which has been great. He has recently been scouted by the Peterborough Pete’s and the Ottawa 67’s and has attended their spring camps. It’s a big part of our off season.

I would also like to thank Darin McCorriston at TMSI for giving me various opportunities over the past 22 years.

With the above shout-out from Chris in mind, Flagstick Golf Magazine reached out to Darin McCorriston on his working relationship with Chris Vollett.

Chris is a gentleman. I don’t think I’ve ever met a better human being in my life. He’s very respected by the TMSI Team as well as by the owners of eQuinelle. They actually consider him family.

In life, you come across these people who don’t look at what they do as a job or a career but look at it as a lifestyle.

Chris doesn’t think about putting in his time. To him, it’s never good enough. He takes his job very personally and he’s very humble. I don’t know how many superintendents who have gone out and bought an RV 5th Wheel and asked permission to park it behind the shop at eQuinelle so he could stay longer and make it easier to sleep over. He did that for the company.

Outside of the design of the eQuinelle Golf Course which Chris had a hand in developing, it’s the leadership by Chris and the hard work and dedication of his team that put eQuinelle in the forefront of golf courses in the Ottawa Valley. My hats off to Chris. He’s a leader in his own right, very creative and honest and he’s forgotten more about golf than we’ll ever know. We never tell Chris what to do.