Derrick Powers: A Legend In His Hands
It is quite evident when listening to the superintendent at Rivermead Golf Club that he is dedicated to his profession and has a passion for his job as well as the game of golf in general.
Derrick Powers is celebrating his 10th anniversary at the Rivermead Golf Club in this, their 100th anniversary year and at the youthful age of 36 has quite the future ahead of him in the greens-keeping profession.
Growing up in Napanee, Ontario Derrick nurtured his love for the outdoors and golf developing a four handicap in various club and St. Lawrence Junior Golf Tour events.
Derrick is quick to express his appreciation to his non-golfing parents for ensuring that he and his brother Kevin both had the opportunity to play the game of golf.
At a young age, Derrick was also working at the golf course as a summer job and as he says, “I didn’t realize that there was a living to be made in the greens-keeping profession.”
Napanee Golf Club greens-keepers Dan Davey and Tar Brady were instrumental in nurturing Derrick’s future in the turfgrass industry. Their enjoyment and dedication to their jobs was passed along to Derrick, who they sensed had the aptitude for the profession.
As Derrick says, “They were a little hard on me and I worked every weekend in June, July and August but I guess they saw something in me.”
Passing up courses in phys-ed at Brock University and criminology at the University of Ottawa, he enrolled in the turf-grass program at the University of Guelph. “My eyes were opened wide,” says Derrick about the number and range of educational courses required to become a qualified greens-keeper. He was also exposed to the wide array of resources that weren’t available at the Napanee nine-hole golf course.
His first summer placement was with Cataraqui Golf Club in Kingston, Ontario under the tutelage of Shorty Jenkins and Dave Crowe. Derrick credits Dave with giving him the opportunity to watch and learn about pesticides, fertilizers, irrigation and cultural practices. “He could have ignored me but he saw that I was hungry and wanting to learn and to this day I still keep in contact with him.”
Upon graduation, he landed a job as Assistant Greens-keeper at the Brockville Country Club under Ted and Lawrence Bouwhuis. Derrick was given more responsibility (as he calls it “sink or swim”) and was taught the various nuances of ice-making for the winter curlers at Brockville Country Club by renowned ice specialist Shorty Jenkins.
On that experience, he says, “I’m glad that I learned how to make ice, but I also learned that there was no down time with summer greens-keeping blending into winter ice-making.”
Derrick eventually moved to Ottawa and worked at Carleton Golf & Yacht Club for one season under Greg McClinton and then became an assistant to Gord MacMillan at Rideau View Country Club.
A bond formed immediately at Rideau View between Derrick and Gord. “Gord gave me a long leash and was open to new ideas,” says Derrick about their working relationship. “He saw my commitment and passion and allowed me to try new ways of aeration and top-dressing. He wasn’t just a boss to me but more of a friend.”
After four years at Rideau View, the opportunity came to interview for the head superintendent’s position at Rivermead with the full encouragement of his boss.
On leaving Rideau View he says, “It was tough leaving a great assistant’s job and a club where I felt comfortable in my relationship with a great membership and the tremendous rapport between the management team, the pro-shop staff and the greens-keeping crew.”
Another consideration at the time was the idea of starting a family with his wife Darlene, a Belleville girl who he married in 1997.
After 10 years as the head superintendent at Rivermead, Derrick is still quite appreciative of the communication channels he has with the membership, the Board of Directors and the Rivermead management team. He is also supported on the job by his “main guys” in assistant greens-keeper Marc Cholette and mechanic Bob Charlebois, as well as the remainder of his turf-grass team.
Although he and his greens-keeping team begin work in the early hours of the day (5 am), Derrick feels it is important for him to be seen around the course later in the day to see and talk to members who play later in the day. Always approachable, he encourages questions and suggestions from the membership.
Family time has become more important to Derrick. His children are involved in summer sports and the family has taken up downhill skiing in a big way. But year round, Derrick’s focus is on his job. Derrick and Darlene’s children, Natalie and Kyle, are quite amused when they happen to go out for ice-cream and end up dropping by the golf course on a regular basis with their dad.
That’s just the dedication that Derrick has to the Rivermead membership. Even when he has some time off, he still checks in with his team. It’s not a lack of trust, but the realization that the Rivermead Golf Course is his responsibility.
Derrick also has a large amount of respect for his peers in the turf-grass profession. He is a past president of the Ottawa Valley Turfgrass Association and is always ready to serve on Association committees. He keeps in touch with his former employers who helped him along his way as well as his school-mates and knows that he can call any of his associates to ask a question or get help in solving a problem or even borrowing a piece of equipment. That’s the way the turf-grass association works.
Derrick is also big on attending educational seminars, networking and learning more about the latest in trends and regulations that might affect his profession. The Rivermead Golf Club is very supportive of these actions as they can see the results in the work that Derrick and his team perform on the golf course.
Derrick still enjoys his occasional games of golf and estimates that he plays to a current handicap of 9. “I feel that it is important to play and see the course from the members’ perspective and to also see the results of my team’s work. At the end of a round my scorecard is generally covered with an accumulation of notes on the course conditioning.”
Derrick Powers remains passionate about his job. Just witness the smile on his face as he roams the grounds at Rivermead with Maggie, his beloved 11 year old chocolate Labrador Retriever, at his side and you will agree. As he says, “I still enjoy coming to work and love the business.”
That’s good news for the Rivermead Golf Club. In 2000 their interview committee that selected Derrick had the foresight to take a chance on a relatively young superintendent and are reaping the benefits today.