When it comes to managing golf courses, Fred Gehrisch, CGCS, sees the big picture, but it's the little things he does that attract so much attention.
"Fred Gehrisch not only knows how to grow grass and manage a crew and a budget, but is also very attuned to the club members, and probably is the staff member who does the best job of seeing that members have reason to be proud of the club," said Charles Sausman, a member at Highlands Falls Country Club in Highlands, North Carolina, where Gehrisch has been superintendent 16 years.
Whether it is maintaining the golf course, taking on a civic-improvement project or picking up random trash on the property, doing whatever it takes to improve the customer experience for members has become Gehrisch's trademark.
"We all get dirty here," Gehrisch said. "There's no such thing as 'it's not my job' here. Picking up a wrapper on the floor is just as much my responsibility as someone who works in the clubhouse."
On Feb. 26, Gehrisch was named the winner of the 2014 TurfNet Superintendent of the Year Award, presented by Syngenta.
He was chosen by a panel of judges from a field of 10 finalists that included Nelson Caron of The Ford Plantation in Richmond Hill, Georgia, the late Paul Colleran of Aldarra Golf Club in Sammamish, Washington, Jorge Croda of Southern Oaks Golf Club in Burleson, Texas, Jim Ferrin of Timber Creek and Sierra Pines Golf Courses in Roseville, California, Mark Hoban of Rivermont Country Club in John's Creek, Georgia, Joel Kachmarek of Tacoma (Washington) Country and Golf Club, Paul Latshaw of Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio, Jim Roney of Saucon Valley Country Club in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania and Eric Wygant of Shannopin Country Club in Pittsburgh.
Throughout his career, Gehrisch, 45, has undertaken several civic-improvement projects that help improve quality of life for residents of Highlands and portray the club in a positive public light. Recently, he won the praises of his members for helping spearhead a project to convert an otherwise forgotten meeting room in the clubhouse into a museum dedicated to the history of the club and architect of the golf course, the late Joe Lee.
The project culminated with a golf tournament in Lee's honor and a celebration that included a host of dignitaries including Lee's widow. The Joe Lee room includes photographs, trophies and other memorabilia that walk members through the history of the 50-plus-year-old club and connect some long-forgotten dots.
For many years, Gehrisch, a graduate of Ohio State University, has had a love for tackling projects outside the normal realm of his superintendent duties, and has been fortunate to have a membership that understands his passion.
Highlands is an upscale mountain community in western North Carolina, and many of the club's members maintain second homes there. Among the area's more well-heeled residents, they also have a knack for volunteer work and giving back to the community, and appreciate the same from Gehrisch.
To that end, Gehrisch has planted trees throughout Highlands for the city, cleared a downtown lot to make room for a municipal park, managed hemlocks for the town's land trust, repaired its hiking trails, cleared debris so a local animal shelter could expand its operations, cuts firewood for the town to distribute to needy families, builds doghouses for a local charity.
"Part of the job here is to promote the image of the club," Gehrisch said. "In a small town, little things can go a long way, especially our community projects."