KEVIN WILES, SUPERINTENDENT OF THE OCEAN COURSE AT KIAWAH ISLAND RESORTS
Kevin Wiles is superintendent, or head greenskeeper, of the world-famous Ocean Course at Kiawah Island Resorts near Charleston, South Carolina. Although he does some of the greenskeeping work himself, he also supervises a crew of twenty-five greenskeeping workers year-round and sixty-five workers in summer.
HOW DID YOU GET INVOLVED IN GREENSKEEPING?
My father played golf and got me started in the game. He worked at the Concord Hotel in Monticello, New York, and during my summers off from high school, I did greenskeeping there. After high school, I attended Morrisville Agricultural & Technical College where I studied auto mechanics. Knowing how to repair and maintain vehicles came in handy on my early groundskeeping jobs.
But I always liked turf. So I attended the Abraham Baldwin College in Tifton, Georgia, for two years and took courses in landscaping and turf-grass management. I worked at a few golf courses in Savannah, Georgia, then moved to Charleston, South Carolina, where I worked for three or four years at the Links at Stono Ferry. I've been a superintendent for about eighteen years. I came to the Kiawah Island Resorts about five years ago, and worked at the resorts' Oak Point and Cougar Point courses before taking on the Ocean Course.
HOW IMPORTANT IS TURF-MANAGEMENT FOR A GREENSKEEPER?
You have to really understand the soils and the various kinds of turf. While I was at Morrisville Agricultural & Tech, I worked for two top plant geneticists, who developed a new turf that is still used on golf courses up north. In addition to schooling, you need four or five years of practical experience. You have to play a golf course, or at least walk it, so you see how different kinds of turf behave under different conditions. You have to experience turf in the real world. You have to say, why is this turf dying, what are the variables, before you can say, let's spray this fertilizer or that pesticide.
DO YOU FACE ANY SPECIAL CHALLENGES MAINTAINING THE OCEAN COURSE?
Well, because the Ocean Course is situated right on the ocean, if there's heavy wind or rain, the entire course melts down, and you have to replace the turf or rebuild portions.
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