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Where the grass is greener

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Lifelong passions can develop at an early age and under the right guidance they can flourish. This is the case for former Valley resident, Dustin How. How has invested a great amount of time and energy, as well
as gained a lot of experience, to become the Golf Course Superintendent of the Southwood Golf and Country Club in Winnipeg.
A position he has held since 2009. “I had the opportunity to be around a golf course from a very young
age with my dad,” said How. “He has been on the board of the Swan River Golf and Country Club (SRGCC) for as long as I can remember. I can recall being around for several projects in the late 1980’s and early 90’s, including the installation of the double row irrigation system, construction of new greens as well as new tee complexes, the relocation of the sixth hole and planting lots of trees. I always found
these projects very interesting even as a young child. 
“In 1994, the club hired Rob Officer as the golf course Superintendent and it was at that point that I learned you could get an education and make a career out of golf course management. I started working at the golf course in 1995 and worked in Swan River until I finished school.” How recalls spending many hours laying sod, mowing grass and hanging out at the golf club. He was fortunate enough to have people mentor him and show him certain aspects that were important to making a course what it is.
“There are several dozen spruce trees around the old nine holes in Swan River that I planted with my dad and I always enjoy coming home to see those trees and how large they have grown,” noted How. “I also remember doing several projects with Donna Bourgeault at a young age, whether it was planting flowers around tee decks with her and some of the ladies club members or painting the outhouses and rain
shelters.”
How decided to pursue his education in Greenspace Management, so he enrolled in the program at Red River College. He still seizes every learning opportunity he can, to better his abilities and expand his knowledge on golf courses. “Greenspace Management entailed golf course management, greenhouse
production, landscape construction, and several other facets of horticulture,” explained How. 
“However, still to this date, I continue to attend as much educational courses as possible. In recent
years I have attended educational events with Toro, Syngenta and the Ivey School of Business, as well as
many regional and national seminars as possible. The Canadian Golf Superintendents Association offers an accreditation program and in January of 2020, I received my designation as an Accredited Golf Superintendent.
Currently I am one of five people in the province with this designation.” During his college studies, How obtained experience by working at other golf courses in different provinces and even in the United States.
These opportunities provided a wealth of handson knowledge when it came to constructing a golf course.
“While attending college, I worked two summer work terms at Greywolf Golf Course in Panorama, B.C.,” said How. “Once I finished school, I worked one more summer there before obtaining a work visa and moving to Donnelly, Idaho. In Idaho, I had the opportunity to be a part of the construction of a new golf course and ski resort. I worked at Osprey Meadows and Tamarack Resort until March of 2009. In 2009, I
moved back to Manitoba and took a position with Southwood Golf and Country Club, to construct a new golf course on the south end of Winnipeg. “Throughout all of this, I have had the opportunity to be involved in the construction of two 18 hole championship golf courses and each of these experiences have presented many memorable moments. There are several stages in these projects that are always memorable, specifically when final grading is completed and the golf hole has its shape but no grass has been planted. It is such a unique way to see a golf hole and so few people ever see it looking this way. Secondly it is always a rewarding experience to see the first cut completed as the grass begins.
“Construction of a putting green is also a unique experience, as greens are typically built on a sand mix with drainage and irrigation. They become like a very large potted plant with the growing medium being very controllable; that is what allows the turf care managers to control speed, firmness, and overall playability for the golfer.”
There have been many highlights that How has experienced during the course of his journey in this field. Some of the experiences have been noted as once in a lifetime chances. “The opportunity to be part of two golf course construction projects is something many people in my industry do not get to experience and I consider myself very lucky to have been part of those two projects,” noted How. 
“At Osprey Meadows, the course was named America’s Best New Golf Course of 2006 and made it as high as 18th in the top 100 while I was there. “Since I have been with Southwood, we relocated Manitoba’s oldest golf club from its original location next to the University of Manitoba, to a new location in St. Norbert, next to the old Trappists’ Monastery. This was the first private club to move locations in Canada since the 1960’s. 
Since moving, Southwood has hosted several national golf events from the Canadian Mens Amateur, University Championships, Canada Summer Games. Most recently we hosted the Mackenzie
Tour’s Manitoba Open, until this summer, when it was postponed due to COVID-19. “Hosting these events
is a rewarding experience to see some of Canada’s Best golfers compete, and with the Mackenzie tour,
some of the next stars of the PGA tour are playing our golf course,” noted How. “These events provide
an opportunity from an agronomic perspective for us to really challenge the turf and provide some very challenging playing conditions that we would not typically do on a day-to-day basis.”
Despite loving the game of golf and maintaining turf, How himself is not an avid golfer. Instead he chooses to focus on the aspects of golf that most players do not stop and take notice of. “I would say my golfing game is more recreational at best,” stated How. “So when I am golfing, I prefer to look for many things that everyday golfers aren’t seeing. 
I like to see irrigation, drainage, and other construction projects that are making a facility better; for those reasons I become partial to the properties that I have worked on. A few years ago while on my honeymoon, my wife and I snuck on and walked parts of Pebble Beach and the beauty of the golf holes along the Pacific Ocean continue to stick with me to this day.” How has not had the opportunity to design a golf course, but he has participated in the construction part of it. Along the way he has worked with some very notable people in the industry and from them, learned what can be the pitfalls to constructing
and maintaining a course.
“I had the opportunity to work with Robert Trent Jones II and associates while constructing Osprey Meadows,” said How. “Also while building the new Southwood course, I had the opportunity to build a relationship with Canadian Golf Course Architect, Thomas McBroom. “The most challenging part of golf course construction is dealing with the weather and managing growing conditions,” explained How. “Much
like a farmer, we are limited in time to get seed into the ground and make it grow. It always seems like we are waiting on rain or it rained too much. While building Southwood, we had three very wet seasons from 2009 to 2011 and it presented many challenges moving earth, installing drainage, irrigation, and
seeding. The opening of the golf course was delayed by almost an entire summer because of the challenges of weather.”
How has taken his career ambitions a swing further and upon his return to Manitoba, he obtained a position on the Manitoba Golf Superintendents Association (MGSA).
“I wanted an opportunity to be a part of leading my profession into the future and ensuring the success of my industry,” said How. “The MGSA has provided that platform to participate, provide continuing education for our members and also to provide education to the golfer. “I have been a member of the MGSA board for eight years and have been the Vice President for the last two years. The opportunity to work with a board has furthered my skills in working with people and group situations. It is rewarding to
see education and networking opportunities provided to our membership. Although networking has been more challenging for the last year, we continue to provide online education as much as possible and look forward to being able to return to our in person conferences, meetings, and networking opportunities.”
Even though How’s passion for golf courses has taken him many different places, he still feels a strong connection to his ties in the Valley and the early experiences he had at the Swan River Golf and Country Club. “Several people influenced me at an early age, but it was my father’s involvement with the golf
club in Swan River that sparked it and we have been able to share this passion,” explained How.
“Rob Officer later on became an instructor at Red River College while I attended school there and I 
gained a lot of valuable insights from him in that capacity as well. Finally, I had the opportunity to work with Tom Altmann while I was in B.C. and Idaho. These gentlemen all played an influential role in showing me that there was a career in turf grass management. “The last few seasons I have also had the  opportunity to do some consulting work in Swan River while working with Golf Course Superintendent
Morgan LaForce. Working with Morgan has been a lot of fun and I look forward to those couple trips per season to see the golf course with him.” How truly enjoys his career and because he loves it so much, it really doesn’t feel like work at all. It has connected him to professionals in the industry as well as to the
love of his life. “Golf has also given me the opportunity to meet many great people, establish friendships all over North America, and I even met my wife through the golf course,” concluded How. “Overall it is hard to beat an early morning on the golf course in the summer, watching the sun come up and the course being setup for the day. I also really enjoy the people that I have had the opportunity to work with over my career so far, currently I am part of a really great group at Southwood and we enjoy each day”.