by Blair Adams
From hosting the first Canadian Open at Glen Abbey to restoring the bunkers and conditioning at one of Stanley Thompson's most beloved courses, Dennis Pellrene is at the height of his professional career
Dennis Pellrene of the Capilano Golf and Country Club in West Vancouver, BC, is the 1999 winner of the CGSA's Superintendent of the Year Award. Pellrene joins an elite group of individuals whose dedication to their profession has earned them accolades from fellow superintendents across the country.
Pellrene started his career in 1960 on a nine-hole oiled sandgreen golf course in Camrose, AB. After converting the oiled sand sites to grass greens, he was hired on as greenkeeper where he remained until 1964. However, the east would soon beckon and Pellrene accepted a position as assistant superintendent at the St. Catharines Golf and Country Club under the tutelage of John Piccolo.
From there he would become superintendent at the Erie Downs Golf Club in Fort Erie, ON, but his big break would come in 1970 when Reg Acomb, general manager at the Glen Abbey Golf Club, offered Pellrene an opportunity he just couldn't refuse.
Acomb, being the entrepreneur that he is, had a plan to have the Jack Nicklaus organization build a home for the Canadian Open at Glen Abbey in 1974. Pellrene joined the project overseeing developments for Genstar, and subsequently grew in the golf course in 1975.
"It officially opened for play June 1, 1976, with Jack Nicklaus and Tom Weiskopf playing the inaugural round," Pellrene said. "The Abbey's first open was in 1977 and I subsequently hosted four other Canadian Opens."
During his tenure at Glen Abbey, Pellrene honed his greenkeeping skills by attending a winter course at the University of Guelph and with a little tutoring from Ed Etchells, the chief agronomist for the Nicklaus Golforce organization.
From Glen Abbey, Pellrene moved to the Scarborough Golf and Country Club where he spent the next 10 years gradually bringing this A.W. Tillinghast-designed course to present day acceptance.
"One major project completed at Scarborough was the erosion control program that took two winters to complete at a cost of $3.5 million," Pellrene said.
However, he would once again hear the call of the west and Pellrene headed for Vancouver and the Capilano Golf and Country Club where he remains busily restoring the Stanley Thompson designed bunkers.
On the occasion of being chosen the CGSA's Superintendent of the Year for 1999, GreenMaster spoke to Pellrene about his accomplishments and what it is like to be a golf course superintendent.
GreenMaster: Congratulations on being chosen Superintendent of the Year. Although this is an accomplishment in itself, what do you consider to be your most satisfying experience as a superintendent?
Pellrene: My greatest satisfaction had to come from growing in the grass at Glen Abbey in 1975 and then holding the first Canadian Open 12 months later.
GreenMaster: What is your toughest turf maintenance challenge at Capilano Golf and Country Club?
Pellrene: Without a doubt, the toughest challenge at this course has to be the 100 plus inches of rain that we receive on a yearly basis and as a result, still trying to give the membership quality playing conditions.
GreenMaster: Which tasks do you enjoy most as a golf course superintendent?
Pellrene: Mainly, I enjoy solving problems that are inherent to a particular property. I also enjoy hosting special tournament events.
GreenMaster: Which one task do you least enjoy?
Pellrene: There are not too many things that I dislike about being a golf course superintendent. However, if I did have to pick one thing it would be working with impatient, misinformed people. It's important to remember that Mother Nature has her own agenda and dictates how fast we can get things done.
GreenMaster: In what ways have you seen the role of the golf course superintendent change over the years?
Pellrene: I think that over the last 30 years, the role of the superintendent has changed from a hands-on individual to a university-trained, business-oriented person whose diverse expertise must include agronomy and personnel management. Today's superintendent must also possess good communication skills and manage his/her course in an environmentally responsible manner.
GreenMaster: Who has had the biggest influence on your career?
Pellrene: I think the training I received while working with the Nicklaus Golforce organization was my biggest career influence.
GreenMaster: Looking back, is there anything you regret in your career, and if so, what would you do differently with the benefit of hindsight?
Pellrene: One of the things I regret is not having a clear direction early on in my career whereby I could have pursued an agronomic degree.
GreenMaster: Are there any major accomplishments you would still like to achieve as a superintendent?
Pellrene: I am currently in the process of restoring the Stanley Thompson designed bunkers at Capilano. I am looking forward to completing this project over the next five years.
GreenMaster: How do you feel the role of the golf course superintendent could be improved?
Pellrene: I believe there needs to be some improvements in the field of agronomy. Superintendents would also do well to keep current on new practices and technologies such as in the area of environmental standards and regulations.
GreenMaster: Would you say that being a superintendent is demanding in terms of family life?
Pellrene: Without a doubt. Being a golf course superintendent is very demanding on family life. The golf course always seems to take precedence and you need an understanding spouse.
GreenMaster: In light of your answer to the previous question, would you recommend this career to a young person?
Pellrene: Yes, I would recommend this career to a young person. It is a job full of surprises and adjustments have to be made constantly, which makes the position very interesting and rewarding.
GreenMaster: Do you feel superintendents are appreciated for their efforts?
Pellrene: When conditions are under control we are appreciated. However, when Mother Nature throws us a curve and we strike out, things are a little different.GreenMaster: How has being a member of CGSA helped you in your career?
Pellrene: The CGSA has helped to establish a network of camaraderie across Canada that has enabled its members to share ideas and solutions to common problems.
GreenMaster: Is there anything you would like to achieve as an association member?
Pellrene: I would like to eventually write a few articles, both humorous and technical, about different experiences I have had throughout my career.
GreenMaster: What do you hope to be doing five years from now?
Pellrene: I plan to be finishing up my bunker project at Capilano and then perhaps buy a diesel trawler so my wife and I can enjoy retirement on the West Coast.
Blair Adams is the Executive Editor of the GreenMaster, the official publication of the Canadian Golf Superintendents Association. Reprinted with permission from the GreenMaster, October/November, 1999, Volume 34, Number 5.
Turf Line News Editor's note:
Dennis Pellrene has been a member of the Western Canada Turfgrass Association since he moved to the West Coast to become Golf Course Superintendent at Capilano Golf and Country Club, West Vancouver, BC.
Dennis became the WCTA Research Committee Chairman in July 1998. He has spearheaded several Shirt Raffles ($2,500-3,000 each) to obtain revenue for the Research Fund. His greatest contribution in the area of research funding came at the 1999 WCTA Conference in Penticton. He and his team worked hard to do the WCTA's first Silent Auction.
When all was said and done, over $14,000 was added to the Research Fund from just this one auction!!
Dennis and his team are currently working on the Silent Auction for the 37th Annual WCTA Conference in Victoria on February 26-March 1, 2000. They plan to make it even bigger and more productive that the one in 1999. Good Luck!!!!
Dennis continues to serve as WCTA Research Committee Chairman overseeing $45,000 annually spent on research projects. When this is combined with the cooperative funding arranged with other organizations, the WCTA is directly involved in between $120,000 and $150,000 of turfgrass research each year!
Great work Dennis and we are happy to have you out on the "Wet" Coast.
From all the WCTA members and the WCTA Board of Directors congratulations on receiving the very prestigious Superintendent of the Year Award from the Canadian Golf Superintendents Association and Score Magazine.
Turf Line News December 1999/January 2000
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