Staff Spotlight: Cody Self, Assistant Superintendent
Cody Self (a.k.a. @sigepturfguy) hails from Parrottsville, Tenn. He joined Pine Needles & Mid Pines Resorts’ Golf Course Maintenance staff in April of 2014 as 2nd Assistant and currently serves as Assistant Superintendent.
Discuss your role at Pine Needles – Mid Pines.
As Assistant Superintendent of Golf Course Maintenance, I assist the Director of Golf Course and Grounds in all aspects of maintenance operations. I help to oversee scheduling, projects, all chemical applications, moisture management of greens and disease scouting, safety standards, record keeping, and goals for the calendar year.
What drew you into this field of agronomy?
Well, I grew up in rural East Tennessee on a small farm where my family raised tobacco, hay, and cattle. When it comes to growing grass, it’s all about proper agronomic management of the soil encompassing nutrients, moisture and oxygen for respiration. Hay is really just a different form of grass. Same with tobacco. You’ve got to do the soil tests. You know what you’re going to need to add: nitrogen, lime, etc. It naturally rolls over to turf from the farm.
How did you develop your passion for golf?
My great uncle, who was more like a grandfather figure to me, happened to be a Golf Course Superintendent in Virginia for the better part of six decades. Every time I would see him, he would give me a bucket of old golf balls to practice hitting into the hayfield. I fondly remember maybe being 8 or 9 years old and scalping down an area in my parent’s yard for a “putting green” with a make-shift cup and flagstick to form a 3-hole practice area using that one green.
You take incredible photos on the course which you share on your Instagram account (@sigepturfguy). Have you always had a love of photography?
Photography is more of a hobby for me. It came about just to showcase my work and what I do. I really appreciate the aesthetics of a golf course, because I understand everything that goes into making it that way. All the pictures you see on my Instagram account are taken with an iPhone 7. I have no formal training, strictly self-taught.
What is the meaning behind the name ‘Sigepturfguy?’
Sigep is short for Sigma Phi Epsilon which is the fraternity I was a member of in college. I think turf guy is self-explanatory.
Any other interests?
I am a big-time Tennessee Titans fan. Went to the Monday Night Football game couple weeks ago. I dabble in wood-working and restoration in my free time… usually during the winter. I play some golf, like to travel, and listen to live music. I prefer Red Dirt country and blues.
Speaking of golf and travel, you often share photos from your golf outings on your Instagram account. What courses are on your wish list?
East Coast- Fishers Island and West Coast – Cypress Point even though I know I’d need two dozen balls to play either of them.
Keep it in front of the pin and don’t be afraid to putt from off the green.
Favorite hole at PN? MP?
My favorite hole at Pine Needles is No.13. A fall day around sunset looking down from the No.14 tee is spectacular.
At Mid-Pines, photography-wise it’s No.18 every day. However, golf-wise No.12 is my favorite. They just don’t make short dogleg par 4s with green complexes like that anymore.
What do you enjoy most about working in golf course maintenance?
Lack of golf ethics and, well, Mother Nature can be cruel sometimes.
You have recently shared on Instagram about ‘Thank Your Super.’ How did that come about?
‘Thank Your Super’ came about as a way to show support for the guys behind the scenes who make the golf course what it is. These guys begin their workday before sunrise and end it after sunset sometimes seven days a week. They work holidays and weekends. Their work often goes unnoticed. If someone wants to know who the Superintendent is, it’s often for the wrong reasons. We want to change that.
A group of friends in the golf industry got to talking, making jokes about ‘never hearing anyone say they joined a golf club because of how great the chicken was, how nice the sweaters were folded, or cold the beer was in the clubhouse. You can bet that if the golf course isn’t in great shape day in and day out that those same people aren’t going to spend money to play. Every day the golf course crew must to be on their ‘A’ game to be the unsung heroes that make the greens smooth so you can get that birdie putt and collect some skins and bragging rights that makes you keep coming back.’ At the end of the conversation, we brainstormed to create these bumper stickers to shed some light on the golf maintenance staffs and show support for everyone in the turf industry. It has now grown to hats, golf towels, pins, and stickers. All swag is for sale at: www.Sugarloafsocialclub.com.
The GCSAA stands for the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America. Many of the superintendents, assistants and sponsors in the industry are members of it. If you apply for their scholarship and win, you can get a lot of recognition. It’s easier to get your foot in the door for better opportunities. If we can help a kid… If we can help the association to provide not one scholarship but two scholarships… Or maybe three, four… It helps more people get into the industry.
College is expensive. People aren’t entering the field so we are losing valuable people who may have a passion, but are struggling to justify going into the industry. With this scholarship we want to show support, encourage growth, and reward those with a passion that are academically driven.
(And it helps to raise awareness of the opportunity)
Absolutely. This is an industry that many people don’t even think about. If you can imagine for a moment that bridge trolls exist. People may recognize that the bridge troll lives under the bridge. But you don’t think of them unless they’re bothering you, unless they are affecting what you do. You’ll just let them be. That’s kind of like the golf course superintendents. People don’t see you on the golf course. They know you exist and they’re happy for it. The only time people mention a golf course superintendent is normally for a complaint.
Any advice for young people interested in getting into the industry?
You have to be self-driven. You need to be a driven person, in general. We work 12 days on, two days off. We start work at six in the morning. That kind of work isn’t for everybody. We’re working rain, sleet snow, 100 degree-plus heat. It could be four hours on a weekend and 16 hours on a Monday. You could be working anywhere from 40 hours per week to 80 hours per week. You’ve got to have the passion, for one thing, to do this for a living. You’ve got to like the work otherwise you’ll get burned out.
You also need to be able to adapt. Nature, people, conditions, tournaments. Everybody wants something different. Something will change every day and you’ve got to be able to adapt.