Meet the Super: Phil Fitzgerald, Golf and Tennis Supervisor, City of Coronado

For those that have been in the Association for a while, you may recall the Inforemer Newsletter used to highlight the Golf Course Superintendents that were hosting the SDGCSA monthly meeting or other event at their facility. With this version of Turf Pros, we are happy to once again recognize the Superintendents that step up and host these events. 

On Tuesday, November 14, 2017, the San Diego Golf Course Superintendents Association hosted its monthly meeting at Coronado Golf Course, on the beautiful island of Coronado. This Fall Educational meeting was well attended and had presentations by two terrific speakers, Mike Huck and Kimberly Gard. The setting for the meeting at “The Boat House” was probably one of the nicest locations to ever host a meeting!

The hosts for the event were Phil Fitzgerald, Golf and Tennis Supervisor for the City of Coronado and Roger Miller, the Director of Recreation and Golf.  

If you have not been to Coronado Golf Course, its beauty and setting are hard to put into words. With the spectacular Coronado Bay Bridge above, Glorietta Bay surrounding the course, and views of downtown San Diego across the water, it is hard to imagine a better setting for a golf course. One of the first questions I had to ask Phil was what is the best part of working at such a beautiful course? His response was – the whole package!

 Phil’s early start in golf (he has been a member of the Association since 1990) started out at Pala Mesa Golf Course working for Dale Hahn. It seems like a lifetime ago, but when he wanted to get into the golf business, he came to me back in the late 80’s while I was the Superintendent at the now closed Quail Ranch Country Club in Riverside. The opportunities there were limited so I steered him to see Bob Dobek and apply at Pala Mesa. Bob was heading out to build another course and Dale Hahn was going to be the new Superintendent. He accepted a position with Dale and a year later was promoted to the Assistants position.

 After a couple years as the Assistant at Pala Mesa, he got his first Superintendents job at Mt. Woodson GC in the mid 1990’s. After 2 years there, he was promoted over to Temecula Creek Inn. He spent 7 years at TCI and then moved over to Steel Canyon in 2001. Steel Canyon was a great opportunity for him, but he also experienced some challenges. During his time there the challenging economic factors in the golf industry were taking a firm hold. Like many courses, declining revenues forced rates down to be competitive, but expenses were going the other way. I am sure this sounds familiar to everybody out there. But Phil persevered and was at Steel Canyon for a total of 14 years.

Phil enjoyed his time while working with JC Resorts and credits Bob Dobek for really helping him understand the business of golf. Other early influences in Phil’s career were David Major, David Fleming and Doug Rudolf, “they were great role models that I was exposed to early on.”

Phil was extremely intrigued when he saw the posting for the Coronado position 3 years ago. Although he went into it with some trepidation, he liked the thought of finishing out his career with a municipality and the benefits that come with it. It was not a swift process, as he saw 6 months go by after applying for the position before they finally called him for the interview. It went really well, and he obviously got the job. There was a little surprise upon starting the position, because Roger Miller was recently promoted, and that changed the title that Phil was coming into. Roger is the Director of Recreation and Golf, with some 300 plus employees. So Phil is serving as Golf and Tennis Supervisor. “It turned out to be way more than I thought it was going to be, but it has just been an amazing experience.” Phil said.

 Roger Miller has been there for 9 years, and as mentioned, is the Director of Recreation and Golf with the city of Coronado. Roger and Phil are the “golf guys” and work together as a team. They have a lot of laughs and Phil said Roger is “probably the smartest guy I have ever worked with.” With all the experience Phil has, all the time as a superintendent and in the industry, he was surprised that at this stage in his career he would find another mentor. But that is who Roger is to Phil, and Phil seeks his guidance consistently. Roger has also helped Phil understand the intricacies of working within a government system, which I am sure, could be quite the challenge.

Coronado Golf Course may not host the 100,000 rounds it used to during the prime golf markets, but they still run 85,000 rounds through there. Although the growing conditions there may be easier than some other microclimates, hosting that many rounds creates Phil’s biggest challenge. Kikuyu management is also new to Phil, as he had been a Bermuda guy in the past. But he likes its growing habits and it does really well there. He has worked hard on water management and has backed off on the old practices of watering heavy. They do not fertilize the Kikuyu and are consistent with their Primo applications. His Kikuyu program includes Primo, foliar micronutrient applications, aerification and wetting agent applications to improve water movement through the turf canopy and help retain water in the soil. They also spray for grey leaf spot starting in June and running through September.

 Eric Scribner serves as his Golf Maintenance Lead, or basically the Assistant. Eric has been there for almost 30 years. Phil says “He is a great young man, fantastic!”

Agronomically, Phil credits Dale Hahn for his success “he taught me everything. That guy was really good to me!” And, as previously mentioned, he is thankful for the early guidance from Bob Dobek, Dave Major, Dick Rudolf, and Dave Fleming, “they put me in a really influential circle in golf.” But success is not given out like candy on Halloween, it is earned. Phil may have had some help early on, but he has performed at every level and worked very hard.

Married for 31 years to Margarita, and living in Jamul, they have 2 children. Son Dylan (28) is in the air force and daughter Torri (26) lives locally and is an artist and hair stylist. Phil is living the dream; he plays tennis every Thursday, on Mondays and Wednesdays he plays volleyball at lunch with the city crew, and he brings his surfboard to work every day. Phil commented to me – “this has turned into a lot more than I ever dreamed it would be.” Wow, where do I sign up? Maybe he needs a Second Assistant?

This article is very timely in that Phil is ushering into his term as the 2018-2019 president for the SDGCSA starting April 1, 2018.  “I am looking forward to serving the association this year” said Phil, “we have a lot of great things planned already.  It is going to be a great year”. 

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