006 | From Teenage Golf Junkies to Advisors: Insights with David Delsandro and Jeff Corcoran

Episode 006

From Teenage Golf Junkies to Advisors

with guests David Delsandro and Jeff Corcoran

If “course management” were a hole on a golf course, it’d be the longest and most hazard-plagued, trap-filled hole you’d ever play — and you’d need two course junkies to advise you along the way. Luckily, we have the just the right ones in lifelong course executives David Delsandro and Jeff Corcoran.

Delsandro’s career in the turf industry has spanned 25 years, most recently as the superintendent at Oakmont Country Club in Pennsylvania. His experiences include all types of conventional golf course construction projects, as well as large-scale site development, earth moving, utility relocation/installation, and building construction. He has worked with several leading golf architectural firms, including Fazio Design, Coore & Crenshaw, and Hanse Golf Design.

Delsandro has successfully prepared for, hosted, and restored venues for four national championships, including two U.S. Opens.

Corcoran has been a golf course superintendent for more than 20 years. He landed his first head superintendent job at The Weston Golf Club, outside of Boston, and he has been the director of agronomy at Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, New York, since 2003. During his tenure at Oak Hill, he hosted two PGA Championships and two Senior PGA Championships.

In 2019, Corcoran worked in conjunction with architect Andrew Green to renovate Oak Hill’s East Course. Corcoran has been responsible for placing 10 assistant superintendents into superintendent roles.

They partnered last year to form Agronomic Advisors, a consulting company focused on providing a diverse, comprehensive suite of solutions to the golf course industry.

In this episode, Delsandro and Corcoran look back fondly on the golf course as their babysitter, share the lessons they learned as leaders at premier venues, and advise today’s superintendents on leadership approaches in a changing industry.

Your Club Selection Changes with Age, so Should Your Leadership Approach

Most of us need to adjust our club selection as we age in order to hit the ball as far as we once did. The clubs we grabbed as teens, such as the self-described junkies Delsandro and Corcoran once were, won’t make the cut after we make the turn in the game of life. Neither will the same approach to managing a department in a golf club nor leading a large capital project.

Know when and how to adapt.

“When you’re younger, and you’re trying to prove yourself at this particular level, as a superintendent, your bandwidth for people that fall outside of those realms that you that you live in is pretty narrow,” Corcoran said. “I remember telling guys, ‘You don’t want to work till 7 o’clock tonight on Friday? You’re not dedicated enough. You’ve only worked 21 days in a row and you want a day off? You’re not dedicated enough.’

“That sounds awful now.”

Recognize that it takes all kinds of individuals to build a team and have a culture of success.

Labor Market Management

The labor market in the industry has changed significantly in recent years, and that’s not just a problem for superintendents at local community golf venues. Leaders at the premier clubs face the same challenges, particularly when weighed against the facts that member expectations are not changing, nor are members willing to pay more for a stagnant experience.

Talk about shifting winds on the dogleg.

“The light-bulb moment for me was… I can either expect the labor market to change to meet the needs of one corporation or the upper echelon of one industry, or duh, realistically, we have to change to meet the labor market,” Delsandro said.

Get as many outside perspectives, including those from outside the golf industry, as possible, and see what makes sense to apply as you manage a team at your course.

Enjoy this episode of Leadership on the Links with David Delsandro and Jeff Corcoran!


Quotes

“The golf course was like my babysitter for the most part. My parents had to work. They just dropped me off, went to work, and they’d pick me up when it got dark out.” —Jeff Corcoran

“I started working at the local public golf course when I was 15 just to get free golf. I thought I was going to work in the pro shop. I showed up on my first day with pressed khakis and a Sears, three-button Polo shirt, but at 9 a.m. I had some 60-year-old guy holding my ankles hanging over an irrigation ditch, covered in mud.” —David Delsandro

“The labor market is such that there aren’t as many individuals that are as motivated as there [used to be], if I’m being very open and honest about that.” —Jeff Corcoran

“You soon learn that you don’t know everything, and you need some help. You need people to see some stuff outside of the box and bring in consultants or industry professionals.” —Jeff Corcoran

“There comes a point — and we’ve all been there, whether it’s your first intendent’s job or a new superintendent job at a different venue — that there’s the realization that happens when you’re like, ‘OK, I’m the guy now. Every decision that I make has consequences.’ And it’s more that you’re not trying to succeed, you’re just trying not to fail.” —David Delsandro

“We’ve found that helping a new superintendent or a superintendent at a new venue has been some of the most rewarding work that we’ve done, because we’re able to serve the person who we used to be; to help them succeed by avoiding mistakes that we made.” —David Delsandro


Links mentioned in this episode:

Tyler Bloom Consulting: https://tylerbloomconsulting.com/

Agronomic Advisors: https://agro-advisors.com/

Connect with David on LinkedIn: 
https://www.linkedin.com/in/david-delsandro-5071692a6/

Connect with Jeff on LinkedIn: 
https://www.linkedin.com/in/jeff-corcoran-5681092a6/

Follow Agronomic Advisors on X: https://x.com/agro_advisors23

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Tyler Bloom

Who is Tyler Bloom?

Tyler Bloom is the leading expert on workforce development in the golf and turfgrass industry. He has worked with dozens of leading golf and sports companies in the United States including The PGA of America, Top 100 golf courses, public, municipal to professional sports teams, universities, and national historic landmarks.