Two individuals were recognized for their outstanding achievements at the Western Canada Turfgrass Association (WCTA) Conference and Trade Show, held in Penticton, B.C., Feb. 15-17.
Among the two is Rod MacDonnell, of the Hope Golf Club, who received the WCTA Life Member Award.
MacDonnell started thinking about turf in the late 1960s when his dad bought him a Lawnboy push mower. He quickly established a list of 10 regular customers who wanted lawn service. In 1972, his dad encouraged him to apply for a job in his hometown of Kingston, N.S., at the Paragon Golf and Country Club. Successfully hired, he worked after school and through the summer months. During this time frame, MacDonnell was involved with Boy Scouts and was considered Canada’s Top Boy Scout during 1973. He attended National and International Jamborees, where he learned much about the environment and the land we live on.
Upon graduation he hitchhiked out west, seeking employment in the forestry industry to gain experience that would allow him to attend Forest Ranger School in New Brunswick. Arriving in Vancouver with little money in his pocket and with no immediate jobs in forestry, he went through the phone book and was hired sight unseen, resulting in five years of employment at Shaughnessy Golf and Country Club. MacDonnell enrolled in BCIT’s night school program for Turfgrass Management in 1978 and was awarded one-year membership into the WCTA through sponsorship for his high marks in the program.
MacDonnell’s next move to Hope in 1981, was his last in the golf industry. For the ensuing 33 years, he worked at the beautiful nine-hole Hope Golf Club not only as superintendent, but as mechanic, irrigation tech, spray tech, logger, welder, architect and so on. Particularly challenging was the major renovation work required after severe flood damage to the course by the raging Coquihalla River where the single lane suspension bridge was destroyed and several acres swallowed into the river. All restoration projects were done in house by MacDonnell and his team and he went as far as designing an additional nine for future development.
MacDonnell was involved with the local justice system, providing restitution for those caught by the law and whose penalty was community work hours. Hope’s school board also liaised with MacDonnell with onsite work experience for many years. For many who worked with MacDonnell, it was their first job resulting in lifelong positive memories from what began as a less than ideal situation; some even went on to higher levels of education within the turfgass industry. He was lucky to have all four of his children work with him at the course, both of his sons working full time for over five years each.
He brought a lot of his own tools to work on the course’s equipment and grounds and designed/built his own sawmill supplying the course with material for different construction projects. MacDonnell became an accomplished woodworker, building fine furniture, sheds, log structures, garages and his dream home. As a result, the Hope Golf Club was well known for immaculate conditions on a very small budget due to MacDonnell’s hands-on capabilities.
While admirable, MacDonnell’s efforts are practically normal for a golf course superintendent and it needs to be said that the Board’s rationale for his life member award deservedness has less to do with his ability to grow grass and more to do with his selfless efforts toward the golf industry as throughout his career, MacDonnell volunteered much if his spare time helping others. Whether it was his role as BCGSA secretary/treasurer, organizing and attending countless chapter meetings, offering advice to the up-and-comers or calling around making sure local superintendents remained involved in the industry, you might say MacDonnell was the glue that kept the golf maintenance community in the Fraser Valley together for over three decades.
MacDonnell is also a pretty good artist, creating snow sculptures that made the local news and he has a talent for painting bodies, both automobiles and live models. In retirement, he has now turned his hobby of collecting auto parts and restoring vehicles, mainly International Scouts, into an international business called “ScoutPluSS!!.”
– contributed by the WCTA.