Manitoulin Island-raised author receives prestigious award from golf association

Lise Pummell, left, is shown in photo with her father Arthur Pummell.

ONTARIO – Lise Roseman, who grew up on Manitoulin Island and is now living and working in southern Ontario, won a prestigious award from Ontario Golf Superintendents’ Association (OGSA) earlier this year. 

The editorial committee of OGSA selected a story Ms. Roseman wrote as the article of the year for ONCourse, the OGSA magazine. 

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following article is reprinted in the Recorder with the approval of the editors’ staff of ONCourse magazine of Ontario Golf Superintendents’ Association. The article in the November 2019 edition is written by Lise Roseman, assistant superintendent of The Oaks of St. George Golf Course, and is titled ‘Small Fish in a Big Pond.’

The foundation for any successful assistant superintendent comes from many different things. Education, work experience, being in the right place at the right time, and the list goes on. Landing an opportunity to work for one of the best, most dedicated superintendents in the province might just be the best way to achieve that success, and I’m not talking about working for someone at a high-profile club.

For a lot of assistants in the turf industry, they knew they wanted to be a part of the turf industry from a very young age. I, however, was a “late bloomer” as my mom would say. My turf journey didn’t begin until I was 25. I had already graduated with a correctional worker diploma in the law and justice field, worked in young offender facilities, travelled to China to teach English (which didn’t go as planned) and was forced to fly home with my tail between my legs and no job prospects for my future.

I come from a line of hardworking family members so taking time to “find myself” was not an option. My mother, Jane Pummell, was the clubhouse manager at Manitoulin Island Country Club and my father, Arthur Pummell, was the superintendent, so with my pride shattered and my wallet empty I approached them about working on the turf crew under the watchful eye of my dad and brother. Jason Pummell had worked for my dad in seasons past and this is where he started in the turf industry also. The idea had to be brought to the board members for approval because I was a family member. 

After my parents were given approval to hire me, my folks laid out the ground rules and “read me the riot act,” so to speak. Working for your parents has to be one of the hardest things to do, so much more is expected of you when your parents are in charge. There was no “take it easy on her, she’s my daughter.” Instead, it was “work her harder than the rest of the crew every day.”

I approached the season thinking ‘there’s no way I will live up to my dad’s standards,’ but I showed up, put my head down and prepared for whatever my old man could throw at me. And to my surprise, I loved it! Working on a golf course alongside someone who takes so much pride in what he does changes the way you look at things. It’s not just grass anymore, it becomes so much more than that. You are not just mowing grass, it’s not just sand in a hole, it’s a bunker and there’s a certain way to make it playable and pleasing to the eye. It’s not just a place you tee up the ball and hit it, it’s a tee deck and it needs to be mowed in a certain way, top-dressed and seeded. It’s not just a green, it’s a putting surface that requires so much care and the golfers expect it to be perfect all the time.

My dad taught me so much in a such a short period of time, I can’t thank him enough. He didn’t graduate from any turf program or attend any university or college. Prior to taking on his role as a superintendent on Manitoulin Island he worked for a construction firm, Taylor Woodrow, based out of England and was working as a foreman on a project in Nigeria, West Africa. My mother was teaching in a Nigerian school. Once my parents moved to Manitoulin Island to raise my brother and me, they were approached about taking over the golf course from the couple who were ready to retire, simply because we were new to the Island and my parents needed work. Islanders take care of one another no matter what, and welcome new faces in the community.

My dad had to learn on the fly, make mistakes and learn from them, read magazines published by the turf industry and do his homework. Each year superintendents get their budget for the upcoming year and they know approximately how much they have to spend in order to improve their product way before the season begins. My dad didn’t have that luxury! 

Once the season was over and all the employees and bills were paid, what was left was what he had to work with, and that wasn’t very much. My folks purchased a lot of equipment for the course with their own money because they wanted to produce the best playing conditions possible.

My dad organized a group of members and volunteers to put in the irrigation system in order to save money. Members were required to volunteer their time for at least one tournament held at the course each season; whether they were a starter, cooked hot dogs at the beer tent on #4 or cleaned tables in the clubhouse, it was an “all hands on deck” situation. 

When we were young, my brother and I planted trees around the course in an effort to improve the golf course without it being a costly undertaking for the membership. My dad would spend 10-plus hours a day working at the course and then go back at night to water. He took so much pride in what he was doing and constantly tried to improve the course and himself as a turf manager. The time I spent working alongside my dad, training and learning as much as he could possibly teach me is the reason I love what I do to this day.

Being given the opportunity to work with a superintendent who lived and breathed turf and was willing to spend the hours with me to improve my skills was an amazing experience. It goes to show that someone doesn’t have to go to a prestigious university to be good at what they do. It takes heart, long hours and blood, sweat and tears. 

I knew I had earned my dad’s approval to continue my turf journey when he asked me if I would be willing to move to southern Ontario to help out my brother, who at the time was the assistant at Bayview Golf and Country Club, working under superintendent Tom Charters. Both my brother and my dad saw something in me and I felt that they were giving me their blessing to keep moving forward with my career and what was the family passion.

From Bayview I went on to work for some of the greatest people in the business. I spent time working for the late Gord Witteveen, and eight years working as a turf labourer for Rhod Trainor at Hamilton Golf and Country Club. I am currently in my fourth year as an assistant at The Oaks of St. George working alongside superintendent Richard Voigt. 

If it wasn’t for my dad taking the time to teach me what he could, pushing me to give one hundred percent and to take pride in what I do every day, I would not have had the opportunities to work for these amazing superintendents.

Manitoulin Island Country Club was purchased by Manitoulin Transport in 2018 and is now called Manitoulin Golf. My dad at age 77, with 30 years of service is still working at the course and now mentoring the new superintendent, Dave Carr. Perhaps my dad may retire, someday. Arthur Pummell was and is a small fish in a big pond and year after year has produced some of the best play conditions possible in our small town on an island that most people have never even visited. I wanted to share this story because I think it is important for all of us in the turf industry to remember the “small fish.” Those who mentored and taught, those who worked the long hours and laid the groundwork for how the profession is highly regarded today.

And, if you ever find yourself on Manitoulin Island, stop by the golf course, sit back, have a beer and enjoy the view!