Chattanooga-area superintendent looks forward to playing more golf and attending Tennessee football games
Lawrence, Kan. (Dec. 21, 2016)
David Stone is not one to draw attention to himself.
He has managed his legendary career of 35 years as the golf course superintendent at The Honors Course in Ooltewah, Tenn., about as unpretentiously as the understated entrance sign marking the road into the notable 18-hole facility built in the early 1980s to honor amateur golf.
He was content as the golf course superintendent at Holston Hills Country Club in Knoxville, but The Honors Course’s late owner Jack Lupton and golf course architect Pete Dye had other plans for Stone, who couldn’t refuse the offer to become caretaker of the new course that was the talk of the state.
It was a life-changing decision for Stone, a 42-year member of the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA) and a member of the Tennessee Golf Hall of Fame.
“The enormity of the project and what they were doing just blew me away,” said Stone, who built a house right on the 500-acre course property outside Chattanooga. “This place has always just fit me. It just never made sense to look anywhere else.”
At age 68 and as he heads into retirement at the end of the year, Stone plans only to change the equipment he uses on the course. He is looking forward to playing the revered course more often, as a club member.
Over the years, Stone developed a knack for expertly managing bentgrass greens in a tough geographical transition zone.
“I got a lot of help originally from Bill Kruger at Richland Country Club in Nashville, plus I learned a lot from trial and error,” Stone said. “Bill would come over, give me a few tips, and then I would kind of experiment on my own. That’s how I started being able to find dry spots in those bentgrass greens before they got dry enough to cause damage – just by checking the firmness of the green with a knife, knowing when to do hand watering and when not to.”
He also managed the first zoysiagrass fairways in the Southeast and eventually oversaw a seamless transition to ultradwarf bermuda greens in 2013 in advance of hosting the Tennessee Mid-Amateur Championship in 2014 and the U.S. Junior Amateur Championship in 2016.
Those were only two of the 20 major amateur events held at The Honors Course during Stone’s tenure. His well-groomed masterpiece took center stage for the 1991 U.S. Amateur and then hosted the 1994 Curtis Cup Match, a biennial women’s amateur team match between the U.S. and Great Britain and Ireland. The NCAA Men’s Championship was held here in 1996 and 2010.
“I don’t know that I ever thought I’d spend this long at any one place when I started my career,” said Stone, a University of Tennessee graduate. “But Mr. Lupton always said that The Honors Course was not a steppingstone to somewhere else. It was a stepping off point. And he was right. This has been a special place in my life.”
While Stone’s retirement plans also include attending more Tennessee football games, he will still be nearby – only moving a few miles away – if heir apparent Will Misenhimer has a question.
“His Cushman is still going to be here, and he’s still going to come walk his dog, play golf and do a little bird-watching,” Misenhimer said. “He’s going to be very close by, so I can run things by him. He’s told me often, ‘I am going to be more benefit to you as a member here than I am as a superintendent.’”
Misenhimer, a 16-year member of GCSAA, is just one of more than 20 head superintendents now in the profession after learning under the tutelage of Stone. Another is Paul B. Latshaw, director of grounds operations at Muirfield Village Golf Club in Ohio, who spent a summer interning under Stone at The Honors Club.
“As far as a teacher and a mentor, David is just unbelievable,” said Latshaw. “Whatever success I’ve had in my career was built on a foundation of the things I learned from people like David. Just a great agronomic mind.”
About GCSAA and the EIFG
The Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA) is a leading golf organization in the United States. Its focus is on golf course management, and since 1926 GCSAA has been the top professional association for the men and women who manage golf courses in the U.S. and worldwide. From its headquarters in Lawrence, Kan., the association provides education, information and representation to nearly 18,000 members in more than 78 countries. The association’s mission is to serve its members, advance their profession and enhance the enjoyment, growth and vitality of the game of golf. Visit GCSAA at www.gcsaa.org or find us on Facebook or Twitter.
The Environmental Institute for Golf is the philanthropic organization of the GCSAA. Its mission is to foster sustainability through research, awareness, education, programs and scholarships for the benefit of golf course management professionals, golf facilities and the game. Visit EIFG at www.eifg.org or find us on Facebook or Twitter.