The annual meeting of the Summerfield Civic Association is usually predictable, but not this year: A very surprised Golf Course Superintendent Rick Sullivan was honored for his four-plus decades of service.
“This year a resident wrote us that one particular employee should (receive special recognition),” said outgoing Board of Directors President Dudley Strain at the July 8 event.
As soon as Strain gave the date of the first day of work for the employee – April 1, 1977 – the cat was out of the bag. Since that date, Sullivan has been tending the greens, fairways and bunkers of the nine-hole Summerfield Golf Course.
He not only received recognition but also a beautiful bronze plaque that has been imbedded in the ground at the first tee for all golfers to see. The plaque shows Sullivan riding his tractor along with the words, “Welcome to Summerfield. Enjoy your game on our beautiful course with thanks to Rick Sullivan, golf course superintendent, and his crew.”
Sullivan’s wife Suzanne was also there and received a beautiful bouquet of flowers as Sullivan thanked everyone and said, “It is my pleasure and honor to work here. I hope I never let you down. I love this place.”
The Summerfield resident who requested that Sullivan be honored wrote that she moved into the 55-plus community three years ago and now, “Every time I drive through the community, I am in awe of the beauty of the golf course. Whether residents play golf or not, the views of the course provide a natural draw to live here. I believe Rick’s many years of leadership and diligent work on our golf course are strong factors in the continued success of our Summerfield.”
She added that as she wrote the letter last spring, “I was astonished to learn that Rick has worked on our Summerfield Golf Course for 41 years, almost 42. In my lifetime, I have not known of any person who has been employed for one company or organization for that length of time. Because of his dedication to Summerfield, I request that a physical honor be placed on the golf course in tribute to him.”
The resident noted that Sullivan has dedicated the majority of his life to the community; comes at a moment’s notice for any golf course emergencies even when he’s “off duty;” works in inclement conditions – extremely hot or cold, rainy, snowing, icy or windy as well as in good weather; supervises a competent team of employees to maintain a pristine golf course; works with a frugal budget to maintain the machinery required to keep the course in beautiful and playable condition; is always polite and considerate of community members and course players; and has been offered other golf course employment, but chooses to remain in Summerfield.
Summerfield Administrator Cari Lindsey explained that the Board of Directors asked the resident plus representatives from the women’s and men’s golf clubs to come up with a specific recommendation.
“They kicked around all kinds of ideas, including benches and plaques,” she said. “Once they settled on the bronze plaque and location, they obtained approval from the Greens Committee, then the board voted to approve the project and proceed.”
She added, “It was tough to keep it a secret from him! It was a wonderful presentation at the annual meeting. It was Dudley’s idea to present flowers to Rick’s wife, Suzanne, in appreciation of her patience and sharing (him) over the years.”
But this was not the first honor Sullivan has received.
In 2013 the Oregon Chapter of the Golf Course Superintendent Association of America (OGCSA) named him Superintendent of the Year. According to the July 2013 issue of the Summary, Summerfield’s monthly newsletter, this statewide organization offers resources and education to golf course employees, and Rick was presented this award at its annual meeting in May.
“The basis for the award was related to current golf course conditions, major projects, work ethic, accomplishments and performance – all of which are absolutely superb,” the article stated. “Summerfield is very fortunate to have such a dedicated, knowledgeable and award-winning employee.”