The Summerfield Golf Course has a reputation as a premier facility in excellent condition, so it is not surprising that its superintendent, Zach Palmer, was named the Oregon Golf Association’s superintendent of the year in October.
What is surprising is that Palmer was just hired as the superintendent June 1, so the award came very early in his tenure. He was originally hired as Summerfield’s assistant superintendent in 2005 and worked under the previous superintendent, who also took home the same OGA award.
But Palmer had to stand on his own when it came time to apply for the top spot. “I thought I had a chance, but it was a coin flip,” he said. “I didn’t know everyone on the (Summerfield Board of Directors), and I thought they might want someone with more degrees or more experience.”
It helped that Palmer knows every inch of the course like the back of his hand. After working on it for 16 years, “you learn where diseases start, where the frost breaks and where the wet spots are,” he said.
His first-hand knowledge of the anatomy of golf courses goes back to his youth, growing up in the tiny town of Condon in Eastern Oregon. Palmer played golf in high school, but his passion was baseball, playing on the school team his freshman year. But there weren’t enough players to field a team when Palmer was a sophomore, so he switched to the golf team.
After graduating from high school, Palmer went to work at the local golf course in Condon for five years before moving to the Portland area. He worked for four years at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club, where one of his most memorable experiences occurred when the club hosted both the U.S. Junior Boys Amateur and U.S. Junior Girls Amateur Championships at the same time. “We were the first facility to hold two tournaments simultaneously,” Palmer said. “We had two courses and alternated the groups each day.”
Through all those experiences, Palmer learned the fine art of golf course maintenance on the job, which he continues to do to this day.
He credits his crew, which consists of full-time, part-time, and seasonal employees, for making him look good. “They know what they’re doing,” he said. “Several of them have been here a long time. If I forget something, one of them remembers it. They don’t just do their jobs. They take whatever jobs they do and improve on them. I’m super lucky.”