Getting to know our golf course superintendent

Quail Creek Golf Course Superintendent J.R. Kies

Quail Creek Golf Course Superintendent J.R. Kies

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A native of Tucson, J.R. Kies learned about growing grass and playing golf at an early age. His father was a landscaping contractor who knew how to grow things in the desert and his first experience with golf came at the tender age of 11 at the Forty-Niner Golf Club. He knew then that his dream job would be some combination of golf and growing grass and there you have it! He started “in the business” at Ventana Canyon Golf Club, first raking traps, then becoming a spray technician, then continuing to learn all aspects of golf course maintenance. Supplementing his experience with courses at the U of A, he then completed a two year Penn State online course in Turf Management. He was an assistant at Heritage Highlands in 2000 when the position of Course Superintendent was announced here at Quail Creek. He applied, got the job, and fell in love with Quail Creek. In 2003 he was asked to relocate to Robson Ranch, Texas, and he did so, growing grass there for 10 years. When he was asked if he’d like to return to Quail Creek in 2013 he jumped at the chance to come home. This year marks his fifteenth year with Robson Communities, Inc.

J.R. says that it’s fascinating to stay abreast of the changes in the industry of growing grass, from newest developments in equipment (better, faster, stronger) to newest irrigation technologies. A member of the Golf Course Superintendents’ Association of America (GCSAA) since 1996, and the local Arizona chapter Cactus and Pines, J.R. takes full advantage of the services available to him through this organization. Through continuing education credits and peer networking, he learns of the latest in turf management, bunker reconstruction and weed abatement. J.R. also seeks advice and counsel from two local subject matter experts: Jimmy Fox, a long recognized turf management professional and U of A researcher Dr. David Kopec from The School of Plant Science. In addition, J.R. is well known to the breeders of our Champion Ultra Dwarf Bermuda grass (from Bay City, Texas), who he reports are “very helpful” whenever he has “tough questions.”

Besides golf course maintenance, golf is “a family matter” for J.R. In addition to running his landscaping business, J.R.’s dad was also Chairman of the Green Committee at the Forty-Niners Golf Club as J.R. was growing up. Now J.R.’s wife of 28 years is the beverage cart gal at Ventana Canyon and his three sons (ages 27, 22, and 20 and all over 6’3”!) play the game of golf as frequently as possible.

We need to mention that a Golf Course Superintendent’s job is more than growing grass and loving golf. It involves: managing crews, equipment, and budgets, maintaining our courses from tees to greens (and don’t forget our practice range!), ensuring our setup supplies (greens flags, tee markers, ball washers, etc.) are in place for us and, of course, much more. But as we’ve learned, J.R. was born for this!