This is the story about a solitary man who made a commitment 52 years ago to become the best groundskeeper he could be maintaining the natural beauty and golfing greens at the Pine Lake Country Club in Mint Hill. His years of loyalty and distinctive service to Pine Lake Country Club should be honored and recognized. Sherri Taylor, General Manager, and Roy Messer, Chairman wanted to show Walter their appreciation for his years of service and the amazing employee he has been for over five decades.
Crawford has a lot of history at the Country Club. His brother was a caddie, his brother-in-law worked at the club and informed Walter there was a good-paying job opportunity waiting for him. So at the age of 37, on a Friday morning, he started his long journey to begin cutting the greens. In fact, he walked the course twice his first day to make sure the job was done perfectly to his satisfaction.
Back then he would rake by hand and walk the fairways keeping himself in excellent physical condition. One has to remember this was 1968 and times were very different compared with today’s modern world.
Walter worked his way up the ladder to become a Foreman. He ran a staff of 8 crew members to maintained the grounds. It was his job to make sure the greens were manicured and in the best possible condition. He learned early on in his childhood to get his chores done, to always do his best, and to do a job the right way. He learned to become a perfectionist when it came to making the golf course look its best for the membership. He takes pride in his work, enjoys working outdoors, likes working with the equipment, his co-workers, and completely enjoys the natural beauty of a perfectly manicured golf course, especially on a warm sunny day.
In fact, he shared a story about his mother, as a child, he wanted to go out and play. He would stuff the dishes in the oven, “Mama would call me back inside the house to finish the job the right way, she said Walter, do things the right way the first time, then you can go out and play,” said Crawford. He learned not to cut corners, to finish what he started, and do the job right the first time.
Crawford who is now 89 years young, weather permitting, still gets up between 3:30-4:00 a.m. daily, arrives to work at the golf course by 5:00 a.m. to check out his tractor, climb up to the seat, start the engine and drive out to the course to maintain the greens, cut the rough and keep the grounds looking beautiful. “It’s about the presentation, the beauty of working with nature, and knowing you have done the best job possible, it gives me a great sense of satisfaction,” said Walter.
In 1986, the course went through its first major renovation and Crawford played a major role during the project by providing insight into the landscape, greens, and maintaining the 90 acres of its beautiful natural environment.
When an individual works for 52 years in golf course maintenance a few hiccups will occur in the journey. Walter was hit by an errant golf ball behind a large tree beside the head as the ball ricocheted off a nearby tree. Then once on hole 16, while driving a tractor a golf ball hit him square on his leg. However, to Walter, these were not a big deal, just part of doing the job he loves.
Time continues to march on, Walter’s current boss is Richard McDanel, Golf Course Superintendent. While McDanel was in college he was an intern under Walter who mentored him and drilled the basics of doing the job the right way the first time. As an apprentice, he learned to appreciate and respect the importance of perfecting your craft and striving to be the best at what you do every day. It clearly shows, because when you drive on to this perfectly manicured and naturally beautiful County Club, it’s certainly the best-kept secret in Mint Hill.