Superintendent Profile Justin Allen, GCS Arlington Parks & Recreation Department Lake Arlington Golf Course

How did you get your start in the golf industry?

Both of my grandfathers, who to this day still play golf together several times a week, introduced me to the game of golf. Taking lessons from a local golf pro or hitting the course whenever possible. Being someone whose wheels are always turning, I often wondered how golf course superintendents could take a 120 acre + plot of land and make it so pristine and almost perfect. Playing the game of golf sparked my interest in wanting to explore the idea of working on a golf course, so all of the credit has to go to my grandfathers Lee Goodwin and Easton Allen. My first job in the golf maintenance industry was on the grounds crew at James Connolly Golf Course in Waco, TX which opened in 1955 as an extension of the Air Force Base bearing its name. I can still remember my first day like it was yesterday, being sent out on a tee mower with no clue how to run the machine (I’m pretty sure the 2 acres of tees took me all day). Wow has times changed since that day back in the year 2000!

After high school, I enrolled in the Golf Course and Landscape Associate Degree Program at Texas State Technical College – in Waco, TX. I decided on TSTC after talking with several people in the industry that also attended TSTC and how successful they had become. What really stood out for me and the decision I made was, TSTC was very affordable and it was 90% hands-on… out on the course learning the trade on all of the machines, how to calibrate, etc. Of course, the thought of going to college for only 5 semesters and then getting a job seemed like a no-brainer to me, that’s until I had a change of plans.

I was brought up in a family that drag raced every weekend, so growing up I always dreamed of becoming a professional drag racer. Well, after my first 2 semesters of college I was presented with an opportunity to do just that, team up with a very successful drag racer and team owner with a Major Sponsor in SUNOCO Race Fuels. I talked it over with my parents many times and told them this would only be for one year and they were both 100% behind me because they knew it was in my blood to be a racer. But, that came with one promise from my parents and that is, I finish college at some point, whether it was taking courses online or taking short courses in the off-season and getting a business degree. So, in the spring of 2001, I decided to leave TSTC and pursue my dream of professional drag racing on the NHRA and IHRA circuits. My teammate and I traveled the country all year with some success, but not enough to keep the wheels rolling down the road much longer. Then towards the end of the year, we hit a winning stride and made it worth everything I gave up at school to do this. Those winning strides at the end of the year had me going into the winter wanting more and going another year (remember I told my parents only 1 year). So, in 2002 we set out again for another year of living on the road as a professional drag racers. Between February and November, we hit every race possible, racing in almost every state and this time hoisted a few Wally’s (trophy for winning an NHRA race named after NHRA founder Wally Parks), but also had tons of parts breakage along the way. I was only home for maybe 5 weekends all year and with all of the parts breakage, my pockets became empty, and decided I needed to go back to school and get a job that was a little more stable.

With only 3 semesters left, I enrolled back into TSTC and finished my degree as I promised my parents I would do. I can honestly say it’s the best thing I ever did because I get to work in the profession that I love and I still get the chance to enjoy the hobby I grew up around when weekends allow.

Can you tell us a few things about your early life, where were you born, what high school, first job?

I was born in Waco, TX, and lived there until college graduation. Other than a short time working in Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands I have lived in Texas my whole life. I attended Robinson High School in the small town of Robinson, TX (population 6,000) where I played a few years of football and participated in the state-winning marching band for Class 3A. I gained many valuable tools from my parents growing up but the one that sticks out to this day is my strong work ethic. My father owned a full-service gas/service station growing up, so my first job was as a handyman for Dwight Allen’s Hwy 84 Texaco station. I did everything from brake jobs to pumping gas for all of the little old ladies that my father used to pump gas for when he was my age back then.

Can you tell us a little about your family, how you met your wife, kids’ names?

My father is going on 40+ years in the automotive business, 35 of those being the business owner at Dwight Allen Automotive in Waco, TX. My mother works at Baylor University in the Athletic Department as the Athletics Certification Coordinator…GO BEARS! My younger sister lives in Forney, TX, and is currently in college finishing up her degree to become a Registered Nurse.

Legally I am not married YET, but my long-time (6 years) girlfriend Victoria is a Surgical Technician with Baylor Scott & White Hospital. We meet in January of 2009 at Wildhorse Golf Club @ Robson Ranch when I accepted the assistant superintendent job and she was a cart girl. And yes, I got lucky and found a woman who understands the daily demands of running a golf course!!! The only kid we have at the moment is Maggie May who is an 8-year-old white Labrador who loves her Frisbee and taking rides in the truck or anything with wheels for that matter.

Where did you go to school for Turfgrass Management?

Texas State Technical College – TSTC – Waco, TX

Who was your earliest mentor in the industry and how did he inspire you?

Every golf course superintendent I worked under has been a mentor including: J.R Kies at Quail Creek Golf Club in Tucson, Arizona, and Mark Claburn at Tierra Verde Golf Club in Arlington, Texas, but the first person I worked for was Josh Brewer at PineCrest Country Club in Longview, TX

Josh was the first guy that gave me a chance knowing I was straight out of college with minimal experience. Josh taught me many things but the one thing was his hard work and dedication to the golf course and to the industry. Just because the crew left for the day didn’t mean your day was over and that broken sprinkler could wait until the next day so the irrigation tech could fix it. His mindset and one that I hold to this day is, that if I can stay a little late and fix an issue then that’s one less thing to do the next day and would allow me to move on to something else.

How do you work with people to create a team?

My outlook in managing a team is, always surround myself with dedicated, hardworking go-getters and practice good scheduling/delegation skills. . I have a great group of guys that are all team players. I treat my staff with the utmost respect and appreciation for what they do, day in and day out. The return on investment is positive for all parties.

What achievements are you most proud of?

Since the very beginning of my college days, I have supported the one association that supports all of us and that is the GCSAA, being a fifteen-year member. I have taken full advantage of the services and benefits the association provides to become a better person/manager in the world of golf course management. The achievement I am most proud of is becoming a golf course superintendent. That is obviously the one goal we all have in this industry dating back to the first day of college, but with the downturn of the economy it seems to be harder and harder each year, so I’m very fortunate to have been given the opportunity that I currently have.

What item or person could you not do without at your golf course?

This is a tough one, but I can’t think of just one person that I could not do without. Managing a golf course takes a team to be successful and I could not do this without my crew, my equipment manager, and the office staff to keep the wheels rolling. They are all very dedicated to the profession and take great pride in the work they do, day in and day out. The one item I could not do without would have to be weather apps for smartphones or a moisture meter.

What is your favorite part of the job, least favorite?

My favorite part of the job is providing the best playing conditions for the paying customer. I strive each and every day to provide the golfer with a great experience and make the golf course better each and every day. Being outdoors and driving around on your big playground of manicured turf enjoying what nature has given us has to be a close second or tie for favorite.

My least favorite part of the job has to be the thing we can’t control and that is weather events. It never fails that at least once a year whether you are fertilizing, aerifying greens, projects, etc someone decides to bring on the much-needed rain or storm that requires major clean up. Another is, that golf course superintendents are like coaches….one bad day could be your last.

Do you collect anything? Hub caps, license plates, signs…

I have been an avid baseball/football card collector from a very young age. Every time I get the itch to get them out to count or sale/trade, I just open the closet and go…maybe another day. My collection is definitely in the thousands and in that collection are many famous rookie cards, Nolan Ryan, Rickie Henderson, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Kirby Puckett, Greg Maddux, Jerry Rice, Joe Montana just to name a few.

What would you do if you won the lottery?

That all depends on the amount, but if it were a very large amount of 10+ million I would gladly stop working and buy a home in Colorado or Montana…love the mountains. I would obviously go back out on the road and race again. If it were a smaller amount I honestly would probably work a little longer because I really do love the industry that I am in and love my job.

What do you like to do away from work? If you have time to yourself what do you like to do?

Honestly, drag racing is still a big part of my life so any chance of getting away I can usually be found at a drag strip somewhere. Also, I’m a huge baseball fan so anytime the Texas Rangers are in town I try to make as many games as possible.

If I have time to myself I can be found doing crossword puzzles or maybe sitting at the blackjack table in Las Vegas or Shreveport.

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