How did you get your start in the golf industry?
Two-fold answer…My twin brother John Colo started in the industry first. He graduated from Rutgers Professional Golf Turf Management School in 1995. I saw the enjoyment of the profession through him and thought about the possibility. My push to attend school was from my professional mentor, Steve Ehrbar. After working a year and a half for Steve at Old Marsh Golf Course, he said if I wanted to stay in this business, I needed to go to school for it. I heeded his advice and followed my brother’s educational path and enrolled into Rutgers Turfgrass Certification Program in 1995. I graduated from there in 1997. I returned to Old Marsh to become the 2nd Assistant Superintendent. I became 1st assistant a year later. My first Superintendent’s job was at The Moorings Club in Vero Beach, FL. I soon returned to Old Marsh Golf Club in 2001 as their Golf Course Superintendent.
Can you tell us a few things about your early life, where were you born, what high school, first jobs?
I am 1 of 4 children. We were born in Lake County, OH. I have an older sister Kelly, a twin brother John, and a younger sister, Angela. We grew up in a catholic upbringing household. Our parents were strict. Church was every Sunday, good grades were important, respect was mandatory, and family was first. My first job growing up was delivering newspapers throughout our neighborhood. This job taught me independence. My parents wouldn’t drive me around in the car. I had to pedal or walk my way around to 60 + customers. I graduated from Painesville Harvey High School in 1989 where I played football, basketball, and baseball. After high school, I went on to play baseball for Ohio Dominican University on a scholarship. I graduated from Ohio Dominican University in 1993 with a Bachelor’s in Business Administration.
Can you tell us a little about your family, how you met your wife, and your kids’ names?
I met my wife Trish on April 1st, 2000 in West Palm Beach, FL while enjoying the typical bar scene with my buddies. I asked her to dance and 4 hours later I asked for her phone number and was rejected. I gave her my number instead and 4 days later she finally called me. I asked Trish to marry me after a helicopter ride that landed us on The Moorings Club Golf Course (then employer) and dinner overlooking the Indian River. We married on October 20, 2001. Our two boys, RJ (10) and Preston (8) were both born in Jupiter, FL where we lived from 2003 – 2008. We moved to Little Rock, AR in 2008 where I became the Golf Course Superintendent at The Alotian Club. In June of 2012, we moved back to Florida to work at Naples National Golf Club. Both our boys play football, and baseball, and have been involved with Cub Scouts since the 1st grade. I am both their den leader and coach.
Where did you go to school for turfgrass management?
Rutgers Professional Golf Turf Management, New Jersey.
Who was your earliest mentor in the industry and how did he inspire you?
After graduating from Ohio Dominican University in Columbus, OH, I moved to Palm Beach Gardens, Fl in 1994. I was able to start working at Old Marsh Golf Club for then Superintendent, Steve Ehrbar. Steve has been my professional mentor ever since. We communicate 3 – 4 times a week. Steve is from NE Ohio. His brother was my 5th-grade school teacher. Steve and I share the same family values, passion for this business, the energy to be the best, and an understanding that it takes a commitment to be on top. Steve taught me persistence, drive, and being just “good” was not good enough. Steve’s friendship is what I value most. My brother John has been a strong influence as well. We discuss family and business every day. He is my phone call on the way home from work daily to catch up. And one other individual whom I respect is Mr. Larry Delpit. Mr. Delpit was the owner of Old Marsh Golf Club. Mr. Delpit gave me my “big break” in this business by hiring me to be the Superintendent at Old Marsh Golf in 2000. He trusted me with his investment and I am truly lucky to have been a part of his club and to have his friendship.
How do you work with people to create a team?
I think “leading by example” shows that you’re part of the team no matter what position you hold. Actions speak louder than words. The team is formed by a positive attitude. Not one person forms the team. As a leader, you need to trust your people. Let them know that they are part of the solution. Empower your assistants and hold all staff accountable for their actions. Always pass along accolades when received from members and guests. Post any notes and or emails that you receive so they can read them versus you verbally telling them. It goes much further. We like to have our employees take ownership of the golf course. We all are like family. We spend 8 – 10 hours a day with each other.
Can you tell us a little about the homemade traffic stakes you made for the course?
The traffic stakes started a few years back. My good friend Alan Brown was the assistant at The Lost Tree Club when this idea came to him. Alan took the rope away from the green stakes. By doing this, he did not need to stretch the rope every day and players had an area to walk through the stakes without tripping over the rope. I brought that idea over to Old Marsh Golf Club where we just used cut-up pine tree limbs with a nail in the bottom. Once I arrived at The Alotian Club in 2008, we stepped up our game. We personalized the traffic stakes by purchasing an electric branding iron (Brand-First) to label each stake. It’s something small but it makes a huge impact. I am now at Naples National Golf Club and we currently use this method. It’s a personal touch. We use oak tree branches, cut to 18”, drive a nail in one end, bevel the other end at a 45-degree angle, brand the face, and coat with polyurethane. We make about 300 – 400 to cover the cart traffic. This eliminates any use of rope. No rope means no stretching it out every day, no one steps on it, no one trips over it, carts don’t drive through it, and no knots.
What achievements are you most proud of?
I am most proud of being a dad to RJ and Preston and a husband to Trish. We are very blessed to have RJ and Preston. Our children are what drive us. It is why we work hard every day. I am blessed to be able to have graduated from college. I am proud to be able to coach my sons on the playing field. I am proud to be able to lead their Cub Scout den through the process of being trustworthy, helpful, friendly, kind, and cheerful. I am honored to be able to lead young boys through sports and scouting, not to show what winning is about, but to teach them what life is about.
What item or person could you not do without at your golf course?
My day would be difficult if it weren’t for our team of 24 individuals who perform at a high level every day. We have talent from my assistant Jeremy Pope and Grant Harvey, my equipment manager Jorge Jimenez, my irrigation manager Jesus Aguirre, down to our entire crew who put in the hours to make Naples National Golf Club the pinnacle of golf clubs. Is it they who truly help elevate golf course management.
What is your favorite part of the job, least favorite?
My favorite part of my job is the challenge. I enjoy having to make decisions every day that will improve the golfing experience for our members and their guests. Each day is different and programs need to adapt to the environmental conditions. This is not an “auto-pilot” career. It’s a constant and never-ending improvement for the golf course and me. I enjoy having 300 + acres of office space. My least favorite part of my job is NOTHING. Make it better if it’s not good enough.
Do you collect anything? Hub caps, license plates, signs…
I am a fan of NASCAR. My boys and I are Jeff Gordon fans. I have roughly 50 die-cast 1:24 scale cars of Gordon and others.
What would you do if you won the lottery?
I would take care of my family first. I would use part of the money to start a pay-it-forward program. I’d buy the ultimate RV and travel the NASCAR circuit for a year after the boys were out of high school. I would like to continue working for a period of time to be a good example for our boys. And, reward all of the positive and influential people that have been a significant part of my life.
Few people know I like to…
I enjoy a cigar night with the neighbors.
What do you like to do away from work? If you have time to yourself what do you like to do?
Spending time with my wife Trish on a date night is great. It is time that is valuable and needs to be done as often as possible. Being in Scouts, we find ourselves camping often. Camping is a great way to show our boys how to blend with nature and adapt to the outdoors. I enjoy watching them set up their own tent and start the campfire. Coaching baseball & football also fills the non-working hours. It is gratifying to watch them learn team skills and to understand the difference between winning and losing. I enjoy playing golf, attending NASCAR events, watching the Pittsburgh Steelers, and a cruise on the sea. If I had time to myself, you might find me walking around Bass Pro Shops.