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Superintendent Profile: Dan Koops

Dan Koops Golf Course Superintendent

How did you get your start in the golf industry?

I was working in the lawn care industry in Michigan and was taking a class on turf. Thom Nikolai from Michigan State was teaching the class, he opened my eyes to the world of golf turf. I subsequently enrolled in the Golf Turf program at MSU, making the switch from commercial lawn care to the golf industry.

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

Born and raised in Holland, Michigan; graduated from Holland Christian High School. Living in the country, my first jobs were working for farmers, bailing straw, and power washing hog buildings. I also worked for my Dad, within his business, for a few years; this consisted of building grain bins, grain dryers, and hog buildings. After high school is when I entered the lawn care industry, I finally entered the world of golf turf at age 23.

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

My wife Pam and I were high school sweethearts, I started dating her when I turned 16 and we married 5 years later. We have 3 great boys: Jason – 9, Ryan – 8, and Lee – 7. Because of the moves, we were making within the industry at the time, our boys were born in 3 consecutive years in three different cities, Lansing, Battle Creek, and Detroit. My wife has been very supportive of me and my career choice, when we decided to move to Lansing so that I could attend Michigan State, she was all in. We sold our house, quit our jobs, and made the move. She then worked so that I could attend school. We are now both living our dreams as she is able to homeschool our three boys.

Where did you go to school for turfgrass management?

Michigan State University, a great decision, wouldn’t be here without that knowledge. I learned from some of the best minds in the golf turf industry, Vargas, Rogers, Crum, Nikolai, and Calhoun.

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

My first mentor in the industry was Kevin Dushane at Wuskowhan Players Club in Michigan. He was the first Golf Course Superintendent that I worked for and one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet. Kevin taught me a few key concepts during my first year that I still remember: hard work, quality, treating others with respect, and taking time to relax.

How do you work with people to create a team?

The way this question is worded is exactly the key, ‘work WITH people’. I really enjoy just plain work and I’ll jump in on any job and help out as needed, no job around here is below any of us. A team atmosphere is created when we all chip in and help each other, knowing that a great product cannot be created alone.

What achievements are you most proud of?

I’m most proud of my family and feel blessed to enjoy every day with them. I’m also proud of what my team is able to accomplish and proud of the quality product that we deliver to our members. On a personal level, one of my career goals was to become a Golf Course Superintendent by age 30, I was able to accomplish that through a lot of hard work.

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

The automatic irrigation system, when that system goes down, really puts a strain on things.

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

My favorite part of the job is working outdoors, seeing the sunrises, feeling the cool crisp fall air, or feeling the raindrops on my face after a hot spell in the summer. The least favorite part of this job would be the time away from family during the summer. It takes some mental toughness to make it through a hard summer while other families are vacationing.

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

I collect nothing; I am not one to keep stuff around. We typically have a garage sale every few years to purge our ‘junk’. The same goes for around the shop, if we aren’t going to use it, we get rid of it.

What would you do if you won the lottery?

Give, Save, and Spend. I would like to be crazy generous to unsuspecting people, such as leave a huge tip to a waitress that may need it. I would continue to save and invest, making sure future generations can be blessed as well. I would also spend, taking great family vacations.

Few people know I like to…

Take backpack trips. I haven’t done one in a while and I’m starting to get the itch to make another trip. You really get to see the countryside when you’re immersed in it, living on whatever you can carry on your back.

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

When I’m not at work I like to spend time with family, playing with kids, and hanging out with my wife. We like to travel, explore cities we haven’t visited yet, go on day hikes, and frequent state and national parks.

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