Knaebel has been a super superintendent for decades
By JIM ARBER
For The Vista
Many years ago in Kansas City there was this young 16-year-old high school kid that wanted to be a golf course superintendent.
Lots of kiddoes fantasize about what they want to be when they grow up. Few, very few, ever realize those young dreams. It can be difficult for young people to stay focused on a goal with so many distractions.
So, it’s pretty rare to find someone who not only followed his dream but also, 30 years later, was still living that dream.
Mark Knaebel — the superintendent at the Heatherhurst Golf courses — is one of those rare guys.
Knaebel was born and raised in Kansas City, one of 5 children in the Art & Genny Knaebel family. While attending school in the K.C. area he worked at several jobs like cutting grass, then to K.C. Parks and Recreation and on to the Swope Memorial and Hodge Park Golf Courses. It was during that time that the die was cast.
He wanted to be a Golf course superintendent. He wanted that to be his career. He did attend KC Community College but as soon as he could he enrolled in the University of Massachusetts Winter Course in Turfgrass Management.
He then went on to Penn State for their 2-year Certificate Program in Turfgrass Management.
He acquired his first Assistant Superintendent position at the Aurora Country Club in Aurora, Illinios in 1984. Five years later he attended a national golf conference in Dallas, Texas.
The course designer Norman Renaud from the Renegade Mountain gang was interviewing for a superintendent at the new Briarwood Golf Course on exciting Renegade Mountain.
The interview went well. Mark visited, liked what he saw and accepted. It was exciting for two years and then the money started drying up. The next two years were not as exciting.
He got wind of an opening in Fairfield Glade at the new Heatherhurst Golf courses. He interviewed, got an offer he could live with, and has been here ever since. Hoo Rah. Good for Fairfield … and the Heatherhurst saga begins.
Over the years, Mark has become one of the most respected superintendents in the area. Whether it be golfers, maintenance personnel, board members or Community Club administrators, Mark is universally well-liked.
As Steve Kraft, Director of Golf at Fairfield Glade says, “Mark is one of the most dedicated superintendents that I have had the pleasure of working with. Whether Mark is getting his courses ready for the biggest event of the year or just the day’s play, Mark puts in 100% to make things right for that player that day.
“Fairfield Glade is lucky to have Mark as one of their golf course superintendents.”
Guess when you truly like what you’re doing it shows.
Mark was asked what his pet peeve was — what was it that aggravated him most about being a golf superintendent dealing with the public?
Was it carts returned in a mess, divots not being replaced, slow play, trash? His answer was surprising.
“All the things that golfers do is just part of this business. If it means picking up after them, overlooking rude people, slow play, it’s all part of this business, it’s what we do,” Knaebel said. “We’re here to make golf as pleasant an experience as we can so we can welcome them back.”
Could some folks in retail stand a little more of that attitude? Could the “Public” be a little more pleasant?
Bob Weber, General Manager at Fairfield Glade says about Mark, “It has been a distinct pleasure to have Mark on our staff. His positive attitude and willingness to go the extra mile has made him an extremely valuable asset. Not only an asset to the courses at Heatherhurst that he manages, but also to Fairfield Glade and the surrounding community.”
To make this whole thing work even better Mark considers himself blessed with a great work force.
He no doubt is. In his opinion the senior population in Fairfield is a great place to find willing, dependable, hard- working folks that truly have an interest in what they’re doing.
He oversees a crew of 25 part-time and 10 full-time employees. If you happen to be on the golf courses between 5:30 and 7 A.M. you will see why they need to be willing workers. It’s an all-out effort most mornings to finish everything necessary and stay ahead of the golfers
Happily ever after? Maybe not, after all, we’re not in Heaven yet. Whatever the degree of happy, Mark surely seems to have found his niche all these years. It’s often heard that men and women declare they are comfortable in their own skin. Could they be trying to convince themselves? Maybe.
You’ll never hear Mark say that. That would be because he truly does seem to be happy in his own skin. Folks like that don’t need to advertise it.
To round things out, Mark is also a happily married guy. Married to wife Susan for 31 years, they have 3 grown children all with four-year University degrees and three grandchildren.
Son Justin is serving in the U.S. Navy, Jennifer just completed her Masters at UT and Jillian is a nurse at Good Samaritans right here in Fairfield Glade.
One more thing in closing. It is hard to find superintendents on the golf course with golfers because a great deal of their work must be done before or shortly after the first tee time. Mark is different. He spends a lot of time on his courses and has gotten to know hundreds of member golfers, residents and visitors over the years.