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Salt Lake County Superintendents, A Model of Consistency, Quality

(This article on the greens superintendents of Salt Lake County golf courses is the third in a series of articles about golf in Salt Lake Valley).
Consistent quality could be the best description of the conditioning of the six golf courses owned by Salt Lake County and there is a reason for that – consistency seems to be the trademark of the six superintendents supervising the courses.
How’s this for consistency? Five of the six were born in Salt Lake Valley and the one who wasn’t moved into Salt Lake Valley when he was one year old. All six of them graduated from a Salt Lake Valley high school, two from Cottonwood, two from Hillcrest, and one each from West Jordan and Kearns. Four of the six got their first jobs working on the grounds crew during their teen years at one of the county courses and have worked at various county courses ever since.
All of them have worked at the county for at least 24 years.
The stability and consistency of the employment history shows up in the stability and consistency of the maintenance of the golf courses. They are all friendly, helpful, and cooperative with one another. They’ve been around long enough to have seen all the problems and with that experience they don’t have to experiment on fixes. They know the grass like their beards.
Except for one. Leslie Varoz doesn’t have a beard. Can’t grow one. She’s a woman. The first woman superintendent in Utah, and boy, can she grow grass. Currently she is the superintendent at Old Mill, but has also worked at Mick Riley and Meadowbrook. She shifted to Old Mill during the construction stage of the course and became the superintendent three years ago. It is the busiest course in Salt Lake Valley and heavy play compounds maintenance issues, but it remains in outstanding condition.
She comes from an athletic family. Her father was a good athlete and coached for 31 years at Evergreen Junior High School. Her brothers were also good athletes and so she grew up around sports.
“I wasn’t much good at golf,” she said, but she played competitively on school teams in basketball, volleyball, and softball at Hillcrest, Utah Valley Community College, and Southern Utah University. She graduated from Southern Utah University in 1991.
She started mowing greens a during her high school summer years and went to work full time for the county in 1993.
The most veteran of the superintendents is Curtis Hirase who now has the most difficult task of tending to the slopes at South Mountain. Prior to being assigned that responsibility he was the superintendent at Meadowbrook and Old Mill. He has been a superintendent for the county for 28 years and is everyone’s go to guy when new problems surface. The South Mountain course is in excellent condition, and because of its many bunkers, large and sloping greens, wind and erosion areas it takes a staff of 32 to keep it in top shape. It’s a big challenge and Hirase is rightly proud of the progress that has been made there.
Hirase began working for the county at Meadowbrook when he was a junior in high school and he’s been at it ever since. He became superintendent there after Perry Dye retired. He then was asked to be the superintendent and help grow in the Old Mill Golf Course, and then took on the challenge of South Mountain shortly after the county purchased it from Crown Golf. Controversy swirled around the purchase of the course, but Curt ignored all that and is proud to have helped build it into one of the county’s best courses.
“It will never be the golf factory like Old Mill, but play is up considerably and we are proud of what we’ve done,” Hirase said.
When he was just 13-years-old Matt Hyland started picking up range balls for Jim Healy at Meadowbrook. At 16 he moved over to the greens crew and began learning from Perry Dye. At 23 he got his first full time job at Mick Riley. Eight years later he moved back to Meadowbrook as an assistant and for the past 17 years has been the superintendent.
Some problems with flooding have been his biggest worries at Meadowbrook. They lost nine holes for an entire season back in 1984 and last year three holes were flooded for a short time. Still Meadowbrook remains one of the best conditioned courses in the state.
Matt is married and has three girls and is expecting their first grandchild in May.
Charles ‘Chuck’ Calder went to work at Mountain View when he was just 14-years-old and has worked there for the past 28 years. He began at Mountain View under the direction of Superintendent Cliff Carlson. He then worked ten years under Superintendent Blaine Nielsen and became the Superintendent when Nielsen retired in 2003.
He is married and has a 15-year-old son. Skiing is his favorite sport and it works out great because he gets a little down time in the winter months, “except this year when we’ve had the course open all but 15 days,” he said. He enjoys playing the six county golf courses several times a year, usually with some of the other superintendents and co-workers.
Randy Jensen was 32 years old before hiring on as a night waterman at Meadowbrook. He worked under Perry Dye and moved over to Riverbend to help Dye with the grow in of that new county course. When Dye retired in 1998 Jensen became the superintendent at Riverbend and he has been in the position for the past 14 years.
Ed Brewer, like Calder, has worked at only one golf course his entire career. He began at Mick Riley when he was 22 years old and has now put in 24 consecutive years at the course. Most of those years he worked for Scott Allred. When Allred retired Calder became the superintendent and now their roles are reversed as Scott Allred still works part time at the course.
His task at Mick Riley is made difficult because of the antiquated sprinkling system still being used at the course. The par three at Mick Riley has been automated, but the nine-hole course is still being manually watered. The course is also difficult to manage because it is built on a swamp and shadowed by many trees.
Mick Riley is a very busy and popular golf course and is well located, but about 80 percent of the course is on land that is being leased from the Salt Lake Water District and that 50-year lease ends in December of this year. It is anticipated that a new lease will be negotiated without any problems.
Statistical Data on Salt Lake County Superintendents
Current Course Superintendents
South Mountain- Curtis Hirase
Old Mill- Leslie Varoz
Riverbend- Randy Jensen
Mountain View- Charles Calder
Meadowbrook- Matt Hyland
Mick Riley- Ed Brewer
Order of Age
57- Curtis Hirase, 1955; Kearns High School, 1973
56- Randy Jensen, 1956; Cottonwood High School, 1974
51- Matt Hyland, 1961; Cottonwood High School, 1979
46- Ed Brewer, 1966; Hillcrest High School, 1984
44- Leslie Varoz, 1968; Hillcrest High School, 1986
42- Charles Calder, 1970; West Jordan High School, 1988
Superintendent Seniority
Hirase, 1984, 28 years
Hyland, 1995, 17 years
Jensen, 1998, 14 years
Calder, 2003, 9 years
Brewer, 2008, 4 years
Varoz, 2009, 3 years
Beginning Ages and Course
Calder, 14 years old at Mountain View
Varoz, 15 years old at Mick Riley
Hyland, 16 years old at Meadowbrook
Hirase, 17 years old at Meadowbrook
Brewer, 22 years old at Meadowbrook
Jensen, 32 years old at Meadowbrook
Longest Years of Service at County
(Including part time as teenagers)
40 years- Curt Hirase
39 years- Leslie Varoz
38 years- Matt Hyland
28 years- Charles Calder
24 years- Randy Jensen
24 years- Ed Brewer
History of Superintendents at County Courses
South Mountain- Curtis Hirase
Old Mill- Curtis Hirase, Leslie Varoz
Riverbend- Perry Dye, Randy Jensen
Mountain View- Cliff Carlson
Meadowbrook- Perry Dye, Curtis Hirase, Matt Hyland
Mick Riley- Scott Allred, Ed Brewer