From sunup and sometimes until sundown, Alex Tolbert is out on the golf course.
But he’s not working on his short game. As golf course supervisor of Orangeburg Country Club, it is the job of Tolbert and his crew to keep the course looking beautiful and in good, playable condition.
It takes a lot of time and attention.
“It’s every day,” Tolbert said. “You wake up in the morning and it’s the first thing on your mind, and when you go to bed, it’s the last thing on your mind.
“It’s kind of an all-day, everyday thing for me,” he said.
He said the job is not just doing the work, but thinking about the work – being prepared for the season and “what’s going on that day, next week, next month, six months from now.”
The planning happens weeks and months in advance because if we don’t do it now, then it won’t be right later on,” Tolbert said.
The greens get mowed daily, the cups and pins get changed regularly, and during the growing season, some or all of the rough gets mowed every day, he said. The tees, fairways and approaches are mowed three times a week.
Fertilizers and pesticides are sprayed on a daily to weekly basis, and the bunkers are raked three times a week, Tolbert said.
“There are just certain chores we have to do every day, and it depends on the day of the week which one gets done,” he said. “But greens get done every day because that’s where everybody ends up.”
He said his favorite part of the job is growing the grass and just being outdoors.
“That’s what I enjoy more than anything else,” Tolbert said. “I like when the sun comes up during the season. And we’re here sometimes when the sun goes down.”
“The time of day doesn’t matter to me. I enjoy being outside,” he said.
One of the more difficult aspects of his job can be dealing with people because “everybody has an opinion,” Tolbert said.
At any golf club, members “all consider themselves your boss so you’re trying to please that many people. It’s not an easy chore,” he said.
And the members sometimes have a hard time dealing with the fact that course conditions aren’t perfect because of extreme weather like flooding, hurricanes and snowstorms, he noted.
“Nobody can control the weather, but we’re all looked at when the weather is bad,” Tolbert said.
“Over half of my job depends on what the weather is doing, and I have no control over that,” he said. “We do the best we can.
“Your emotions … your confidence, everything about the job goes up and down with the weather.”
A native of Hendersonville, North Carolina, Tolbert grew up playing sports.
“I just loved being outdoors, working on all the fields I ever played on,” he said.
Tolbert attended Western Carolina University on a baseball scholarship. He earned a degree in sociology and criminal justice and played baseball professionally for two years after college.
“Once I got through playing professionally, I didn’t really know where I wanted to go,” he said.
A friend called and asked him to come work at The Cliffs resort, making him an offer that was hard to refuse.
“I didn’t know anything about the job, and he said, ‘Well, I’ll teach you everything you need to know, and you can play all the free golf you want,’” Tolbert said.
“At that point, I was in, and six months later, I was like, ‘this is what I want to do,’” he said.
He and his wife moved to Charlotte, North Carolina, so he could work and go to school at night, and he earned a two-year degree in turf management from Central Piedmont Community College.
In 2011, he was hired by Orangeburg Country Club and moved his family to Orangeburg.
Tolbert and his wife Daphne have a son, A.J., 14, and a daughter, Alli, 6.
In his spare time, he is an assistant baseball coach at Orangeburg Prep and takes care of the school’s athletic fields. He also serves as the secretary/treasurer of the Midlands Turf Association and board member of the Carolinas Golf Course Superintendents Association.
Ironically, all of Tolbert’s activities leave him precious little time to indulge in the pastime related to his job.
“I get to see a golf course every day, but I don’t get to play a lot,” he said.
“But that’s okay because I can still enjoy looking at it.”