It’s a labor of love for Mike Knight when he’s working in his element – the great outdoors, that is. But if you want to be specific, his element is the links of the Five Island Golf Club.
That dedication to the course at Five Island has earned Mike Knight a very special honor – Iowa Nine-Hole Golf Course Superintendent of the Year for 2009.
The Iowa Turfgrass Association accords the honor annually and the Iowa Golf Association to recognized the golf course superintendents and/or facilities managers who best represent the game of golf and their facilities.
“I found out about the award a couple of days before Thanksgiving,” Knight said. “I was notified by the Iowa Golf Association through an e-mail and it’s really humbling for me. I’ve been in the industry for 20 years, ever since I was 15 years old, and I’ve never had anything like this happen to me. It’s still kind of hard to believe.”
As the Nine-Hole Superintendent of the Year, Knight will be honored in ceremonies in January at the Polk County Convention Complex in Des Moines, during the Iowa Turfgrass Conference. Bill Dickens of the Iowa Golf Association will present Knight with his award.
So how does one earn such an honor?
“You have to be nominated by patrons of the golf course, for starters,” Knight explained. “Also, our course was rated this past summer by the IGA. They sent four people out to golf the course so they could evaluate it, and that evaluation also comes into play.”
During the golfing visit by the IGA team, the four golfers evaluated the difficulty of the course, the condition of the course, including greens and fairways, trees, bunkers and the overall appearance of the facility. Those factors, along with recommendations and nominations from other patrons of the course, and a recommendation from the Iowa Senior Golf tour, which paid a visit to the local course, were all considered by the IGA before making the award to Knight.
For Knight, the job as course superintendent isn’t all about mowing and bunkers. When he’s not out on the course, he can be found in the clubhouse working at various jobs – setting up for events, pitching in to clean or tending the bar. But, his second great passion at the golf course is teaching and instilling a love for the game of golf and what it represents.
“I really enjoy keeping youth involved in the game of golf,” Knight said. “We started the Palo Alto County Youth Tour this summer, to keep kids all over the county involved in golf. But, with our youth programs, I try to teach kids not only the rules of the game, but also how to enjoy the game itself, as well as the course and being outside in nature. To me, it doesn’t matter if you’re three or 93, any age can enjoy the game of golf.”
Knight paused for a moment, as he helped prepare the clubhouse at Five Island for a holiday party. “I really have to thank everyone – the members and patrons of the Five Island Golf Course, the golf committee and the Emmetsburg City Council for their support and approval of what we’ve tried to do here. It’s through their support that allowed me to be up for this award. It doesn’t belong to me…this is an award for the course and the community.”