Looking out over the practice green and toward the ninth fairway from his seat on the clubhouse deck, Henry “Skip” Wason choked up briefly in reminiscence on the nearly 30 years he dedicated to taking care of the 18 holes at Partridge Run Golf & Country Club.
Wason began working at the course on July 5, 1994. Following his retirement on last month, Wason said the job he held for nearly three decades could best be described as a labor of love.
“You never forget about it. Day and night, it is on your mind. It is a passion,” he said.
Wason has been at Partridge Run longer than the fairways have. In fact, he was instrumental in their construction. Wason was working in Virginia when he was asked if he wanted to take on the role of construction superintendent for the golf course project.
“They said if I did a good job for them, I would stay on as the golf course superintendent, so that’s what I did,” Wason recalled. “I did not know much about golf, but I was fortunate to have a consultant who was very knowledgeable. And then my shaper, who shaped the fairways and greens, he worked all over the world so the village was really fortunate to have the people in place that knew what they were doing,”
Wason remembers the long days it took to build the course, often starting at 5 a.m. and working until 11 p.m. As he looked out over the course, he reflected on the construction of holes one and nine.
“We worked day and night to do it,” Wason said of the first fairway. “We had it rough graded, hauled the material over here, spread the material, fine graded it and seeded it all in one day. That was a long day.”
The ninth hole gave Wason and his crew a more difficult time.
“It was the rainy season when we were building it. First you take the big rocks out, then you take the medium rocks out, but we had a different machine for each one,” Wason explained. “Then you get right down to the gravel and taking that out, and we got it all ready to seed but it rained that next day and we had to start all over again.”
The fifth hole at Partridge Run sticks out as one of Wason’s favorites. Hole five also happens to be the farthest hole from the clubhouse, and was the first hole built for good reason.
“Our intent was, we really did not know what we were doing, so the farthest place away from anybody is where we started, and we built that hole first,” Wason said with a laugh.
“My favorite is 17. I love the green, it’s got the valley in it, and I love the surroundings,” he added.
Those natural surroundings behind the green at 17 are part of the broader appeal to the job in Wason’s eyes.
“There’s nothing like being out here before daylight or just at dusk and interacting with nature,” Wason said, noting that being in nature is his favorite part of the job. “I can think of the mornings when you get out there and there will be a deer standing on the green. They get so they are tame around you and will actually come right up to you, within about 10 feet.”
Everyday is different at the course, Wason said. No matter what you planned to do each day, there would be new obstacles presented. Wason embraced the challenge, and feels fortunate to have had a dedicated group of people around him to help.
“It’s challenging, very challenging. I don’t think most people understand just what it takes to maintain a golf course,” he said. “You have the weather as a big factor, and then you have your different diseases that come to the grass, insects, equipment, and of course personnel. I have had some good, good people come through here.”
Rick DeLorme, Mike Wright, Leon Anson, Gil Bishop, and Walt Rexford were a few names Wason recalled as instrumental to his work at the golf course. He also looks back fondly on his interactions with the golfers who frequent the course, and feels a sense of gratitude for the experiences he’s had.
“I have been very blessed and fortunate to have had the career I did here,” he said.
Wason is still working part-time at the course, passing his knowledge on to his successor, Scott Nickerson. But with all of the extra time on his hands, Wason has both professional and personal prospects to look forward to in retirement.
“I have got a lot of opportunities in front of me, construction opportunities. But I like to fish,” he said. “This is salmon season right now, so we are getting ready to go salmon fishing and hunting, and I will play some golf too.”
With the course in good hands moving forward and nearly 30 years of memories to look back on, Wason feels proud of the golf course he had such an instrumental role in creating and maintaining.
“I just want to convey that I feel very blessed to have had this opportunity,” Wason said as he overlooked the practice green. “I’m very thankful. It’s kind of bittersweet.”