By James Lomuscio
Shortly after he came on board in March as Longshore Club Park’s golf course superintendent, Todd Salamone got a visit and a special request from a longtime golfer.
Todd Salamone checks out the Longshore course early in his morning rounds. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com
“He said there’s a bench on the eighth hole dedicated to his father who made a hole in one there, and he asked me to make sure that I clean it, and wipe it down,” Salamone recalled.
“For me, that represents the relationship that this course has with the people of Westport,” he added.
Salamone, 31, is employed by Bright View Golf Maintenance, the California-based contractor hired in 2014 to restore the 100-acre course that had fallen into disrepair, especially after Superstorms Sandy and Irene.
“What amazes me is the enthusiasm of the golfers more than I’ve seen at any other place,” said Salamone, who has previously worked at the Village Club in Sands Point, New York and at several upscale Long Island courses since he was 19. “The multiple generations who play here, that’s part of it.”
That sense of community ownership from demanding golfers who play about 35,000 rounds per season on the town’s public links keeps Salamone fastidious from when he starts work at 5:30 a.m. until he leaves around 4:30 p.m.
Todd Salamone chats with Assistant Supervisor Dave Brinckerhoff. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com
His day begins by holding a meeting of 13 staffers, doling out assignments, including mowing fairways and greens; fixing divots and ball marks, golf ball dings on sensitive greens; spotting sprinklers; inspecting grass fungus, checking soil moisture; allocating specific insecticides safe to other plants and animals; removing goose droppings; sharpening mower blades, and the daily moving of holes on greens.
There are also the day-to-day managerial tasks of paying bills and keeping tabs on seasonal employees.
On this particular day, Salamone’s crew had a seven-hole jump of the first golfers set to tee off at 7 a.m. As he drove his golf cart toward seventh hole at 6:30 a.m., Salamone’s eyes remained fixed on the dew-covered grass, a hearty mix of rye and blue grass on the fairways, blue grass and what’s called “creeping bent grass” on the greens.
“You tend to see the biggest change in the grass overnight,” he said, not only in miniscule growth but in the possibility of fungal disease, not uncommon in warmer weather especially after the course gets watered by its 800 sprinklers overnight.
“This job is all about science,” says Salamone, a Queens, New York native with a degree in agronomy from Ohio State University, coincidentally the alma mater of golf legend Jack Nicklaus.
He stops at the golf maintenance building to pick up a two-pronged moisture meter, a soil probe and a yard-long devise that he will stamp down on the greens’ golf ball dings, immediately making them disappear as its hidden hooks released by tapping raise the soil underneath.
Todd Salamone, who spends little time in his office, says, “I love what I do.” (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com
The grass on the green is shorn to .13 inches, shorter than most moss. The fairways are just a half-inch high.
On his tour, Salamone jabbed the soil probe into the fairway and pulled up a four-inch deep cylinder of dirt.
“This is to see how healthy the roots are, and how many fine roots there are,” he said.
He was pleased with the number of hair like roots in the sample.
“Without the fine roots, it’s hard to survive,” he said.
With the seventh green covered with dew, Salamone watched intently as Jake Nosel maneuvered the mower to and fro in straight lines, the freshly shaved green looking as if it had been vacuumed.
How does it keep the greens’ grass so short, just a little more than a tenth of an inch?
“The reel mowers work like scissors,” Salamone explained. “You have a flat blade and a set of blades on a reel, and the reel spins. It’s like scissor action where the blades meet each other.
“There are 14 blades on the reel, and there are three reels on each mower,” he added.
That keeps blade sharpener Ray Ronson back at the maintenance building busy.
“Every day he sharpens them,” Salamone said.
Salamone again studied the green. He pulled out the moisture meter from his golf cart and stuck it into the ground.
“This spot is 37 percent water by volume, which is much wetter than I’d like it,” he said. “I’d like it to be 25 percent.”
He discussed the moisture with Dave Brinckerhoff, assistant superintendent, who stopped by to give a morning update.
Salamone said that installing drainage systems on the greens should be a future project for Longshore. But for now restoration of the course’s bunkers, aka sand traps, is a priority.
An approved $1 million bunker renovation by Norwalk-based Golf Design Unlimited is set to begin in September.
“They’re going to redo the bunkers, redo the drains and sod them,” he said.
“It’s all about playability,” Salamone added, saying he comes from a family of golfers, including his parents and grandparents.
So, it’s not rare that when Salamone finishes his day at 4:30 p.m. that he will unwind by hitting the fairways, too.
Staring out over the expanse of Longshore’s links, Salamone was quick to acknowledge, “This is my office and not a bad office.”
“I love what I do,” he said.