Seneca native takes love of golf, course maintenance overseas
By Greg Oliver
SENECA — Seneca native Parker Stancil is preparing for an experience few 19-year-olds get — spending the summer in Europe honing his craft on golf courses.
But rather than playing golf, Stancil will be part of a golf course maintenance team through an internship with the Turf and Ornamental Communicators Association (TOCA).
Stancil is flying to Europe today and will spend this summer as a regular member of the seasonal golf crew at the Great Northern Golf Club in Kerteminde, Denmark — approximately two hours from Copenhagen.
“This trip means the world to me,” Stancil said. “I look forward to learning about the different management and cultural practices a turf manager has to use to keep their course in peak condition because, unfortunately in Denmark, there are many legal issues against chemicals that American turf managers use. European turf managers typically use organic fertilizer and chemical plans due to restrictions.
“Not only do I look forward to expanding my knowledge in the turf industry, I’m also very excited to experience different cultures and experiment with a different lifestyle than what I am accustomed to.”
In addition, Stancil will host a blog on TurfNet — his host for the summer — about his experiences on and off the course.
“Being an active participant in extracurricular activities, my advisors sent me to volunteer at professional golf tournaments to assist the greens and grounds maintenance,” said Stancil, a golf and sports turf management major at Horry-Georgetown Technical College. “In September of 2017, I met Jon Kiger, director of media at East Lake Golf Club, during the Tour Championship, and it was one of six tournaments I gained experience from. Mr. Kiger introduced himself to me as I was preparing a greenside bunker before the players began the round for the day.”
Stancil said Kiger, intrigued by his ambitions and work ethic to finish the job, later contacted his professors to propose an internship opportunity to write blogs for TurfNet.
Stancil readily admits his opportunities would not be possible without his family — father Mike Stancil, mother Tracy Wilkinson and stepfather Ashley Wilkinson — with each playing an important role in his love for the sport and desire to build a career from it.
“My mom Tracy, my dad Mike, and my stepdad Ashley all were very encouraging and provided lots of support toward anything I’ve ever been passionate about,” Stancil said. “Without their efforts, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”
Stancil traces his love of golf back to when he was 9 years old.
“My dad would take me to the local golf course to spend time together,” Stancil said. “It was a hobby that turned into a passion, which then turned into a career.”
Stancil said his mother saw his eye for the game of golf when he was 10.
“One day she took me to our neighborhood driving range and sent videos of me hitting a driver over 150 yards to my stepfather,” he said. “After a lot of talk, they decided to get me more involved in the game of golf.”
After playing weekend golf with Ashley Wilkinson, department chairman of the turf program at Horry-Georgetown Tech, Stancil said his stepdad encouraged him to pursue a career “with my natural talent for the game.” But Stancil said his dedication to golf failed to match up to other kids.
It was then that another opportunity arose to experience the game in a different way.
“Ashley got me a position working on the crew with Mike Roach Inc. (of Seneca), installing an irrigation system, and we later found that I had a burning passion for the turf management industry,” he said.
Stancil has had several internship experiences at golf courses in South Carolina and Florida. In addition to his current work experience in maintenance at Myrtle Beach National and as a maintenance crew member at Grande Dunes Members Club in Myrtle Beach, he has also worked as a summer intern at Secession Golf Club in Beaufort and as a construction crew member at Mountain Lake Country Club in Lake Wales, Fla.
He has also gained experience volunteering at six professional tournaments, including TPC Sawgrass in 2015 for The Players Championship, Quail Hollow Golf Club last week for the Wells Fargo Championship, and East Lake Golf Club in 2017 for the Tour Championship. But Stancil said it was his experience after moving to Lake Wales for the summer in 2015 that changed his future career path.
“While working in the field, I realized that my dedication to become a professional golfer was outweighed by the passion I had for working outdoors on golf courses,” Stancil said.
Stancil said he often hears funny comments from people who don’t understand “the many aspects of the art and science” of the work he loves.
“It’s not all about mowing grass,” he said. “A decent turf manager needs a good understanding of all the different environmental factors that can affect the quality and appearance of your golf course. Turfgrass plants can get diseases and the soil medium you grow your turf on can lack proper nutrients or could house biological organisms that pose a threat to the health of the plant.
“With that being the case, the turf manager needs to be a top-notch mathematician, scientist and environmental steward to manage their chemical, fertilizer, pest control and labor plans.”
Stancil, who just completed his freshman year in the Golf and Sports Turf Management program at Horry-Georgetown Technical College, is on track to earn an associate degree next year. He then plans to transfer to Clemson University to pursue a bachelor’s degree in AgMech-Agribusiness. That career path is one he hopes will ultimately end up as the golf course superintendent at a high-end private club.
However, Stancil realizes there is still work to do before that dream is realized.
“I’ll need more experience in management, which means I’ll need to be an assistant superintendent for several years at different exclusive golf courses,” Stancil said.
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