On the Clock: Golf course starter gets players on their way, keeps them moving

As a starter at Stadium Golf Club, Bruce Turner is equal parts traffic cop, rules enforcer and publi
Turner does so much running back and forth that he uses to scooter to save steps.
Turner does so much running back and forth that he uses to scooter to save steps.

Wednesday afternoon, and the parking lot at Stadium Golf Club in Schenectady was filling up.

So was the golf course.

“It’s chaos around here,” said Bruce Turner, dressed in a maroon Stadium golf shirt, matching ball cap, faded khaki green shorts and work boots with yellow laces. “When all the leagues start, they all want to get off early.”

Turner is one of the guys who puts golfers on the green. As a starter, he is equal parts traffic cop, rules enforcer and public-relations man.

“Mainly, we give out carts and make sure the tee times get off on time,” said Turner, 67, who lives in Schenectady and has worked as a starter for the past four years. “Today we’ll have a starter on number 10 [the 10th hole]; we’ve got leagues going off both sides. We check in the people, make sure they have not more than they’re supposed to. That’s about it. Mostly it’s handing out carts when you’re on this end.”

In his ‘office’

Turner’s “end” was the small starter’s building at the first hole. At 3 p.m., a couple of independent golfers made their first drives and walked the wide fairway leading to the first flag. Because nearby courses were closed for tournaments on this sunny day, Stadium was busier than usual.

Golfers who had just finished play dropped off their white club carts near the starter’s shack. Turner jumped into each motorized cart — putting a slender two-wheel metal scooter on the floor of the vehicle — and drove the used cart to the course maintenance barn. Turner used the scooter to skip and roll back to his office.

“I’m too old to walk this many steps,” he said at 3:03.

A solo golfer wearing a long-sleeved navy shirt and loose-fitting bluejeans chose a cart for his round. The man noticed that one of the older carts was for sale. “Know how much they want for that golf cart?” he asked Turner.

“It was $1,900 the last time I heard,” answered the starter. “You’d have to check at the pro shop.”

Turner, a 1962 graduate of Mont Pleasant High School, worked 40 years in the graphic-arts industry before retiring as production manager at M & J Pre-Press in Menands in 2006. “For two years, I didn’t do anything,” he said. “I was pretty good at it.”

He knew people at Stadium, and got the job putting people on the tee. Sometimes, he has to check coolers — a strict Stadium rule says golfers can’t drink their own beverages on the course. Most people caught with cold ones will return the suds to their car.

At 3:15, Carl Nappi of Scotia presented his bag tag from the pro shop, setting him up for a round. Dick Gilbert was his partner.

“You’re paying for two? You’re a great guy,” Turner said. “Cart number 17. Fastest cart in the barn.”

“He can’t drive that,” joked Ken Smith of Scotia, one of Nappi’s golfing friends. “He doesn’t have a license!”

Leagues arrive

League golfers would be next, at 3:30. The Electricians would start at the first hole, the Coldwell Banker crew would begin at the 10th. At 3:15, Turner called his 18-year-old son Spencer, another Stadium starter, and made sure he was in place to greet the Coldwell swingers.

A minute later, Turner was moving fresh golf carts closer to the first tee. Valerie Emerle, who runs the club’s summer program for junior golfers, drove up in a cart and told Turner one of her golfers had become sick. The kid had to leave a pull cart on the premises.

“We’ll take care of it,” Turner said. “It’s in back of the clubhouse. A lot of the grown men leave them right in the parking lot.”

Bernard Dengler of Brainard, one of the early arrivals for the 12-man Electricians league, spotted Turner on his scooter. “You ought to get one with a motor on it,” he said, at 3:25.

Other Electricians checked in. “Whenever you guys are ready, you’re on the tee,” Turner said.

More golfers were coming. Men and women from General Electric Power Systems were up next at the first hole. The Bushwackers, Colonie Golf and Blind Approach leagues would follow. The Mongrels and T-N-T leagues would gather at the 10th hole.

At 3:45, with both early leagues in play, Turner called Dave Cole in Stadium’s restaurant. The food-service crew likes to know how many people might be dropping in for drinks and sandwiches.

“The Electricians had 11, Coldwell Banker had 16,” Turner said. “I’ll call you when I get the rest.”

At 3:50, General Electric personnel were ready for their time in the sun. There were some stragglers.

“Where is everybody?” Turner asked Joe Andriano of Rotterdam. “They on their way?”

Andriano was confident. “They’re on their way,” he said. “Some of them are here.”

Holding up traffic

At 3:52, a golfer in a cart stopped by the shack. He was on the back nine, and one of the solitary golfers in front of his group was taking too much time.

“He’s super slow,” the man said, wondering if a course ranger might intercede.

There were a couple of golfers in front of the slowpoke, and Turner wondered why the man hadn’t joined the guys in front of him.

“He’s got no place to go, the course is packed,” Turner said, sending a ranger to investigate. “Maybe he asked them. Maybe they said no. A lot of people aren’t the friendliest.”

Turner is friendly. After four years, he knows a lot of names and faces.

“After a while,” he said, “all the guys look alike. If they were all pretty girls, I’d remember their names for sure.”

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