‘Big opportunity’

Fredonia High grad headed to East Lake GC as assistant in training

Submitted Photo Sheridan native Kevan McDonald, second from right, poses for a photo with PGA Tour player Tommy Fleetwood, right.

Golf has always had a special place in Kevan McDonald’s heart.

From the time he was young, the Sheridan native vividly remembers learning, playing, and watching the game frequently with his family.

But it is another aspect of the sport that has allowed McDonald, a 2007 graduate of Fredonia High School and a 2011 graduate of SUNY Fredonia, to excel in his adult life.

In March, he received a certificate of completion for Penn State University’s two-year golf course turfgrass management program.

Around the same time, he also accepted a position as an assistant in training at the prestigious East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, where the PGA Tour holds its annual Tour Championship, the culminating event of the FedEx Cup playoffs.

The art of keeping golf courses operating smoothly and all the work that goes on behind the scenes piqued McDonald’s attention.

“It’s really been from a young age that I’ve been playing and watching (golf),” McDonald explained. “One of my first jobs was working at a golf course, Tri-County Country Club … under (superintendent) Pete Gilray and Pete was really influential in me wanting to get into this career. He is the one who kind of spurred me to go to Penn State as well. Anyone who golfs and knows golf around Western New York knows Tri-County is amazing and it’s really because of Pete and I was really lucky to be under him when I was younger and know what it takes to be in this industry. … I thought it was pretty interesting what goes into keeping a golf course (operating) at a high level. Because a lot of people are like, ‘Oh, they just cut some grass.’ And it’s really a lot of science.”

During his time at Penn State, McDonald accumulated a wealth of valuable experience. He had the opportunity to work and intern at the 2019 Augusta National Golf Fall Overseed Program; the 2019 PGA Championship at Bethpage State Park in Farmingdale, New York; the 2019 Arnold Palmer Invitational in Orlando, Florida; the Bonita Bay Club in Bonita Springs, Florida; the East Hampton Golf Club in East Hampton, New York; and the Ford Plantation in Richmond Hill, Georgia.

In addition, he was the recipient of the 2019 Golf Course Superintendents Association of America Scholarship and the 2020 Penncross Bentgrass Growers Association of Oregon Scholarship Award in recognition of scholastic achievements and leadership potential in the field of turfgrass management.

“It was a great learning experience,” McDonald said. “I mean, I’ve always had the ability to communicate well with others. …But what Penn State grants you is a huge network in the industry that we are in already. Our director, John Kaminski, is well-known across the country for his ability to help (maintain) golf courses. …I can basically ask him or give him any course in the country about where I want to go and have a pretty good shot of getting an internship at that course because people at Penn State, they are just known to work well. And that’s (in part) from the program that Dr. Kaminski puts forth. …They prepare you well. The program is two years and we do four years of work in two years. It is a really condensed schedule. It is very tough. But it was great.”

Down the road, McDonald’s ideal career choice would be a superintendent or a director of agronomy at a golf course.

With a great deal of accomplishments, experience, and a current position at a historic course like East Lake Golf Club already under his belt, he seems to be well on his way.

“The great thing about East Lake is that … you’re not just like a regular crew worker or a regular intern, they really take you through the ins and outs of what you’re going to be expected to do as an assistant,” McDonald said. “Whether you are spraying greens or building a schedule or working with the budget for the year, just ins and outs of what it’s going to take. … It is pretty hectic, (but) it pays off. … I have been fortunate to be able to go to Penn State and work under some great people. I have a really big opportunity at East Lake, and I think that whether I’m here or somewhere in the south, I think it’s going to be a fun ride.”


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