Written By: Greg Johnson
FARMINGTON HILLS – Dan Lucas, the superintendent for the high-profile comeback/renovation at High Pointe Golf Club near Traverse City, humbly acknowledges his reputation as a superintendent that works well on construction projects, and for becoming an expert regarding fescue fairways.
Still, he was surprised to be named the Golf Association of Michigan (GAM) Superintendent Award of Merit winner for 2024.
“I guess it’s recognition for the 40 years I’ve been in this business, the four different construction projects I’ve been involved in here in Michigan and leading the wave at Kingsley Golf Club with the change to fescue grassing,” he said. “Or I could just go with the old line that I’ve been around so long they had to give me something.”
The annual award, presented since 2011, is bestowed upon a superintendent who has demonstrated leadership, professionalism, good character and high standards of conduct through pursuits associated with golf course grounds maintenance and care. His nomination by Belvedere Golf Club Superintendent Jordan Caplan was supported by the Michigan Golf Course Superintendents Association (MiGCSA) and GAM Green Committee.
“Dan is a slam dunk on all those things, leadership, professionalism, everything,” Adam Ikamas, the executive director of MiGCSA said. “On top of that he’s just a down-to-earth good guy, very welcoming and the list of superintendents he has influenced and worked with keeps growing. Dan has also proven fescue fairways, low water, low fertilizer grasses that have not always worked for everyone, can work. He was a board member of the Northern Chapter before it became part of what (MiGCSA) is now, and he has been on the board for the Michigan Turfgrass Foundation for a long time.”
Lucas, who is 62 after celebrating his birthday earlier this week (Jan. 16), said he has been fortunate to work with and for great people.
“I’ve been tremendously lucky to work for single owners at four golf courses where I was part of construction projects,” he said. “All gave me the freedom to grow grass the way I wanted and none of them looked over my shoulder.”
He said this award is the result of work by many former assistants and crew members.
“Great people have been with me all the way, world-class assistant superintendents that just went way above and beyond,” he said. “Having those people around gave me the freedom to focus on the big picture because they handled the day-to-day details.”
Lucas said he made the move to High Pointe a year ago because he loves being part of course construction.
“Getting a chance to be part of building another course, and in this case bringing back the design of one of the world’s top architects was too much to pass up,” he said. “I had the chance to be help build a world-class course at Kingsley Club from the ground up and now I’m working with great people like Rod Trump (owner) and Tom Doak (golf course architect) at High Pointe. I will be able to have that as part of my legacy and I’ve worked and helped with construction on four courses while living out of the same house in Traverse City, too. When I look back it’s amazing how it has worked out.”
His start in golf was as a caddie for three years at Kalamazoo Country Club, which he said he enjoyed while never really thinking about how the golf course was sustained or prepared for play. He did learn he didn’t want a career where he had to be inside an office looking out a window, and eventually ended up at Michigan State University’s then two-year turfgrass management program.
Lucas, who with his wife Petra have two adult children, worked at Gull Lake Country Club on the crew to launch his maintenance career and his first head job was at Twin Birch Golf Club in Kalkaska. From there, he went to The Bear at Grand Traverse Resort, then Mistwood Golf Course in Lake Ann and on to the Kingsley Club.
“Michigan is a wonderful place to work,” he said. “We have great golf and tremendous golf support groups. Very few parts of the country have groups that support the industry the way it is done in Michigan. I’m honored to be part of the industry here and honored to be recognized.”