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Staying On Course

Many people dream of spending their retirement on a golf course. Michael Lee wanted to spend a career there. “I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted to do when I was still in high school,” says the Madison native.

Lee began working on the grounds crew at Madison?s Blackhawk Country Club at age 15. The College graduate now manages the Kohler Company?s four prestigious golf properties near Kohler. Soon Lee will be preparing Kohler?s Whistling Straits Golf Course for the 2004 PGA Championship. He and his staff are responsible for ensuring that the course meets exacting standards and for making it more challenging for PGA play.

Lee earned a bachelor?s degree from the Department of Soil Science while specializing in golf course management. As a student, Lee also interned at Madison?s Cherokee Country Club and helped with turf research at the Department of Plant Pathology.

The golf course management program is well organized and has a good job placement record, Lee says. It helped him land an assistant superintendent post at the Blue Mound Golf Course and Country Club in Wauwatosa after graduation.

Lee?s college education helped equip him with good technical information, he says. “But it runs deeper than that. Part of the college experience is starting and finishing something and learning how to collect and use information.” He encourages students to take some courses that are not specific to their future career. “You?re going to have the rest of your career to learn things. Taking some courses outside your major helps, especially if your discipline requires more broad-minded thinking.”

Lee says he was lucky to have mentors who were “as good as it gets,” starting with Blackhawk golf course superintendent Monroe Miller and continuing with soil science professors and advisors James Love and Wayne Kussow.

Lee also considers his position at Kohler as good as it gets. “We?re always doing something new and we?re always developing higher standards.” His future goals? “To host the best PGA Championship in the history of the game and possibly having the opportunity to host other championships. That?s what we get fired up about.”