Jeff Rowlader: making a difference one divot at a time

“Everybody talks about the weather but nobody does anything about it.” 

—Charles Dudley Warner

This famous quote could easily apply to the lack of etiquette in divot repair. With the surge in the recent popularity of golf, courses have taken a beating with players not replacing divots in the fairways, often leaving huge gouges in the turf. It seems all the messages on carts, scorecards and even pre-round reminders from starters seldom make a difference with that small percentage of golfers who don’t tend to simple course maintenance. Is anyone doing anything about it?

At The Meadows Golf Club at Grand Valley State University, long time member Jeff Rowlader decided to do something about it. In 2021, he contacted then superintendent Ron Dahlin and volunteered to work on divot repair on a weekly basis.

“I saw what havoc people caused on the course when they didn’t replace or repair divots,” said   Rowlader. “And knowing I had some time to give, I wanted to give it a shot to improve course conditions.”

So on Tuesday mornings when the course allots additional time for course maintenance, Rowlader, wearing his customary Tilley hat, is seen out on the course with his simple implements of a garden trawl, 5-gallon bucket of sand and a golf cart. In a few hours, he’ll fill in hundreds of divots.

Jeff Rowlader

Jeff Rowlader at The Meadows at GVSU

“If players land in one of these filled divots, they at least have a chance of a decent shot,” said Rowlader, a resident of Allendale and a Meadows member for nearly 20 years. “It’s nice to do something for a course I enjoy so much.”

His contributions have not gone unnoticed or unappreciated.

Head Superintendent Jeff Bodziak says: “It’s awesome that Jeff volunteers his time to fill fairway divots.  It not only helps me out, but it benefits the golfer.  He also helps with the spring and fall aerification.”

Echoing those thoughts are Head PGA Golf Professional Steve Milewski: 

“Jeff is one of our favorite golfers and we are proud to have him as a member at The Meadows at GVSU. Having our divots filled is extremely helpful in getting the grass to fill in properly, which provides improved conditions and consistency to our fairways.” Milewski also added Jeff often bakes and brings in cookies for the staff. 

Okay, Jeff Rowlader is a tough act to follow but his example is commendable. I know every time I see a divot filled with sand, I thank Jeff for his labors. Other members feel the same.

It’s gratifying to see someone doing something positive about a perennial pet peeve about course conditions. Not replacing or repairing a divot will mean it’ll take months for it to grow back if at all. But Jeff’s efforts mean divots will recover in a few weeks.

When asked if other courses should consider attracting volunteers to help in a similar way, Jeff was quick to say: “Absolutely! It’s a great volunteer role and the compliments from other golfers and members are always encouraging.”

Baking and bringing in cookies is not a prerequisite.

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