Cody Semingson doesn't have to pinch himself as a reminder he's moved up a few rungs on the golf industry ladder.
It's obvious everyday he goes to work. For example, he works amidst palm trees and the San Bernardino mountains in La Quinta, Calif., part of southeastern California's Coachella Valley, a golfing mecca that includes Palm Springs.
It's a long way from the green hills and farm country surrounding Strum, Wis., where he grew up.
Then there's the place he works, PGA West, one of the largest golf complexes in the country with nine courses, or 162 holes. All the courses were designed by big names, such as Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer. One of the courses hosts a PGA Tour event each year, the Humana Challenge.
At his old job, as golf course superintendent of the Valley Golf Club, an 18-hole public course in Mondovi in west-central Wisconsin, Semingson had a crew of eight workers. In his new job as assistant superintendent of the Nicklaus Tournament course at PGA West, he manages 22 people.
Just three years after graduating from the golf enterprise management program at University of Wisconsin-Stout, Semingson took a big step forward in his career in February when he landed the job at PGA West. "I was pretty pumped up," he said.
After a few months on the job, Semingson is even more excited about where his career is headed. "I'd love to be the superintendent of a PGA Tour tournament course someday. That definitely is one of my goals," he said.
UW-Stout's golf enterprise management program educates students in all aspects of golf operations, giving them a variety of management-track options. So far, Semingson's career is taking the course superintendent track. Superintendents oversee the condition of the course.
At the Nicklaus Tournament course, Semingson schedules and manages the crew that mows, waters and fertilizes all the grass and meticulously maintains other aspects of the course. He makes sure fertilizers and chemicals are properly applied.
Golfers pay up to $200 for 18 holes during the busy season, so they're expecting top-notch conditions. "As soon as the sun comes out, there are people on the first tee. One after another; it doesn't stop. It's packed from dawn until dusk," Semingson said, adding that play began to taper off in mid-May when hotter weather arrived.
Most of the crew is Hispanic, a challenge for Semingson so he has to rely on a bilingual foreman and has learned some Spanish to be an effective manager.
Along with his golf management degree, Semingson earned a minor in business administration from UW-Stout. He believes the management and business courses helped him get the job.
"Everybody can learn how to grow grass. Getting employees motivated and to work hard is completely different," he said.
He's also glad he learned about the importance of hospitality at UW-Stout. The GEM program is part of the School of Hospitality Leadership. "I see the hospitality factor in almost everything. If you can't make the customer happy and put a smile on their face, you're not going to make any money," he said.
PGA West is owned by Hilton Worldwide, part of its Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts division.
Making golf his career
Semingson said professors in UW-Stout's GEM program know the industry and value their students, citing instructors Howie Samb and Kris Schoonover. "They helped me out even after I graduated, which was huge for me. It shows they care about their students," he said. "It's a great program because it touches base on everything in the golf industry."
Samb said it's no accident Semingson's career is off to such a good start in a "golf paradise."
"Cody is a perfect example of one of our students who has an unbelievable passion not only for the game of golf but the industry as a whole," Samb said. "He's a driven young man. I see nothing but great success in the golf world for Cody," Samb said.
Semingson is a 2006 graduate of Eleva-Strum Central High School, where he played on the golf team. He is enjoying a perk of his new job: He can play any of the expensive PGA West courses for free.
He grew up playing lots of golf — his father, Scott, is an accomplished tournament golfer — and plans to make golf his life's work.
Someday, however, he hopes to return to his native state to own and manage his own golf course. "I'll probably eventually go back to Wisconsin. That was my dream growing up, to own my own course in Wisconsin."
Top: UW-Stout alumnus Cody Semingson, left, meets with foreman Rudy Alcaraz at the PGA West Nicklaus Tournament course, where Semingson is assistant course superintendent.
Middle: The Nicklaus Tournament course is part of the nine-course, 162-hole PGA West complex in La Quinta, Calif.
Bottom: Howie Samb