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Fountain Head country club superintendent retires

September 14, 1999

Ken KellerBy BRUCE HAMILTON / Staff Writer

photo: RIC DUGAN / staff photographer




Although Ken Keller enjoys the work, caring for an 18-hole golf course of approximately 110 acres isn't easy. The whims of weather, fungal forces and insects can be destructive.

The superintendent of Fountain Head Country Club decided last winter it was time to lighten up, mentally and physically. He's retiring Oct. 22 from the job he's had for almost 20 years.

"It's very stressful," he said. "You're dealing with nature, and when you're dealing with nature, you don't have any control."

The 100-mph tornado that struck June 16, 1998, caused the worst damage Keller said he's seen at Fountain Head. The twister uprooted trees, sheared the tops of some and lightning split others. Greens and fairways were littered with branches and leaves.

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This summer's drought also made Keller's job harder. Gov. Parris Glendening's restrictions allowed Fountain Head to use the "minimum necessary" amount of water on its greens and tees. Watering on the fairways had to be cut back 80 percent.

As the grasses dried, parts of the fairways browned and thinned. Recent rains helped. "They've recovered nicely," Keller said. But up close some parts are still thin and won't recover until spring, he said.

From May to September, the job takes seven days a week, Keller said. "The grass doesn't know to stop growing on weekends."

He patrols each day in his E-Z-GO cart, a putter at his side. "I can tell just from putting whether they're rolling pretty good," he said.

The superintendent supervises maintenance of the tennis courts, pool and grounds. He is responsible for mowing, spraying, fertilizing and for the course's irrigation system.

Keller, 57, and his wife, Suzie, plan to move to Myrtle Beach, S.C., where they spent their past four winter vacations. He is going to work part time at The Legends Resort and play a lot of golf.

"I started playing when I was 16 years old," he said. "It's fun and it's a challenge." In the past four years, he's played more in Myrtle Beach than in Hagerstown, he said.

The Waynesboro, Pa., native earned a bachelor's degree in agricultural economics at the University of Delaware. At age 30, he decided to change careers and studied turf grass management at Penn State University.

He was Harrisburg Country Club's superintendent before getting the job in Hagerstown. Fountain Head is private and somewhat exclusive. It has a limit of 450 athletic memberships.

People can join only through the sponsorship of members and approval by the board of governors. The club has about 650 total members, including 200 limited memberships that allow use of the pool, tennis courts or lounge, according to Keller.

The club is celebrating a 75-year anniversary. Charter members originally met at the Chamber of Commerce in April 1924 and the first election of officers was held Dec. 12, 1924. The golf course was designed by renowned architect Donald Ross.

Fountain Head received more than 80 applications for the superintendent's job. A search committee has narrowed that down but a successor hasn't been named.

Keller said he'll miss the friends he made at Fountain Head. "It's a good club, a good bunch of members. It was a great place to be, from my perspective," he said.

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