FARMINGTON HILLS – Ron Dahlin retired at the end of December after spending the last 20 years as the superintendent at The Meadows at Grand Valley State University in Allendale, and he is still figuring out how retirement works.
“I’m slowly getting better at sleeping in,” he said. “Of course, sleeping in is 6:30, but I’m making progress. It’s not those 4:30 mornings anymore.”
His years of early mornings and the body of work he produced have resulted in him being named the 2022 Golf Association of Michigan Superintendent Award of Merit winner.
Dahlin, 63, follows 2021 winner Al Bathum of Cascade Hills Golf & Country Club and he joins a list of recipients that include Ted Woehrle, Clem Wolfrom, Fritz McMullen, John Fulling, Jay Eccleton, Steve Cook, Jeff Holmes, Phil Owen and Paul Galligan.
“It is one heck of an accolade, awesome,” he said. “In my head I think of guys winning this award like Clem Wolfrom and John Fulling so it didn’t quite register with me at first. It is very humbling and it’s a great feather in my cap and a great way to end a career.”
Dahlin was nominated by the Board of the Michigan Golf Course Superintendents Association (MiGCSA), a group Dahlin was instrumental in helping found over 15 years ago.
MiGCSA Executive Director Adam Ikamas said Dahlin was one of the most involved in every aspect of the association. He helped form the by-laws, and develop the elements of membership outreach, communication and more, and served in various roles and on various committees.
“Ron was an absolute critical part of what we do from the start,” Ikamas said. “Simply put there is no way this chapter is where it is today without Ron.”
Dahlin said his retirement has started with the building, with his wife KaLee, a new home in Northern Michigan, just outside of Honor on the Platte River.
“I’m a little worried about not staying busy, but with nine acres to take care of and a house to build I should be good for a while,” he said. “I’ve been married to a wonderful woman for over 30 years, and it’s time I spent a little time around her as well.”
KaLee recently retired from Amway Corp., after working there 30 years in research and development, food, and nutrition. They have two children, Bryson, who is 24 and has a career in construction, and Caitlin, 21, who is a junior in the nursing program at Grand Valley.
“It’s a great time for us to leave our careers behind,” Dahlin said. “We are still young enough and healthy enough to do the things we want to do.”
Prior to coming to The Meadows, Dahlin was the superintendent of the Valley course at the 36-hole Egypt Valley Country Club in Ada, working for 10 years with longtime golf course manager Jeff Holmes.
He is originally from LaSalle, Colo., where he grew up on a farm 50 miles north of Denver. He has worked outside in his career, first in weed and pest control and then at age 27 embarked on undergraduate work in biology and agriculture and a masters in horticulture and turfgrass management. He found a career path with turfgrass management and golf.
“I really think it is a noble sport, and a noble profession to be in,” he said. “The people who work in golf are a great group of individuals to be associated with. They work hard, they try their best, there is great camaraderie and I latched on to that.”
He said working for a golf course on a university campus has been a great experience and that highlights over the years were hosting multiple state tournaments for high school golfers and six NCAA national championship tournaments.
“I’ve enjoyed working with the (college) kids,” he said. “I enjoyed teaching them what it meant to work, and some really bought into working in golf. The job is to make the value of the product the best it can be every day. I was blessed to be in an industry like that. I’m excited to move on to another stage in my life, but when I look back I don’t have a regret at all. It’s been good for me and my family, and I loved getting out there every morning and seeing the sunrise.”