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Superintendent Spotlight

By Michael Tollner, Bellevue Country Club  

Joe Lucas, Saratoga National Golf Club

Originally from the small town of Ogdensburg in northwest New Jersey, like many of us, Joe’s career began as a summer job while he was in college. Joe was studying Marketing and Finance at Wilkes University in Wilkes Barre, PA. At that time, Joe was planning to follow the path of many who grew up in Sussex County. Get a degree and work in Manhattan, either for a marketing company or on Wall Street. A career in the golf industry was not something he considered much at that time, but he quickly moved up the ranks of the construction crew at Crystal Springs Golf Club in Hamburg, NJ. Joe spent his first summer there mostly picking rocks, but by the time he was ready to head back to school, he was already running a backhoe, working on irrigation, and seeding in the greens. When he returned in the summer of 1992, the golf course was brand new and rated by Golf Digest as one of the top 25 new courses in America. Joe quickly transitioned from construction into maintenance, learning to walk mow greens and tees, rake bunkers, and change cups, among other things.

After two summers at Crystal Springs, Joe accepted a job as the 2nd assistant at Upper Montclair Country Club.  During this time, he began to seriously consider a career in the industry. In 1993, Joe enrolled in Rutgers University’s Professional Golf Course Turf School. He would complete the program that winter and continued working for superintendent Red Dickison at Upper Montclair for two more years, all the while learning the skills necessary to succeed under great leadership.

After three seasons at Upper Montclair, Joe became the assistant at Shore Oaks (now known as Eagle Oaks) Golf and Country Club in Farmingdale, NJ, where he spent two years before heading further down the shore to become the assistant at Galloway National Golf Club. Galloway National is widely recognized as one of the best private clubs in the state and considered one of Tom Fazio’s best designs. It is also known to be reminiscent of Pinehurst, and another well-known club just up the Atlantic City Expressway, Pine Valley, because of its location in the Pine Barrens section of New Jersey, and the amount of exposed sand, all things that Fazio took into consideration during the build.

Joe spent four seasons at Galloway, but at this point in his life, he had set a clear goal for himself to become a superintendent by the time he turned 30. As it turned out, he missed his goal by just two days! Joe turned 30 years old on June 2nd and was offered the job as the construction superintendent at Saratoga National on June 4th. An exciting new project was about to begin on the over 400-acre property, and due to the time he spent working at Crystal Springs, he was a perfect fit for Saratoga National.

Working closely with architect Roger Rulewich and his team, Joe has been involved in every phase of Saratoga National’s existence, an impressive feat to say the least. During the course's construction, Joe had many critical decisions to make that would ultimately impact the golf course for many years. For example, the soils were not great in much of the rough, so instead of risking these areas staying thin or washing out during heavy rain, Joe

convinced the owner that they should sod all the rough, to ensure better stability, and a better playing surface when the course opened. They would go on to sod approximately 85 acres of bluegrass during the project, another impressive feat! Joe seeded the greens with A4 bentgrass, while the tees and fairways with were seeded with a combination of imperial, south shore, and putter bent.


Many years ago, when Joe accepted the job, he figured that he would spend a few years building the course and growing it in, and never imagined it would become the job that defined his career. However, after he began working there, he quickly realized that this place was different. Joe says that has a lot to do with the club’s owner, Tom Newkirk. Joe and Tom have spent 25 years working together, and have developed, according to Joe, a “fortunate and unique relationship”. Joe also said that this relationship goes further than theirs, as his assistant, mechanic, and the head golf professional at Saratoga have all also been there for nearly 25 years. That speaks volumes about the club, the business, and everyone involved. 


Saratoga National is a championship layout that can play well over 7,000 yards from the back tees. It is a busy golf course, averaging about 26,000 rounds a year. During race season, the peak of summer in the Saratoga Springs area, Joe says there is an 8-week period where the course needs to be kept in member guest condition every single day, and there is rarely an open tee time.


When he is away from the course, Joe enjoys spending time with his family. He and his wife Marci have been married since 2010, and they have two children, John, 20, and Daniel, 12. The family enjoys vacations together, taking trips to Mexico, Florida and elsewhere. Joe is an avid skier and mountain biker. Joe spends most of his ski days at nearby Gore Mountain, where he tries to get at least 30 days a season on the slopes. He also enjoys playing golf in the summer, and much of he and Marci’s free time is spent cheering on their boys who play football, basketball, and lacrosse.


Joe has a strong vision for the GCSANY during his term as its president. He wants to strengthen the association, while ensuring that members and partners see the value in being involved. He passionately believes that his service on the board is an important part of who he is and is an opportunity for him to give back to the industry. Joe says that GCSANY provides educational, environmental, and legislative benefits to all superintendents and industry partners. His involvement in the association at the board level has allowed him to network, meeting many new people and developing critically important relationships. According to Joe, the GCSANY encompasses a “big state, but a small business,” and his goal as president is to continue bringing everyone in the industry together.



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