By Michael Tollner, Bellevue Country Club
Larsson Hosts 2023 Member Guest at Timber Banks
Timber Banks Golf Club in Baldwinsville, NY hosted the 2023 GCSANY member guest tournament on June 20th of this year. The golf course was in fantastic shape thanks to the efforts of superintendent Erik Larsson and his staff. The weather was perfect and the winner of the event was none other than the superintendent who grew in the golf course back in 2009, Chris Richter, and his partner. I was fortunate enough to sit down recently with Erik and discuss details about the course, and about Erik’s career path and what brought him to the Syracuse area, as well as how he landed at Timber Banks a few years ago.
Timber Banks sits along the banks of the Seneca River just northwest of Syracuse, and is a true shot makers course. The severely undulating greens, well placed bunkers, large, contouring fairways, and forced carry's on many holes make this one of the most challenging layouts in the Syracuse area. In addition, the course plays well over 7,200 yards from the back tees, but luckily (for me) we played a more moderate length during the association event. Timber Banks is able to boast as being the only Jack Nicklaus signature design in all of upstate New York. The Timber Banks community is also home to a large marina, beautiful homes, and a breathtaking new clubhouse that was built in 2020.
As I already mentioned, Erik and his staff had the course in pristine condition for our event. But that is no surprise considering the pedigree that Erik has in a long career that started back in his home state of Maryland over 30 years ago. Erik is a motivator, and considers himself to be a mentor to his employees. He enjoys starting each day’s morning briefing by asking a trivia question, and seeing who can come up with the correct answer. I think it also helps him figure out who is awake, and who may need an extra cup of coffee!
Erik was born in Rhode Island, but his family moved to Maryland when he was just two years old. He spent the rest of his childhood there, and his career in the golf industry started in Columbia, MD, his hometown. He first found his way to upstate NY as an English major at Syracuse University after high school. Back then he had aspirations of becoming a teacher, but his love for golf, and spending summers back home in Maryland working at Hobbits Glen Golf Club, made him rethink his career choice. He met his wife Christy, a native of upstate NY, while studying at Syracuse. But after 4 years at SU, Erik made the decision to transfer into the turf management program at the University of Maryland. Christy moved to Maryland after she finished at Syracuse, and the couple married shortly thereafter. Erik went on to receive a bachelor’s degree in turf from UMD in 1995. During this time he also worked on a grow in project at Columbia, MD’s newest course, Fairway Hills Golf Club. Upon graduating, and after the grow in at Fairway Hills was complete, Erik accepted his first assistant superintendent position at Bay Hills Golf Club, near the shores of the Chesapeake Bay. After spending three years as the assistant there, Erik was promoted to his first superintendent position. He spent nearly 4 years as superintendent at Bay Hills, honing his skills and learning everything he could about the profession. At this time, Erik and Christy, with their two young children, made the decision to leave Maryland and return to Central NY, where Christy had grown up. Erik began looking for jobs in Central NY and in July of 2004 landed a position at Turning Stone Resort in Verona, NY as the assistant superintendent at the Kaluhyat course, which had opened for play only one year prior. Erik spent 3 years working on the Robert Trent Jones Jr. design, before moving to become the assistant at Atunyote, Turning Stone’s signature layout and former home of the PGA tour stop, the Turning Stone Resort Championship. Dustin Johnson and Matt Kuchar were two of the champions crowned over the years the event was played at Atunyote, and the same duration that the championship was held was the length of time Erik spent as assistant superintendent there, from 2007-2010. Then, in 2011, he was promoted to superintendent. Erik was the superintendent at Atunyote for over 4 years, and although they did not host the PGA during that time, the golf course was ranked in Golf Digest’s Top 100 Public courses each year under Erik’s leadership. Additionally, the course was ranked in the top 25 courses in New York state during those years.
In the early part of 2017, Erik found an exciting new opportunity and accepted the superintendent position at Canandaigua Country Club. Located on the eastern shore of Canandaigua Lake, the club had just begun working with renowned golf course architect Stephen Kay and planning a renovation of the private 9 hole layout. In his first season, Erik went on to complete the project, working with George Ley Construction, which included new bunkers, new tees, and many other new features throughout the golf course. Erik would stay at Canandaigua until 2021, when the position at Timber Banks opened. Now in his third year at Timber Banks, Erik has spent time detailing the areas of the newer course that were most in need when he arrived, such as mowing down the marsh and wetland areas between tee and fairway, allowing for more player friendly tee shots. He has also completed extensive tree removals along the banks of the river, which has improved air flow to some of the greens on the back 9, while also exposing great water views in these areas.
When not at work, Erik enjoys golf, soccer, and spending time with his family. He and Christy have two sons, Andrew, 24, and Sean, 21. Erik plays in a weekly golf league, and enjoys getting a few rounds in with Christy and their boys whenever they can. He is a lifelong Tampa Bay Buccaneers fan, and has spent this off season contemplating what the future holds for his team without Tom Brady. The jury is still out on that for now, but with football season around the corner, we’ll all find out soon.
It’s clear that Erik has had a storied career, from growing in new courses to hosting PGA tour events, and our day at Timber Banks showcased all of his experience. Erik’s knowledge of the turf profession and his great personality shine through both on and off the course. I’ve been fortunate enough to become friends with Erik in recent years, and I’ve never met a more genuine, down to earth person in all my years in the golf business. This was a great opportunity to get to know Erik even better, and I am glad to have been able to learn more about him and his career.