Dick Drew Retires After Nearly 30 Years as Superintendent at Olde Salem Greens

Dick Drew, after nearly 30 years as superintendent at Olde Salem (Mass.) Greens golf course, Salem’s municipal nine-holer, has called it a career. Drew, 65, finished 28-plus years in charge at Olde Salem on August 11, the day after he turned the magic retirement age.

“I loved the job from the very first day,” says Drew, who has moved from his long-time home in Hamilton and relocated 75 miles west in Thomson, Conn., just over the Massachusetts border, to live with his son and his family.

“I’m proud the way I ran the place with loyal staff and supportive city officials. I rarely if ever got complaints. But the job was getting harder and harder to do. The fact my son and his wife invited me to come live with them and help with their property, with grandaughter Courtney (she’s 11) and their two dogs (Bailey and Brady), made it an easy time to bow out.”

After spending close to 15 years working under Lester Allen and Dean Robertson at Kernwood Country Club on the other side of town, Salem officials needed someone to replace the retiring Norman Barnes at Olde Salem. His boss at Kernwood recommended Drew and the rest is history.

Dick Drew WAS Olde Salem Greens for most of the next three decades. The Lynn native and UMass-Stockbridge alumnus made the Wilson Road layout the best it’s ever been.

He came from rock solid golfing stock. His grandfather, Richard Drew, was a member at Salem Country Club, while his father, also Richard, played at Happy Valley (now Larry Gannon) in Lynn, then Wenham. Dick the youngest was swinging a golf club by the time he was 6.

“The game got in my blood early in life and never left me,” Dick reasons.

When he first arrived at Olde Salem — he’d never seen the place until the first day he started working there — “I thought I’d gone back 40 years in time,” he admitted, “at least in terms of equipment they had. The stuff was old and in short supply. Norman Barnes helped me get my feet wet, explained how things got done. Then when I asked the (Recreation) Commission (which oversees the operation of the course) for some funding, they gave it to me. It was like $40,000 they had earmarked for the Bowditch House, I think, but they were able to pass it on to me because of the emergency situation I’d described.

“I bought some equipment and over the years thyey pretty much gave me funds when I really needed them, as long as I could justify the need and project significant savings down the road.”

Drew appeciates the support he received from the Commission over the years, especially from people like Tim Noonan, Jerry Lavoie and Kathy O’Leary, as well as from Mayors Salvo, Usovicz, Harrington and Driscoll. He also is grateful for the relationships he had with his immediate bosses, Tom Foley, Larry McIntire and Doug Bollen, the city’s Recreation Superintendents.

Most important, he recognized the people who worked alongside him on the course, led by Bill Castonguay (20 years plus), John Wright and Mike Gallagher, among others.

Dick and his crew gained satisfaction by performing the routine daily duties that made Olde Salem shine in the eyes of the course’s hundreds of regulars; regular maintenance, such as upkeeping the tees, greens, fairways, bunkers and drainage, the cart paths, as best they could with limited resources.

“We never lost a green in all  my years. That’s special to me,” Drew said. “We rebuilt a bunker once in a while and eliminated a few steep bunkers.”

Drew was pleased the Rec Commission never turned to a management company to run the operation. “We’ve had good people working inside the clubhouse, people like Al Zendarski, for many years and Hago Harrington more recently,” Drew said. “That would have been money wasted.”

He would have liked to have seen nine additional holes built, and for good reason. “We’ve lost a lot of money since The Meadow in Peabody, an 18-hole course, opened up,” he explained. “But I learned a long time ago in this job that politics sometimes wins out.

“I also wish — and I tried several times — to get a certain percentage of the profits made from the golf course to go back in the golf course budget annually, but it never happened. All the revenues always went back into the city funds and we’d have to ask for money on an as needed basis. A request for funds often took six months to be acted on, good or bad.”

Now the torch has been passed on to Paul Lever, formerly of Rowley CC (Carriage Pines), and Drew wishes him all the success in the world. Dick is now happily taking care of grandchild and two dogs and walking through the nearby woods. He’s earned it.

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