Danny Harris

Written by Kay Hubbard.

A Driving Force for an Above-Par Course

Raised by his grandparents, Carthage Country Club Course Superintendent Danny Harris began his love of the game of golf when he was only 10 years old. His grandfather was PGA golf pro J. E. “Preacher” Terry, who served as a club pro in Athens, Texas, Vivian, Louisiana, and for most of Danny’s formative years at Freestone Country Club between Teague and Fairfield, Texas.

“It was customary for the pro’s home to be on the golf course,” Danny says, “so it was really natural for me to be on the course all the time. By the time I was 12 or 13, I was working on the course, and by 14 was mowing all the greens. Back then, there were no riding greens mowers, and we had to hand shovel all the sand we used for green repairs, so it was really hard work.”  He also helped with other course maintenance, mainly tee boxes and fairways, and was responsible for picking up balls on the driving range. He was also playing every chance he got. “At age 15 I started working in the pro shop, continued to play a lot, and got to be a pretty good player. Then at age 20 I quit and didn’t play again for 20 years.”

He and his high school sweetheart Annette Inderman married in 1976. “I had always thought I wanted to be a golf pro, and a country club near us needed a new pro. However, the club was having tremendous financial difficulties, and my grandfather talked me out of getting involved in that. So I took a job in Houston working for the railroad. Because I had always been able to play golf so conveniently and at no cost all my life, I was in for a shock as a young married guy in Houston to see what it would cost to join a country club there. So Annette and I took up fishing and camping, and I no longer even watched golf on television or had any idea who was on the PGA tour. My grandfather also passed away soon after we married, so I had no remaining connection to the game.”

The couple moved to Carthage in 1979 for Danny to take a job at Texas Utilities, where he remained for 37 years. He began as a mechanic and spent his last 10 years in management. Because he worked shift work and often had weeks at a time off the job, he and Annette and their two sons, Wade and Clint, spent almost entire summers boating, water skiing, camping, and fishing. “It was a great life,” he says, “and I really didn’t miss golf at all.”

Then at age 40, he was in the break room at work one Friday and heard some men talking about going to Carthage Country Club to play golf the next day. “They didn’t know anything about my golfing background,” Danny says. “I just sat and listened to them talk about it for awhile, and then I told them I had played a lot and pretty well as a young guy, but not for 20 years, but I would really like to join them the next day. I didn’t even have clubs anymore—I had sold them a long time ago—but my next door neighbor said he would loan me his. Annette and I drove out to a driving range that evening for me to take some swings, and I was really surprised that it was like riding a bicycle. It all came back, and I could still hit it pretty well. I went out to play that Saturday and shot a 40 on the first nine holes, shooting par on seven of them. One of the friends I was playing with said, ‘Man, we are going to have to get you in some tournaments and make some money!’ And after 20 years, I was bitten by the golf bug again!”

Danny began playing regularly and loved it, but he didn’t like spending so much of his spare time away from Annette, so he taught her how to play. “We had always done everything together,” he says, “so I was glad she took to it so quickly and enjoyed playing. Neither of the boys showed much interest in the game as youngsters. Clint as a young teen was hitting shag balls and looking pretty promising, but he had never chipped or putted.  I made plans to take him to the country club to play ‘for real,’ but we were having an outage at the plant that day that made me unavailable, so Annette took him out to try his first real game. On the first hole, he drove the ball nearly to the green, but then ended up with a 12 on the hole because he couldn’t chip or putt.  He was so discouraged that he didn’t start playing again until last year, in his mid-thirties. I gave him a set of clubs, and he got the bug too. He loves it, and we have really enjoyed playing together. I think I was as proud as he was when he birdied a hole by himself in one of our scrambles!”

Danny says that Carthage Country Club co-owner Helper Nutt approached him about five years ago to see if he might be ready to retire and become the superintendent for the course. “I told him I was not quite ready to retire yet,” says Danny, “but maybe in a couple of years. So he waited a couple of years and asked me again. I was playing on the course a lot, and by October of 2015, I was just so disgusted with the way the golf course looked that I started looking into the possibility of retiring and taking the course superintendent’s job.  People were calling it a ‘cow pasture’ golf course, and I was too embarrassed by it to even invite people to play there. As I looked at the financial part of retiring and saw that I could do it, I said, ‘I’m tired of playing a second-rate golf course, and I’m ready to make it better.’ It had then been 40 years since I took care of a course, but I really felt like I could still do it.”

In January of 2016 his retirement began, and since it was winter, there was not a lot to do until it warmed up enough for grass to start growing. But he was formulating plans, with the main objective that first year to get the greens in good shape, full of grass and puttable. “I think most people judge a course by the greens,” he says. “I knew we were going to have to buy some sod to plant on the greens, and I also planted a ‘nursery green,’ a 1,000-square foot section of grass that I can take plugs from to repair sections of the greens that have been affected by weather, insects, fungus, or water problems. I put sand over the place I have removed, and the grass grows back so that we can keep a constant supply of new grass. We mow and care for the nursery green just like we do all the playing greens on the course. I know we have already taken at least 2,000 square feet of plugs from that initial 1,000.” 

Danny also emphasizes how fortunate he is still to have many connections and resources left from his early golf experiences to help him diagnose and solve grass problems because “a golf course can look perfect one day, and an insect or fungus can take it over in a week’s time,” he says. “The best man in my wedding is now the head golf pro at the Austin Country Club. We grew up playing golf together; ironically, I was going to be a golf pro, and he was going to be a forest ranger! I can take a photo of a problem with a green and text it to him and/or other pro friends, and they can share their many experiences, problems, and solutions with that same problem instantly.”

This second year, he has continued working on the greens but has also worked on improving the fairways and fringes, filling holes and ruts with sand and dirt, fertilizing, working with the irrigation system, and making many other improvements to make the course look properly manicured. He is pleased that members are telling him constantly that the course has never looked better and how happy they are. “I am up at 5:00 each morning thinking about all that needs to be done that day, and out there working on it by 6:00,” he says, “but I am doing something I love and really enjoying the results.”

Another huge contribution Danny has made to the club is his involvement with frequent tournaments and scrambles to encourage men, women, youth, and children to come out and enjoy the course. “I get that from my grandfather, who never met a stranger and loved for everyone to enjoy golf,” he says. “My favorite thing is the very fun, informal scramble we have every Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday late in the afternoon. I just love seeing people of every age and ability level who might not even know each other teaming up and having a great time playing golf together. We also have men’s tournaments and frequent mixed two- or three-person scrambles. We have also had youth tournaments for kids of all ages in which several of us would take teams and do a little coaching during their play. We have taken pictures of the kids, framed them, and hung them in the pro shop, and also donated gifts from the pro shop as prizes, so the kids can feel like real golfers. They are always thrilled.”

Danny says one of the best things about being at the course every day is seeing friends well up into their eighties who still play every day. “It’s something people can do their whole lives—many right up to the time they die,” he says.  People are always asking me how long I will continue to do this job. Well, I just want to continue until I get the course as good as it can be, then fully retire and just play golf the rest of my life.”

Danny enjoys sharing with people how important his Christian faith is to him. He says when he and  Annette were raising their kids, he went to church, but it was mainly for her and the kids. However, at age 40 he was diagnosed with colon cancer. Some of the men at work gave him a study Bible, and he started reading it every day. “After I started reading it, I started listening to the sermons better on Sunday,” he says, “and it seemed like the preacher was talking just to me personally! I told him that between my Bible study, his sermons, and this diagnosis I had gotten, I was starting to look at a lot of things differently, and I wanted to be baptized. I also shared all that I was going through spiritually with my good friend Dennis Smith, and he came to my baptism and sat on the front row.  Now Annette and I have grandchildren who are being raised in the church by my son and daughter-in-law, and it is so wonderful to watch them all growing in the faith that’s been passed on to them. It’s a really important part of my life!”