By Design – Issue 64, Winter 2023

INTERVIEW The newly appointed ASGCA President Michael Benkusky has come a long way since picking up the game as a five-year-old boy in Iowa. Growing up in a golfing family, he was perhaps destined for the game. Mike learned to play at a nine-hole club in the town of Marion, just outside of Cedar Rapids, during long summers that were also spent playing tennis and swimming. But golf quickly became his sport of choice – and he would go on to win several junior golf tournaments. While he may not have realized it at the time, those summers on the golf course would set Mike onto his eventual career path. We caught up with him to find out more. What inspired you into this profession and how did you get your start? My parents went to the US Open at Medinah in 1975 and brought back the tournament program, which included a hole-by-hole description for each hole. That was my first introduction to architecture, and I then geared my schooling towards that goal. I met ASGCA Past President Bob Lohmann in 1985 shortly after he started his firm. He offered me an internship and then I began working for him full time in 1988. The 1990s was the golf boom when we were opening a new golf course almost every day. I was able to learn a lot, from routing a course to detailed grading and construction plans. I still prepare detailed plans to allow contractors to provide excellent budget numbers and keep my projects fiscally responsible. You’ve worked on courses originally laid out by Golden Age designers. How have these architects inspired you? I worked on the grounds crew at Cedar Rapids, which is Donald Ross’s only Iowa design. That was back when the routing and most of the course was still an original Ross, so it was great to see how he worked with the land. At Iowa State, I played on the golf team and our home course was designed by Perry Maxwell. There are still several original Maxwell greens that contain his famous ‘Maxwell Rolls’. Those two designers have provided the biggest inspiration on routing a course and constructing interesting features. I currently work with St. Charles in Illinois, which was an original Tom Bendelow course that also includes new holes designed by David Gill, ASGCA. My philosophy there was to restore the Bendelow vibe and bring back classic design features throughout the course. ASGCA President Michael Benkusky speaks with By Design about what influenced his career in golf course design and the value of collaboration Mike, Marion and Medinah 22