BHS graduate Andy Kjos oversees President Trump’s home golf course in West Palm Beach

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1991 BHS graduate Andy Kjos has been the superintendent of Trump International Golf Club since February 2002.
Kjos said the landscaping is one of the primary sights that impresses people who come to the course.

By Reed Anfinson
Publisher

It’s a long way from working on the summertime grounds crew at the Benson Golf Club to being the Director of Agronomy and Course Superintendent at Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach, Florida.

Considering 1991 Benson High School graduate Andy Kjos didn’t intend to make that journey while attending Concordia College in Moorhead, it is even more of a surprise that he has spent the past 15 years overseeing one of now President Donald Trump’s premier golf courses.

The son of Jack and Jane Kjos of Benson, Andy was a tennis player in high school. His mother was the coach. After graduating from Benson, Kjos pursued a degree in organizational communications at Concordia while also playing tennis for the Cobbers.

Each summer he would return to Benson where he worked on the grounds crew under the direction of then Superintendent Dave Sime. Most often his job involved mowing the fairways, greens and roughs, raking sand traps, trimming trees, and picking up any debris on the course.

While Sime was the superintendent, Benson’s course bought a used irrigation system from Interlachen Country Club in Edina and installed it on the course. “I remember coming to work one day and there was a pile of sprinkler (heads). Dave came out, took one all apart, put it back together, then said, ‘Okay, go through all these, clean them up, and get them working.’”

Kjos had worked on about 10 of them when Sime told him to take them out on the course and install them. “That was all I did all summer,” he says with a laugh. That was his second year working on the course, he recalls....

Trump’s golf club holdings expand

Over the years working for Trump, Kjos has seen his golf course holdings expand significantly from two courses to 17. Kjos has been to most of them. “Kind of by default I’ve become like a lead superintendent. I don’t really have that title, but I’ve been there the longest.” However, he adds, each course is run independently.

When Trump bought the historic Turnberry golf course and club in Scotland in 2014, he hired respected course architect Mark Ebert to make changes to one of the most famous golf courses in the world. The course was designed in 1902 and has played host to four British Open Championships as well as other professional golf tournaments.

As work was set to start, Trump wanted to see the proposed changes to the course in person; Kjos was invited to make the trip....

Caring for Trump International

While the number of people who work under him fluctuates depending on the time of year, Kjos oversees 35 to 40 people.

While Kjos attended Penn State’s turf management course there is a lot more to taking care of the property than making sure the grass is growing.

“What is now Trump International Golf Club began as a 300 acre parcel of flat, scrub land that bordered the busy Palm Beach International Airport,” Jim Fazio, architect of Trump International, says of the design. “Donald Trump envisioned a transformation into what is now a world-class course comprised of hills, palm trees, flowers, waterfalls, oak trees, streams, creeks, and coconut trails.”

In addition to taking care of the course, Kjos also has to deal with alligators and snakes, among them, cottonmouths. “The gators are pretty docile unless you feed them and we don’t do that. Occasionally one will lose its fear of people and that is when we call animal control.” The biggest pests on the course are raccoons that dig up the ground looking for grubs. Tunneling moles are another problem....

‘President’ Trump gives up control

Since Trump was elected president in November, Kjos said he doesn’t work much with him anymore. Rather, he deals with his son, Eric Trump, who has taken over the golf course duties. “He’s got a lot to oversee and has been great to work with,” Kjos said of Eric Trump.

Kjos has seen Trump since he was elected president, but he said there is understandably a different relationship there now. “He has other priorities than if we plant a tree on 15 or not,” he said.

Despite the demands of his job, Kjos said it is one he thoroughly enjoys.  “You are doing something different every day when you are going to work there and they give us the resources to make things great,” Kjos said of working at Trump International....

 

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Pictured, top:  1991 BHS graduate Andy Kjos has been the superintendent of Trump International Golf Club since February 2002.
 

Pictured, bottom:  Kjos said the landscaping is one of the primary sights that impresses people who come to the course.

 

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