New Finkbine Superintendent takes winding road to Iowa City

From wanting to become a veterinarian to working on a U.S. Open staff, the new superintendent at Finkbine has taken a unique route to Iowa City.


Ryan Adams

The main entrance sign is seen at Finkbine Golf Course on Feb. 24, 2020.

Chris Werner, Sports Reporter

Tim Gravert wanted to be a veterinarian, but after just one semester, he realized it wasn’t for him.

“I was going to do my pre-med at Iowa Wesleyan,” Gravert said. “Then, the plan was to transfer to Iowa State and between realizing that, really, your first year, you go to the same classes that a doctor does, between the college life and realizing that, I was like ‘I don’t think this is going to work out for me.’ I didn’t really want to have to go to Iowa State anyway.”

After a semester of vet school, Gravert, a lifelong Hawkeye who grew up in Morrison, Illinois, went back home and worked at Morrison Country Club. It was his second stint with the course, because he worked there during the summers of his later high school years.

“I started working on the course the summer before my senior year of high school at Morrison Country Club, at the time,” Gravert said. “The superintendent there at that time was Kevin Blean, and he took me under his wing. I worked for him for two or three years at Morrison Country Club. It was a nine-hole course and we built the second nine in my time there.

“After that, [Blean] went to Lake Erie Country Club and I followed him there, worked for him a year there,” Gravert said. “That was after I came back from vet school. That was when he said, ‘You’ve got the eye for this, you need to go to school for this.’”

Gravert said Blean’s guidance and mentorship has contributed to his successful career in the golf business.

“Unfortunately, when I went to school [at Kishwaukee College in the turfgrass management program], he passed away on the course,” Gravert said. “I owe a lot to him, seeing something in me that I guess I didn’t see at the time. I really didn’t even think of making it a career. I owe a lot to him.”

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After Gravert’s first year at Kishwaukee, he landed an internship at Atlantic City Country Club in New Jersey. Gravert said that taught him what a golf career could be.

“At the time, the club was owned by the casinos. It was pretty much a course for the high-rollers,” Gravert said. “They would go to the casinos. The casinos would hook them up to go play this place. We didn’t hardly get any rounds, but our budget was very lucrative.”

Through a connection with his boss at Atlantic City Country Club, Gravert began working at Bethpage State Park Golf Course after he finished at Kishwaukee.

Located in Farmingdale, New York, Gravert’s next destination was a big step forward. Housing five courses, Bethpage State Park Golf Course routinely hosts Ryder Cups and major tournaments.

Gravert was the co-superintendent at the black course in 2009 when the 109th U.S. Open was played there.

Gravert had always envisioned himself coming back to the Midwest. In spring 2010, he did move back, this time landing a job at Short Hills Country Club in East Moline, Illinois.

After working there for 10 years, Gravert heard this winter that the superintendent job was opening up at Finkbine and jumped at the opportunity.

“I knew it was something that I wanted to do, just time for me to move on from Short Hills,” Gravert said. “Being a lifelong Hawkeye fan, every kid wants to play a sport for their favorite team. I wasn’t quite the athlete I thought I was going to be, so I guess this is the second-best thing, managing the course of your favorite university.”

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