In the Community

Valued OU greenskeeper serves the U.S. with strong supervisor support

For 12 years, Matt Young has helped maintain the highly regarded quality of OU golf courses while also serving his country as a staff sergeant in the National Guard

Matt Young, Tom Schall, Golf Courses, military

icon of a calendarMarch 12, 2024

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Matt YoungIn 2010, Matt Young felt he needed more direction in his life. Having served in the United States Marine Corps from 1992-96, he wanted a greater sense of purpose than he found working as a sprinkler systems technician.

“There’s something about helping people,” Young said. “I guess that’s what it is, and it’s just something that’s always been in me.”

The solution to his challenge, he decided, was to join the U.S. National Guard and begin serving his country once again for one weekend a month and three full weeks each summer.

Two years later, Young lost his full-time job after a labor agreement impasse arose between his company and the union that represented him. He soon found himself interviewing for a greenskeeper position with Oakland University Head Golf Course Superintendent Tom Schall.

“He has a drive like I’ve seen in very few other people I’ve worked with, and it really shows in the interest he has taken in this subject,” Schall said of his motivated team member. He also described Young as possessing a great deal of integrity, honor and respect. “He’s very inquisitive, and he’s always looking into things to find out how to do things better.”

Over the 12 years that Young has helped maintain OU’s highly regarded golf courses, he has earned a Greenskeeping V Mastery Level – the highest level of mastery that one can attain. Through Penn State University, he is now pursuing professional certification. And although he works tirelessly, Young says his position also provides him with a great sense of peace.

“I 100% love what I am doing, and I have for 12 years now,” he said. “Watching the sun come up over the course each morning, nothing beats that.”

Golf CourseFor the last year, the golf courses’ valued caretaker had to miss daily sunrises on East Campus. Late last month he returned from his second, yearlong National Guard Deployment to the Middle East, where he served as a High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) operator. Both over the last year and in 2015-16, Young engaged in active military missions without thinking of the daunting sacrifices that he had been or might yet be called upon to make.

“In the simplest terms, it’s about freedom,” he explained. “That’s what I’m doing there, I’m defending our freedom. I think … I know … I ‘m doing the right thing, and it makes me feel more like who I truly am.”

Young added that he is and always has been very grateful to Schall and the university for accommodating his National Guard service without hesitation. In fact, Young nominated his supervisor for a Guard and Reserve Patriot Award to recognize and honor the unwavering support. Schall received the award last year.

“It was a total surprise,” he said. And although Young is definitely missed while he is active with the National Guard, Schall said that accommodating his colleague’s service is something that simply needs to be done.

“These are people who give far more of themselves than a lot of people will ever know, and we’ve got an excellent employee who needs to do this service to the country,” Schall explained. He added that although he has not served in the military himself, he has tremendous respect and appreciation for those who have served and are currently serving.

“The benefits far outweigh (Young’s) absence because we’ve got such a quality employee. And it’s worth it for what he is doing for our country. He’s our friend and our colleague, and as far as what we do – that’s just what you do.”

Currently serving as a staff sergeant with the National Guard, Young is working toward earning the rank of sergeant first class. He also has retirement from the military in his sights – a transition that will take place after what will have been more than 20 years of service.

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