As a golf course maintenance mechanic, Eli Humen gets to apply his problem-solving skills on a range of important equipment while enjoying the natural splendour of his workplace in British Columbia’s Rockies.
Humen practises his trade at Greywolf Golf Course, part of the Panorama Mountain Village resort near Invermere, BC. Raised in Alberta, he studied at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology, where he originally worked toward attaining his interprovincial Red Seal as an automotive service technician. After working at a front-end shop in Brooks, Alta., he soon made the move to tourism by joining the Wintergreen Golf Course in nearby Bragg Creek, which at the time, ran both a ski hill and a golf course. “I did time as a liftee, snowmaker and turf care technician at Wintergreen,” he says. Humen then completed his apprenticeship at Lake Louise Ski Resort. With this experience under his tool belt, he was hired by Panorama Mountain Resort, where he spent seven years maintaining snowcats, snowmobiles and other alpine equipment. He has spent the last three years as the maintenance mechanic at Greywolf.
A typical day starts at the crack of dawn, or earlier. “I’m up at 4:30 in the morning, to be at work a little after 5:00 a.m.,” he says. “Our crew starts around 5:30 a.m., and we always have a small crew meeting to talk about our expectations for the day and any mechanical problems we might have had the day before that need to be passed on.” The crew is comprised primarily of gardening staff who maintain the course itself, while he is the sole mechanic. “I fix everything, from golf carts to lawnmowers, to weed whippers, and sometimes do maintenance in the clubhouse.” He tries to complete his shift by 2:00 p.m., or so, but sometimes, an urgent repair requires extra effort. With some 90 golf carts at Greywolf, a cart needing repair can often wait until the next day; however the lawn-care equipment is vital. “With the mowers and things like that, any downtime is too long,” says Humen, who will do his best to fix the problem before he calls it a day.
In addition to the early morning hours, the job can also be challenging from a physical perspective. “There’s heavy lifting involved, so you need to stay physically fit,” he says. On the Panorama side of the business, he simply dealt with broken equipment, but now his duties include some administrative work, such as ordering parts and directing staff. “I’m not just locked in the shop, which is a positive. I get to be out in the mornings. Here you see great wildlife. We’ve had deer, bears, and a bobcat at one point. You’re definitely in the mountains.” Although his contact tends to be primarily with co-workers, rather than customers, he remains approachable, laidback, and easygoing in his people skills. “When it comes to fleet maintenance, some workers can be apprehensive about bringing things to a mechanic. They’ll try to keep using it until it breaks down completely. By remaining approachable, I think I encourage them to bring things in early, get them fixed and get them back out onto the course.”
For those who envy his situation, he recommends going to trade school, studying electrical, hydraulic circuitry and mechanics. “If you have a trade, it’ll be a lot easier to get a job, and it’ll make the job more enjoyable.” What Humen enjoys most is “troubleshooting with a deadline. I love to tackle problems and find that solution. It’s like the best 1,000-piece puzzle you can buy.” One of the perks of the job is complimentary skiing and golf, yet he admits, “My handicap is terrible! I don’t get out nearly as often as should.”