Faces Of Nantucket: Sean Oberly

Waverly Brannigan •

FON Sean Oberlyat Miacomet Golf13
Photo by Charity Grace Mofsen

Years on Nantucket: 23 full-time

Favorite things about the island: Fisherman’s Beach, spending time with family, fishing, Sconset Golf Course

Sean Oberly wasn't always the man overseeing two of Nantucket's pristine golf courses. His journey began on a Florida summer job, where a chance encounter with a UMass graduate sparked a passion that would lead him back to Massachusetts and eventually to the general manager's office at both Miacomet and Sconset Golf Clubs.

Before Oberly even had an interest in pursuing golf course management as a career, he was down in New Port Richey, Florida for two years at Crescent Oaks Country Club as a crew member, mowing and maintaining the golf course there. Going to the south from his hometown of Sunderland, Massachusetts, the last thing Oberly expected was to be working for a UMass Amherst graduate, who encouraged him to go back to school to pursue his interest in building and maintaining golf courses.

“It turns out the guy that we were working for was a UMass graduate. He was really fun to be around… And I was kind of like this golf thing's pretty nice. I could do this. So he's like, you got to go back to school,” Oberly reflected.

FON Sean Oberlyat Miacomet Golf7
Photo by Charity Grace Mofsen

From 1994 to 1998, Oberly studied turf and turfgrass management/plant and soil science at UMass Amherst. It was while he was on summer break from UMass in 1997 when Oberly stepped foot on Nantucket for the first time. He landed an internship with the crew building Nantucket Golf Club, what was then becoming the island’s brand-new course.

Oberly had heard about the project on Nantucket at his previous internship at Connecticut’s Greenwich Country Club from Mark Lucas, who is now the superintendent of Nantucket Golf Club. Lucas was heading to Nantucket to help build NGC, and had suggested that Oberly come along.

When he arrived there, he wasn't just learning. He was literally laying the groundwork, helping to build the course and establish one of its most important aspects: the grass, of which varieties and growing techniques vary from course to course. On Nantucket, it’s especially important to understand the drainage of the greens, since here they’re made out of sand – which grass isn’t meant to grow in.

“What we do, it’s hard to do,” Oberly emphasizes. “You got to know what you’re doing because any second you could kill an entire golf course if you’re not paying attention to it, because…you’re basically cutting it shorter and shorter and rolling it… you’re just trying to get it almost like a pool table,” he explains.

FON Sean Oberlyat Miacomet Golf16
Photo by Charity Grace Mofsen

After his first summer on Nantucket, Oberly ventured back off-island in 1998 to finish school and gain more experience at Connecticut's Silver Springs Country Club, where he remained until 2001 as the assistant superintendent. However, he had already developed a connection to the island and the fun atmosphere that he couldn’t find elsewhere. He was itching to find his way back.

“It was kind of almost always like, how am I gonna get back out there? I’m gonna have to get a real job,” says Oberly.

After getting married in 2000, Oberly and his wife moved to the island full-time in 2001, and he began working as the assistant superintendent of Nantucket Golf Club under Lucas, who had also decided to stay on Nantucket.

Oberly spent the next four years up until 2005 meticulously learning the complexities of maintaining a golf course. His dedication paid off in 2005 when he was promoted to superintendent at Miacomet Golf Club, taking complete responsibility for the course's overall health, playability, and atmosphere.

“When it comes down to it, it’s all one big property, and it’s something that you don't take lightly… At the end of the day, I’m kind of a caretaker,” Oberly explains.

Now, Oberly has earned his way up to the role of general manager and vice president of Nantucket Golf Management Inc., the company hired by the Land Bank to run its two courses. His duties include overseeing all aspects of Sconset and Miacomet Golf Courses – from grass and course management to staff and the restaurants and beyond.

FON Sean Oberlyat Miacomet Golf17
Photo by Charity Grace Mofsen

Now, the bentgrass greens at Miacomet are maintained at 0.085 of an inch, or about an eighth of an inch – helping it earn the title of second-best public golf course in Massachusetts. However, Oberly emphasizes that everyone’s hard work comes together to make Miacomet stand out.

“When it comes down to it, this is bigger than one person… It's the people who are really behind the scenes who, you know, are trying to live a life out here too, and trying to figure it out.”

When not at Miacomet Golf Club, Oberly prioritizes spending time with his family, including his wife and four children on the island. Fishing and spending time at the beach are hallmarks of his off time.

“If I can be in sand and water, perfect,” he says.

As Oberly has been helping shape the island’s golf clubs since 1997, he has had a critical role in the accolades and popularity that the courses, especially Miacomet and Sconset, have today.

“At the end of the day, we did a cool thing. And we've built something that's really neat, and thanks to the Land Bank... and what they've done for us is, it's really cool to see,” Oberly says.

FON Sean Oberlyat Miacomet Golf18
Photo by Charity Grace Mofsen
FON Sean Oberlyat Miacomet Golf11
Photo by Charity Grace Mofsen
Loading Ad
Loading Ad
Loading Ad

Current People