Alabama Turfgrass Association – ATA Member Spotlight on Tim Orton, a.k.a. Big O: “You’re Gonna Miss This!”
ATA Turf Times – ATA
Tim Orton was a high school teacher and coach for many years before getting into the green industry. “We had to take care of the fields in those days, and I got to where I really enjoyed it.” In 1980 Tim moved his family to Sylacauga so his daughters could grow up in the same town where his wife, Mickey Adams Orton, grew up.
“In 1982, one of the members of my Sunday School class was Taylor Pursell of Parker Fertilizer. One Sunday after class he approached me and said, ‘If you ever get tired of coaching, we would like to talk to you about going to work for us. We think you might do well in sales.’ I coached a football game on Friday night, November 5, 1982, picked up my company car on Saturday, and left for my first assignment on Sunday in Memphis at the Southern Turfgrass Association annual conference and show.
Tim recalls, “Jimmy Simmons was the first to realize I didn’t know my fanny from 3rd base, so he took me under his wing and taught me so much. Not just about fertilizer and chemicals but also about making appointments; about what Superintendents did, and did not, want to hear. Jimmy also taught me a lot about being a gentleman, but I fall short of that more times than I like to admit.”
“A good friend and mentor, Mr. Jimmy Pursell, told me ‘NEVER burn a bridge.’” Tim’s Dad, Rex Orton, a Purchasing Agent for US Steel counselled the same. “When I told Dad I was leaving coaching to go into sales, he told me, “If you tell someone you are going to do something, DO IT! But, if you see you can’t do it, be sure the customer finds out about it from YOU!”
Tim Orton has a long and impressive career in the turf industry. He was a teacher and coach at Williamson High School, the University of South Alabama, Huffman High School, & Fairfield High. He worked with Parker Fertilizer, Pursell Industries, and Pursell Technologies, continuing his employment with Agrium Advanced Technologies. Tim retired from Koch Turf & Ornamental in December.
Looking back, Tim sees how the turf industry has evolved and grown in many ways over the years: “It’s a pleasant surprise; back in the 80’s many of the Superintendents kept their fertilization programs and weed control programs close to the vest. Pretty much like trade secrets. Today’s Superintendent can pick the brain of other Superintendents near and far and count on a good exchange of information and ideas. It is a benevolent brotherhood today.”
Throughout his career Tim performed the delicate dance of balancing family time with time needed on the road working. “I didn’t want to miss my kids growing up, but I didn’t want to get fired either!”
Now that he has retired, Tim has a Bucket List that he plans to check off and add to as time goes by. He hopes to get better at Surf Fishing, keep playing golf with “The Fellas,” travel and watch his grandkids grow up. He enjoys many activities including golf and getting exercise. As might be imagined from his early career, he really enjoys watching high school and college football, basketball, and baseball.
Tim says he has been lucky to get to play so many fun golf courses all over the country during his career. He was at Pursell Technologies and in on the ground floor of FarmLinks when it was conceived and built, so naturally it is dear to his heart and always will be. “I still play and practice there as often as possible and David Pursell and I still play a lot of matches together. I am also really proud that Rodney Guy (Old Cuz), and I were the first to win the Four Ball Tournament at The Deep South Turf Expo in Biloxi. Long after he and I are gone our names will forever be on that beautiful trophy.”
Tim has been a faithful member of the Gulf Coast Golf Course Superintendents Association, Alabama Golf Course Superintendents Association, Alabama Turfgrass Association, Board Member of Alabama Turfgrass Assn., Alabama Turfgrass Research Foundation, and the Florida Fertilizer & Agrichemical Association throughout his career. We hope Tim will remain active with the Alabama Turfgrass Association, even in his retirement, and look forward to seeing him at the next golf tournament!
Tim has been married for 47 years to Mary (Mickey) Adams Orton. They have two daughters: Kacie Orton (who is in sales with Eli Lilly in Indianapolis, IN) and Martie Orton (Housewife / PTA Mom in Roswell, GA.) Their son, Hayes Orton, is known to many of our members as well. Hayes is in sales with the James Hardie Corporation in Hoover, AL.
In closing, Tim says, “The Turf & Ornamental Industry has been good to me in body, mind, and spirit. I have been lucky enough to make friends with people that will be friends until the day I die. The industry didn’t afford my family everything we wanted, but it gave us everything we needed. Plus, enough of my time to be involved with family happenings. I was lucky enough to be invited to the Harrell’s Annual Sales Meeting in December 2019 and given a few minutes to address their people. I ended the address as I will end this article:
Let me leave you with the words of that great philosopher, Trace Adkins.
“These are some good times
So take a good look around
You may not know it know
But you’re gonna miss this.”READ THE ISSUE