John Kinkead Sr., the longtime head of Minneapolis-based Turfco Manufacturing and one of the golf course and turf management industry’s great innovators, died Tuesday. He was 89.
Kinkead will be remembered by those in the industries he loved — notably golf and turf management — as an innovator and as a person whose perseverance set a tone for how Turfco continues to collaborate with its customers in products and services today.
It was in that innovative spirit that Kinkead, working closely with local golf superintendents in the Twin Cities, invented the first mechanized top dresser in 1961. Before then, topdressing in the industry consisted of slinging sand from shovels across greens and fairways. While still working at National Mower, the company founded in 1919 by his father, Robert, Kinkead spearheaded the introduction of numerous other turf innovations at Turfco. He also launched a company called Kinco.
John lived to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the family’s continuous contribution and joy in working in the golf industry. He also raised the company to international prominence as an inventive manufacturer of commercial-grade maintenance products for golf clubs, parks, agriculture, sports and landscaping, and held many patents.
Two of John’s sons, George and Scott, jointly operate Turfco, and fondly remember the early years of their father’s leadership.
“He would pack up the family station wagon with a disassembled mower, and travel for six weeks at a time to demonstrate the product and gain input. He had to reassemble it at every stop,” said George Kinkead, currently Turfco president. “That’s probably where the idea of customer service became integrated into the fabric of our company.” Added Scott, the company’s executive vice president.
John was a longtime member of the Golf Course Superintendents Association, the Classic Car Club of America and the Rolls Royce Owners Club, the GYRO investment club and the Informal Club. He served as a board member for the Carpenter Nature Center. He was a graduate of St. Paul Academy and Washington and Lee University.
“His legacy is with us every day,” Scott said. “He made being a good and honorable man, a dependable friend and loving father and respected business owner look so easy.”
George remembers the summers: “He loved being at the family cabin on the St. Croix and hosted many picnics with neighbors, friends and family. He was a true gentleman with a sparkle in his eye and a kindness to all those he met.”
Along with George and Scott, John’s grandson John Kinkead Jr. also works at Turfco. John is survived by his wife, Judy, four children, eight grandchildren and one great-grandchild. He will be missed by so many in the industry he knew and loved.