In a sport where aesthetics are as important as your swing, 6-year-old Rio takes his maintenance duties very seriously.
By the way, Rio is a yellow lab.
"It starts out a lot the same, with cutting cups. But eventually, somebody keeps working and somebody starts taking naps the rest of the day in all this heat," said Rio’s owner, Mark Hassell.
Hassell has been in charge of maintenance at The King’s Deer Golf Club for 12 years.
Rio has been along for the ride for six of them.
"Since he was old enough to run around, he’s been coming to work. So he’s got a pretty rough life."
The yellow lab runs on treats, but he’s earned them–just ask golfers.
"Rio will chase the birds off and kind of keep and eye on the course for us," said Chris Benjamin, who golfs at King’s Deer frequently.
And the ponds look different than the ones you’ll see at many golf courses around the country.
"We had 40-60 Canadian geese that loved the golf course because of all the abundant food around for them. Unfortunately, the geese make a huge mess. We didn’t appreciate that," Hassell recalled.
"He came in and cleared them all out. It was just constant harassment. He would chase them from one side of the golf course to the other. One pond on one side of the golf course and if they went over to the other one, he would go get them over there, too. So he was pretty persistent," Hassell said with a smile on his face."
It’s freed up more time for Rio to spend with his best friend.
"It can get a little monotonous and lonesome sometimes, riding around out on the cart by yourself and doing all the work. So it’s nice to have a companion there, sitting next to you–even if he can’t talk back to you," Hassell told News5 Sports.
Word has certainly gotten around about Rio, though.
"Every time I see Rio, I don’t pass up the opportunity to go say hi to him," Benjamin said.
"Mark–I barley recognize, but I always know Rio. You know where Rio’s at," he added, grinning.
So do his followers on social media.
"He’s quite the celebrity on the Instagram," Hassell said.
But the dynamic duo has set their sights on something even bigger: trying to earn a coveted sport on the 2019 "Dog Days of Gold" Calendar.
"They take photo submissions from all over the country from golf course superintendents and they narrow it down to 12 lucky people. They’re glamor shots–so dogs in carts, or dogs ‘smiling.’"
Rio was photogenic the entire time our News5 crew was filming him. We told Hassell this just might be their year.
"It could be," he said laughing. "He’s getting awfully popular."
Until then, though, the two are happy keeping things in check out on the golf course.