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Peter McCormick: View from the Cheap Seats


What's your story? Uhhh...

Posted 19 April 2018 · 658 views

A few years back my wife and I attended the annual dinner meeting of the Passamaquoddy Yacht Club, of which we were new members. Sounds kind of snooty, doesn't it? Ahhh, names often belie the true nature of things.

 

The Passamaquoddy Yacht Club is half sailing organization and half social club. Its locale is a triangle of ports (Eastport and Lubec, Maine, and Campobello Island, New Brunswick, Canada, where our summer place is located) near the entrance to Passamaquoddy Bay, off the Bay of Fundy, home of the highest tides in the western hemisphere.

 

Ironically, there are some sailboats but no yachts in the area other than perhaps a "lobster yacht" or "picnic boat" visiting from Mount Desert Island -- home of Acadia National Park, Martha Stewart, the Millikens and the Rockefellers -- about 100 miles to the south. FYI, lobster yachts were originally working lobster boats converted to recreational use so the moneyed gentility of coastal Maine could use them for picnicking on board or on the out islands. The early converted working boats have yielded to custom picnic boats crafted by Maine artisanal boatmakers such as Hinckley or Ellis, and available to anyone with a half million or more in folding cash. That is not us.

 

A Hinckley picnic boat. As the old saying goes, if you have to ask how much, you can't afford it.

 

We were encouraged by some friends and neighbors to join the PYC even though we don't own a boat..The joke is, when asked what kind of boat you have, you simply reply "gravy". Everyone understands.

 

In any case, I was enjoying a beer and snacking on some appys prior to dinner when I turned and came face-to-face with an obviously free-spirited woman ten years younger or so than myself. It was one of those semi-awkward things that occasionally happen at cocktail parties or when browsing the groaning table. She was with a dapper fellow about 30 years her senior.

 

Since part of the initiative was to meet new people, we both took a half-step back to regain some personal space and said hello.

 

"So what's your story?" she asked.

 

Huh? Say what? I guess I gave her a blank stare and 'hominy-homonied' a bit, because she then said, "Yeah, who are you? What do you do? What are you all about?"

 

I guess I gave her a blank stare and 'hominy-homonied' a bit, because she then said, "Yeah, who are you? What do you do? What are you all about?"

 

I first thought that was a fairly frontal question from a near-bumpee, but recognizing her free-spirit and happy smile, I played along. It was a curious exercise.

 

Put yourself in that position. On the spot, with no forethought, distill yourself down to a couple of sentences that would capture your essence and convey it to a stranger. I guess I'm still trying to fine-tune what I should have said, since I still remember the incident and reflect from time to time.

 

Of course I had to return the question, to which she didn't hesitate in responding. "I'm 49, single, a writer, renting for the summer down the road a bit, and my friend here is gay and a lot of fun." Okay. Obviously she had rehearsed.

 

It has since occurred to me that we go through a similar exercise when deciding what to put on our social media profiles. Are you a spouse/parent first and foremost, or does your career identity take precedent?  Dogfather? Foodie?

 

My Twitter profile states: "TurfNet founder, Boston Bruins fan, bucket list guitarist, family man, dog-father, foodie, craft beer lover, Kubota jockey and man of Stihl."

 

 

That has been tweaked a couple of times over the years, and is really in need of further adjustment. I used to have "Golden Retriever snob" in there but since our pack of Goldens has dwindled to one and our most recent canine acquisitions are rescues of other breeds, the snob thing really doesn't apply anymore. We are EODLs, or Equal Opportunity Dog Lovers.

 

I must have written that profile blurb in the winter or spring due to the prominence of the Boston Bruins fan thing. That would have likely been farther down the list in summer, but it's in prime time right now!

 

"Foodie" and "craft beer lover" probably wouldn't make the cut if I were to write or revise it today. I still enjoy good food but a real foodie loves to cook, and while I do at times, I simply don't do it that much anymore. It's not as big a part of me as it once was.

 

Same goes for craft beer. As many craft beers have eclipsed the 8% ABV mark, and given my propensity to consume more than one ("The first is mouthwash," I would say), I have realized that 16 oz 8%+ beers are not my friend. 12 oz cans of Founders All-Day IPA at 4.7% ABV are just fine, and don't blow my head apart should I choose to drink more than a couple... which I also rarely do anymore.

 

The periodic exercise in introspection is what is important here. Does your career come first, or your family? Dog before spouse? Hobbies? "What hobbies?" you say. Tsk, tsk. Everyone should have a hobby or diversion.

 

Since Twitter is mostly a business thing or me, "TurfNet founder" takes top placement as there is only one, and that's me. No ambiguity there. "Husband of 40 years to the same woman" and "proud father of two great daughters" should be up at the top, although I somewhat vaguely covered that with "family man".

 

Bucket-list guitarist has to stay, as I've only been at it less than four years and it has changed my life. We are never too old for a new challenge.

 

Bucket-list guitarist has to stay, as I've only been at it less than four years and it has changed my life. We are never too old for a new challenge.

 

The Kubota/Stihl thing still applies, but to a lesser degree. I enjoy my time in the woods, but after ten years of it and hundreds of trees felled my muscles and joints ache more and my stamina suffers with age. 

 

Mickey McCord also constantly admonishes me to not work alone with a chainsaw. After having a close call with my foot a few years back, and with the guitar causing a newfound appreciation of my fingers, Kubota and Stihl have also taken a step back among my priorities.

 

I recently realized that "voracious reader" and "Jack Reacher wannabe" never made the list. They should. I average about one novel per week. I don't read non-fiction as there's too much of that in real life these days.

 

Part of the take-home here is that things change over time. Our lives and priorities change. Our jobs change. Our outlook on life changes.

 

I often encourage people to look back five or ten years years and see how their lives have changed. Could you have predicted where you are today? Many of us could not.

 

The flipside of that is to be aware of the rate of change as it accelerates into the future. In my opinion it's naive, if not downright impossible, to plan more than five years ahead, 'cause it's a crapshoot beyond that. I'm not recommending not saving for retirement and things like that. Rather, stay flexible and go with the flow without too much predetermination.

 

In my opinion it's naive, if not downright impossible, to plan more than five years ahead...

 

Back to my Twitter persona to close this out. I have been chastised for using salty language about hot-button topics on my @TurfNetMaestro Twitter account. I suppose they are right, to a degree. I should separate that out.

 

One of my fellow turf media folks referred to me awhile back as a "grumpy old prick". Hey, I like that, I thought. So I went ahead and registered @GrumpyOldPrick as an alter-ego Twitter handle. Seriously. I did.

 

I haven't resorted to using it yet, partly because I'm working on that 'grumpy' thing. And that's a benefit of this whole introspective, who-am-I, what's-my-story exercise. A problem recognized is half-solved.




Saying thanks: Like the period at the end of a sentence.

Posted 18 February 2018 · 4,105 views

Laying the framework for this story requires a bit of background, so bear with me...

 

About three weeks ago Team TurfNet was headed for Niagara Falls, Ontario, for our 20th appearance at the Golf Course Hockey Challenge. For those unfamiliar, the GCHC is a 2-day event every January that pits 12 teams of superintendents, assistants and suppliers against one another in (usually) good-natured but serious men's-league caliber hockey. With three common threads among players -- playing hockey, working in the golf industry, and drinking beer -- it is the highlight of the winter for most.

 

But time marches on and players get older, have kids and all that stuff, so as the coach I found myself in mid-December with only 7 or 8 players... only half of the number needed. So I went on the recruiting offensive on Twitter.

 

 

I had been threatening for several years to start trading 50s for two 25s each, so it looked like this would be the year.

 

Understand that this is a low-cost venture for anyone who plays on Team TurfNet, and they are treated well ("Better than we ever were in the AHL," once said Jim Gernander, one of our players on family-hiatus this year).

 

From Year One back in 1999, I have provided custom uniforms (names and all), fed 'em and beered 'em, paid the team entry fee. Their only responsibility is getting themselves to Niagara Falls and then a shared hotel room for two nights. In Niagara Falls in January, that's cheap.

 

Within an hour of posting that tweet, I got a response:

 

"I am a first year Turfgrass management student at the University of Guelph. I have been playing hockey my whole life and and am interested in joining the team. I have heard nothing but good things about this tournament. Look forward to hearing back from you, and appreciate your time!

 

Thanks,

Scott Powers"

 

That's pretty cool. I replied to Scott that he's in, and immediately heard back from him:

 

"Sounds awesome! My older brother Paul is also a hockey player, is in the Guelph turf program and is interested if there is room. I am a 2XL jersey and will take #53, and my brother will take an XL #71. I really appreciate this and cannot wait!"

 

Hmmm. Two guys within an hour. Nice. But it grew from there, with the word spreading on the Guelph campus that Team TurfNet was looking for players. By the next day I had seven guys from Guelph, all under 25. In addition to Scott and Paul, the new rookies included Mark Perrin, Matthew Breznikar, Arran Marlow, Dawson Acker and Andrew Radonicich.

 

By the next day I had seven guys from Guelph, all under 25...

 

Nicknames are kind of a thing in hockey, so Scott and Paul instantly became "2X" and "1X" due to their jersey sizes. Joining them were Digby, Radar, Brez, Perrin and Marlow.

 

Since I would be ordering jerseys for everyone, and realizing that these guys were an unknown quantity and young, I was a little cautious about their level of commitment. I sent them all a broadcast email asking them to reply affirming their intent to play, and that they would show up Jan 30/31 in Niagara Falls.  Everyone replied. Of course I threatened that if they didn't show I would hunt them down, and they wouldn't want that black mark on their resumes...

 

They all showed up. The first night we had a team dinner and plenty of beer (on TurfNet, of course), and got to know each other a little bit. I handed everyone a TurfNet hat and their jersey (or "sweater" in Canada). This was their first taste of what it's like to wear the TurfNet red and white.

 

The Guelph guys had one of the their buddies, Isaac Swanton, with them and he looked a little uncomfortable. Turns out he was on Toronto 2's roster. Wrong team. Before we ordered dinner he stood up and was going to put some money on the table for his beers and take his leave. Seeing that, I ordered him to put his money away, sit his ass back down and have dinner with us. He instantly became known as "Toronto2" for the balance of the tourney. I suspect he may go 'free agent' from the Toronto 2 team before next year.

 

Before the first game the next morning, the dressing room was a little quiet, or quieter than it would become. With half the team made up of rookies and still an unknown quantity (other than their ability to drink beer and eat), there was a "feeling out" process. But the joking started and balls started to get busted a little as everyone loosened up. We did OK on the ice as well.

 

 

 

 

 

Club Car sponsored a "Beer & Pretzels"-type event in the hotel pub that evening, which gave everyone (including "Toronto2") a chance to hang out some more and enjoy the camaraderie.

 

By the end of our fourth game the next day, all were best buds. The team went 1-1-2 on the scoreboard, which was fine -- better than many years. But that's not what it's all about.

 

Since several of the Guelph guys would be traveling to San Antonio the following week for the collegiate Turf Bowl at GIS, I invited them to our Beer & Pretzels Gala.

 

Side note: Unbeknownst to me, the team collected $500 from among themselves to contribute to the Jerry Coldiron Embrace Life! fund, and gave it to me after the last game.

 

OK, that's the background. Now we get to the meat and potatoes of the story.

 

After everyone got home from Niagara Falls (some of us had 7- or 8-hour drives), I started to receive some emails of thanks for yet another fun mid-winter event. More came in over the next couple of days, and I waited to respond until I saw how many of the Guelph guys sent along an email of thanks.

 

About half did, some did not. So I sent out this broadcast email (annotated somewhat) to the team: 

 

"Thank you all (again) for the donation to the Jerry Coldiron Embrace Life! fund. I understand (assistant player-coach) Trevor Clark twisted your arms on this. As he said I don't normally accept monies from anybody, but in this instance I did and appreciate it very much. Jerry was one of my best friends and led his life in a manner all of us would do well to emulate. 
 
"Here's a homework assignment for you. Listen to this podcast of Dave Wilber and me talking about Jerry.  There are many life lessons in there.
 
"While you're at it, listen to this one too: It's Dave Wilber interviewing me a couple of years ago about the origins of TurfNet almost 25 years ago. I was chatting with Brez at the Club Car party Tuesday night and he had no idea what TurfNet is all about and that I started it. I'm sure others of you don't either. There are many life (and career) lessons in this podcast too. Getting knocked on your ass, dusting yourself off and getting back in the game. Overcoming fear. Listening to your subconscious. 
 
"Lastly, another tidbit of career education. I mentioned above that I've heard from most of you. The ones who haven't bothered to chime in with a short note of thanks know who you are. Now, understand that I don't sponsor the team and treat you guys right for kudos or acclamation of any sort. I do it because I like to do it and enjoy it.
 
"My point here, for you young guys, is that you have to get in the habit of ALWAYS thanking anybody who does you a solid, in any way. Do it that day or the following day, not a week or two later. If a superintendent comps you a round on his course, thank him. If you play in an outing, send the supt a note of thanks. And the BEST way to do it is with a handwritten thank you note. Email is OK, but handwritten has a much larger impact. Why? Because so few people do it these days.
 

My point here, for you young guys, is that you have to get in the habit of ALWAYS thanking anybody who does you a solid, in any way. Do it that day...

 
"Go to a card store and pick up a box of ten simple thank you cards with envelopes. Buy ten stamps and put them in the box, with a pen. Put the box of cards, stamps and pen in the glove compartment of your car or truck. THEN, whenever you need them, they are right there. Write a brief note, put a stamp on it and mail it THEN.
 
"I still have thank you notes from 20+ years ago in my archives. Why? Because they meant much more to me than an email, or nothing. AND, when someone who receives your card saves it and comes across it again in the future, they will think well of you, again. Who knows where that might lead? It's quick, simple, and inexpensive to do. So do yourselves a favor and get in the habit of doing it. Every time."
 
Fast forward to San Antonio. I'm standing inside the door at the Quarry Golf Club, where Beer & Pretzels had just gotten underway. A LOT of interns from around the world (part of Mike O'Keeffe's Ohio Program) were there already. Then I saw a bunch of young guys outside heading for the door, and recognized a few of the Guelph boys.
 
In marched 1X, 2X and Marlow, grinning, with Toronto2 again in tow. The former three proceeded to hand me handwritten thank you cards that they had gone out and purchased somewhere in San Antonio.
 

The former three proceeded to hand me handwritten thank you cards that they had gone out and purchased somewhere in San Antonio....

 
I busted out laughing and told them, "At least you guys can READ!". Seriously, each one included a heartfelt note of thanks, and that meant the world to me. I was (and am) very proud of them.
 
 
THAT -- along with the new friendships made every year -- is why I have spent the money, made the organizational efforts and the long drive to Niagara for twenty years.
 
The moral of this long-winded story is that we have many opportunities to get noticed in life for less-than-stellar reasons. When you have a chance to get yourself noticed in a positive manner for very little cost and effort, do it.



Matters of the heart...

Posted 15 February 2018 · 563 views

Yesterday was Valentine's Day, that Hallmark-perpetuated day of roses, chocolates and mushy greeting cards that gives a nice uptick to the mid-February economy. Sounds kind of cynical, doesn't it?

 

But no! I went whole-hog yesterday with a $6.99 greeting card (Hallmark, nothing but the best), a dozen roses, a warm cinnamon bun from the bakery, and date night by a roaring fireplace at a favorite "country French" restaurant nearby. All good, voluntary, enjoyable and meaningful.

 

One thing I can never do is buy one of those sappy "I know I don't tell you often enough how beautiful, sweet, loving you are..." Valentine cards. Because it wouldn't be true. I tell her all the time. Every day in fact. And honestly. 

 

It's also important to show her (or him, whichever the case may be) with more than words. 

 

Show with little things, every day. Make the bed, at least on a day off. Put your dirty dishes in the dishwasher, not in the sink. If the clothes dryer is beeping, get up before she does to go empty it. Catch her off guard with a full-body-press hug, and maybe a squeeze or two. Perhaps not stereotypical guy stuff, but all easy and cost nothing.

 

Beyond that, choose your battles. Always gauge how really important your side in a conversation or disagreement is to you, relative to how important their side may be to them. Know when to dig in your heels and when to let go. If you can do the latter more than 50% of the time, you're doing well... and probably haven't given up much in the bargain.

 

That "conflict evaluation process" always involves listening, another underutilized man-habit. I saw something the other day on Twitter that said, "Listen to understand, not to reply." Wow. Six words to live by.

 

"Listen to understand, not to reply." Wow. Six words to live by.

 

You may be wondering who the heck I am to be dispensing relationship advice. I have no qualification other than being married for 40 years, to the same woman no less. I was taken out of circulation 45 years ago this June, at the age of 18. Married at 23. That's a long time.

 

Much of that success (yes, it is success these days) is due to showing, choosing wisely, and listening to understand. At least I try.

 

I often marvel at how the "heart" works in matters of love and relationships. Our hearts seem to have an infinite, instantaneous and automatic capacity to expand and embrace when babies and puppies come along.

 

But at the same time we tend to put up walls around us that keep non-family others at arm's length or at a "comfortable" distance, with fairly strict criteria for letting anyone through. That's too bad.

 

I recorded a podcast with Dave Wilber just a few days after Jerry Coldiron died last Thanksgiving, and I've gone back and listened to it several times since. I learn more about myself, and about friendship, and relationships, and indeed about love, each time I do.

 

Jerry was my best friend. I looked forward to spending time with him and Susan at our summer place, or getting together at GIS, at their "Casa de Coldiron" down in Boca Raton after Orlando shows, or on the phone in between.

 

We understood each other. Appreciated and learned from each other. We had many raucous, laughable episodes, but many moments of quiet conversation as well. Those are the things that great, loving relationships are made of, whether with a spouse or, if one is lucky, a long-time best friend.

 

One thing Patty and I learned when we moved to Vermont ten years ago -- in our early 50s without benefit of kids in school or on sports teams -- is that making friends is difficult. Some new acquaintances that we thought would become friends didn't happen, for one reason or another. Others did. But we quickly realized that friends who are meant to be will be, and can't be forced.

 

The whole crew.We have rescued two dogs within the past year, and often marvel at how much we have grown to love them over the relatively brief time they have been with us. And they came along in addition to Rosie, our ten-year old Golden Retriever (the last in a line of four). We have grown very quickly into one big, happy pack.

 

When deciding to add a third dog this past December, we acknowledged that we have room in our home(s), a little room in our vehicle, and certainly room in our hearts. So we went for it, and our hearts auto-expanded to accommodate yet another.

 

Too bad deep, meaningful friendships and loving relationships don't happen as easily. But recognize them when you have them, and work at them.

 

Another late friend of mine, Canadian superintendent Gordon Witteveen, used to tell me, "If you don't work at relationships, they soon go away."

 

Gordon called me frequently from Toronto. Jerry called me frequently from Florida. I'm ashamed to say they called me more often than I called them. Now I don't have the opportunity to correct that shortcoming.

 

So make the call. Buy the flowers. Have a date night. And do it from the heart, because you want to. Both hearts will be better off for it.




Looking forward to GIS... or not

Posted 20 January 2018 · 8,533 views

The Golf Industry Show is a few weeks away and I thought it time to assess the event in advance, at least in my mind's eye from my perch in the cheap seats. For what that's worth.

 

Nobody I've spoken with is anything more than underwhelmed with San Antonio as host city. Bad memories of travel experiences three years ago -- both to and from the iced-over state of Texas -- still linger.

 

I never made it at all. My Monday afternoon flight was waylaid and the best the airlines could do was get me into SAT on Wednesday night, missing Beer & Pretzels on Tuesday as well as the first day of the show. Thank you but no, I'm going back home.

 

That may have been a blessing. Many others trying to get out of SAT on Friday after the show didn't get home until Monday. Not fun, no matter how one slices and dices it. And unnecessary.

 

San Antonio needs to go, even if it means bouncing back and forth biannually between San Diego and Orlando.

 

Registration numbers I've heard are below 3,000 superintendents this year, about half of the norm a few years back. The 20,000+ total attendees figure that was touted in the past has shrunk to 13,600 last year in Orlando.

 

Let's look at that number of superintendents for a second. GCSAA pitches the show to exhibitors on the basis of "qualified buyers", promising 6000 this year.  What is a "qualified buyer"? According to golfindustryshow.com, qualified buyers include: 

 

 

So only 58% of the promised 6000 are superintendents. There's your 3000 or so.

 

Well, 3000 is a lot of people if you put them all in one room. But divide an average exhibitor's investment in the show -- with increasing costs of booth space, carpet, shipping/setup, travel, hotel, meals -- by a declining number of potential customers and it continues to get evermore expensive.

 

Not only for exhibitors, but for attendees too. Can a superintendent get in and out of GIS for less than $2000, all in? More if one plays in the golf tournament.

 

After putting numbers to paper and comparison shopping, 16 guys from across the country are with Jon Kiger over in England right now for the BIGGA show (BTME) starting this weekend, for pretty much even dollars.

 

The package Jon negotiated and is hosting was $1850 (double occupancy) plus airfare... for 8 days, transportation, lodging, a few course visits, 13 hours of education and BIGGA membership. Six guys decided to go over early this week and visit St. Andrews, and all got to play the Old Course.

 

Rather than same-old-same-old, they're getting a new experience, international exposure, new contact, new friends among the group on the trip. All indications are that Jon will host another trip next year. (Me? I'm not real big on traveling, if you couldn't tell...)

 

So I missed San Antonio three years ago. I was delayed getting to San Diego the following year (walking into Beer and Pretzels at 8:00 with my luggage, direct from the airport). And I voluntarily skipped Orlando last year due to some personal issues.

 

The thing is, for those two shows that I missed, I actually found them much easier and more efficiently covered remotely, from home. Our guys (Kiger, Reitman, Ross, Wilber et al) emailed me items of interest, and I monitored the #GIS201x hashtag on Twitter to discover and then research products that others found of interest. So from the new product standpoint, no big deal, really. For our purposes, of course.

 

But I did miss the people, and therein lies the rub.

 

I am admittedly looking forward to certain things in San Antonio this year. Beer & Pretzels, of course, after missing two of the last three.

 

We are dedicating this year's B&P Gala to our late friend and TurfNet enthusiast/cheerleader, Jerry Coldiron. His wife Susan will be there, and we will be announcing the first Jerry Coldiron Positivity Awards from monies donated in Jerry's memory to the Jerry Coldiron Embrace Life! fund.

 

 

As always, I am also looking forward to the Superintendent of the Year presentation at the Syngenta booth on Thursday afternoon. Having the TurfNet logo right up there with one of the preeminent suppliers to the industry is one of my proudest moments of the year. And it's always great to shake hands with the finalists and the winner. There is, once again, a slate of great superintendents going to be honored.

 

Most years GIS is the only time during the year that Jon Kiger, John Reitman and I are in the same place, the group occasionally (and nicely) augmented by Eleanor Geddes. It's always fun to pause for a moment or a meal and reconnect, in person.

 

The TurfNet Trio, circa 2014

 

One of the gauges I use to assess the overall health of the industry is the number of parties at GIS. Rumor has it that several of the extravaganzas put on by the biggies in recent years have fallen by the wayside. That happens cyclically, it seems, but we always forge ahead with Beer & Pretzels. This year will be our 22nd, I believe.

 

If you're going to San Antonio and you see one of us on the show floor or elsewhere, say hey and introduce yourself (if we've never met). It's great to associate a face with a name.

 

Stay tuned for our show coverage during GIS week, and a likely recap here after the travel and show fatigue have subsided afterward.  We'll see how San Antonio as a host location and GIS in general hold up to further scrutiny this year.




What are you gonna do?

Posted 22 November 2017 · 2,204 views

After writing a monthly column in our now-retired print newsletter (TurfNet Monthly, for those not around then) for 17 or 18 years, I sort of ran out of things of import to say on a regular basis.  No sense contributing to more milquetoast, editorial drivel or fill-up-space pontification... there's plenty of that elsewhere.

 

Occasionally something starts the gears whirring and prompts me to sit down and write. Yesterday was one of those occasions.

 

I finally caught up by phone with an old TurfNet friend (now retired) who I had been meaning to reconnect with for some time. Ah, what the heck, I'll blow his cool here. It was Matt Shaffer, of Merion Golf Club and the (rainy) 2013 US Open fame. You all remember.

 

Since retiring earlier this year after 43 years in the business, Matt is now Director of Golf Course Operations Emeritus at Merion. Nice. Good for him.

 

I consider Matt Shaffer to be one of the large handful of iconic superintendents who epitomize what all should aspire to. Certainly qualified and technically capable, but also professional, friendly and humble. His televised interviews during the 'Monsoon Open' gave the entire superintendent profession a huge boost image-wise.

 

 

I first connected with Matt back in the mid-'90s when he was at The Country Club in Ohio and thought he'd take a flier and join TurfNet. I recall meeting him for the first time at a Masters practice round in the same time frame, '96 or so. He was volunteering there and I was walking around in the crowd as a guest of Ed Nash.

 

"I just love TurfNet," he said with a huge smile. Hmm... I didn't recall ever hearing that before, certainly not with such passion or conviction. And I still remember it today, 20-some years later.

 

Other than seeing him at GIS or an occasional phone chat during the ensuing years, our communication was limited to me receiving the odd cryptic email from him with "YES!" or "ATTABOY!" or something of that ilk, with a brief reference to topic.

 

In any case, we chatted about many things. Retirement... his current renovation project on his parents' old (now his new) home near State College, PA... his other place on Lake Okeechobee in Florida... his career... the industry at large..... future plans for both of us.

 

Toward the end of the conversation, Matt said, "Hey buddy, you changed the industry." And he went on to cite some examples.

 

Hey buddy, you changed the industry."

 

Catching me off-guard, that REALLY gave me pause for introspection. I shared his comment with Jon Kiger and John Reitman, my cohorts for the past ten years or so. And from a flurry of emails back and forth came a list of things that... well, I guess did change the industry in varying ways and extents.

 

TurfNet Monthly diverted from the model of how information was disseminated in print (and it was not provided free of charge). The TurfNet Forum, as the first web-based discussion group, changed the way information was shared. The 'TurfNet Bomb' gave frustrated consumers a loud voice among suppliers. Free job listings created a 'monster' job board. Free webinars forced others to ultimately follow suit. Superintendent of the Year and Technician of the Year awards... the first dog calendar... video channel... Hector... Beer & Pretzels... a hockey team... Randy Wilson poking fun at the industry and providing an oft-needed chuckle.

 

I stopped by a golf course the other day and the superintendent was out on the course, blowing out the irrigation system. So I chatted with the equipment tech. After I identified myself, he said, "I got this job through TurfNet," and then added, "Everyone I know got their jobs through TurfNet." That's pretty cool.

 

Writing this on the day before Thanksgiving, when we should all be taking stock of our lives, the thing of which I am most proud is the way we have been able to impact people's lives. By helping them get better jobs... by creating a platform where friendships are made and problems (often well beyond turf) are aired out. The personal stuff. The good stuff.

 

All of us have the ability to contribute to the greater good, often well beyond the obvious...

 

All of us have the ability to contribute to the greater good, often well beyond the obvious. Superintendents won't be remembered for how fast the greens were, but they will be remembered by those they mentored and helped get a leg up on life. By setting examples of leadership, fairness, conduct, work ethic, positive motivation and shared reward... if only an earnest 'thank you' or an ice pop on a hot day. All that applies to raising kids as well.

 

Opportunities for new friends and personal growth...

 

My wife occasionally laments not having a high-profile, highly-paid business career. She was a schoolteacher. I remind her that no other profession has the opportunity to reach, teach and mold so many. And she was great at it, still running across former students (or parents of students) on Facebook or in person and getting thanks for having impacted them in a positive way.  A lot of people in the business world can't say that.

 

I don't know about you, but I can still remember the names of all of my grade school teachers. Many now-anonymous people have passed through my life since then, but I still remember the teachers.

 

I was watching a few Player's Tribune videos this morning, including one about David Ortiz, aka Big Papi. It occurred to me that I have no idea how many home runs he hit for the Boston Red Sox, but I will remember him for his huge smile.

 

I won't remember Matt Shaffer for his 43 years in the biz, but I will remember his cryptic emails of encouragement, his kind words, his smiling appearances on TV when his golf course was under water, and his friendship over the years.

 

When all is said and done, few are remembered for how well they fulfilled their job description. It's the other stuff.

 

I hope you take the opportunity this Thanksgiving to reflect on your life, take stock of where you are and where you want to go, what you have done and are going to do for others. What you're going to pay forward, asking nothing in return. How you're going to impact the lives of others, as it's own reward. And that's not a bad exercise to do periodically, more often than once a year at Thanksgiving.




Mid-winter jolts of energy, and paths less taken...

Posted 17 February 2017 · 1,623 views

Back in the day when Daughter B was in the college application mode, envelopes in the mail were opened with a combination of anticipation, excitement and trepidation.  Unlike many of her peers who threw a dozen or more applications against the wall hoping that at least one of choice would stick, she had applied to a mere four or five.

 

When the letter arrived from Middlebury College here in Vermont, the opening yielded a somewhat confusing result: "We are pleased to offer you a place in the Middlebury College Class of 2008.5, commencing February 1, 2005."  Okay...

 

After a bit of research, we discovered that Middlebury accepts 20% of its freshman class as "Febs", reporting in February instead of September to fill the dorm spaces vacated by juniors leaving for their semester abroad. Makes sense. And it gives the Febs the fall semester off for adventure.

 

DB was excited to accept and enroll in February.

 

We assumed that the college deemed her qualifications not quite good enough to be accepted for September, but they would take her for February.  Quite a bit later we discovered our assumption was incorrect. Quite the opposite, in fact.

 

Turns out that the admissions people earmark certain applicants -- the movers and shakers, class presidents, newspaper editors and the like -- for admission in February to give the snow-laden campus a mid-winter jolt of energy. A week prior to most of campus returning from J-term, Febs arrive for orientation to a rowdy and raucous welcome from a group of prior year Febs.

 

Sophomore Febs welcoming the new freshman group at Middlebury College.

 

Matters on the home front prevailed this year and I didn't make it to GIS... but I worked the show via social media and couldn't help but feel a similar mid-winter energy emanating from Orlando. Most of the attendees had had a few months off to come down off of last season, kick back and regroup. The palpable jolt of energy from GIS obviously recharged many to do battle again in the spring.

 

I am usually too busy when attending the show to pay much attention to the education sessions, but the vantage point "from away" gave me new insight this year. Kudos and high fives to GCSAA (yep, I'm saying that) for injecting new energy with the Lightning Round Learning sessions on Tuesday morning. A smorgasbord of presenters  (11 total, moderated by the always entertaining Dr. Frank Wong) had five minutes each to present a maximum of 20 slides that automatically advanced every 15 seconds. Hey, I got charged up and I wasn't even there!

 

 

Really, how many multi-hour-long presentations of charts and research stuff can one tolerate without going brain dead? The Lightning Round thing is EXACTLY what GIS needs to reinvent and reenergize itself.

 

I was also tickled to see some "alternative" (in a good way, as opposed to "alternative facts") presenters on the docket. Witness Jason Haines, a progressive "think without a box" superintendent from a small, low budget club in coastal British Columbia.  I have watched Jason's Turf Hacker blog and occasionally selected a post for our Turf Blog Aggregator. I also follow him as @PenderSuper on Twitter, and simply get a kick out of his no-fear, old-school-be-damned, question-everything, who-cares-what-others-think approach to minimalist turf management. Hey, he rides his bike to work as well.

 

This was Jason's first GIS, traveling on GCSAA's nickel. I can picture his head just about exploding from trying to get his bearings and make sense of the scope and scale of the conference and show, sort of like a kid from the sticks walking onto the streets of Manhattan. But more kudos and high fives to him for making the trip, sharing his experiences and proselytizing his ideas on fertility, disease management and fiscal responsibility for others to evaluate.

 

Jason presented on a variety of topics, including a panel discussion with Chris Tritabaugh and Matt Crowther on low input turf management; a Lightning Round spot on why he loves his job at Pender Harbour Golf Club; a four-hour seminar with Larry Stowell of PACE Turf on his MLSN fertility regimen, and a presentation on digital job boards. From what I could see, all were well received and Jason made a lot of new friends at GIS.

 

 

"For a greenkeeper from a 9 hole course that most people have probably never heard of it was mind blowing to be presenting my thoughts and experience to those who I have looked up to my entire career." -- Jason Haines

 

 

Promulgating alternative thought is not the type of thing that GIS education has been known for in the past... but it is precisely what is needed to propel golf turf management forward in this "contracting" golf climate... and to give superintendents something to chew on as they return home to tackle whatever another golf season throws at them.




Those critical 15 minutes...

Posted 08 January 2017 · 1,155 views

No, not the 15 Minutes of Fame. I'm talking about the 15 minutes that create discipline in a young employee, camaraderie in a crew, a few moments of bonding with the staff for a superintendent or other supervisor.

 

It's the 15 minutes before work starts at the beginning of the day.

 

The time around the coffeepot when the games last night get reviewed, balls get busted, shit gets shot. A few moments of relaxation and anticipation before the horn sounds and the mower parade heads out.

 

Full disclosure here: Back in my 20s and 30s, I was the absolute worst employee regarding punctuality. ALWAYS late to work. A few minutes, ten minutes, sometimes 20 minutes. Snuck out early when I could, too. No doubt the resulting black mark in my bosses' minds contributed in some measure to me getting fired, twice. Perhaps not cause for said terminations, but sure didn't help when the scales tipped away from my favor.

 

I realize that now, given the benefit of 20/20 hindsight and 40 years of sometimes hard-knocks-acquired wisdom. It's one of the (many) things I would change about those years. BUT... it's also telling.

 


There are 96 15-minute segments in a 24-hour day. Surely one -- just one -- can be dedicated to...

 

If you're late to work it's usually because you can't get out of bed, don't want to get out of bed, dread getting out of bed... roll over, pillow over your head for just another 15 minutes. Fifteen minutes that coulda/woulda be better spent getting to work early, being part of the early-morning shenanigans and ready to lead the mower parade.  

 

The telling part is that IF you can't get out of bed, don't want to get out of bed, dread getting out of bed... it usually means you don't like your job, you're not where you want to be. That's unfair to you and your employer. Make a change before somebody makes one for you.

 

There are 96 15-minute segments in a 24-hour day. Surely one -- just one -- can be dedicated to punctuality and being a better team member and employee. For you younger guys out there climbing the ladder, that might be something to put into practice for not only this year but the rest of your life.




Welcome rejection - or - My day in court...

Posted 22 December 2016 · 3,736 views

I don't get inspired by life events too much anymore to pick up the pen and scribe a column for the "Cheap Seats" but I can't let my Monday past go without comment.  It was a day (morning, actually) of irritation, resignation, conflicting feelings, awe, pride and wonderment.  It was my day in court.

 

The story starts about six weeks ago when I received an envelope in the mail from the United States District Court, District of Vermont, with JUROR SUMMONS showing through the window. Ah, shit, I thought to myself, here we go again. I had been called for county court four times back in New Jersey, but never actually sat on a jury. By contrast, my wife has never been called. Why me?

 

So I opened the envelope to read the news, starting with the report date of December 19, 2016, through December 23. Yagottafrigginbekiddinme. The week before Christmas? Furthermore, I was to report to the courthouse in Rutland, an hour's drive away. Huh? The county court is four miles away.  I didn't quite get the US District vs County thing at first.

 

I did a little research and found that the county courts are for civil lawsuits and criminal trials for violations of state and local laws, whereas US District Court is The Feds, the big guns. Violations of Federal law. Hijacking, tax evasion, counterfeiting, bank robbery, conspiracy to distribute across state lines, kidnapping, and of course damaging or destroying public mailboxes.

 

Somewhat under protest, I cleared my calendar of mostly catching up on some video and podcast editing and wrapping gifts, and off I went to Rutland.

 

I thought I had left with plenty of time for the 8:45 reporting time, but found myself running a little late in unfamiliar territory. The Court is on the second floor of the massive columned Post Office building, so I hustled into the lobby only to find a security line reminiscent of many airport experiences -- only slower. At least my few minutes of tardiness would not subject me to a contempt citation.

 

After running my jacket with keys, wallet etc through the x-ray machine (I knew enough not to bring a cellphone), one of the three blue-blazered security guys (all obviously retired cops) flagged me down. "Uh, sir, what's in this pocket of your jacket?" Keys. "No, I mean this little thing right HERE." Oh, that's my little 2" Swiss Army knife for those Times When You Need It. "Nuh-uh," he said, shaking his finger. Suddenly remembering the no-weapons-in-court thing, in a flush of embarrassment I muttered "honest mistake." He checked in my keys so I could pick them up later. "You'll need them to go home anyway," he said. Duh.  But he was very nice and polite about it. This is Vermont, of course, where the a-hole factor is pretty low.

 

Oh, that's my little 2" Swiss Army knife for those Times When You Need It. "Nuh-uh," he said, shaking his finger...

 

Turns out there were 70 prospective jurors milling about upstairs, outside the closed doors of the courtroom. 70. A lot of people...

 

We were soon shepherded into the cavernous, intentionally intimidating courtroom and told to sit anywhere for our video instruction and initial comments from the judge, who entered ceremoniously 30 minutes later as we All Rose. Seemed like a nice guy, someone I could have a few beers with under different circumstances. 

 

During his 20-minute instruction to us, he told of the gravity and solemnity of our duty as jurors, one of "the two civic responsibilities as citizens of this great country... the other being military service, which we won't get into today." Titter runs through the courtroom. (I always found that saying odd, for some reason. The visual is a little weird.)

 

As the titter was running, I was tempted to jump to my feet and holler "Objection! What about voting?" Upon further thought, I realized that maybe he was simply acknowledging that voting isn't what it used to be.

 

As the titter was running, I was tempted to jump to my feet and holler "Objection!..."

 

All joking aside, the judge's chat with us was inspiring. His explanation of the oft-heard terms "innocent until proven guilty" and "beyond a reasonable doubt" as the foundations of our legal system added to the gravitas and inspired an unexpected sense of pride in simply being an American citizen.

 

Shortly thereafter two dark-suited US Attorneys and a grey-suited FBI agent entered and took their seats at the prosecutors table. Whoa. Two defense attorneys sat either side of an empty chair at the defendant's table.

 

I was sitting directly behind the prosector's table. A clerk rolled in front of me four double-stacked carts full of binders, folders and miscellaneous paper and positioned them within reach of the prosecutors and FBI guy. Four carts.  My internal calculator started whirring.

 

Let's see, Federal judge and clerk, two US Attorneys, Court Clerk and staff, FBI guy, two defense attorneys, stenographer, four carts of documents, the three blue-blazered security guys who were now upstairs, and 70 prospective jurors.  Whatever this case was, the trial was already costing a ton of money on top of the tons already spent developing the case.

 

We were all ushered back into the hallway as the attorneys and judge had a five-minute conference, then back into the courtroom. There was a slight African American guy sitting in the defendant's seat, puffy white shirt obviously just taken out of it's packaging, dark necktie, close cut hair, black-rimmed glasses. He put me immediately in mind of Steve Urkel of the old sitcom Family Matters. Not exactly your typical intimidating criminal.

 

He was the only person of color in the entire room. No great surprise, Vermont being least diverse state in the country.

 

Twenty-four people, randomly selected from among the 70, were called to sit in the (expanded by temporary seats) jury box for interviewing by the judge and attorneys. I was not among them.

 

The judge addressed them and indicated that the defendant was charged with conspiracy to distribute heroin across state lines and other attendant Federal misdeeds. Can't say I was surprised by that either. He introduced the defendant, the attorneys, the FBI guy and then read a list of about 25 or 30 witnesses that may be called. This list included more FBI and DEA agents, local and state police who had been involved, and plea-bargained turncoats among others. The judge asked if any of the prospective jurors knew or had personal knowledge of any of them. He asked about any criminal records (even within immediate family) and a litany of other things, taking notes from the jurors' responses and occasionally asking for clarification.

 

He introduced the defendant, the attorneys, the FBI guy and then read a list of about 25 or 30 witnesses that may be called...

 

All of the prospective jurors had to previously submit a brief questionnaire which the attorneys used to flag items of potential conflict with their client's best interests. Prosecutors and defense attorneys both rose to address individual jurors to inquire about specific issues from either the questionnaire or their responses to the judge's questions.

 

Eleven of the 24 were then excused for unspecified reasons, leaving 13, one short of the required 12 plus two alternates to fill a criminal case jury. The judge asked the clerk to call up three additional prospective jurors to be subjected to the same. I escaped this round as well. Then the judge said to make it four, no, five from which to select to fill out the jury box.

 

I gulped and swallowed hard, fully expecting to be the last one called up. That would be just my luck, but not to be.

 

I was among the remaining non-called, for which I was surprisingly conflicted. While the biggest chunk of me was gleeful to be "rejected" of sorts and get the balance of my pre-Christmas week back, there was a tiny part that was disappointed to not fully experience the entire process and procedure.  Approaching noon by that point, the judge adjourned for lunch and the rejects like me were dismissed.  The trial was to start immediately after lunch.

 

I checked the court calendar this morning (Thursday) and the trial is still in process.

 

As it turns out, I haven't completely escaped this call to duty.  Before we were dismissed from court that day, we were told that we are still in the "winter pool" of potential jurors and may be called again through March.

 

Oh joy. But at least it won't be the week before Christmas. And now I can return to my video and podcast editing, and wrapping gifts.




Producer or consumer? What's your +/- rating?

Posted 30 March 2016 · 6,647 views

My parents used to drill into my siblings and me, "If you don't have something nice to say, don't say anything." I've taken that a step further lately with the adage, "If I don't have something meaningful to say, don't say anything." -- hence my hiatus from the Cheap Seats blog of late.  But I'm back.

 

I was reading a book over the Easter weekend entitled When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi. Not my usual reading fare (I lean toward murder mysteries, legal and police procedurals), but we were away for the weekend and I found myself with some rare idle time. Having finished the book I was reading, I picked up this one that my wife had just finished.

 

It's a memoir of Kalanithi's too-short life as a gifted Stanford neurosurgical resident and cancer victim, mostly written before he passed away at age 35. I hoped for some takeaway lessons ala' Tuesdays with Morrie.

 

What immediately struck me was that the workload and resultant lifestyle (or lack thereof) of a surgical resident is one of the few careers that are way worse than a golf course superintendent's in terms of hours and workload. Sixteen hour days are often the norm. Thirty hours straight in the OR is not unusual, but is beyond ridiculous when one thinks about it, particularly from the standpoint of the patient being operated on. This goes on for seven years for a neurosurgery resident.  I guess the old adage of "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger" must apply.

 

...the workload and resultant lifestyle (or lack thereof) of a surgical resident is one of the few careers that are way worse than a golf course superintendent's in terms of hours and workload."

 

With a terminal illness, the author reflected on the many phases of his life to that point. He assessed his accomplishments, his perceived failures or shortcomings, and what remained on his evermore urgent bucket list.

 

While not specifically addressed, the concept of being a net consumer or producer during one's lifetime came to my mind.  In a nutshell, do you produce more for others (family, industry, community, society at large) than you consume from them, or the opposite?

 

As a method of self-assessment, I thought of the plus/minus (+/-) statistics that are used to rate professional hockey players, both during an individual season and cumulatively over their entire careers. If you are on the ice when your team scores (produces), that's a +1 for you.  Conversely, if the opposing team scores while you're on the ice (consumes), you get a -1. Pretty simple.

 

So, one could divvy up one's life into chunks of time and dole out some plusses and minuses for each.

 

As children, we naturally take (-) from our parents more than we can give. But children do return inestimable enjoyment, satisfaction and pride (+) to their parents, enough to sway at least the infancy and toddler periods into the plus column for most.  Now, maybe a colicky infant (as our Daughter A was) or a period of the Terrible Twos (as our Daughter B was -- or perhaps more accurately, the "Terrible Twos to Teens") might temporarily offset some of the plusses, but the net result for most would be a pretty good positive. Otherwise, the birth rate would be in serious decline over time.

 

Teen years? Not much argument that most teenagers are in serious net consumption mode. High minus.

 

College/young adult era:  This is when most people, if they are going to do it at all, start to turn things around.

 

Career mode: While most measure career success in terms of salary (consumptive), the truly successful are actually net producers, at least over most of their careers. They give to their employers more value than they receive in compensation.  Savvy, attentive employers recognize that and reward for it with increased promotion and longevity.  Sadly, not all do, but the +/- balance between employer and employee tends to even out over time.

 

While most measure career success in terms of salary (consumptive), the truly successful are actually net producers, at least over most of their careers. They give to their employers more value than they receive in compensation..."

 

Parenting era (birth of children to whenever?): This is arguably the flipside ratio of the infant-toddler-adolescent-teen-young adult years. While we're going through it, most haggard parents would likely assess this period as net productive, i.e., we give much more than we consume in return.  But in hindsight, as all things tend to pass, we remember the highs and not-so-much the lows.  The +/- moves toward neutral (or better) as we age and our memories become foggier.

 

"Mature" adult:  I'm not sure I will ever really fit into this, as my mantra has always been, "I don't mind getting older but I never want to grow up!"... to the chagrin of my wife at times.  But this is the era (if ever) when one realizes how little one really needs to be happy and stay productive.  We purge of excess baggage and belongings and move toward "right-sizing" our lives. With children grown (albeit never completely free of the occasional need for guidance or counsel), careers hopefully stable and acquisition of material goods in steep decline, we can focus again on net production and moving our lifetime +/- rating well into the positive.

 

We volunteer as our skills, interests and time permit. Now retired from teaching, my wife is as close to a "librarian" as our little town library has, and helps with the local food bank and literacy program. Nowhere near retired, I nonetheless found time to upgrade and continue to maintain the town website.  All in low-profile mode, well under the radar.

 

Behind the TurfNet scenes, I counsel many of those who find themselves recently disassociated from their employment (having been there, twice). I try to mentor and guide some of the fledgling entrepreneurs among you. I like to help guys put their best feet forward with a custom look for their blog or maybe a signature graphic for their email. None of which goes on my resume, as it were (and of which I thankfully have no need), but which quietly bolsters my personal plus column... not that I'm really counting.  One doesn't need to; you just feel it.

 

Those of you who mentor assistants as they come through on their way to positions as head superintendents on their own know what I mean.

 

Back to parenting for a moment. One of things a "dad" continues to do in the plus column is pick up the check when the kids are in town, or when we are visiting them. I recently made an exception to that during a weekend visit with Colleen and Matt (Daughter A and Hubby) in Boston.  I had sprung for four ridiculously expensive resale tickets to a Bruins matinee game (fourth row, behind the visitors' bench), figuring that at least once in our lives we need to be down near the glass (we're all Bruins fans, my wife arguably the biggest of all) rather than up in the relatively cheap seats.  Factor in a couple of hotel nights in a notoriously expensive city and I was well into the ++++ column, at least financially.

 

An epic weekend, down by the glass...

 

Colleen and Matt live in Boston's famous North End of mostly Italian restaurants, so we ate well.  To his credit, Matt always tries to pick up the check, even to the point of faking going to the restroom when in fact he stops by the host to pre-arrange payment. If we catch him, we always say that we're happy to pick up the check while we can. That implies, of course, that some day we might not be able to... in which case we would defer.

 

In this instance, when the check arrived he grabbed it and said, "Look, you bought the tickets... let us pick this up."  My quick mental calculus told me to agree, figuring that sometimes it's good for them to have some skin in the game, so to speak. And that contributes to their + column as well.

 

All told it was one of those epic weekends that those "priceless" commercials are made of. Matt attends a lot of sporting events (Patriots, Celtics and Red Sox in addition to the Bruins) and he later said it was the best event he had ever been to. Visualize my chest puffing out a bit.  Patty spent most of the first period on the edge of her seat, taking it all in. Going out on a limb for those tickets and risking some spousal blowback paid huge dividends for all, way beyond whatever investment was incurred. 

 

I have come to like that term "skin in the game".  It's good for everyone, at most stages of life, to have skin in the game.  it signifies involvement, commitment, contribution, personal investment... all of which are positives that will ultimately come back to roost.

 

Lastly, a thought about +- with your spouse.  Chances are that most golf course superintendents and assistants rely pretty heavily on their spouses during the bulk of the year to manage the family and domestic stuff, often in addition to their own career. There may come a time when you have to shift that balance back toward taking more or better care of your spouse rather than them taking care of you.

 

The take-home messages here: First, read. It opens your eyes. Second, take time to assess your personal +/- rating, whatever stage of life you're in.  You will likely have more plusses than you realize.  And if a slight correction in the rudder is evident, so be it.  Do it.




Gus, the golf course dog...

Posted 25 September 2015 · 2,211 views

Here's one from the TurfNet Archives, a reflection I wrote back in December of 1997 during the era when I still pretended to be a golfer... before the "four hours of frustration and embarrassment" got the best of me and I parked my sticks forever. Memory tells me it was after a trip to Alabama to visit with David Pursell and family to view the early plans for what would become Farmlinks. I can't recall the name of the golf course we played that day, but reading this again reminded me that aside from the shanked shots, forearm shivvers and lost golf balls, there were many times that I did have fun playing golf.

 

"We were walking up the first fairway to strategize our second shots, wary of the pond that snuggled up to the right edge of the green and swept behind it to the second tee. (I tend to take particular note of water hazards, for if they are 10 yards or 150 yards away, I'm there, like a magnet.) While gazing over the pond, I noticed two black objects moving through the water. Muskrats? Beavers? Nope, just the heads of two Black Labradors enjoying a swim on a sunny fall day.

 

Our host mentioned, "There's a third one over there, staring at something in the bank of the pond. Probably a water moccasin in there." I made a mental note to bag my ball retriever for the day.

 

The two groups behind us were from the local college golf team. Part of the routine during their rounds was throwing sticks to the dogs, who dutifully followed them around the course, having a ball.

 

After putting out on the fifth or sixth green, we walked back to our cart to find a small dog sitting on the floorboard, patiently waiting for a lift. Hmmm... who's this little guy? A mixed Terrier of sorts, fairly well groomed, with a collar and flea collar. Obviously not a stray, but there weren't any homes nearby either, so we figured he was just a golf course dog, doing his thing. He seemed OK with hitching a ride to the next tee with us, so off we went, dog in tow, for the next several holes.

 

Stopping by the maintenance facility on 9, we saw the superintendent had another dog with him, a 3-legged Chocolate Lab who didn't seem to know the difference. "Truck ran over her leg," he advised. "She's my buddy."

 

"Who's the little one riding with us?" we inquired. "Oh, that's Gus. He's a good guy, too."

 

Gus didn't seem motivated by much, content just to squeeze between us and get his head scratched.

 

Gus didn't seem motivated by much, content just to squeeze between us and get his head scratched...

 

Thirsty, Gus? How 'bout a sip of beer?

 

"No, thanks," which simply amazed me. I had a dog once who could get her tongue about three inches down the neck of a dead soldier. 

 

"How about a potato chip?" Nope. Gus wasn't thirsty or hungry. At least not for beer and chips. Probably didnt smoke cigars, either.

 

The only thing that seemed to motivate Gus was an opportunity to tree a squirrel, which he did rather noisily, and with abandon.

 

I had never seen a ten pound dog leap four feet in the air before, but Gus could do it. A couple times when Gus was off squirreling, we moved on and thought we left him behind, only to find him back on the cart after the next hole or so. Cool dog.

 

The back nine meandered along the lakefront, which was spectacular as the sun was getting low in the sky that day. Darkness was approaching as we arrived at the 18th tee. Gus was doing his squirrel thing off to the left. His golf etiquette at that point could have used some polishing up, knowing well enough to settle down when there were golfers on the tee and a wager hanging in the balance.

 

Heading up the 18th fairway, we noticed the three Black Labradors walking up the cart path toward the clubhouse, their swimming and stick-chasing done for another day. After the last putt dropped and the grill room beckoned us, there they were, stretched out on the clubhouse deck: three Labradors and Gus, patiently waiting for their dinner.

 

After the last putt dropped and the grill room beckoned us, there they were, stretched out on the clubhouse deck: three Labradors and Gus, patiently waiting for their dinner... 

 

We hear so much about woodpeckers, bluebirds, foxes and other exotic wildlife on the golf course, sometimes we don't have to look that far to find animals enhancing the golf experience.

 

At one point during the day, I asked Gus what his full name was, not really expecting an answer. We decided it must be Augusta... because he's a golf course dog."








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