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Ireland 2015: TurfNet Members' Trip

Saturday: Ballymac Golf, then onto Dublin for a Guinness tour

Posted 18 October 2015 · 3,036 views

The last day of the TurfNet Members' Trip 2015 (for those not extending) kicked off with a 9-hole scramble match at the Ballymascanlon Hotel and Golf Course, the only parkland course on the trip this year.



John Gall and John Gosselin are all smiles as the trip winds down on Saturday.


Before the round, trip organizer and Mr. Irish, Jon Kiger, snuck away to 100-year old Lawless Barbers in Dundalk for a hot towel shave. Nice.


Among the swag for trip attendees were some very stylin' shades from sponsor Aquatrols. Maureen Gall sported them on the trip to the Guinness Storehouse, with hubby John Gall.


No visit to Dublin is complete without a trip to the Guinness brewery at St. James Gate.  The Storehouse covers seven floors surrounding a glass atrium shaped in the form of a pint of Guinness. The ground floor introduces the beer's four ingredients (water, barley, hops and yeast), and the brewery's founder, Arthur Guinness. Other floors feature the history of Guinness advertising and include an interactive exhibit on responsible drinking. The seventh floor houses the Gravity Bar with views of Dublin, and where a pint of Guinness can be enjoyed.


The TurfNet group at the start of the Guinness factory tour.


The tour starts with instruction in the classic Irish toast, Slainte'.


The tour includes hands-on instruction in the art of crafting "The Perfect Pint of Guinness" (it's not as easy as it looks, as Guinness is nitrogen-infused and must be allowed time to settle before topping up). Here Kas Kachmarek, father of Joel and Mark, proudly displays his certificate of achievement in crafting the Perfect Pour.  Slainte', Kas!


Enjoying a pint in the Gravity Bar.


Traditional Irish music is never far away.


It could be argued that Jorge Croda, as a Mexican national working in Texas, was as far out of his element as anybody on the trip... but he was always with a smile, a kind word and a pint nearby.  It was great having him on the trip.

Gorgeous day at Royal Portrush, then football match at Dundalk

Posted 18 October 2015 · 1,736 views

Friday meant an early start from the Ballymascanlon Hotel ("Ballymac" for short) in anticipation of our longest bus ride of the trip. After two and a half hours from Dundalk to Portrush, Co.Antrim on the north coast of Northern Ireland, the bus arrived at Royal Portrush Golf Club.



We were met by Graeme Beatt, course manager since November, 2014. He explained the upcoming changes to the course in anticipation of their hosting either the 2019 or 2020 British Open (announcement Tuesday.) Check out his turf blog here.


Everyone enjoyed the course and knowing of its significance in golf history.


Non-golfers toured Dunluce Castle, The Giants Causeway and a number of other local sites. All of these attractions were close to the course and allowed for a leisurely day.


Some photos from Royal Portrush:


Serious bunker. Photoshop magic reveals Mark Kachmarek in there, hitting out (or attempting to).


Fescue, heather and a bit of gorse.




Construction of a new tee in anticipation of The Open.


Not sure what Joel Kachmarek is contemplating there, but it looks serious. Counting his strokes? :-)


Joan Colleran, Jorge Croda and Mark Fuller with their caddie (l).


Jon Kiger with Scott Schukraft and Mike Cook.


Joel Kachmarek, Cheryl Crowther and Mark Kachmarek, with their caddie.


Matthew Tacilauskas flanked by Tom Gosselin and John Gosselin.


Upon arrival back in Dundalk, twelve travelers attended the Dundalk Football Club (SSE Airtricity League Premier Division champions) match versus Galway United at Oriel Park. The group met the legendary Lilywhite (team nickname for their white jerseys) player and radio commentator John Murphy, who welcomed the group with an on-air announcement. The game ended in a 0-0 tie.



(Dundalk FC photo)


Matt Crowther and Kas Kachmarek (father of Joel and Mark) compare notes in the Lilywhite Lounge at halftime.


Next up: Nine hole scramble friendly golf event at the Ballymascanlon home course. Then off to Dublin for a tour of the Guinness Storehouse and checking into the Radisson Hotel.

Heading north to the "Royals" - Royal County Down and Royal Portrush

Posted 17 October 2015 · 1,707 views

Wednesday night after golf at the Island Club, the group (minus the Maestro, who as a non-golfer had made his obligatory donation to the future solvency of Guinness & Co., headed home) boarded the bus to travel to Dundalk and the Ballysmascanlon Hotel as the new home base for excursions to Royal County Down on Thursday and Royal Portrush on Friday. 

After another full Irish breakfast Thursday morning, the group boarded the bus for the short drive into Northern Ireland to Royal County Down. The group received a special dedication on Dundalk FM radio from Paddy Mac - a mainstay on the local radio. The warm up song was I'm Alright by Kenny Loggins - AKA the theme song from Caddyshack. Another great day of weather was in store and everyone had fun playing this Top Ten (in the World) course. Course Manager Eamonn Crawford visited with the group before teeing off. 
Royal County Down hosted this years Irish Open - a European PGA Tour event. Tee times are spaced 12 minutes apart rather than the usual ten minutes to allow for the extra photos that are taken and the special approach to the course.
Some photos from the day:
The non-golfers took a coastal tour and had several interesting stops along the way.
From Royal County Down the group went to Garvey's restaurant and bar - just outside of Dundalk for the Syngenta-sponsored dinner, complete with a menu customized for our group.
The evenings entertainment featured the traditional Irish band Connla from Northern Ireland. Syngenta presented members of the tour with a copy of the band's new EP. 



Jon Kiger with the members of Connla.


Scott Schukraft ® gets his copy of the new Connla EP signed.

Return to a favorite: The Island Golf Club

Posted 15 October 2015 · 6,390 views

First-timers on the TurfNet Trip this year likely didn't realize that as they were eating their Full Irish breakfast in the dining room of the Grand Hotel in Malahide, the golf course easily seen directly across the estuary is the Island Golf Club, founded in 1890.


Some of our group had played a very early morning round at the Island in 2010, and we added it again in 2011 as the site of the TurfNet Emerald Challenge.



Our tee times were pushed to the afternoon to accommodate a morning member event (but also giving us time to visit Croke Park), so we barely squeezed in 18 holes as the lights across the water in Malahide were twinkling and the lights of the clubhouse beckoned as the last group headed down 18 at about 7:00.



Looking across holes16 and 15 in late afternoon.


Kas Kachmarek, father of Joel and Mark Kachmarek, endeared himself to many on the trip with his wit and quiet charm.  Upon viewing the Island up close, he simply said, "Lots of bunkers and long grass...". Indeed.


Obviously a very old course, the rustic feel of the wind-blown dunes remains, with hardly a level spot anywhere on the course.


Nice up by Joan Colleran on 16 as the light starts to fade.  She hit the flagstick with this shot.


An enterprising caddie suggested that the photographer get in the group, so here's a rare photo of Peter McCormick with Kas, Mark and Joel Kachmarek (our first two brothers and father group), with Joan Colleran.

No shortage of sand for topdressing.
Tom Gosselin, Pete Radtke, John Gosselin and Frank Tichenor.
Jorge Croda, Kevin Collins (Aquatrols), Jeff Hemphill and Matthew Tacilauskas.
Tripp Trotter (Syngenta), Steven Neuliep, Mike Cook and Scott Schukraft.
Scott said he wanted a photo with "the best caddie he has ever had."  Might also be the cutest caddie he has ever had.  When asked whether she was cold, she replied, "No, I'm grand. I have my tea cozy on!"
Mark Fuller, John Gall and Eric Wygant.
Cheryl and Matt Crowther, Jon Kiger and "SuperSupt" Fred Gehrisch.
Matthew Tacilauskas saved the best for last as he ripped a drive down 18 toward the lights of the clubhouse, about 30 yards past the previous longest drive to take that prize, his second Longest Drive of the trip.

Turf Tour at Croke Park in Dublin

Posted 15 October 2015 · 1,628 views

The group took a quick side trip from golf on Wednesday morning for a behind-the-scenes tour of the pitch and turf care facilities at Croke Park, home of the GAA (Gaelic Athletic Association) and the holy grail of Irish sports... notably hurling and Gaelic football.


Assembling before our turf tour at Croke Park.


From the GAA website: "The GAA is a volunteer led, community based organisation that promotes Gaelic games such as Hurling, Football, Handball and Rounders and works with sister organisations to promote Ladies Football and Camogie. It is part of the Irish consciousness and plays an influential role in Irish society that extends far beyond the basic aim of promoting Gaelic games."


Our tour guide said the GAA has almost one million members out of a total population in Ireland of 6.5 million.  All athletes are amateur and the administration and officials are volunteers.


Gaelic football. (GAA photo)


Gaelic football is like soccer except the players can use their hands, and scoring can be accrued either into the net for three points or between the "goal posts" for one point (like an American football field goal).


Hurling is sort of a combination of baseball, hockey and lacrosse, with 15 players per side using bats called hurleys and a ball called a sliotar.  It might be described as "organized mayhem".  Cool sport.


Enda Colfer and Kyle Davies gave us a tour of the actual pitch ("Please don't walk on the grass"), and it's fair to say there's probably no turf on earth that is babied more than this is.  It's all about presentation for fans and TV, and striping takes center stage.




Games are played weekly in-season, so ryegrass is constantly overseeded to keep a fresh supply of seedlings coming up at all times. Stuart said they use between 12 and 14 tons of seed each year.


The pitch itself is sand-based with both a Subair-type vacuum system and 25 miles of hot-water heating pipes beneath.  Pre-game mowing is done with 36" Dennis pedestrian cylinder/reel mowers.  These are heavy beasts of machines that have full width drive rollers, huge front baskets and one reel across the full width.  Heights of cut range from 28mm to 25mm (1.1 to .98 inches) depending on time of year and intended use.


Enda Colfer (3rd from left) explains the Dennis pedestrian mowers.


They also use a series of eight Honda rotary rear-baggers with full-width rear drive rollers.  These were selected due to the superior lift and vacuum of the bagging system (for post-game debris) and the striping effect of the rollers. A garage-broom-type bristle brush is attached to the front to help stand up the grass.



Other equipment in the below-stands storage area included Toro ProCore and HydroJect aerators.  The pitch also recently received it's first DryJect sand injection treatment.


Fertility is a combination of granular and liquid, with mostly Grigg Brothers products in evidence.  A pedestrian boom sprayer is used most often, occasionally supplemented with a 3-pt hitch tractor sprayer with shrouded booms. GreenPig pigment is used as a spreader/sticker and also to add a hint of color.


The pedestrian sprayer with a nice coating of GreenPig.


Pretty good testimonial for Grigg Bros products.


Moveable grow-lights are used as much as 21 hours/day (avoiding the high-cost 5-8PM hours), with lighting concentrated toward the shadier end of the pitch and gradually extending down the field as the sun gets lower in the sky toward winter.




After the turf tour we had an opportunity to visit the GAA Museum and take a whack at a couple of hurling balls. Next... moving on to golf at the Island Golf Club in Donabate.

Portmarnock Golf Club and the 6th TurfNet Emerald Challenge

Posted 14 October 2015 · 1,836 views

The good humor of the Irish was in evidence aplenty early Tuesday morning when 14 Irish superintendents and sales reps assembled with 22 players of ours in the chilly forecourt of the venerable Portmarnock Golf Club for the playing of the 6th TurfNet Emerald Challenge golf event.


Maybe they had advance knowledge of the outcome of the day. Maybe not, but the laughter, smiles and general good nature amongst themselves and with our group set the tone for a great day of golf and fellowship... "one putt and one pint at a time" as the event slogan goes.



Team Ireland finished with 279 points, topping Team TurfNet by 13 points in the tournament scored using the Modified Stableford scoring system.  This was a departure from the norm as the visiting team had won each of the previous five tournaments, thus garnering the honor of transporting the Hurley Trophy back across the pond.


The traveling Hurley Trophy will stay in Ireland until the next Challenge in San Diego.


Frank Byrne, captain of Team Ireland, beams as he carries off the Hurley Trophy... until next time.


Ireland also won the Emerald Isle Challenge (by only one point) played earlier this year at The Quarry in San Antonio during GIS. The next challenge will be played in February at Torrey Pines in San Diego, just prior to the 2016 GIS.


The Irish lads also showed good form by sporting ties and jackets for the luncheon and award presentation following golf (oh, yes, and a few pints as well!). Seems we didn't get that memo, but some gentle ribbing ensued (even a comment that "everyone not wearing a tie this afternoon got their arses kicked this morning!").


Some photos from the day:


Eric Wygant (l) of Shannopin Country Club in Pittsburgh enjoys a laugh with Eddie Donlon (right), retired course manager from Rush Golf Club and a member of the Portmarnock greens staff.


The inimitable Eddie Donlon (purple tie) holds court with Matt and Cheryl Crowther.


Joan Colleran, Matthew Tacilauskas and John Gosselin didn't let a few match points shy spoil their day.


Jorge Croda (Southern Oaks Golf Club, Fort Worth, TX) quickly learned to enjoy Guinness.


Joel Kachmarek (Tacoma Country and Golf Club) compares notes with Mark Fuller (Connecticut Golf Club) after their round.


Peter McCormick with Jorge Croda and Joan Colleran.


Some of the group headed out for another nine after the afternoon festivities were complete.


All smiles and international fellowship... what it's all about.


Second stop: County Louth Golf Club/"Baltray"

Posted 13 October 2015 · 1,527 views

Stepping out from the clubhouse onto the grounds of County Louth Golf Club one gets the immediate impression that the expansive property is as flat as a board... but continuing on one's walk convinces you otherwise.


Looks pretty flat... but looks can be deceiving.


Located north of Dublin near Drogheda on the eastern coast of Ireland, County Louth (or "Baltray" as it's locally known) elicited rave reviews from the TurfNet trippers as they came off the golf course after a day under a sparkling sun (with a few clouds blowing by for interest) and brisk breeze.


First established in 1892, the present course was laid out in 1938 by the "eccentric Englishman", Tom Simpson.  From the club website:  "The course is laid out in two loops covering some 190 acres with no two holes running in the same direction. The only exception being the 12th and 13th which run along the sea. It speaks highly for Simpson's design that he saw need to introduce only fifty bunkers in the course's defenses the rest was taken care of by the natural terrain."


County Louth Golf Club has agreed to host the 2016 TurfNet Intern-in-Ireland program, providing accommodation in an apartment right in the clubhouse. Whoever gets that gig will have a wonderful experience.


The group of non-golfers visited the Newgrange Stone Age burial grounds, the Boyne Battlefield and the town of Drogheda.


Some photos of the day:



The rough in lower sections of the course (away from the sea) had a decidedly brown cast due to a dense population of ferns among the fescue, like in the photo below. We had not seen that elsewhere, and there were none in the higher elevations close to the sea.


A typical green complex along the back of the course.  The Irish Sea is just over that ridge.


Standing on an elevated tee box looking down and across quite undulating land.


Jacobsen AR-5 trimming around bunker edges.


While elsewhere bunker edges got a weedie finish. The utility vehicle is a Kubota RTV.


All of the links courses we visit are heavy overseeders, either slit or Vredo dimple-type. The 'cornrows' are visible in the front of this photo.


Seaside, looking south.

Jeff Hemphill, Joan Colleran, Pete Radtke and Frank Tichenor.


Joan Colleran on the tee. PGA Pro. Sweet swing. Classy lady.


Stephen Neuliep, Eric Wygant and Jorge Croda.


Scott Schukraft watching his ball roll. The caddies are always part of "the experience".


Jeff Hemphill. Nissequogue. Guinness 4-cupper.


Two husband/wife teams:  John and Maureen Gall, Matt and Cheryl Crowther.


Mark and Joel Kachmarek with Matthew "Taz" Tacilauskas.


Mark Fuller, Jon Kiger, Tripp Trotter (Syngenta) and Fred Gehrisch, TurfNet Superintendent of the Year.




Sunday warmup at Portmarnock Hotel and Links...

Posted 12 October 2015 · 1,763 views

The group shook off any jet lag on Sunday with a warmup round at Portmarnock Hotel & Golf LInks, joined by course manager Fintan Brennan and his son/assistant Mike.


Not to be confused with Portmarnock Golf Club ("old Portmarnock", founded 1894, which we will play on Tuesday), the Links Portmarnock as it is called is a 1994 Bernhard Langer design.  The old Jameson family (of Jameson whiskey renown) estate was expanded to hotel size, and portions of their 12-hole private golf course were incorporated into the current Langer design.


A true links layout, the course hugs the shoreline of a peninsula that juts out into the Irish Sea.


Our host Fintan Brennan shows how it's done, teeing off toward the Portmarnock Hotel.


The staff of seven (typical for many Irish courses) rebuilt 40 of these revetted bunkers two years ago and another 20 this year, with some left to do.  The thick-cut sod is harvested on-property.


The mounding along the 16th fairway is "moved earth", and was created to provide a windbreak for neighboring holes.  Not sure how that perimeter cut is accomplished.


Panoramic view of the 8th tee complex, which plays left to right.


Peeking over the dunes that separate the course from the Irish Sea.




Mark Fuller CGCS (Connecticut Golf Club), John Gall (Cherry Hill Club, Ontario) and his wife Maureen, with Fintan Brennan and Jon Kiger.




Cheryl and Matt Crowther, CGCS (Mink Meadows Golf Club, Martha's Vineyard) with Joan Colleran (wife of the late Paul Colleran, a TurfNet Supt of the Year finalist) and Eric Wygant (another SOY finalist) of Shannopin Country Club, Pittsburgh, PA.


Matt and Eric both found a few of the bunkers. No comment on how many Cheryl found her way into. Sometimes the best way out was not forward.



Frank Tichenor (Forest Hill Field Club, NJ) with Steven Neuliep (Asheville, NC), Mike Brennan (assistant supt at Links Portmarnock, and Pete Radtke, guest of Frank Tichenor.


Seems like every course has an idiot who doesn't know his way out of a bunker.


The Brothers Gosselin (Tom, left, from Overbrook Country Club, and John, of Aronimink Golf Club, both in the Philadelphia area), enjoy a pint after their round.


Fintan Brennan compares notes with Doug Ayres, who won his place on the trip by submitting the winning video in the Aquatrols Smart Water Video Challenge.

Jumping the gun on the rest of us...

Posted 10 October 2015 · 1,490 views

A few people on the TurfNet Members' Trip went over early to extend their stay on the front side, including Mark Fuller, CGCS, of the Connecticut Golf Club, and Matt Crowther, CGCS, of Mink Meadows Golf Club (Martha's Vineyard, MA) and his wife, Cheryl.


Mark, a veteran of most of our trips to Ireland and Bandon, wasted no time getting started with networking, connecting with John Dempsey, course manager at Royal Curragh Golf Club in Co.Kildare. John is also a post-graduate researcher at the University of the West of England, looking into phosphite mediated suppression of Microdochium nivale in grasses. He has also presented several TurfNet University webinars, and is active on Twitter as @J_J_Dempsey.


Mark Fuller, CGCS, with John Dempsey at Royal Curragh.


To whet everyone's appetite (and perhaps tease a bit), Mark also sent along a few photos of his day at The European Club, situated between the towns of Wicklow and Arklow in Co.Wicklow.



Above and below, The European Club. Photos by Mark Fuller, CGCS.



Not to be outdone, Matt and Cheryl Crowther (below left) spent their "early day" on their first (and long-awaited) trip to Ireland visiting castles and finding Gibney's, our favorite pub from earlier trips, for their first pint.  Now, THAT is teasing!


And we're off!

Posted 10 October 2015 · 2,552 views

While some are already there and enjoying Guinness and Irish golf, most of the 33 trip participants are jetting off from their respective home airports today, with arrival in Dublin early Sunday morning.



Special guests on the trip this year include Fred Gehrisch, CGCS - TurfNet Superintendent of the Year 2014 - and his wife Lynn, of Highlands Falls Country Club in Highlands, NC -- both guests of Syngenta.  


Superintendent of the Year 2014 Finalists Eric Wygant (Shannopin Country Club), Joel Kachmarek (Tacoma Country and Golf Club) and Jorge Croda (Southern Oaks Country Club) are also coming along as guests of Syngenta.


We are also delighted to have Joan Colleran, wife of the late Paul Colleran of Aldarra Golf Club, accompany us. A 2014 Superintendent of the Year finalist, Paul was nominated posthumously after succumbing to brain cancer last year.


Another winner is on the trip this year. Doug Ayres of Corral de Tierra Country Club near Salinas, CA, is a guest of Aquatrols for submitting the best entry in the Aquatrols/TurfNet Smart Water Management Video Challenge.


The group also includes eight wives, one father and two sets of brothers.


Participants include:

  • Matt Crowther, Mink Meadows Golf Club, and his wife Cherly
  • Fred Gehrsich, Highlands Falls Country Club, and his wife Lynn
  • Eric Wygant of Shannopin Country Club and his wife Debra
  • Jorge Croda of Southern Oaks Country Club
  • Matthew Tacilauskas, Palm Beach Country Club, and his wife Trish and friend Tammy Kardoulias
  • John Gall of the Cherry Hill Club and his wife Maureen
  • Jeff Hemphill of Nissequogue Golf Club and his wife Deborah
  • Doug Ayres, Corral de Tierra Country Club, and his wife Melissa
  • Joel Kachmarek, Tacoma Country and Golf Club, with his father, Kas, and brother Mark
  • brothers John Gosselin of Aronimink Country Club and Tom Gosselin of Overbrook Country Club
  • Joan Colleran, PGA, Overlake Golf & Country Club
  • Steven Neulip, Etowah Valley Golf Club
  • Mark Fuller, Connecticut Golf Club
  • Frank Tichenor, Forest Hill Field Club and his guest Pete Radtke
  • Scott Schukraft, Elite Turf
  • Mike Cook, The Care of Trees
  • Tripp Trotter, Syngenta
  • Kevin Collins, Aquatrols
  • Jon Kiger and his wife Elaine, TurfNet
  • Peter McCormick, TurfNet

Courses on the schedule this year include

  • Sunday: The Links Portmarnock (est 1996)
  • Monday: County Louth/Baltray (est 1892)
  • Tuesday: Portmarnock Golf Club (est 1889)
  • Wednesday: The Island Golf Club (est 1890)
  • Thursday: Royal County Down (est 1889)
  • Friday: Royal Portrush (est (1888)
  • Saturday: Ballymascanlon Hotel Golf Course

The 6th TurfNet Emerald Challenge event will be held with Irish superintendents at Portmarnock Golf Club on Tuesday, all in an effort to decide whether the coveted Hurley Trophy stays in Ireland or returns to the States.


Follow along this week while we bring you daily updates from the trip. Slainte'!


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