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Dave Wilber: Turfgrass Zealot

The Turfgrass Zealot Project, Ep. #25 with guest Hector Velazquez.

Posted in The Turfgrass Zealot Project, Podcast, Staff 05 July 2016 · 1,485 views

The Turfgrass Zealot Project, Ep. #25 with guest Hector Velazquez.

Join Hector Velazquez and myself as we go deep into the world of Hector and Hector's Shop!


Do you know Hector? You should. He's breaking ground in an often forgotten, overlooked and misunderstood world. The world of the golf course equipment fleet is not only huge, it is a place where a ton of money gets spent. And wasted.


Hector and I talk about what's what in his world. From his background to his travels as a teacher, his life as an educator and of course his job as a father and husband.


I had such a great time with Hector. He's a brother. And a Turfhead. And an important figure in our business. Thanks for listening!


To learn more about Hector Velazquez go here.


The Turfgrass Zealot Project is sponsored by Klingstone. Proven bunker performance for more than 15 years.


The Reality of the US Open Golf Championship Has Nothing To Do With The Reality of Golf

Posted in The Turfgrass Zealot Project, Events, Agronomy 17 June 2016 · 63,625 views

I am never ever ever ever (did I say never ever?) going to take away from the hard work of any golf course superintendent, any staff member or any volunteer for any event. Ever.


And this is especially true in 2016 with John Zimmers. I've admired John for years for all kinds of reasons. His commitment to Oakmont is a model of what adapted stewardship in our business needs to be. That is to say, John brings Oakmont exactly what Oakmont needs. And like any upper-end country club job, it is political, it is difficult, it is clueless members with fat wallets, it is connected members with fat wallets. That's the scene. And while many aspire to that level, not as many can actually kick its ass. John has done that. And I am sure there are costs that none of us will ever know or understand to John and his wife, Tracey.


There's a lot of focus on the 2016 Open. It is the history and greatness of Oakmont. It is Fox Sports. It is the USGA. It is Pittsburg. It's Holly Sonders' curves. And perhaps most importantly it is post-2015. Because while many disagree on the what's, how's and why's of the 2015 Open at Chamber's Bay, we can certainly agree that there was a lot of negative chatter. A lot of people weighing in while having little or no clue about what they were talking about. Design. Agronomy. Weather. It was in many ways, a public show of tossing monkey shit.


So here we come to 2016 and nobody wants to see a repeat shit show. Especially the USGA. Especially Mike Davis. Especially Fox Sports. Nobody wants to have Donald Trump declare it ugly like he did with Pinehurst #2. Nobody wants to see Billy Horschel have a three-year-old hissy fit in HD. 


Are you getting the picture here?


As I write this on Friday AM, the new star of the show is Thursday Rain. Rendering the "don't talk to me, I'm the hottest chick you have ever seen" Oakmont, a little more friendly "I'm just Jenny from the block" kind of vibe. Of course, this also means that some players are going to have to play 36 holes. Oh well. 


But none of this is a reality. None of it. It is what it is. A story. A unique story.


Here is some reality. While this is all going on, while the Oakmont Goddess is getting all the adornments, the rest of the golf business must function in sweats and tee shirts. Like it usually does. Yes, Oakmont will be on the flat screens at the course, and the centerfolds will be bathroom reading material. But for thousands and thousands of golf courses, things are what they are and what they will always be. The early summer grind. That's reality.


...we can watch the 2016 US Open golf Championship with a degree of reverence for what it is. But I for one will be thinking of the thousands (yes, thousands) of greenkeepers and their staffs who hold down the fort without a raft of volunteers...


Why am I writing all of this? Because I live and work in a business where most of those that are charged with conditioning courses will never see or experience a US Open. Never. They won't. And yet, it is more than likely that someone in their world will talk to them this week about Oakmont. "Did you see that.....", will be the start of many sentences.


Last year, those sentences ended with discussions about how much better "our course" is than the one on TV. Misguided observations, fueled by Brandel Chamblee's agronomy and Ian Poulter's yapping about Brittish conditions. It was easy to navigate. The legions of turfheads could say that in some way, they were better.


But not this time. Oakmont is near perfect. I started getting the texts and the tweets and the PMs on the weekend. The place is mind-blowing good. Some who really know saying it is the best-conditioned thing that they have ever seen. The volunteers and staff kicking ass. The greens lightning fast on Monday. The press arriving in the trumpets of the USGA saying "see, we know what green grass is". 


Tournament golf is tough. It is a minefield. And it represents so many things that I don't think golf should be. Yet, there must be championships. Because, in its very heart, golf is a competition. With yourself, with the course, with the climate, and with others. So in that sense, it should be OK. But we have made the upper levels into a paranoid, set of worries. I mean, heaven forbid something is wrong. And yet, we challenge nature and it always wins. Always. 


So in the end, my point here, is that we can watch the 2016 US Open Golf Championship with a degree of reverence for what it is. But I for one will be thinking of the thousands (yes, thousands) of greenkeepers and their staffs who hold down the fort without a raft of volunteers. Without basically unlimited resources. Without press tents full of people who have been primed to tell their stories.


But with reality. A reality of their weekend situations or tournaments, which, in their own experience, are just as important as this weekend's TV show. Today, as I write this, there are Superintendents who are challenged to do their pre-weekend prep with next to nothing. Who got the same 3 inches (or more) of rain that Oakmont just got and have five people to fix the bunkers. Not 105. Five. With resources that are so limited that they don't even like to think about how thin they are. With staff members that they are afraid of losing because the local McDonald's pays more than they can pay for labor. They will be out in the dark tomorrow morning, with no lights. No TV cameras around. No YouTube videos posted of their barely running mowers on the green.


Plain and simple in your face reality.


The Crew at Picatinny Arsenal GC

Perhaps if you are not in the business of greenkeeping and you are reading this, you might understand that what you see on the TV this weekend, has absolutely nothing to do with the reality of golf. What golf should be. What golf can be. 


I think that's a good thing. Because I still happen to think that golf is good. And it is good for everybody. And I want everyone to play. That's my reality.


Sadly, Oakmont is not. And again, that should take nothing away from superintendent John Zimmers and his insanely amazing efforts with his turfhead army. While you say a quiet thank you to John Zimmers as you watch this weekend, maybe think of John Doe Greenkeeper... who's 5 guys fixed just as many bunkers, mowed just as much grass and took just as much pride in their work. Bravo.

The Turfgrass Zealot Project, Ep. 24: On Being An Excellent Assistant or Intern

Posted in The Turfgrass Zealot Project, Podcast, Staff 09 June 2016 · 1,058 views

By request!! An update on one of my most popular blog posts, on being an Excellent Assistant or Intern.


One of the most popular blog posts I have ever done in podcast form. Kind of cool. Third kind of cool, actually. Take a few min to listen to this just in case you need a refresher. Works for Young Turfies or for those responsible for them. Being an excellent Assistant or Intern isn't always just about agronomy. It comes down to character and working with the team around you.


Because one day, being a leader will mean understanding these principles. 


The Turfgrass Zealot Project is sponsored by Klingstone. Proven bunker performance for over 15 years.


The Turfgrass Zealot Project Ep. 23 with Kevin Hicks and Jon Kiger

Posted in The Turfgrass Zealot Project, Podcast, Friends 12 May 2016 · 1,079 views

Episode 23 of The TZP brings us chats with Kevin Hicks, GCS at The Coeur D'Alene Golf Resort... and TurfNet's Jon Kiger taking about TurfNet's participation in The Irish Open at The K Club. 


Kevin Hicks is such a good guy. I reached out to him on the off chance that he could do a short interview and he stepped right up the the plate. He's a great guy, an old friend and a proud father. We get to know a little more about him and talk about my adventure into the bowels of the famous Floating Green.


Jon Kiger joins me to talk about TurfNet's involvement in The Irish Open. Jon is leading a group of folks to volunteer for Course Manager, Gerry Byrne. And you can hear Jon talk about how this all came to be and how you can follow the whole thing on TurfNet.


The Turfgrass Zealot Project is brought to you by Klingstone. Proven Bunker Performance for over 15 years.


The Turfgrass Zealot Project, Ep. 22 with guest Jim Ferrin of Timbercreek GC

Posted in The Turfgrass Zealot Project, Podcast, Ranting 03 May 2016 · 5,583 views

I'm calling this episode "The Epic Episode". Epic Monologue. Epic Guest. Epic Length. Epic!! (and no, I don't mind over-using the word Epic)


Jim Ferrin, CGCS is one of those people that I think everyone should know. I'm biased. I've known him since 1990. When we were just young guys coming up in the business. Jim has excelled. He's a great turf manager. A great people manager. A student of Golf, Agronomy and Life. He's won a ton of awards including the coveted Leo Feser award from GCSAA. He's served in just about every possible way to make our business better.We have an epic conversation. We always do. Because no one can melt my brain like Jim.


I also happened to turn on my microphone and record an Epic Rant. One of those things that I've been trying to write for years and finally the words came to me. So I pulled the starter rope and pressed record. Result, a word strimming session, a buzz cut of one of the things I think is most wrong with our business and why that thinking promotes lack of innovation.


It's a feature length episode. Epic length. But I didn't want to cut it up into little pieces. Like an epic drink, it needs to be taken in one big awesome gulp. Or a series of small drinks at your own speed. But I couldn't and wouldn't cut it up. That's just not fair.


You can reach Jim Ferrin at ferrinj@scrca.org


The Turfgrass Zealot Project is sponsored by Klingstone. Proven Bunker performance for over 15 years. www.klingstone.com




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