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Paul MacCormack: The Mindful Superintendent

The Weight

Posted 05 December 2016 · 572 views

Last week marked the 40th Anniversary of "The Last Waltz", the legendary final concert by the equally legendary musical ensemble, The Band.  While reflecting on the band and the film, I couldn't help but circle back to their most famous tune, The Weight... a song that speaks to the journey that is life, and the extra baggage we may carry along the way.



Our ability to endure pressing weight in our lives is a fascinating part of the human experience. Whether it's a physical, emotional, or even a mental load we bear, the effects on us are usually similar. We shape our lives around this baggage and learn to adapt to its presence. We will often go far beyond what would be deemed reasonable to accommodate the burden, rather than being the least bit curious about the underlying issues.


Fixing the problem may not be quite as easy as it sounds. Especially with burdens of a physical nature (i.e. cancer), one can't just move past it. What we are speaking of here are those afflictions that we may not even be aware of... things like anger issues, deep rifts within a family, addiction problems, or even simple physical conditioning.


We can go to tremendous lengths to convince both ourselves and others that there is simply nothing we can do to change. We tell ourselves that the problem is simply too large to overcome, and the changes that would be necessary in our lives to tackle the problem are just too big to contemplate. This mindset becomes the truth we believe and it in turn prevents us from moving in any sort of positive direction.


This mindset becomes the truth we believe and it in turn prevents us from moving in any sort of positive direction...


Often times we dont move towards necessary change until our hand is forced. We may know deep down that a different direction may be the answer, but the story we repeatedly tell ourselves keeps us bound by the shackles of impossibility.  Sometimes all it takes is a shift in perspective. A small crack in the veneer that allows a new idea to penetrate, and opens us to a completely new viewpoint.


Its always fascinating when you move past an infirmity. Whether its something simple like tennis elbow or an issue has a deeper impact on your life, the freedom that comes from moving forward is liberating. Once the weight has been lifted, we often look back and marvel at the impact the problem had on our lives. We literally cant seem to remember our lives without the burden, so when we finally take control and create anew, life takes on a whole new meaning. 


If you have had an issue that you know deep down needs fixing, take a few moments to step back and get even a little bit curious. You don't have to change anything, just merely be inquisitive. It might be the first step towards "taking a load off" and your journey through this life might get a whole lot sweeter.


"You must learn to master a new way to think before you can master a new way to be."

-- Marianne Williamson

The Real Deal...

Posted 07 October 2016 · 3,071 views

The Ryder Cup was many things to many people, but for me it was the opportunity to see something up close that I have thought about a great deal. This blog has touched on many things and has hopefully created a balanced framework for many of us to look toward. But it wasn't until I got to spend a week at Hazeltine with Chris Tritabaugh and his crew, that I finally found what I have been searching for: a truly Mindful Superintendent.

Chris embodies all of the traits that one would aim for if one chooses to work mindfully in this industry. Those of us lucky enough to be behind the scenes working turf at the Ryder Cup were treated to an experience that we may not fully appreciate for a long time.

I finally found what I have been searching for: a truly Mindful Superintendent..."

Below you will find a few of the characteristics that we were truly blessed to see and experience firsthand:
Humility - if you didn't know who Chris was, you would never have known he was in charge. His simple dress code, calm demeanor, and unassuming nature were so refreshing. He was always quick to give the credit to his staff and kudos to anyone but himself.
Graciousness - Even before we walked the course for the first time, Chris took the time to introduce every member of his crew and every one of the 100 volunteers, personally. Not only that, he made a personal connection with each one of us. It was masterful.
Throughout the week Chris was always quick to return a compliment with a follow up thank you (see @ct_turf if you think that I'm lying). Every time one of us thanked Chris or any one of his crew for allowing us the opportunity to work alongside them, they quickly deferred and thanked us more. 
Vision & Intention - Chris's vision for this event extended far beyond the turf and the golf course. He and his team attended to every detail of the volunteer experience and made sure we all had the best possible time together. He mentioned time and time again that he had seen everything that was to happen years before in his mind's eye, and they simply set about to make it a reality.
Processes - Even through the crew exuded a humble facade, you knew they had worked hard to perfect their procedures for each task. But the best part was that they still deferred to the professional volunteers if necessary and never stopped trying to improve all week.
Leadership - Continuously though out the week Chris talked about the fact that he leans on his staff a great deal and expects them to be leaders in their own right. He is the antithesis of the micro manager; he is a true delegator. This mentality breeds leaders.

...he leans on his staff a great deal and expects them to be leaders in their own right."

You could see this confidence in the eyes of Hazeltine's assistants, interns, and staff. They knew that they had been given full rein to create the conditions necessary for this event to succeed, and they knocked it out of the park.
Staying Grounded - One of the best parts of the experience for all of us was having Chris's friends and family surrounding us all week. From our shuttle drivers, to the video crew capturing the volunteer experience (yes, they thought of that as well), to keeping the volunteer lounge rolling along, it was awesome to have that personal connection with those that matter most to Chris. Big shout out to his wife Lindsay, daughters Penelope & Olive (who made an amazing anniversary banner for their mom & dad), sister Emily, and brother Adam, and parents John and Laurie for making the volunteer lounge feel like home.
Moments of Zen - Now I am not sure if Chris specifically sets aside time for any kind of formal meditation (although that would not surprise me in the least), but I do know that he walks the grounds at Hazeltine constantly. One can only assume that his moments of silence and reflection come often during those strolls (plus he takes care of his physical health at the same time).
Grace under pressure - If you did not know that the Ryder Cup was going on at Hazeltine (it was kinda hard to miss), you would have thought it was just another day for Chris and his staff. The calming effect that had on everyone volunteering was amazing.
Fun, Fun, Fun - Chris said early during the orientation that our main goal during the week was to have fun. We all knew that there was a job to do, but we also knew that we were there to enjoy the moment. The team atmosphere was infectious and by week's end we had created bonds that will last forever. 
As I sit back and reflect on the week at Hazeltine, I am constantly surprised that I remember so much more than the turf, golf, and the crowds. Don't get me wrong, the turf was unbelievable, the golf epic, and the crowds well, they were crowds. But for me the most memorable moments happened far beyond the glare of the cameras and the roar of the boisterous fans. They are ones of friendship, connection, and being a part of something far greater than the Ryder Cup.

But for me the most memorable moments happened far beyond the glare of the cameras and the roar of the boisterous fans. They are ones of friendship, connection, and being a part of something far greater than the Ryder Cup..."

So once again, thank you Chris Tritabaugh. Thanks to your assistants and team leaders Ryan, Red, Steve, Keith, and Scott. Your mechanics, Ralph and Thomas, and all rest of your crew; Giovanni Pina Avalos, Joseph Brettingen, Tanner Burns, Omar Retamoza Clolico, Amado J Cortex, Matthew Darby, Thomas Day, Roger Denning, Michael Fremming, Jose A Garcia, Ignacio Miranda Garcia, James Gay, Lillia Vences Guillen, Herman Haag, Blair Hawkins, Robert Horoka, Michael Kantor, Gerald Klooster, Aaron Koller, Richard Kruger, Trevor McGuire, Christita Melander, Jesus Chicatto Mendez, Kevin Milbrant, Steve Miller, James Mirick, David Nestberg, Connor Payett, Doug Pernula, Thomas Radke, Martin Richardson, Thomas Roble, Javier Gonzalez Robles, Jack Roiger, Mitchell Ronning, Bradley Schuler, Nathan Shultenover, Glenn Shull, John Shelton, Paul Weatherly, Peter Braun, and Simon Winzar.  
Thanks also to all the volunteers and people that helped behind the scenes to make our week enjoyable. Special thanks to all of the volunteer superintendents and assistants from the Minnesota area and around the world for sharing not only the experience, but your knowledge and wisdom.

LIVE from the Ryder Cup: Turf Gel

Posted 30 September 2016 · 596 views

Beyond the spectacle, the perfect turf conditions and the insane merchandise tent, there is one thing that stands out more than anything else at this 41st edition of the Ryder Cup. It is community. It is the connection that only seems to come when greenkeepers, researchers, and industry representatives gather to work toward a common goal.


I got to spend some time with my fellow TurfNet contributor, Dr. Frank Rossi.


We have discussed the power of connection here on this blog before, (the ties that bind), but I have never experienced the deep sense of community and teamwork that has come from working together to produce the top notch conditions that exist this week at Hazeltine. They came from Sweden, the UK, Thailand, and even Prince Edward Island, Canada to help polish these playing surfaces into some of the best that have ever been produced.


That's me with Chris Tritabaugh © and my fellow PEI superintendent, Mark Perry, on the right.


As we gathered for the orientation, Hazeltine superintendent Chris Tritabaugh told us one thing. As he laid out the framework for what needed to be accomplished, he told us that since we were all professional superintendents he had no worries. He knew that we would handle the job. Whatever needed to happen, we would come together as a team and figure it out.


It is an incredibly powerful message for an accomplished group of professionals to hear. Borders faded, nationalism evaporated, and a feeling of Zen-like confidence has overtaken the crew. We know when we gather in the dark each morning to saddle up and head out onto the course, there is no issue that cannot be handled.


Fun is part of the volunteer experience.


No matter which team takes home the Ryder Cup, the experience and the memories that the Hazeltine turf crew and volunteers take away will be invaluable. Long after the roars of the crowds fade and the long flights home are done, we will all treasure the experience of community forever. 


Heading out.

LIVE from the Ryder Cup: It won't be long now!

Posted 26 September 2016 · 459 views


Looking forward to things is half the pleasure of them... Lucy Maud Montgomery
This post will be the first in a "once on a lifetime event" series. The Mindful Superintendent is on the road this week in Chaska, Minnesota, volunteering with the world class turfgrass crew from Hazeltine National Golf Club. The 2016 Ryder Cup Matches take place here this week and to say I am looking forward to it would be a gross understatement.
While reflecting on our preparation for this exciting week, anticipation was the word that just wouldnt go away. My good friend and fellow TurfNetter, Mark Perry (Rustico Golf Course in PEI) and I are making the trip together. The lead-up for us involved lots of texting, checking details, and sheer excitement. We have been just like a couple of kids during the prelude to Christmas.
Chris Tritabaugh and his turf team at Hazeltine have to be on a completely different plane of anticipation. They have been preparing this course for everal years, and a few days out now I can only imagine the excitement they are feeling. All the early mornings, long hours and sacrifice come down to three days of Ryder Cup insanity no pressure.

Chris Tritabaugh and his turf team at Hazeltine have to be on a completely different plane of anticipation. They have been preparing this course for several years, and a few days out now...

When we approach major events in our lives with a positive outlook, anticipation becomes a valuable asset. Our focus sharpens, organization intensifies, and our "Spidey" senses begin to tingle. If we can stay on the mindful side of things, these tools can make our events memorable.
On the flip side, if anticipation becomes fuel for unnecessary worry, increased anxiety and scattered nerves, it can incapacitate us. It clouds our focus and leaves us scrambling to bring it all together. By feeding the wrong beast, we can only look back on major events with exhaustion and regret.
Everything that I have seen and heard from Chris thus far leads me to believe that he and his crew fall firmly in the positive camp. They appear to approaching the build up to the Ryder Cup with a great deal of excitement along with a healthy dose of fun. By keeping that focus on what is important, they can know that that the lasting legacy of this event will be one of fond memories.

Life Hacks from a Mindful Super

Posted 12 September 2016 · 963 views

When seeds are planted, the seedlings must be watered, nourished, and given room to grow. Just like humans, they require proper growing conditions and ongoing, loving maintenance.

When irrigation systems are new, they require a lot of training. Because they leak it takes a while to get used to the new pipes. As they age they become more unpredictable, leak more, and become much less "depend"-able.
After years of constant rolling, greens seal off and become hydrophobic. Aeration is necessary to open channels and allow flow again. Same goes for our minds. When we become hardened by rigid ideas, it can be helpful to poke holes in them to allow new flow (occasional deep tining is also very helpful).
Topdressing is like any good habit in our lives. The consistent application of small amounts of goodness is very beneficial.

The consistent application of small amounts of goodness is very beneficial...

Adequate amounts of food, water, and light along with proper exposure to stress are key for optimum greens performance. Apply similar amounts of same for optimum life performance.
Be open to other (informed) opinions about the management of your property. Seeing the same old thing through a different lens can be very illuminating. Apply similar amounts of same (informed) opinions to your own life.
Over the top bunkers can be nice to look at for a spell, but as with life, high maintenance can be exhausting, costly and an unwise use of resources.
Keeping your mowers sharp, properly adjusted and clear of debris yields happy turf. Keeping your mind sharp, properly adjusted, and clear of debris yields a happier super. 

Keeping your mind sharp, properly adjusted, and clear of debris yields a happier super...

When placed optimally, trees add strategy, beauty and biodiversity to a golf course. If allowed to grow unchecked they block light, cause turf to suffer, and degrade strategic intent. 
If used wisely, ideas can allow us to grow and appreciate the beauty of the universe. On the flip side, if negative, hurtful ideas are left unchecked they can also block the light and cause a great deal of suffering in our lives. 
Dormancy and rest are key to turf health and recovery. Dormancy and sleep are key to superintendent health and recovery. 
Following carts on the same path over and over leads to compaction, stress, and worn out turf. In life, try taking a pull cart once in a while


Paul MacCormack's Mindful Superintendent blog is presented by Redexim North America.

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