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My final day of work at The Hills for Brendan Allen is finished. I cleaned out my locker, said good bye to the guys, and am ready for my trip to Auckland through the west coast. Working at The Hills was a pleasure. There is a great bunch of guys on the crew and that only improved the experience for me. The closeness of everyone is really unique to find in such a large crew. That only makes work easier. I wish everyone the best to their future endeavors.
I cannot thank Brendan enough for taking me on for the season. I got to see a different operation and work with Browntop Bentgrass (Colonial Bentgrass) that I had not previously. One of the main reasons I chose to come to The Hills was the tournament that was being held here. To see course preparation for a tournament was something I had wanted to see for a long time.
I was impressed at how well the course was prepared prior to the tournament. Maybe there are just more guys who have been through multiple tournaments or Brendan was really on top of jobs that needed to be done, but there never felt like a change from summer work to tournament prep. Expectations are kept high during the season so when the NZ Open came around we knew what was expected and just did it.
Working at The Hills was a great experience. This is a world class operation. If anyone gets the opportunity to come here or wishes to get away from the cold winters on the Northern Hemisphere I highly suggest coming over. To work at such a beautiful course with highly knowledgable personal and get to experience a unique golfing setting is a humbling experience.
When I set down with Mike O'Keeffe in December 2013 I could not have expected to have such a fantastic time working and traveling in Ireland and New Zealand. A fun filled year could not have been possible without the help of many people.
A huge thanks to Mike O'Keeffe for setting up me up to interview with TurfNet and placing me at The Hills. Thanks to Jon Kiger and the staff at TurfNet for answering any questions I had about the blog and helping me get me set up for Ireland. To Brendan Allen and Aidan O'Hara, thank you for taking me on and teaching me more about managing a golf course to the highest standard than I knew possible. You are two of the best in the business. A shoutout to all of the Superintendents that took the time to show around their courses in Ireland and NZ. Without the support of all of you this year would not have been possible. Thank you.
My journey has not ended yet though. As I said above I still have some time here till I fly out so I have a trip planned out to see the rest of New Zealand. Starting Monday I will be going around the country as I make my way up to Auckland. When I get back to the USA I will be volunteering at TPC Sawgrass for The Players, maybe I will see some of you there. I have accepted the position of Turf Grad at Hazeltine National Golf Club for hopefully through the Ryder Cup in 2016.
Yesterday, Rockbottum's top covert film unit returned from Rivermont CC with footage of Mark Hoban, MGS, (Mad Golf Scientist) using his Invisible Soil-Feeding TD sand.
The film you are about to see is one of several updates of ongoing research testing taking place under Mark's control. Next week we intend to reveal where he's getting this stuff . . . unless he comes up with some serious compensation.
Based on 25+ years of interacting with and counseling golf course superintendents through their careers, the following is an upside vs downside rating listing of the full spectrum of jobs that golf course superintendents might consider applying for at one time or another during their careers -- presented in the priority order of the better jobs first:
A+ CHOICE: With Established Multi-Course Contract Company
Upside: Maximum job security with unique job advantages. (See Mar 12th blog)
Downside: There are too few jobs available -- only about 15% of superintendents work for contract companies today -- a figure that should double in the coming years.
A- CHOICE: Within Private Sector "Good Guy" GM Operations
Upside: All the benefits of working for the best GMs in golf. (See Mar 5th blog)
Downside: GMs change jobs and no one knows who will replace the outgoing GM.
B+ CHOICE: Within Private Sector Board/Committee Format
Upside: Highest salary potential; plus best chance to work at prestigious golf clubs.
Downside: High salary superintendents are terminated in tight economies; never-ending political atmosphere combined with the constant turning-over of Board and committee rosters translates into survey-tested 80% job insecurity.
B- CHOICE: Within Daily Fee Course Operations
Upside: Great jobs when right owners and right superintendents match up.
Downside: While "high fee" operations generate max revenues, owners are too often inclined to maximize profits by squeezing operations and staff budgeting. Pressurized working environment because bankruptcy is at times never more than one bad weather season away. Job security often tenuous!
"Low fee" operations attract the worst kind of owners that operate within the thinnest of financial margins; there is no plus side here; take job if necessary and move on sooner rather than later.
D+ CHOICE: w/i Private Sector "Power Broker/Bad Guy" GM Operations
Upside: A job is a job.
Downside: Weak GMs think of their welfare first and employees after that -- all of which translates into pervasive job insecurity. Job candidates must do their due diligence to identify this category of GMs before accepting jobs.
B+ WHEN A Municipal Golf Course Job Is An EARLY Career Choice
C+ WHEN A Municipal Golf Course Job Is A LATER Career Choice
Upside: When municipalities directly hire staff to manage their golf courses (versus a contract company): an opportune early career job for superintendents and assistants because it presents the opportunity to prove to future employers that they can deliver top-level course maintenance with minimal budget resources.
Early in careers municipal employment can be excellent springboard to future quality jobs in the private, daily fee and public sectors of golf provided superintendents deliver the rarely seen combination of high quality course maintenance with tight fiscal efficiency. The opportunity is always there.
Downside: Few in the municipal chain of command understand course maintenance and job descriptions reflect this. Compensation tied to low-paying muni-wide salary schedules.
Second Option: Many municipalities hire outside contract companies to maintain their golf courses because of the municipalities' lack of familiarity with this task.
The inherent value of the above job listing is that it will help candidates to effectively pursue the better jobs while at the same time avoiding career mis-steps that many superintendents are not generally aware of.
Guest Post by Frank Duda, Golf Course Superintendent at Miacomet Golf Club, Nantucket, MA
While not perfectly related to career materials or technology, I thought it was interesting enough to include on this blog due to the potential importance of it in some of your operations, especially with it being in the news recently. The second post on how to streamline and manage the process will be coming in the next blog. I hope this offers insight to you and thanks to Frank Duda for writing this series.
On Nantucket Island, 30 miles off the coast of Cape Cod in Massachusetts, finding an effective source of seasonal employment is a constant challenge. As is the case with other resort destinations, people come to Nantucket to vacation, not to work. Finding the required amount of employees willing to begin work every day at 5AM is nearly impossible. Five years ago we started utilizing the H2B visa program to ensure we had sufficient employees for the summer season. This program authorizes your company to employ foreign nationals legally for a given time period. In our case, our authorized employment of H2B workers runs from April 15 ? October 15.
While there are several additional requirements that the government places on your company when utilizing the H2B program, this program is integral in being able to ensure that our staffing needs are met. As the process and paperwork are rather cumbersome and takes a certain degree of skill to complete, we outsource this to a company that specializes in completing this paperwork. While outsourcing does add to the end cost of obtaining these employees, I highly recommend it to ensure that the paperwork is done correctly. This will avoid any frustration on your part and delays in your workers' arrival.
As the process and paperwork are rather cumbersome and takes a certain degree of skill to complete, we outsource this...
Some of the additional requirements include paying every employee a prevailing wage, as determined by the United States Department of Labor, advertising the position on both state job banks and local newspapers to ensure that any United States citizens are not being adversely effected by you bringing in foreign nationals, and incurring the travel costs of the foreign nationals to arrive at your location. While these requirements involve additional costs, the cost is more than offset by having dependable, dedicated employees throughout the summer season.
When we first started using the H2B program five years ago we only had a petition for people, all Filipino nationals, to supplement our additional 8-10 seasonal employees. Over the years we have increased our crew size and this year we are set to have 13 Filipino nationals serve as the backbone of our crew, with an additional 8-10 Americans supplementing them.
We have had so much success with this program that our H2B employees are asking us to sponsor their family members or friends in the program. I currently have a waiting list for our H2B employees to bring a guest of theirs to join our company in future years? petitions. Knowing that we will be able to meet our staffing needs for many years to come through the H2B visa program is essential to our operation in a resort location.
We have had so much success with this program that our H2B employees are asking us to sponsor their family members or friends in the program...
In a subsequent blog post I will go into further detail about the paperwork process and what is involved with meeting the government?s requirements as well as completing the process as quickly and smoothly as possible.
In this episode of Frankly Speaking on TurfNet RADIO, we are following up with Dr. Micah Woods of the Asian Turfgrass Center on the MLSN concept and new discussion about using growth potential as a means of scheduling nutrient management additions. An excellent review of a progressive approach to golf turf nutrient management!
Check it out below or download it here for offline listening on your favorite device.
I am profoundly aware of the need for all Turfheads to be critical. It really is our job. One mentor told me that if he didn't "point and bitch" enough, he wasn't doing his job. And I adopted this. I was a ruthless stickler for the details.
Hated by many. Loved by no one. Followed infrequently.
I remember someone sending me a book called Don't Sweat the Small Stuff (*and it's all small stuff). I returned the book with a scathing letter indicating that it was my job to "sweat" in parts per million. It was brilliant writing. And I was a dead wrong ass.
In our culture, if we do our jobs right, then often we don't hear anything. Perhaps a "greens were good today" or a "thanks for getting the order to me early" happen... rarely. But when things are wrong, well, you need a personal force field when you get near the driving range tee or the super's office. It trickles downhill to our staff. It shouldn't. But it does.
In our culture, if we do our jobs right, then often we don't hear anything...
In my last position, I rarely heard much about good stuff. But when I missed something or didn't get it quite right a criticism bomb went off nearby. The shrapnel of words cut me deeply. Perhaps this is why I'm no longer there. Which is neither here nor there.
Here comes early season for many of you. And for others in warm climes the long winter golf season coming to an end brings a summer of projects and preparing for another long winter golf season. And so, it's a good idea to sit and think about your management strategy.
This isn't one of those "catch someone doing it right" speeches or words in support of everyone getting a trophy no matter how much they suck. But I will tell you, the Turfheads I see who stop the flow of criticism, act as a dam and release positive reenforcement are dead solid perfect winners.
This isn't one of those "catch someone doing it right" speeches or words in support of everyone getting a trophy no matter how much they suck. But I will tell you...
I recently read a beautiful blog entry about this. Better written that I could ever do. So here it is. Do yourself a favor and take it in. Deeply. And use it. Effectively. https://www.katehedd...ective-feedback
Because when the pressure is on and you let those you lead know constantly that they suck, guess what, they will suck. For sure. The banging gong that destroys. Don't be that. No one will follow you.
Read Kate Heddleston's words. And determine a strategy that coaches, uplifts and supports. I'm not saying settle for bad work. But, when an employee gets it wrong, well, the correction won't sound like gong beating and then you will be a leader.
Recently I watched a video on TurfNet TV from Randy Wilson, called Ten Years from Now. It, of course, takes place ten years in the future and talks about the scarcity of fungicide, fertilizer and diesel fuel. Even effluent water is being bought by a bottled water company rather than being used for irrigation on their course. Buddy laments they should have gone half organic when they had the chance, but they were worried about being ridiculed by the "Dark Green Fairway Movement". It is truly a great parody video, but like all parody has a ring of truth to it. Now I don?t know where golf specifically is headed, but I have some thoughts on several possible environmentally-focused changes for the industry as a whole.
Chemical restrictions will continue, and increase
There are a number of hort/ag chemicals that have been banned in the past decade or so. I haven't kept a list of them, but I know it happened. This trend will continue and even accelerate. Even the neonicotinoids, which were heralded as a safer chemical, are coming under intense fire for possibly damaging bee colonies. Industry mainstays like glyphosate are in the sights of many environmental groups, and the sheer quantity of glyphosate used by the industry makes this product a ripe target. I only use chemicals under the most urgent situations, but for high quality sports fields and golf, some chemical use is a necessity. If our industry helps guide restriction legislation, rather than fight it out of hand, we will get to use the safest, most effective chemicals in the future.
If our industry helps guide restriction legislation, rather than fight it out of hand, we will get to use the safest, most effective chemicals in the future...
Inorganic fertilizer restrictions will continue, and increase
In parts of the U.S., most noticeably around the Chesapeake Bay, fertilizer can only be applied after a soil sample indicates the need, and then only using certain products. This is a wise step, especially for homeowners, but I imagine there is very little oversight or monitoring. Certification is already needed in most situations for pesticide applications, and certification of fertilizer applicators is ramping up too. The fertilizer industry is seeing that organic fertilizers have more impact across the spectrum of turf nutrition needs because they benefit not only the plant, but also all the organisms and soil around it, creating a much healthier grass ecosystem. As more companies produce more organic and hybrid fertilizers, costs will come down. Given the efficacy and broad spectrum benefit of organics and hybrids, they may already be a better value per dollar.
You will need a permit to run a chainsaw
Power equipment in the green industry is loud and relatively polluting when compared to other combustion based engines. Even with CARB standards, mowers and blowers are resource intensive. They use a lot of gas, generate more emissions than a car, and are uniformly loud. While all industry equipment, i.e. weed eaters, chain saws, hedge trimmers, etc. are much improved and more efficient today than in the past, they still will face scrutiny in the future, especially at the local level. In many places there are already noise restrictions, and a number of locales have restricted blower use. As cities enlarge, and green space shrinks, air quality concerns will allow legislators to focus on power equipment and the restrictions will increase. Couple power equipment with urban forest oversight and chainsaw permitting is a distinct possibility.
I will not be allowed to irrigate... at all
Irrigation restrictions are everywhere. In Nashville in the early 2000's we went on curtailment and could only water from 1am to 5am (4 million sq. ft. of total turf at 40 different sites, it couldn't be done). This effectively was a ban on commercial irrigation. During the 2012 Midwest drought, here in Springfield we could only water on odd/even days. Again, given the size of my campus, this was essentially a ban. I could water everything, but improperly and ineffectively. As water utilities need more water for drinking supplies and industry, horticulture irrigation will be the odd man out. Smart irrigation and increasingly efficient systems plus components will delay but not prevent the day when there is no water for irrigation.
Smart irrigation and increasingly efficient systems plus components will delay but not prevent the day when there is no water for irrigation...
The future is bright
I know that these predictions are not particularly far out or insightful. If anyone in our profession is surprised by them, they haven't been paying attention. There are certainly other changes to come also. Thinking as a green industry professional, I support these measures whole-heartedly. Increasing restrictions and environmental pressure will be good for our industry. No more will just anyone get to call themselves a turf expert or groundskeeper. For professionals, the ability to provide a high quality product, aligned with and heavily relying on natural processes, will be a necessity. This expertise will allow those able professionals to command better pay and control.
As future development expands, golf courses and college campuses will become some of the most important green spaces, both sought after and supported by government and the private sector. The challenge for our industry is to understand where we are headed, whether we like it or not, and to help define what that future will be. If our industry resists, we will not be able to affect the result, even though we will have to work within it.
Every now and again we all have moments that force us to tune in. It can be an achingly beautiful sunrise, that profound stillness that accompanies watching a child sleep, or the moments of reflection that come with the death of a loved one. Such events are so poignant and so groundless that we have no choice but to pause and pay attention.
For all of us in the TurfNet family these past few weeks have placed us square in the midst of one of these moments. The sudden passing of long time TurfNet member Jerry Coldiron (at age 60) forced us to pause and take time to remember the man he was. By all accounts Jerry was one of those guys who people just loved being around. His passion for life, his ability to embrace the simple joys, and his love for his family and friends made his untimely passing that much harder to process.
It can be an achingly beautiful sunrise, that profound stillness that accompanies watching a child sleep, or the moments of reflection that come with the death of a loved one...
When we lose those close to us, life gives us an incredible opportunity for deep reflection. Not only on the life and times of the loved one who is no longer with us, but also for ourselves. As we process our grief and sadness, we are given a window into our own mortality. How we choose to look through this window can have an immense impact on how we move forward. Do you quickly draw the curtains? Sneak a fearful peak? Or do you throw back the sash and meet whatever you see without hesitation?
My youngest brother, filmmaker Andrew MacCormack (he helped the AGSA create this short film last year, Deep Roots) had the incredible opportunity last year to meet and work with a young man named Jeremie Saunders. Andrew spent the better part of a year with Jeremie, recording his life and shooting a documentary for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC). Working on this project changed Andrew's entire outlook and has had a profound impact on how he views his own life.
Jeremie has been living with cystic fibrosis for his entire 29 years. But even though he has lived with the burden of this fatal disease (life expectancy is roughly 30), he has made the simple yet profound choice to live his life to the fullest. Jeremie has known his expiry date for a long time. Many of us don't have that burden, nor that luxury.
He and his closest friends have spent the last couple of years creating a podcast called Sickboy. This podcast aims to remove the stigma of disease by bringing it out into the open and talking about it. They use the power of open dialogue to turn the idea that disease and death need to be hidden away on its head. They have helped thousands of people living with various ailments adopt a new outlook that focuses on living, rather than just simply waiting to die.
Jeremie was recently in Toronto, ON to give a Ted Talk. He spoke about his experience and pushed the audience to fully examine their own mortality. He challenged them to re-imagine their version of living, all the while knowing that we all end up in the same place when our journey is complete. I would encourage you to watch the full talk, Embracing Your Expiry Date.
So as the holiday season approaches, take a moment to reflect on your own mortality. Not in a fatalistic, morbid way, but from a completely different angle. Look around you and offer deep gratitude for all the blessings that surround you. Have compassion for your loved ones, those in your broader community, and most importantly, yourself. Embrace your vulnerability and forgive yourself for anything at all. Changing your outlook in this way will have a profound impact on your life.
And when its all said and done, sit back and enjoy a beverage for @CaribeTurfman, Jerry Coldiron.
Thanks so much for reading.
It really is enlightening to spend time with those who aren't employed in golf but instead are passionate about the game...
While it can be frustrating if not outright painful to read at times from our perspective, it does offer a look from the other side...
A great friend of TurfNet, Jerry Coldiron, needs to be remembered as the wonderful, amazing man that he was.
Peter McCormick, founder and Maestro of TurfNet, chats with me about the passing of a great friend and Turfhead. To so many, Jerry was a light of positive influence... and his untimely and unexpected passing will leave a huge hole in the industry.
We speak candidly about what relationships mean and how the relationships that last are formed and maintained. And we tell some good stories about a good guy.
If you didn't know Jerry, you will know him. And if you knew Jerry, you will know him better.
Welcome to the 2018 Ireland Trip Blog! In a bit of a departure from previous years we are starting the blog well in advance of the trip so all the details may be found in one place. It seems we've done a good job of branding our members trips as "that Ireland trip". When I'm approached at a trade show, via email or on the phone I'm often told,"I want to go on your Ireland trip some day. Those trips looks like fun."
Actually, the 2018 trip will only be the fifth time weve been to Ireland, alternating with Bandon Dunes, Kohler, and most recently Scotland.
The dates are October 12 (leave the US) to October 20, 2018 (return to the US). Details are in the attached PDF.
The October 2018 Ireland trip has the perfect mix of old favorites and new experiences. We will return to
The Dunluce Course at Royal Portrush warrants an asterisk since it has been renovated in advance of hosting the 2019 Open Championship. That's right... we will be playing an Open Championship course a few months before it hosts the event.
County Louth Golf Club/Baltray
New to the list of golf courses are:
Portstewart Golf Club
Hole #1, Ardglass Golf Club
The locations of our overnight stays also represent some favorites and some new locations. With arrival and departure out of Dublin we will spend three days there. Our first two nights will be at the Grand Canal Hotel and our last night will be at Portmarnock Hotel and Golf Links.
We will return to County Louth for two nights, but this time we will stay in the waterfront village of Carlingford at the Four Seasons Hotel. Carlingford offers plenty of pubs, restaurants, and shops within easy walking distance of this hotel, which has undergone extensive renovation in advance of our stay.
The quaint village of Carlingford in East Ireland.
For the first time we will spend two nights in Northern Ireland in the town of Derry. The Bishop's Gate Hotel is especially central to many evening options and Derry itself is Ireland's only remaining walled city. More importantly, the last three courses we play are a short 45-minute ride from the hotel.
The Ireland trip (more than our other destinations) is ideal for non-golfing spouses or other family members. Some of the best times we've had have been as these 'golf maintenance widows' explore the countryside and get to know each other from the comfort of our luxury coach bus.
It's a great daily formula: Breakfast all together, coach drops off the golfers, tours with the non-golfers for 4-5 hours, golfers get picked up, everyone is together for the evening. Wake up and repeat the next day.
This year we even offer a "Tee and Tour" package with half golf and half touring for those who choose not to play golf every day.
Transportation will again be provided by Matthews Coach Hire. They will ensure our comfort and safety for the week. A professional, friendly driver/guide will assist us during the trip.
TurfNet EMERALD CHALLENGE
We will face off against our Irish colleagues in the tenth playing of the TurfNet Emerald Challenge. Ballyliffin has stepped forward to host this event, which traditionally has been the most fun round of the trip. Two TurfNet participants are paired up with two Irish superintendents in each group and the laughs and 'craic' are non-stop. Our pairings party on Sunday night in Dublin will get things rolling.
COMMENTS FROM PRIOR ATTENDEES
I hope you will consider joining us in Ireland. Here are some comments from previous participants.
"I can't thank you enough for all you have done the past week to make this the trip of a lifetime. I could not have done this while working 7 days a week and answering to a demanding membership. I have made friendships that will last a lifetime. You (Jon) have done unbelievable things to keep this whole trip more than anyone could ask for." -- Rich Struss, CGCS retired, NY
"I wanted to take a moment to express my heartfelt gratitude for the opportunities, friendships and experiences that happened throughout the trip to Ireland. First off, thank you to TurfNet for arranging the trip and a special thanks to Peter McCormick and Jon Kiger for being an integral part of the success of the trip and experience.
The attention to every detail of the trip was fantastic. It was an amazing group of people that participated in the trip together. I got the opportunity to make new friends and everyone went out of their way to make sure that I was included and felt welcome. I want to make sure that they all know how much fun I had and how much I appreciate the new friendships." -- Jorge Croda, CGCS, TX
The Island Golf Club
A big part of our international members trips is making sure the non-golfers have side activities to partake in while the rest of the group is away playing golf. Thursday was moving day where as a group we were checking out of the hotel in St. Andrews and moving into Edinburgh for our last two nights together.
The group was playing Crail Golf Club on the way to Edinburgh. Rather than having Diana Frank and Maureen Gall wait at the golf course I contacted my friend Susie Malcolm. Her husband Jim is a longtime singer/songwriter from just up the road in Perth. Jim performed for TurfNet in January when we were in St. Andrews as part of the BIGGA/BTME trip. He would have played for us this trip but ironically he is touring the States while we are over here.
Susie picked up Maureen and Diana at the hotel and they visited Rosalyn Chapel and Stirling Castle on the way to Edinburgh. As an added treat I arranged for each of them to receive a couple of Jims CDs, including his latest with Susie.
Maureen, Susie and Diana at Roslyn Chapel, above. Looks like they enjoyed each other (below).
The same type of side trips will be part of our TurfNet Members Trip to Ireland next year (October 12 -20, 2018) and will include use of our larger tour bus.
Jim and Susie Malcolm's latest CD.
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.
I love being the Head Groundskeeper at Drury University. This job is invigorating, challenging, thought provoking, and even most usually, exhausting. Grounds maintenance (and of course golf superintending!) challenges us both mentally and physically.
One of the aspects of my job, and our larger profession, I find fulfilling is the idea that I am participating in a time-honored human endeavor. Much of our work in the green industry has to do with fulfilling some kind of commercial purpose. In addition, though, many of us feel deeply connected to something greater that has to do with ecology, environment, spirituality, and service to our fellow man. A deeper aspect of this redemptive meaning to my job is the idea I am part of a longer continuum. I am not the first DU Groundskeeper, nor am I the last. I am merely the current one.
...many of us feel deeply connected to something greater that has to do with ecology, environment, spirituality, and service to our fellow man.
Someone Prepared the Way for Me
Drury has been at this site since its founding in 1873. There are certainly older campuses around, but we can be proud of our 144 years. The town of Springfield only incorporated in 1838. While 144 years is not a long time in some reckoning, it is still several lifetimes.
I often wonder what the original caretakers for Drury thought when it was first founded. What were they trying to create and maintain? Were they thinking about stewarding the land? Were they wondering what a groundskeeper in 2017 was going to be wondering about them?
I am not the first DU Groundskeeper, nor am I the last. I am merely the current one...
Groundskeeping is a profession that enables us to impact the lives of the people around us. When someone admires the trees on campus that were planted nearly 100 years ago, they become part of this continuum. Someone was caring for these trees when they were young; I owe it to them to do the same for our entire landscape.
I have it easy
The photo of the groundsman with a saw in his hand tells me a lot. First, think of the tools our predecessors had to work with. This man isnt holding a chainsaw. Even if there were chainsaws at the time, they would not have looked like a Stihl trim saw, nor started on the first pull of the recoil starter.
I have watched videos of the loggers working in the Pacific Northwest at the turn of the century. They were definitely the real deal. Could I have measured up? The fellow in the photo also has a Jacob's ladder to climb the tree. No bucket truck or climbing harnesses for this gentleman. I imagine him literally climbing the tree like a kid would do. It is also remarkable that the campus looks more like a woodland/forest glen than our modern campus. The density of planting is unheard of today. I do not necessarily think we are always doing better than these trailblazers did.
Some Things Never Change; Some Do
The photo below shows a groundsman swinging a pick to dig a hole. We don't know the reason for the hole, but it must surely be something important based on the number of people watching him (several are in academic regalia... a sure sign of a big event on a college campus). What has not changed from then until now is how much people like to watch a grounds crew work. I am not going to speculate why they are watching. People love gardening and will watch and chat frequently. Others are curious and watch in order to try to find out what is going on, or learn some tricks of the trade. However, what I find very interesting is the work is being performed while the event is occurring. Nowadays a grounds crew would perform preparations behind the scenes, then the occasion would unfold, followed by the grounds crew breaking down the area. It might speak to how important the role of the grounds crew is that all these dignitaries were watching the work being done.
Brethren. Before and After.
These last photos show two different groundskeepers from Drury University. The first is Dan Fetter, circa 1911. The next is yours truly. Mr. Fetter was known as 'Campus Dan', which certainly sounds like the DU community, cherished him. I like to wonder what he was thinking of at this time in his career, not to mention the Springfield community and the nation. This man had a huge impact on my career as well. I imagine none of the specific plants he tended are still here, but some of our trees are descendants of those he tended. More importantly, his stewardship for the campus has continued to this day. Tending the campus landscape for the future is deeply ingrained in Drury Grounds.
Our job is not fleeting. Nor is the impact we can make on our landscape. We groundskeepers have a long history, playing a vital role for our communities and organizations. By understanding and honoring the past groundskeepers and fulfilling our obligation to those who will follow us, we can become a part of something enduring long after we have left our jobs. This is perhaps the best aspect of what it means to be a groundskeeper.
In this episode of The Ladder, host John Reitman chats with Jared Weight, assistant superintendent at Muirfield Village Golf Club, Dublin, OH, about his career path, working with Paul B. Latshaw and Chad Mark, and golf course conditioning in Pittsburgh... among others.
Presented by STEC Equipment.
In this episode of the TurfNet Renovation Report, presented by Golf Preservations and Jacobsen, host Jon Kiger chats with Butch Sheffield, long-time superintendent at North Ridge Country Club, about the recent practice facility renovation there.
In this episode of Living Legends, presented by the Nufarm Insider, host John Reitman chats with David Stone, retired superintendent at The Honors Course in Ooltewah, TN. Stone had been at The Honors Course since construction in 1982 (that's 35 years for anyone counting) and until his retirement was the only superintendent The Honors Course had ever known.
Spend a half hour getting to know David and gain from his wisdom garnered over his career as a golf course superintendent.
Due to the success of our inaugural/trial trip to BTME in 2017, TurfNet will again host a delegation to BTME in January, 2018! Download the pdf for full details.
Dates of the trip are Thursday, January 18 (overnight departure from USA) to Friday, January 26 (morning/afternoon return flight).
We have a housing block booked for 16 people at the Harrogate Lifestyle Apartments across the street from the conference center. No shuttle busses!
Cost is $1750 double occupancy or $2300 single occupancy (only four available), plus airfare and incidentals.
Our housing block guarantee expires November 1. Firm commitments need to be made before then, on a first-come/first-served basis.
Golfers today have grown accustomed to playing on quality turf and are willing to pay higher greens fees to play on tour-quality greens. Chemical Rescue is one method widely used by greenkeepers and golf course managers in the UK and Ireland on links, heathland and parkland courses.
Rescue is a selective herbicide from Syngenta that attacks ryegrass in greens, tees, fairways, approaches, and roughs. In the past turf managers would have to remove ryegrass through hand-weeding or re-turfing areas. Rescue attacks the ryegrass and other coarse grass weeds like Yorkshire Fog and Purple Moor-grass but leaves the finer grasses unaffected.
The main reason greenkeepers want to remove ryegrass from their course is to achieve the most uniform turf surface possible. Using Rescue helps to achieve this creating a more consistent ball roll. It also gives a cleaner finish when mowed. Removing unwanted ryegrass from out-of-play areas allows wildflowers and biodiversity to thrive.
The way Rescue herbicide works is that when sprayed the chemical pinoxaden targets specific enzymes within ryegrass that are responsible for cell division and shuts those down to instantly stop growth.
The Island Golf Club uses this product approximately twice a year -- once in the early spring months to minimize summer growth and again in the late summer, early fall months. Our last spray was at the beginning of August. The Island uses about 1 liter per hectare on their greens and the same amount for their approaches.
The Island has been using this Rescue regimen for about 3 years now in alignment with industry approved codes and practices. The final product on the greens is a smoother surface improving the playability and the appearance of the course.
In this episode of Frankly Speaking, I chat with Mike Huck of Irrigation and Turf Services in Orange County, CA, one of the foremost experts in water availability, usage, regulation and what it all means for the golf course industry.
We talk about the end of the California drought, trends in overseeding, painting and turf reduction; costs of treating vs transporting water; use of hand-held vs in-ground soil moisture sensors, among other things.
We wind up with what we have learned from the drought, what we should be doing, and what we can expect as it pertains to the future of the golf industry.
As always, smart talk from leading thinkers. Presented by DryJect.
Back in June, I was headed home from a trip to Minneapolis to visit my son, who had been interning at Toro. My route took me through Des Moines, Iowa, so I decided to visit Rick Tegtmeier. This was my first visit to Des Moines Golf & Country Club, and Rick was anxious to show me around. So, out we went for a tour of the golf course... all 36 holes of which had been completely renovated over the past four years under Rick's guidance.
Even though I was on a tight traveling schedule, I really didn't care how long it took -- this was one of those experiences that somehow you know not to rush. I think the tour gave Rick a little relief from everything else that was going on. When I finally got back in the car and on my way, I told my wife that I had a great feeling about the upcoming Solheim Cup in August.
I really didn't care how long it took -- this was one of those experiences that somehow you know not to rush.
Fast-forward to the recently completed event, and boy was I dead-on! The 2017 Solheim Cup is now among my greatest career experiences, ever. Since arriving back home, I have been asked about my favorite moments or takeaways from the tournament. Let's just say there are so many that it certainly was hard to select just a few to feature for this video. So, here are some of my best takeaways from the 2017 Solheim Cup. It really is just a sampling of great moments, just like I thought there would be when I got back in the car that day in June.
It was one great ride, and I want to thank everyone for coming along!
In this episode of the Pin Sheet, recorded August 2, 2017, host Jon Kiger chats with Jeff Vannoy of BASF on the history, uses and best practices for utilizing turf colorants on actively growing, semi-dormant and dormant turf.
With a single tee start at 7:50 AM our last reporting time was again 5 AM. Bernard captured the final day rollout of equipment and personnel. After seeing/filming these for many years I was finally included in one! Rain was forecast for later in the day and started briefly for about an hour during our Sunday duties.
The leaders after three rounds were Daniel Im from the USA and Jon Rahm from Spain. They were set to tee off with the final tee time at 1:10 PM. This meant the tournament would end sometime around 5 PM.
David, Dana and I had already decided that we would leave after the morning shift in the hopes of getting settled in Dublin in time to watch the last few holes on television there. Marty was headed back with volunteer Mike Brennan from Portmarnock Hotel and Golf Links as our car was again at capacity.
Our morning rounds were completed efficiently and the equipment was stored for the final time that week. The combined group of Portstewart greenstaff and volunteers gathered for our final meal together -- the now familiar hot breakfast.
Tee mowing team leader John O'Brien of the Portstewart Golf Club staff after his last shift of the week. He walked over 140 miles while mowing since the previous Sunday.
During the breakfast we were joined by Miguel Vidaor, tournament director for the European Tour. David captured the following video of his remarks. He declared the tournament and our work a success and thanked us for our efforts. Tour consultant Eugene Hennessy added that we "were a tribute to the profession and we always did our jobs with a smile."
All smiles on the final morning of tournament prep. (L-R) Portstewart Deputy Course Manager Brian McConway, European Tour Consultant Eugene Hennessy, and Damien McConway from nearby Castlerock Golf Club. (Portstewart's Jonny Hemphill with the photobomb in the background!)
We said our goodbyes (or "cheerios" as they say locally) and realized that like a last gathering at high school graduation we would likely never have this same group assembled again in the future. A quick stop at the house to pack up and we were on our way.
On the road out of town we stopped at Dunluce Castle. Originally built by the MacQuillan family in the 1500s, the castle has a rich history and is in outstanding shape for its age and exposure along the Antrim coast. An extensive visitors centre and good signage told the story of this piece of Irish history. Bringing our trip full circle was the fact that stones brought from nearby Giants Causeway were used in construction of the castle.
Dunluce Castle on the Antrim coast.
The drive to Dublin was mostly motorway and we arrived into the area in about three hours. Dana checked into his friend Sean's BnB in Portmarnock while David and I headed into the Castle Lodge BnB in Malahide. We also made a quick stop at Malahide Castle, ancestral home of the Talbot family since the 1100s until being turned over relatively recently to local authorities for preservation.
It was early in the afternoon and David and I were able to reserve a tee time for nine holes at Portmarnock Golf Club. We watched the last few holes of the Irish Open in the bar of the club.
David with Ireland's Eye over his right shoulder at during a nine hole round at Portmarnock Golf Club.
Spaniard Jon Rahm won the tournament by six shots finishing at 24 under par with a total score of 264. Those staff and volunteers who were around for the award presentation (we weren't the only ones to get on the road early) posed for a photo with Rahm and the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open trophy. It goes without saying that this practice should be adopted more broadly across professional golf circuits worldwide.
Irish Open Winner Jon Rahm of Spain poses with his trophy and the remaining greenkeeping staff.
Sunday night David rested up for his flight while Marty and I met up with Malahide resident and retired greenkeeper Eddie Donlon for dinner and a few pints. With a more normal wake up hour the next morning, there was finally time to reflect on our amazing week together at the Irish Open in Portstewart.
As my 2016 Ryder Cup duty comes to a close, it's nice to reflect back on my experiences. There are a few strong takeaways from the event for me. None of them have to do with any sort of agronomic stuff.
First, the welcome that superintendent Chris Tritabaugh gave to everyone at Monday's orientation was special. He introduced and acknowledged each member of his staff, every volunteer, and all of the industry affiliates (me). As a TurfNet correspondent, this was the category I fit into for the first time in my career. Not a volunteer, but still acknowledged. Thanks Chris! It made me feel good, instead of just "some guy" carrying camera equipment around all week.. It made everyone feel good. No question, this set a great tone for the week.
Another takeaway is how strangers can bond together so quickly for a common goal. After orientation on Monday, it took a mere day or two to create a very well-oiled machine. Many times I was out filming and thought it was like poetry-in-motion. Maybe it was because I was looking through a lens taking it all in, and not worrying about keeping my mow lines straight.
With my new friends from the Swedish Golf Federation...
In my case, I tried mostly not to get in the way. I tried to observe from a distance and not stick the camera in people's faces. It is hard to observe from a distance, when this industry is so welcoming and friendly. Granted, I probably knew half the volunteers in advance, but that still leaves the other half. I was floored by the number of the "other half" that introduced themselves and just started conversations about my ON COURSE videos, agronomics, Colorado... you name it. It all set in when it was time to leave and say our goodbyes. I remember shaking hands with so many people I didn't know before the start of the week. Special.
As I got to the airport on Monday morning, things quickly came full circle for me. I bumped into David Duval from the Golf Channel, and one of the heroes from the 1999 Ryder Cup. When our conversation started, I mentioned the '99 Cup. His tired facial expression instantly changed to a smile, grinning from ear to ear. I told him I was there in-person, inside the ropes when he made that arm-pumping walk around 14 green as the USA made that improbable comeback. I actually think we both relived that moment for a few seconds, as our conversation became quiet.
Although I had a fabulous time at Hazeltine -- thank you Chris Tritabaugh -- I realized something I hadn't thought of in years. Personally, the 1999 Ryder Cup will always be branded within me as my greatest moment in golf!
Until next time...
Well, that's the end of my summer. I'm back at the University of Nebraska to finish up my last semester and graduate this December with a degree in Turfgrass Management and a minor in Business.
As I sit here in my apartment in Lincoln, I can't help but feel very grateful to everyone who has helped me over the past three years of great experiences.
First, I want to thank Weston Appelfeller at the Columbus Crew SC for answering my shot-in-the-dark email three years ago about a potential first internship in the industry. Out of many emails to many places, Weston was the only one to respond and I can't thank him enough because that led to the rest of the opportunities I have been lucky to have.
While at the Columbus Crew, I was put in touch with Mike O'Keeffe at Ohio State about potentially going overseas for work experience. Mike runs the world-famous Ohio Program, which helps place agriculture and horticulture students from America at internships all over the world and vice-versa.
Mike told me about a company in Macclesfield, England that was looking for their first ever intern. He gave my information to Richard Campey at Campey Turfcare Systems and I went on to have an incredible summer, as outlined in my last blog "Jeff Lenihan- Pitch Prep in the UK".
With Campeys in Finland.
While touring around Europe with Campey Turfcare, I met Steve Braddock at Arsenal, and that's where this story comes full circle. I had an awesome summer at London Colney and worked with some great people. Even though I am a Manchester United fan, I couldn't help but be impressed with the facility and operation that they have going there.
Mowing in lines on one of my last days with Campey Turfcare intern Alex Jensen from Australia
I also wanted to thank Aquatrols for sponsoring my blog this year! And, obviously, I want to give a big thanks to everyone at TurfNet, especially Peter McCormick and Jon Kiger, who have helped me along the way for the past two years. Thanks for following along!