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From the TurfNet NewsDesk

  • John Reitman
    At the USGA's annual conference next month, Mike Huck (right) will join 2008 recipient Ted Horton (left) as a USGA Green Section Award winner. California has been mired in drought for much of recent memory. The state's ability to deliver enough water to 40 million people has reached crisis level that in recent years has included voluntary reductions and state-mandated cutbacks and has changed the way superintendents manage golf courses.
    Standing at the center of this issue for the golf industry has been Mike Huck, a former superintendent and USGA Green Section agronomist and, for the better part of two decades, an irrigation consultant and a self-made expert on all things water in the country's most populous state.
    Because of his contributions to golf in California and beyond, Huck's former employer will make him the recipient of its highest honor next month when he receives the USGA Green Section Award at the association's annual meeting in San Antonio. The award has been given annually since 1961 to one who exemplifies outstanding contributions and dedication to the game of golf through their work with turfgrass.
    Access to adequate supplies of quality water is one of the most significant challenges facing the golf industry, and nowhere is this issue more critical than in California. Huck has taught and talked about water issues for years, and was among the founders of the California Alliance for Golf, a non-profit entity that serves as a unified voice for all aspects of the state's golf industry in a variety of capacities, including environmental issues such as water-use matters.
    In a 2016 TurfNet profile on Huck, Russ Myers, the former superintendent at Los Angeles Country Club and now the head greenkeeper at Southern Hills in Tulsa, Oklahoma, spoke about Huck's contributions to golf on the subject of water.
    "Mike is the most trusted voice of water issues in the state. Mike is a former golf course superintendent, but he's not a golf guy. He's a water guy," Myers told TurfNet in 2016.
    "With Mike, you felt you had a real voice, not a blind advocate or a paid lobbyist. He knows what the issues are, what is realistic and what is not."
    A native of Wisconsin, Huck has been in the golf business since the early 1970s when he worked at Maplecrest Country Club in Kenosha. He's been a Californian since his days studying turf at Cal Poly Pomona, where he graduated in 1982. While there, he worked at Industry Hills Golf Club at Pacific Palms Resort, first on the crew, then as assistant and later superintendent until 1989. He then moved on to become superintendent at Mission Viejo Country Club and later the Southern California Golf Association Members Club. 
    "Mike's continued dedication to elevating the topic of water conservation in golf and advocating for education and dialogue has benefited courses across North America and the world," said Kimberly Erusha, Ph.D., USGA Green Section managing director, in a USGA news release. "His innovative approach, matched with his ability to communicate very complex science in a relatable way, has provided game-changing leadership that helps golf courses and communities."
    Previous winners include: (2018) Tim Hiers, CGCS, (2017)    Dr. Norman Hummel, (2016) Dr. Bruce Clarke, (2015) Dr. Pat Vittum, (2014) Dr. Peter Dernoeden, (2013) Dr. Victor Gibeault, (2012) Wayne Hanna, (2011) Dennis Lyon, (2010) Dr. Dan Potter;
    (2009) Terry Bonar, (2008) Ted Horton, (2007) Dr. Joseph Vargas, (2006) Dr. Robert Shearman, (2005) Peter Cookingham, (2004) Monroe Miller, (2003) Dr. Houston Couch, (2002) George Thompson, (2001) Dr. Patricia Cobb, (2000) L. Palmer Maples, Jr;
    (1999) Dr. Noel Jackson, (1998) B.J. Johnson, (1997) Dr. Paul Rieke, (1996) Robert Williams, (1995) David Stone, (1994) Dr. Kenyon Payne, (1993) Dr. Ralph Engel, (1992) Dr. Richard Skogley, (1991) Dr. Joseph Troll, (1990) Chester Mendenhall;
    (1989) Dr. James Beard, (1988) Dr. Roy Goss, (1987) Sherwood Moore, (1986) James Montcrief, (1985) Dr. Victor Youngner (1984) Dr. William Daniel, (1983) Alexander Radko, (1982) Charles Wilson, (1981) Dr. Joseph Duich, (1980) Dr. C. Reed Funk;  
    (1979) Arthur Snyder, (1978) Dr. Jess de France (1977) Edward Casey, (1976) Dr. James Watson (1975) Dr. Fanny-Fern Davis, (1974) Dr. Howard Sprague, (1973) Dr. Marvin Ferguson, (1972) Herb and Joe Graffis, (1971) Tom Mascaro, (1970) Eberhand Steiniger;
    (1969) Dr. Fred Grau (1968) James Haines (1967) Elmer Michael, (1966) Dr. H. Burton Musser, (1965) Dr. Glenn Burton, (1964) Joseph Valentine, (1963) O.J. Noer, (1962) Dr. Lawrence Dickinson, (1961) Dr. John Monteith, Jr.
  • Profile Products makes a variety of products for the T&O industry, including hydraulic mulch (above) and soil amendments to aid in root development (below). Profile Products, which manufactures soil-erosion products and soil amendments for the turf and ornamental and industrial markets, has been acquired by Incline Equity Partners, a Pittsburgh-based private equity firm. 
    Based in Buffalo Grove, Illinois, Profile is the world's leading manufacturer of hydraulically applied mulch and additives, horticulture substrates, as well as biotic and ceramic conditioners to amend soil. 
    Incline Equity Partners will work together with Profile's current leadership team to develop markets and identify areas of growth. Profile's management team and 200-plus employees will continue to operate in Buffalo Grove; Conover and Hickory, North Carolina; Canton, Ohio; Blue Mountain, Mississippi; and Limestone and Columbia, Tennessee.
    "We are extremely excited to begin our new partnership with Incline Equity Partners," said Jim Tanner, president and chief executive officer of Profile Products. "Incline has the experience, knowledge and financial resources to help us develop and fuel our newest expansion strategies. Through our industry knowledge and Incline's leadership, we will strengthen our plans for growth, while creating even more opportunities for our current and future customers."
    Profile will continue to develop environmentally friendly solutions designed to minimize soil loss, accelerate seed germination and enhance the environment in all of its industry markets, including energy, mining, airports, transportation, landfill, construction, fire reclamation, sports fields, golf courses and horticulture. Currently, Profile's products are sold in 75 countries on six continents.
    Incline Equity Partners is a private investment firm focused on investing in lower middle-market growth companies that generally seeks companies with values of $25 million to $300 million across a variety of industries.
  • Like it or not, putting green quality is the measuring stick by which golf course superintendents are measured.
    Tees, fairways and hazards are important, but golfers often will overlook them for the sake of putting surfaces that roll fast and true, even if that pace outruns their playing ability.
    Countless articles have been written about how to alleviate the accumulation of organic matter that can make putting greens soft and puffy and threaten to send a golf course superintendent to the unemployment line. 
    Conversely, the practices that help superintendents produce these sought-after conditions are temporarily disruptive and as such are immensely unpopular with golfers, many of whom do not understand their importance.
    At Ohio State University, Ed McCoy, Ph.D., associate professor of soil physics, has developed a simulation model that helps turf managers monitor organic matter accumulation, decomposition and dilution and provides a way to manage organic matter on a site-specific basis.
    The model uses a math-intensive set of equations that include initial soil organic matter quantity within the root zone, monthly accumulation of soil organic matter, monthly decomposition of soil organic matter, monthly dilution of soil organic matter by topdressing or sand injection, and the monthly removal of soil organic matter by core aeration. The model incorporates measurements at five intervals to a depth of five inches to provide a tool for turf managers to plan aeration, injection, tining and topdressing programs that is capable at projecting out as far as 30 years. 
    For more information, get out your slide rule and click here.
  • The year 2018 was a memorable year in the golf business, even if it was one many would like to forget. Weather that was unseasonably warm at some times, colder-than-average at others and seemingly far too wet for most of the year dominated much of the year for far too many superintendents.
    We have compiled a list of the top-10 most-read stories of 2018 from the pages of TurfNet. Click the headline to read the full text of each story.
    Topping the list were the events surrounding last year's U.S. Open: Note to the USGA: Call on the expertise of the GCS.
    From off-color greens, to tricky pin placements, a boorish gallery and one of the game's biggest names making a mockery of the rules, the USGA's biggest event of the season could not end soon enough.
    After years of preparation and anticipation to show off the William Flynn classic to the world, superintendent Jon Jennings (pictured above walking the course with Brad Klein) and Shinnecock members gave Mike Davis and the USGA what appeared to be a perfect golf course. What greeted the world's best players was anything but perfect, and within a matter of days, the course was a reminder of the 2004 Open, when workers were dragging hoses between pairings on the final day in an attempt to keep the greens alive.
    Final-round conditions drew complaints from golfers and, in the most surreal moment in championship golf in recent memory, led Phil Mickelson to backstop a putt to prevent it from rolling down hill.
    Exactly what happened is anyone's guess, but repeated U.S. Open set-up woes beg the question: Why are not the trained professionals who are in the business of providing championship conditions to please their members 365 days a year left in charge to since they are in the best position to know how far they can push their courses for championship tournaments? 
    Here are the rest of the top stories from TurfNet in 2018.
    2. Ohio YMCA takes over golf course with a fresh approach
    Hickory Sticks Golf Club in rural northwestern Ohio has defied the odds for nearly 60 years, trudging along in an area with a modest population that has always hovered in the neighborhood of 9,000-10,000 people. It is a conservative area where playing it safe can be a way of life. The golf course entered a new era last month when its former owner donated the 27-hole facility to the YMCA of Van Wert County.
    3. Former superintendent finds Plan B in an unlikely place
    Former superintendent Trey Anderson left the golf course behind after 20 years for the next phase of his career as director of production for Ieso Illinois, a medical cannabis grower in Carbondale, Illinois.
    4. Women in turf encourage others to follow in their footsteps
    Since the days of Old Tom Morris, becoming a golf course superintendent has largely been a man's job. Two female superintendents in Canada, however, are paving the way for others who want to follow in their footsteps.
    5. Cold temps deal blow to some Grand Strand courses
    One of the first signs that the weather was knocking the golf turf business off the rails in 2018 occurred in the Myrtle Beach area when cold temperatures last spring affected playing conditions at an estimated 30 percent of the area's golf courses. The widespread damage prompted former Clemson turf pathologist Bruce Martin to describe the damage as the worst he had seen on the Grand Strand in 30 years.
    6. Opinions vary on solid tine vs. core aerification
    There are differing schools of thought on aerifying greens - namely whether to pull a core, and what to do with them after extracting them. Superintendents in different parts of the country weigh in on which method they prefer and why. 
    7. Colo brothers: Taking Florida by storm
    Both professionally and personally, John Colo is no stranger to adversity. Fortunately, he and brother Jim (both pictured at right), who also is a superintendent, have each other to lean on as they ply their craft in South Florida.
    8. Myrtle Beach courses closed to repair Bermuda greens
    Unfortunately for superintendents - and golfers - troubles continued into the year in Myrtle Beach as at least a dozen courses to repair Bermudagrass greens that went uncovered over the winter and showed significant damage by spring.
    9. Saunders leads revival at Pittsburgh classic
    The Pittsburgh area is home to some of the country's best golf courses. There was a day when the Longue Vue Club was on that list. After years of neglect and disrepair at Longue Vue, superintendent Josh Saunders (at right) has the course back in that conversation.
    10. Reigning superintendent of the year going out with a bang
    Dick Gray put the exclamation point on his reign as 2016 TurfNet Superintendent of the Year by unveiling a newly redesigned Ryder Course at PGA Golf Club in Port St. Lucie, Florida. It was the fourth renovation in four years for the 74-year-old Gray.
  • Recent research has shown that there are four pathogens that are responsible for causing dollar spot in turfgrass. Is there a higher honor in the scientific world than having a disease named after you?
    If that's the case, four prominent turfgrass researchers have posthumously been afforded quite a distinction as each, in an effort to redefine the dollar spot-causing pathogen, has been singled out for his work either in disease management in turfgrass or developing disease-resistant cultivars.
    Dollar spot in turfgrass was identified in 1937 as being caused by the pathogen Sclerotinia homeocarpa. Ever since, it seems scientists have been trying to learn even more about the disease and what causes it. Research conducted recently by a host of scientists at Rutgers, North Carolina State, Ohio State and the U.S. Department of Agriculture has identified a new genus and four species - not just one - that cause dollar spot in turfgrass. 
    "To a large extent, this is not a big change for the average turf manager," said Bruce Clarke, Ph.D., of Rutgers University. "It is critically important to understand that there is more than one pathogen out there, but it boils down to this - one attacks cool-season grasses and one is the major pathogen on warm-season grasses in North America. The other two occur primarily in the U.K., so for the average turf manager, you're still dealing with one pathogen. It just happens to be there are four pathogens worldwide that can cause symptoms that everybody associated with dollar spot, but you're just dealing with one species."
    The new genus, Clarireedia, is a combination of the latin "Clarus", meaning famous, and "reedia" for C. Reed Funk, Ph.D., the legendary Rutgers turf breeder who dedicated much of his career to developing disease-resistant turf cultivars.
    Among the four species identified, two occur primarily in North America and two in Europe, according to the research.
    C. jacksonii is named for Noel Jackson, Ph.D., the former University of Rhode Island turf pathologist and diagnostician, who conducted some of the early research on dollar spot and how to manage it over a career that spanned 40 years. It also is the species that scientists say occurs commonly in cool-season turf in the U.S.
    C. monteithiana, the pathogen that causes dollar spot in warm-season turf in the U.S., is named for former USDA scientist John Monteith who first described dollar spot in turf in 1928. The other two pathogen species, C. bennettii, named for British scientist F.T. Bennett who conducted early work on dollar spot, and C. homeocarpa are found primarily in the United Kingdom.
    The most recent study, which was conducted from 2012-2017 and the results published in the August 2018 edition of Fungal Biology, hardly marks the end of the road for scientific research on dollar spot. On the contrary, Clarke says scientists still do not know as much as they would like about dollar spot and why so many turf managers in the field have observed inconsistencies about how and when the disease manifests.
    "It is possible that there are different species that can be associated with these observations," Clarke said. "For the most part, I think it's still the same species, but it's just different strains that occur more prevalently let's say in the fall than in the summer, or in the fall than in the spring.
    "At this point in time, we don't have a quick-and-dirty method for separating out these species. We're working on that with different molecular techniques."
    A research team led by Paul Koch, Ph.D. of the University of Wisconsin is awaiting USDA approval for a multi-state research project on dollar spot. Once approved, that project should begin later this year, Clarke said.
    "Part of that is to develop a rapid method to separate out which species you are dealing with," Clarke said. 
    "In essence, in most instances it is going to boil down to those two pathogens (C. jacksonii and C. monthethiana). Now, in certain parts of the country where you have warm- and cool-season grasses together, you might have some back-and-forth movement."
    Part of the pending research will be to simplify identifying the four species and how each is affected by chemical and agronomic programs.
    "We need to start looking at fungicide screening in the laboratory with various chemical groups to see if there is any difference in terms of fungicide susceptibility among the various species. So, there is a lot of work that needs to be done now to see how fungicides affect the different species and how management practices might affect the different species," Clarke said. "But before we can start doing that on a large scale, especially in research, we need to have the ability to speciate these much more easily than we do right now. 
    "We have learned there is a tremendous amount of diversity within this pathogen and that it's not just one species, there are four species. What we don't know now, we haven't by any means exhausted identifying where isolates fall into these categories. When I say c. jacksonii seems like it's primarily in cool-season grasses, that's what it seems like based on this research, but it's possible that it's not that simple.
    "This has opened up a lot of opportunity for research, but it's going to take a while before we can start sorting this out and start saying with any degree of certainty 'If you have species A, B, C or D, this is the type of BMP program that you want to be following. That's a ways off."
  • To help professional turf managers stay up to date in their efforts to combat troublesome weeds, the Weed Diagnostics Center at the University of Tennessee has updated its Mobile Weed Manual.
    Developed to "assist turfgrass managers with developing effective weed management programs" includes the latest information on weeds and the products used to control them, including label updates.
    The site includes a search function that allows users to select from pre-emergent and post-emergent herbicide products.
    Users also can search for products by selecting weed types. The tool even allows users to select from broadleaf or grassy weeds or kyllingas or sedges, or by selecting from among any of 126 specific weed species.
    The manual can be used on Apple and Android devices and is desktop compatible.
  • There is no indication that Edward Murphy, the late aerospace engineer who conducted early work on rocket sleds and safety equipment for the U.S. Air Force, ever was a golfer. But if he had been, Murphy might have found Carolina Golf Club to his liking because the law associated with his name that states "anything that can go wrong will go wrong" was on full display last year at the club in Charlotte.
    In a year that started with horrible weather, ended the same way and in between felt the effects of two hurricanes, including one that arrived on the doorstep of a USGA championship, Matthew Wharton, CGCS, MG, ushered the course through every challenge, pulled off a successful tournament, took on the role of president of his association and drew the admiration of many.
    By year's end, Wharton had received 14 nominations for the 2018 TurfNet Superintendent of the Year Award, presented by Syngenta, comprising two members and a half-dozen fellow superintendents, including two former winners of the award.
    "This past summer, Matthew and the staff at Carolina Golf Club held a tremendously successful USGA Mid-Amateur tournament just days after Hurricane Florence delivered close to 8 inches of rain to the Charlotte area with over 35 mph winds leaving the golf course in shambles and not up to USGA tournament specifications," wrote Paul Carter, CGCS at The Bear Trace at Harrison Bay in Tennessee and the 2001 Superintendent of the Year. "With the hard work of Matthew's team, the course was repaired and made ready for USGA championship play."
    Matthew Gourlay, CGCS,, at Colbert Hills in Manhattan, Kansas,nominated Wharton because of his willingness to help colleagues along their respective career paths.
    "His biggest impact with me personally is as a mentor," Gourlay wrote. "I have phoned Matthew once a week for the past year. He is always available to conversate and provide guidance on life and golf course operations."
    For all he does for others in his profession, Wharton admits the story for 2018 at Carolina Golf Club was all about the weather.
    Carolina Golf Club, along with Charlotte Country Club, was one of two sites for last year's mid-am. Months before the tournament was played in September, Wharton laid three truckloads of new sod when, for the first time in three years, winter injury left in its wake wide areas of dead Bermudagrass.
    That was followed by what the National Weather Service says is one of the 10 hottest summers ever recorded in Charlotte. Wharton said the temperature at the golf course never dipped below 70 degrees at night for 90 consecutive days. Then the week before the tournament, Hurricane Florence struck the Carolinas coastline on Sept. 14 near Wilmington and Wrightsville Beach. Seemingly suspended, the storm spun for days and eventually dumped 7.16 inches of rain on Sept. 15-16 at the golf course, which is the most Wharton's seen there in a 24-hour period in his 14 years at the club.
    "A course that was perfectly conditioned for a major event was now flooded with downed trees and debris everywhere," wrote Carolina member Ed Oden. "I cannot even begin to recount the amount of work Matthew and his crew put in over the next three days to transform a storm-ravaged course into major championship condition. Truly unbelievable."
    Club member Ben Maffitt served as co-chairman of the mid-am committee, and worked closely with Wharton and the USGA on tournament logistics. That included everything from recruiting volunteers to deciding the best location for portable restroom facilities, Wharton was involved every step of the way, leading Maffitt to detail his accomplishments surrounding the tournament as follows:
    > he successfully prepared the golf course for a major national amateur championship, overcoming some unique weather challenges only days before the commencement of the tournament;
    > he was a very helpful partner with a wide variety of other logistical requirements unrelated to turfgrass management as we prepared to host a major national championship;
    > he actively and effectively participated in the Carolinas Golf Course Superintendents Association, and provided excellent leadership to that organization;
    > he consistently provided excellent communication and updates on status of the golf course and our efforts to prepare to a major national championship to the membership of Carolina Golf Club;
    > he brought an even-handed, thoughtful, and professional approach to every task that he was required to address.
    "He was much more than just an excellent golf course superintendent who was making sure greens and fairways were mowed and bunkers were raked," Maffitt wrote. "He was a valuable contributor on almost all aspects of the tournament's logistics."
  • You know you have a big job when you are in charge of a $12 million construction project that includes nothing on the golf course.
    As superintendent of grounds at Hyde Park Golf and Country Club, a Donald Ross classic on Cincinnati's fashionable east side, Pat O'Brien is putting the finishing touches on just such a project that has been five years in the making.
    The project, which came in two phases, includes a new pool and baby pool, locker and restroom facilities for the pool area only, upgrades to the bar and restaurant at the pool area, ladies locker room, golf learning center building with four indoor hitting bays and outdoor chipping area and putting green, 160-foot outdoor artificial hitting surface, expanded praced range, new bunkered short game area, racquet sports facility, four paddle tennis courts, two pickleball courts, two hard surface tennis courts and four clay tennis courts.
    All O'Brien was responsible for, according to a nomination letter for the 2018 TurfNet Superintendent of the Year Award, presented by Syngenta, by Hyde Park member Nick Spadaccini was coordinating with the contractor, developer, sub-contractors, members, architect and engineers; coordinating with golf course architect Tim Liddy regarding the design of and managing construction of the expanded practice range and short-game areas; managing all landscape design associated with all phases of the project; planning and construction of the racquet sports center;  and keeping the golf course open, immaculate and accessible through all of it.
    And he had to do all of this in what many in the eastern half of the country would recall as one of the worst years for weather in recent memory.
    Temperatures in Cincinnati were warmer than usual early in the year, and the city recorded the third-wettest February on record. The daytime high of 79 degrees on Feb. 20 was the hottest winter day in Cincinnati - EVER. Nearly 8 inches of rain pushed the massive Ohio River to a depth of 60.53 feet, 8 feet over flood stage. The following month, 10 inches of snow fell in March and another 3 in April - which is a lot considering the latter coincides with the start of baseball season and most golf courses are already in full swing. Furnace-like temperatures soon followed with the hottest May on record.
    Summer endured until late October and finally gave way not to autumn, but temperatures more closely associated with winter.
    An ice storm blanketed the city on Nov. 15, and many trees, still laden with leaves because of the absence of autumn, came crashing down on utility lines, wiping out electricity across a metropolitan area that is home to 2.1 million people.
    You get the idea.
    "I've never been involved in a huge undertaking like this," said O'Brien, who earlier this year completed his path to U.S. citizenship (shown above right celebrating the moment with daughters Brynna and Maeve, U.S. federal judge Stephanie Bowman and wife Jen, left to right).
    "We finally started in August 2017. We're just about finished. We are down to one structure; the cold storage building for equipment for the golf course, and that should be finished by mid-February."
    Although O'Brien's responsibilities were spelled out in black and white, his duties were, at times, a bit more nebulous - in part because of challenges associated with the weather. Other times, the roadblocks were man made.
    "Because of the scope of the work, there were a lot of gray areas," O'Brien said. "We were called upon to fill gaps on things the subcontractors couldn't do."
    That included working with zoning officials when the city mandated additional fencing, landscaping and paving of maintenance parking areas during the project. Much of the work to meet city demands was completed in house, shaving about $88,000 off the cost of the project.
    The project ground to a halt when drawings by the architects and engineers did not match, and subcontractors stopped working until there was a consensus on drawings, especially those on grading of tennis courts, sidewalks, patios and driveways. Only when O'Brien brought all parties together on nearly a daily basis did the project get back on track.
    A year of record-breaking weather trends in 2018 complicated things even further on the construction project and managing the golf course, which O'Brien concedes he delegated almost entirely to his assistants Dan Lawendowski and Aaron Garrett.
    "The best thing about work is the guys I work with. They are fantastic and they know what they are doing," O'Brien 
    "The weather was awful this year, and they did a fantastic job running the golf course. They had to make a ton of decisions because the majority of my time was spent on the project. They made choices I didn't even know about until afterward. They made so many good decisions. They really nailed it, because it could have been an ugly year."
  • Much of Dwayne Dillinger's 29-year career as as superintendent has been about solving problems.
    Whether it was finding an out-of-the-box solution to an expensive water problem, working around a constantly shrinking budget or helping find a way to grow the game on a local scale, Dwayne Dillinger has been up to the task at the county-owned Bell Nob Golf Course in Gillette, Wyoming. And that is why Dillinger, 55, has been named as a finalist for the 2018 TurfNet Superintendent of the Year Award, presented by Syngenta.
    Nearly a decade ago, Bell Nob was facing a crisis.
    In those days, the course was on the potable water IV. Facing escalating water costs and no feasible alternative source at the time - there are two wells on the course, neither of which was a viable source - the property was staring down the barrel of a genuine financial situation.
    "The price of water was going to make it difficult for the golf course," Dillinger said. "We were spending $60,000 to $70,000 on water every year, and it was going to go up even more. The course had already declared bankruptcy in the 1980s because of water.
    "Two wells on the property were not suitable for irrigation. One was high in bicarbonates and had almost no calcium, so there was nothing to buffer the bicarbonates. The other was high in iron and calcium."
    That's when Dillinger, who studied turfgrass management in the 1980s at Colorado State University, had a brilliant idea. Why not mix the two?
    Water from each source had been used to irrigate turf in the past and had caused poor turf quality. After running some tests and mixing the water from both sources together it was determined that the weaknesses of one source were countered by the qualities of the other. The result, if everything worked according to plan, would be a more stable water source at a fraction of the cost of potable water.
    Dillinger hatched his water-saving idea in 2010. Two years later, after he had sold the plan to county stakeholders, the county had built an 11-acre holding pond capable of storing more than 150 million gallons where he could mix water from both wells. The project, which included some upgrades to the irrigation system came with a $1.2 million tab. Officials projected, based on anticipated rate hikes for water and power, that it would take about nine years to break even, so it is right about now that the county is finally realizing the true benefits of the project.
    "The expanding city was reaching the limits of its water supply and began raising water rates to help curb usage and promote conservation. Rates were raised to a level that would have required the golf course to spend over $350,000 on water in 2011. Irrigating with potable water was no longer economically sustainable, the golf course needed to develop an alternative," wrote Rick Mansur, executive director of the golf course in his letter nominating Dillinger for the award. 
    "The new system is producing usable irrigation water for $1.30 per 1,000 gallons as opposed to $4.23 for 1,000 gallons of potable water."
    In conjunction with the water project, Dillinger reduced the irrigated acreage by 10 percent and cut water use by more than 20 percent.
    Finding alternative water sources and ways to use less of it are just a couple of the reasons a half-dozen people nominated Dillinger for the award.
    When the county looked to grow the game Dillinger designed a nine-hole par-3 course that was friendly for kids and beginners. He also secured funding and donations to see the project through to completion.
    "Through donations, fundraisers, seeking product and materials from businesses at cost, the course was build for less than $250,000," wrote Dave McCormick, a former parks and recreation director for Campbell County, Wyoming, which owns Bell Nob. "The Wee Links is home to our junior golf program with more than 200 youth participating each golf season and the Campbell County School District golf teams.
    "Dwayne has had a tremendous impact on the golf community in Wyoming and around the region for more than two decades."
    He also has had an impact on his fellow superintendents. His experiences combining two unusable water sources into a single viable source was the subject of a case study and was fodder for educational presentations for his colleagues.
  • Brian Conn's decision two years ago to part with a vital organ was as much about his own salvation as it was about helping to save the life of someone else.
    Conn, superintendent at Transit Valley Country Club in East Amherst, New York, still had been struggling personally with his father's suicide in 2015 when he read an email early in 2017 from the Western New York GCSA informing recipients that one of their colleagues, Scott Dodson of Park Country Club of Buffalo, was suffering from kidney failure and was in need of a transplant. Conn (left) and Dodson are shown together in the picture at right from The Buffalo News. 
    Conn's decision to open the email and ultimately donate a kidney to help his colleague was instrumental in him being named a finalist for the 2018 TurfNet Superintendent of the Year Award, presented by Syngenta.
    At that moment he read the email detailing Dodson's condition, a feeling came over Conn, then 48, that he should do what he could to help his fellow man. He bounced the idea off his wife then decided to call the number in the email to put his name on a potential donor list.
    "Don't tell me I'm crazy, but God told me to do it. I didn't hear voices or anything like that, but I was in emotional recovery after my father," Conn said. "It's something I can't explain.
    "I was reconnecting with my faith and trying to get myself through this and get my family through this. My wife was all in. If she had had reservations, it would have been all over. I made the call without even telling my kids."
    Only 5 miles separate Transit Valley and Park Country Club, but until the kidney transplant saga connected these two men forever, they knew each other only professionally, and even then they did not know each other well.
    "The amazing thing is that Brian and I had not really been close friends," Dodson wrote in nominating Conn for Superintendent of the Year. We had chatted at various meetings and had served on the WNYGCSA board together. . . . We were little more than casual acquaintances."
    Recently, Dodson celebrated his one-year anniversary with one of Conn's kidneys. Since the operation in January 2018, the two have become like family.
    "There isn't a day that goes by that I do not think of what Brian has done for me and my family," Dodson wrote. 
    "Brian is now like a brother to me. We see each other quite often and our families get together socially. The Conn and Dodson families are forever linked."
    Had he not been dealing with his own demons at the time, Conn said this he probably wouldn't have a role in this drama.
    "I don't know if I would have done this had I been in the same place in my life; probably not," Conn said. "I would probably have thought 'that's too bad', said a quick prayer for him and moved on to the next email. The road for this to happen was paved by tragedy."
    Agreeing to be a potential donor was one thing; going through the tests and ultimately the surgery was another matter entirely.
    Tests revealed Conn's blood type to be O-negative, making him a universal donor and moving him to the front of the line for transplant donors.
    The procedure was delayed by a summer renovation project at Park Country Club, a busy season at Transit Valley and the need to put Dodson on dialysis for a few months to get him healthy enough for such an invasive procedure.
    It wasn't until late in the summer of 2017 that Conn approached Dodson to tell him he was the donor. He waited because, he had learned, some donors refuse donations from family or friends, because they don't want to put a loved one in harm's way. 
    "I didn't know if he'd take it," Conn said. 
    "Of course, I was on my own journey here, and it was as much in my interest that he do this for me, and I did for him."
    Both are husbands and fathers of grown children and know how important it is to be around for loved ones, even if their relationship to that point had been only business casual.
    "A rush of feelings overcame me the moment he told me of his intentions," Dodson said. "At first, I was skeptical and almost in denial that this really could be happening. After an awkward moment of silence, the floodgate of tears opened.
    "Brian risked his own health so I could have a chance to enjoy a normal life again. This is an act of incredible generosity, selflessness and courage. 
    The day Brian informed me of his decision to donate, I asked him 'Why me?' and he his answer was very simple. He stated 'because it is the Christian thing to do.' I will be forever grateful and in his debt."
  • Staging a major championship can have a profound impact on more than just players, club members and the respective associations. They also can be a source of immense civic pride, as was the case at the 2017 Solheim Cup in Iowa, or more recently, last year's PGA Championship at Bellerive Country Club in St. Louis.
    After the tournament, Tiger Woods called the crowds that packed Bellerive "unbelievable", and Justin Thomas said he had never played before as many people as he did last August in St. Louis.
    "I wish we could play in front of crowds like this every single week, because this is a true pleasure," Woods told the media afterward.
    The way in which people from the Show Me State showed up to support the PGA Championship was a source of pride for Carlos Arraya, director of grounds and agronomy at Bellerive, a finalist for the 2018 TurfNet Superintendent of the Year Award, presented by Syngenta.
    "It was awesome to see people from St. Louis enjoy the game, to see a city come together, to see all those people come together," Arraya said.
    If Arraya needed any affirmation of the impact the tournament had on the community, it came during a recent trip through St. Louis Lambert International Airport.
    A TSA agent looked at Arraya's ID and told him he recognized him, but couldn't remember from where. After passing through security and collecting his belongings, Arraya was again confronted by the same agent, who told him: "Now I remember, you're the guy from Bellerive. I saw you on TV."
    "The tournament is a story about the people here," Arraya said. "It's not just the golf course."
    Arraya always has had an ability to connect with people and make them feel important, but his true inspiration, his sense for parceling out what is truly important in life stemmed from the most horrific tragedy any parent could imagine - when his 19-year-old son, Isaih, was killed in a car crash in 2016, just six months after he started at Bellerive.
    "Losing my son gave me a new perspective," Arraya said. "Even though I was working, I was struggling to find out what I was going to become. I realized I had to make a lifestyle out of what I do. When I made that decision and became vulnerable through loving people no matter what, then there is no rigidity in structure. I wanted to invest in people, and to do that you have to take the blinders off."
    While growing in his career, Arraya could have learned how to grow grass anywhere, but it was working under the likes of John Cunningham, first as an assistant at Black Diamond Ranch in Florida, and later at Bellerive as golf course superintendent, that Arraya was exposed to a different management style that focused on people first and putting greens second. Cunningham, who eventually became assistant general manager at Bellerive, has since left the St. Louis area in 2017 to become general manager and chief operating officer at Aronimink Golf Club in Philadelphia.
    "John made you get out of your comfort zone," Arraya said.
    "To work for someone who focused on people and leadership and business as well as agronomic expertise was a unique experience for me. John was focused on the business side before it became an industry standard. He helped me define a 360-degree view of management.
    "I'm one of two people to have worked for John more than once. . . . I don't know if I'd work for him a third time. That might be pushing it."
    According to Arraya, "producing the best people, produces the best playing conditions on the golf course."
    "What motivates people? Everyone manages a certain way," he said. "I want to bring passion to the job. I want people to be invested in leadership. You can produce an excellent product by producing excellent people. Don't focus on the product."
    That investment in people includes what Arraya calls pillar management, a philosophy in which employees tackle a finite set of tasks within a given pillar each day until they have it mastered. Only when they excel at that can they move on to something else. That philosophy fosters employee ownership in the process, an atmosphere of teamwork and competition and a true understanding of one's place in the overall process.
    "Each person has six items as part of their routine and they have to take ownership of those six items," Arraya said. 
    "The pillar is the key to each team's success. This way, they know exactly what they are doing every day, they know our plan and how what they do impacts others."
    The result has been an invigorated group of interns, AITs and assistants.
    "Professional excellence comes from remembering life is more important than work," he said. "I've lost 14 guys since the championship. I can't keep people here, that is the hard part. People are recruiting them."
  • Eagles have been nesting above the golf course at The Bear Trace at Harrison Bay for most of the past decade. Which came first, the eagle or the egg?
    At The Bear Trace at Harrison Bay, the big question is, which came first, environmental stewardship efforts at this state-owned course along the Tennessee River near Chattanooga, or the bald eagles that have made the property famous on a global scale?
    "The environmental practices on the golf course came first," said Paul Carter, CGCS at Harrison Bay since 2001. "We were doing everything before the eagles came along,"
    Since Carter (pictured at right) became superintendent in 2001 at Harrison Bay, one of nine state park golf courses in Tennessee, he and his team have implemented a host of environmental programs to promote the abundant wildlife that call the Tennessee Valley home.
    Those efforts include converting about 75 acres of once-managed turf to native areas and installing 42 bluebird houses, 11 wood duck boxes, nine turkey feeders, seven mallard nesting tubes and raising and releasing two coveys of quail. It was about 2010 when a pair of mature eagles first appeared and built a nest along the golf course near the river.
    The course was certified by the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf Courses and the Groundwater Foundation in 2008 for its stewardship efforts. It also has been recognized by the Golf Environment Organization Foundation, a European entity dedicated to inspiring, supporting and sharing golf's commitment to nature, resources and community. In 2011, Carter was named the TurfNet Superintendent of the Year, presented by Syngenta.
    "We used to mow tree line to tree line, and we're now maintaining fewer acres than ever," Carter said. "We're saving fuel and resources.
    "What we've done in the environmental aspect helped bring the eagles in and allowed them to feel like this was a safe haven and a place to raise a family. The eagles are the cherry on top."
    That's all well and good, but why should such programs matter to golfers or those who manage the courses on which they play?

    This year, stewardship efforts at Harrison Bay included raising and releasing two broods of quail. "I've always felt the golf course is a living, breathing thing. And we treat it as such," Carter said. "You get out of it what you put into it. You can overwater, put down too much fertilizer and cut everything down, and it will look good and it will play good, but you haven't done anything for the environment. That's a 50-50 relationship. Every superintendent has a responsibility to take care of the natural environment. Of course, golfers have to have a place to play and that pays our salaries, but we leave at the end of the day, and what are we leaving behind for the animals who call this home? If we don't manage this with that in mind then we are failing. I wouldn't want to be at a golf course that wouldn't take that into account."
    Eagles first showed up in 2010 at Harrison Bay, and those environmental programs came to the forefront a year later, thanks to fundraising efforts through The Friends of Harrison Bay, when park officials first installed a camera that peered into a nest. That technical set up has been updated several times, and has brought the nesting habits of bald eagles into millions of homes, schools and offices all around the world, including viewers from 36 countries last year alone.
    Although the same male has occupied the nest each year, four females have nested at Harrison Bay in nearly a decade.
    The eagles typically lay eggs at the Harrison Bay nest in mid-February. It's about another 35 days before the eggs hatch and then eight weeks before the chicks leave the nest. Hundreds of people come through the property each year for tours and a chance to see the eagles in person.
    "It started out just as a way for us to see them," Carter said. "It's amazing how many people are watching it online. Now, here we are. It's an untold number of people who have found out about this and have come to the course who never would have before."
  • Jorge Croda, CGCS, (second from right) and his team recently at Southern Oaks. The Southern Oaks team, below right, during English language class. Editor's note: Jorge Croda, CGCS, was superintendent at Southern Oaks Golf Club in Burleson, Texas. Owners recently closed the course to prepare it for sale. Croda also is a three-time finalist for the TurfNet Superintendent of the Year and won the award in 2017.
    By Jorge Croda, CGCS
    What can we learn from other generations and cultures? How can this learning and experience lead to increased success? My team is privileged to have a diverse mix of employees, we range in ages from 23 to 70 and have a variety of cultural and experiential backgrounds.
    Just like golf, life has an innate set of rules and etiquette that we all follow. There can be nuances within these rules and etiquette depending on our cultural and generational influences; however, fundamentally the basics remain the same. 
    Understanding and acknowledging that our employees have much to offer our team is a fundamental necessity and hallmark of a successful organization. Research indicates that millennials will be 75 percent of our workforce by 2025, and focus needs to be on engaging top talent across generations. The Pew Research Center outlines generations by birth year range as follows: Generation Z: 1996 and later, Generation Y (millennials): 1981-1995, Generation X: 1965 to 1980, Baby Boomers: 1946 to 1964. The diversity of our workforce has been gradually changing over the last 50 years, as well. 
    This diversity reflects a future workforce that will be even more diverse than today's — by gender, by ethnicity, by culture, by religion and most likely by other characteristics we haven't even identified yet. Acknowledging these diverse shifts in the workplace can sometimes seem daunting, but when we ensure that our mindset looks at diversity as an asset, it becomes clear that there is abundant opportunity to be had. What can we, as leaders, do to leverage the background, knowledge and skills of such a rich workforce to enhance our organizations?
    As a leader, continually ask yourself, "What can I learn from other generations and cultures, and how can this learning and experience lead to increased success?" My team is privileged to have a diverse mix of employees; we range in ages from 23 to 70 and have a variety of cultural and experiential backgrounds. 
    Earlier this year, I watched as one of our younger team members took the time after his shift to teach one of our oldest team member the beginning fundamentals of golf. A shared responsibility led to shared interests and the beginnings of a mutually beneficial relationship. This instance demonstrates the human connection that can so often be lacking in today's society. It is these shared experiences that make us who we are and create opportunities to flourish.
    Understanding your team
    Defining and aligning the vision and cultural values of your team and/or organization to be consistent with generational and cultural expectations is the key to building a successful team. 
    What makes each generation tick is different. If you have a diverse workforce then your responsibility as a leader is to take the time to get to know and understand your team members and identify their strengths and expectations. Identify the team members who have more multicultural experience and lead them to act as a bridge between their teammates with less cultural diversity. These identifications allow employees to draw from their cultural backgrounds in regards to the needs of the team and organization and use that expertise to be creative and innovative. 
    As a team leader, it is important to remember that you have to elicit input from all cultures represented in the team. Learning to adjust your style as a leader according to the nuances of your team makes a difference. Leverage the strengths of your team to grow each other professionally and accomplish the goals and objectives of your organization with creativity and innovation. 
    When your team is in alignment with the vision, everyone feels that their voices are heard and they will invest more effort into the time and quality of work. To create lasting positive change for generational diversity, it is critical that the vision and cultural values are consistent with current employees' expectations. 
    As expectations, beliefs, and behaviors change in organizations, so should the cultural values. As a leader, your responsibility is to ensure that your team understands the vision and cultural values and the role they play in the pursuit of these. They must also see you being a model of the expected behavior. If you are authentically living it, you can expect your team to be living it as well. Take opportunities to honor your employee's diversity. It could be something small like birthday recognitions or a larger scale cultural celebration. Do you have employees that have military experience? Is there a way that you can recognize and honor that contribution? Absolutely. If you are stuck when trying to come up with easy, no-hassle ways to show recognition, first just do it verbally. A simple "thank you" goes a long way. It shows that you are aware of that person and appreciate them. If you want to do more but don't have any ideas, try a simple google search. The internet is a wealth of ideas! No gesture is too big or too small. 
    Actions that demonstrates acknowledgment and appreciation are never wasted.

    The Southern Oaks team meets with Octavio Tripp (right), then Mexico's Dallas-based consul to the U.S. and now the Mexican ambassador to Egypt. Communication, contribution, and curiosity
    Keep communication honest, open, and frequent. Look for the positives in all of your team members and do not hesitate to point out what they are doing well, even the smallest of things. A little bit of recognition and praise goes a long way. If your team sees you doing it, they will do the same. Allow your employees to take ownership of their responsibilities and become leaders. Adopt a "Teach to Teach" mentality. Can they contribute to the training of other employees? Do they have insight in how to accomplish tasks in a more productive way? Do they have ideas on how to tackle challenges? Encourage curiosity and the pursuit of learning. Ensure that the environment and workplace culture you create is conducive to learning. 
    We should all have the mindset of being lifelong learners, no matter how big or small the learning is. This curiosity leads to opportunity and opportunity leads to success. Build a team of individuals that have the desire to be learners. There is a saying, "When one teaches, two learn." Let your employees be active, participating, appreciated members of the team. This will increase their emotional and physical investment in their job and positive results will follow. As a leader, you must create the conditions that allow cultural and generational appreciation and positive outcomes to occur.
    Identify and foster leadership
    You cannot just build a team of diverse employees and then expect immediate positive outcomes. You have to identify leaders and foster the skills that you want celebrated. 
    Different cultures and different generations expect different things; a diverse workforce requires leaders with a unique set of skills. Do not despair, if you don't feel that you have these skills, you can acquire them by utilizing the background, knowledge and experience of your workforce to learn and grow in your role as a leader! In order to find success you must be willing to be flexible, teachable, and approachable. 
    An effective leader helps their employees find common goals and must inspire and engage across all cultures and generations. Having a clearly defined vision, along with stated goals and expectations is critical to an organization's success. Likewise, we must know our employees, understand what their strengths are and use those strengths to improve upon their weaknesses and teach fellow employees, all while working towards organizational and/or departmental goals.
    Just like the golf course, when we are proactive in our approach and take the time to nurture our employees, beautiful growth happens.
  • Josh Taylor takes the gunner's seat during a morale flight in Kuwait earlier this year (above) and stands with one of the Apache aircraft he was charged with maintaining during a tour in Iraq in 2012 (below). Serving in the military runs in Josh Taylor's family, but a career as a golf course superintendent runs in his veins.
    After eight years in the South Carolina National Guard as an Apache helicopter mechanic crew chief that included two tours overseas, Taylor is taking aim at the stretch run of completing work toward an associate's degree in turfgrass management at Horry-Georgetown Technical College in Myrtle Beach. 
    "All the males in my family have been in the service one way or another," Taylor said. "My father, grandfathers, uncles. It's in the family."
    Next spring, he will complete his education at Horry-Georgetown and will move one step closer to becoming a golf course superintendent.
    "He has set himself up with the military and school to do whatever he wants to do," said Charles Granger, department chair and professor of the golf and sports turf management program at Horry-Georgetown. "Everyone wants options, and he is going to have those options. He is what every superintendent wants in a job candidate."
    A native of Hilton Head, Taylor is not a typical college student in any sense of the word. At age 31, Sgt. Taylor is leaving the South Carolina guard at year's end. He was in charge of a maintenance crew of 11 that services 10 aircraft for the 59th Aviation Troop Command, 1-151st Attack Reconnaissance Battalion. His crew was deployed twice, in 2012 to Iraq and again from September 2017 to July 2018 to Afghanistan. 
    First manufactured by Hughes Helicopters, then McDonnell-Douglas and now Boeing, the two-seat Apache has been in service by the U.S. Army as an attack weapon and ground-troop support since the mid-1980s.
    "It's a war zone over there, so it's intense," Taylor said of his time overseas. "We're there to make sure the guys on the ground have something over their heads when they are on the battlefield."
    Even serving his country while stationed on the other side of the world couldn't completely separate Taylor from his goal of being a superintendent.
    Each student in the H-G program is required to give a presentation detailing their internship experiences to the rest of the class. When it was Taylor's turn, he gave his presentation on his internship at the Dunes Golf and Beach Club in Myrtle Beach live from Afghanistan.
    "His leadership skills, critical-thinking skills and problem-solving skills are unbelievable," Granger said. "He doesn't get flustered. Whatever he does, it is all about completing his mission."
    Taylor's connection to golf runs as deep as his family's military ties.
    "Eventually, I want to be a superintendent," he said. "I fell in love with the industry and the camaraderie."
    He's been around the game since his youth, thanks to his father, Barry Taylor, and grandfather, Jimmy Taylor, since his youth. His mother, Angie Taylor, worked for the Heritage Classic Foundation, the nonprofit sponsor of the PGA Tour's RBC Heritage Classic, and to that end he's been hanging around the tournament played annually at Harbour Town Golf Links in Hilton Head since he was 10. His life changed when, after his second year as a student at the University of South Carolina, he took a summer job at Spanish Wells Club in Hilton Head.
    "Everything about him resonates success," Granger said. "His future is whatever he wants it to be."
  • The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of the Army have proposed a clear, understandable and implementable definition of "waters of the United States" that clarifies federal authority under the Clean Water Act.
    The new rule, proposed Dec. 12, would replace an Obama administration regulation, known as the "Waters of the United States" rule that expanded federal protections to smaller rivers and streams.
    The EPA says unlike the "Waters of the United States," the recent proposal contains a straightforward definition that would result in significant cost savings, protect the nation’s navigable waters, help sustain economic growth and reduce barriers to business development.
    Opponents of the Obama-era WOTUS rule say it unduly prevents property owners from being able to fully use their land because the rule's overly broad definition regulates ditches that temporarily flood as federally protected waterways.
    The agencies’ proposal gives states and tribes more flexibility in determining how best to manage their land and water resources while protecting the nation’s navigable waters as intended by Congress when it enacted the Clean Water Act three years ago, the EPA said.  
    Environmental advocates are concerned the proposed rule could remove pollution and development protections from many U.S. waterways and pose far-reaching effects on the safety of the nation's tap water for more than 100 million Americans.
    The proposed rule, says the EPA, would provide clarity, predictability and consistency so that the regulated community can easily understand where the Clean Water Act applies - and where it does not.
    Under the agencies’ proposal, traditional navigable waters, tributaries to those waters, certain ditches, certain lakes and ponds, impoundments of jurisdictional waters, and wetlands adjacent to jurisdictional waters would be federally regulated. It also details what are not "waters of the United States," such as features that only contain water during or in response to rainfall (e.g., ephemeral features); groundwater; many ditches, including most roadside or farm ditches; prior converted cropland; stormwater control features; and waste treatment systems.
    The agencies believe this proposed definition appropriately identifies waters that should be subject to regulation under the Clean Water Act while respecting the role of states and tribes in managing their own land and water resources. States and many tribes have existing regulations that apply to waters within their borders, whether or not they are considered "waters of the United States." 
    The joint proposal from the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers is the second step in a two-step process to review and revise the definition of "waters of the United States" consistent with President Trump's February 2017 executive order entitled "Restoring the Rule of Law, Federalism, and Economic Growth by Reviewing the 'Waters of the United States’ Rule." The order states that it is in the national interest to ensure that the nation's navigable waters are kept free from pollution, while at the same time promoting economic growth, minimizing regulatory uncertainty, and showing due regard for the roles of Congress and the states under the Constitution.
  • Todd Hicks, right, and Joe Rimelspach, Ph.D., of the plant pathology department at Ohio State (shown here during a recent field day) said 2018 is a year most in the golf business in Ohio would like to forget. Photo by John Reitman There were many reasons for golf course superintendents to panic in 2018. Two of the most prominent reasons were things called February and May.
    In Ohio, and elsewhere throughout the Midwest, Mid Atlantic and Northeast, in 2018, it was cold then unseasonably warm in early winter, followed by another round of cold, wet weather, followed by hot and humid conditions that last virtually uninterrupted for almost six months, providing a toxic cocktail of conditions for cool-season grass and major headaches for those managing it.
    Although 2018 was a nightmarish growing season for many superintendents, there's no reason to think these challenges are the new norm, said Todd Hicks, program manager for the turf pathology department at Ohio State University.
    "Superintendents were calling say their products didn't work. 'What am I going to do? Spray chlorothalonil all year?' " Hicks said during the recent Ohio Turfgrass Foundation Conference. "No, this was an oddball year. The things that worked for you in the past are going to continue to work for you. You just couldn't get out early enough this year. Stick with your plan."
    According to data compiled by Ohio State turf pathologist Joe Rimelspach, Ph.D., January in Ohio was, on average, a little colder than normal, while temperatures in February averaged 8.5 degrees warmer than the historic norm.
    "That's a crapload," said Hicks as he looked across what he described as the largest afternoon OTF seminar he and Rimelspach have seen in many years.
    "This is the largest crowd we've seen in 15 years. Usually, it's Joe and myself and five of our closest friends. You must be hard up for points, or you thought this was going to be really good, or we're talking over someone else's time."
    Turns out it was none of the above. Instead it was a reflection of the severity of the challenges encountered this year by superintendents in the Midwest.
    After a warm February, March and April were 3.5 degrees cooler than average, before temperatures in May skyrocketed to an average level that was 10 degrees warmer than usual, bringing summer-like conditions that lasted until mid-October. Then almost overnight, conditions spiraled, bringing winter temperatures to the Buckeye State two months earlier than usual.
    "We're now into winter, and we didn't have a fall," Hicks said. "And we wonder why nothing worked this year."
    Those wacky conditions, especially warm temperatures in February and heat and humidity that lasted well into autumn resulted in significant disease pressure, including early onset of dollar spot and the first reported case in Ohio of gray leaf spot on tall fescue.
    "Tall fescue doesn't get gray leaf spot like ryegrass gets it," Hicks said. "In ryegrass, it can look good one day and the next morning, the grass is gone. In fescue, it looks more like common leaf spot. It gets weak and thins out a little, but it doesn't die out.
    "This was the worst year ever in Ohio for gray leaf spot. It was a special year, and we probably won't see another one like it for a while."
    Dollar spot was more problematic.
    Warm temperatures in winter were enough to trigger dollar spot and cool, wet conditions prevented many from applying pre-emergent fungicide applications in a timely manner.
    "Diseases woke up earlier than usual, and I'm talking February for dollar spot," Hicks said. "Pre-emerge sprays were either late or missed entirely, and when you did get out it was compromised because it was so wet."
    Humid conditions provided an environment that promoted disease pressure until fall. Fungicide programs that typically are effective for up to 21 days were only lasting about a week, or less.
    "We had dollar spot early, and we had it forever," Hicks said. 
    "We had periods of five to seven days of heat and humidity and two days of cool down, then we were right back into the heat of the battle. The reprieve was never enough to knock down the disease. Under these conditions, dollar spot is going to flourish, and that's a battle you're never going to win."