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From the TurfNet NewsDesk

  • John Reitman
    Lawmakers in Miami are concerned with how runoff containing pesticides like glyphosate can impact environmentally sensitive waterways, such as Biscayne Bay. Roundup is the byproduct of years of scientific research, but its future, and that of many other popular pesticides, could be determined by raw emotion.
    As representatives are preparing to march on Washington, D.C., in the next edition of National Golf Day in May, lawmakers in Miami took the first step in banning one of the golf industry's most widely used chemistries. 
    No one should have been surprised last week when the city of Miami approved a resolution banning the use of herbicides containing glyphosate on city property. The ban affects city works and contractors working on behalf of the city. The PR campaign to stop the use of such pesticides is well organized, much more so than any efforts to save them.
    Although the Miami ban on glyphosate, the third in Florida so far, does not mention residential or commercial - which has the potential to be far more widespread - the story should serve as a wake-up call of challenges that are on the horizon.
    Glyphosate is the world's most popular herbicide and is an essential tool for golf course superintendents nationwide. Those who hope to continue using this and other pesticides targeted by environmental groups would be well advised to mobilize, much the way state associations did in response to water-use restrictions, to educate lawmakers on the responsible use of such products by those who are licensed to apply them.
    The Miami resolution, introduced by councilman Ken Russell, came in response to the city's continued reliance on glyphosate. According to published reports, the city used 5,000 gallons of it last year, and there is growing concern in South Florida how it might affect the environmentally sensitive waterways, particularly Biscayne Bay.
    There also is concern that glyphosate could be a cancer-causing agent, though there are arguments on both sides of that issue.
    A California jury last year ordered Monsanto to pay $289 million to a school groundskeeper who said his terminal cancer was caused by the popular weed killer. That figure was later adjusted by a judge to $78.5 million. However, in 2017, a study published by the Journal of the National Cancer Institute said there was no scientific evidence to link glyphosate and cancer in people. Another study published in Brazil came to the same conclusion.
    Whether glyphosate is in fact a carcinogen remains to be seen, there are concerns about how long it subsists in the soil.
    Developed in the 1970s by Monsanto, Roundup promises weeks of weed control, but there is strong evidence that the active ingredient subsists in the soil for much longer. Data presented at the 2014 Acres USA conference on sustainable and organic farming found traces of glyphosate in the soil 10 years after application and a recent study found the chemistry in dozens of wines and beers available on the market.
    Some studies even suggest glyphosate might be harmful to bees. I don't know whether the chemistry adversely affects pollinators, but I do know from first-hand experience that ants and spiders do not like it very much.
    Glyphosate has been named in more than 10,000 lawsuits globally, and Bayer, which acquired Monsanto in 2018, vows to fight those claims.
    Synthetic pesticides and fertilizers are coming under increased scrutiny globally and have been banned outright in some locales. It is time to start thinking about proactive measures now to ensure future access to such products, much in the same way many state associations did when regional government bodies threatened to turn off water. Although there is a big difference between synthetic pesticides and water and defending one against mounting popular opinion will be a challenge, it is possible to demonstrate responsible pesticide use. In fact, there are countless examples of superintendents across the country who successfully manage golf courses without upsetting the balance of environmentally sensitive areas that are in close proximity. 
    Those who want continued access to glyphosate - and other pesticides on the watchlist of various environmental groups - might want to put that on their agenda the next time they or those speaking on their behalf have an audience that includes lawmakers.
  • As the range of the annual bluegrass weevil increases, so to are efforts to combat this tiny-yet-destructive pest.
    To better help golf course superintendents manage annual bluegrass weevil, Syngenta has updated its WeevilTrak monitoring system with new courses, researchers and control recommendations. Updates include new additions to the ABW research team, new courses on the list of reporting stations and updates to the WeevilTrak site.
    "ABW activity is spreading to new locations, so we want to ensure WeevilTrak is evolving to meet the needs of superintendents through more monitoring sites and improved control products," said Stephanie Schwenke, turf market manager for Syngenta. "Based on requests we've received for additional input in Southern Virginia, we've added several new courses to the program. We've also improved the Optimum Control Strategy with Provaunt® WDG insecticide recommendations."
    This year, Thomas Kuhar, Ph.D., of Virginia Tech and Olga Kostromytska, Ph.D., of the University of Massachusetts have joined the WeevilTrak team of researchers and will monitor ABW activity in their respective locations and provide monthly updates for the WeevilTrak blog.
    Golf courses added to the list of reporting ABW research stations include The Federal Club in Glen Allen, Virginia, Ballyhack Golf Club in Roanoke, Virginia and Blacksburg Country Club in Blacksburg, Virginia.
    Since its launch 10 years ago, the WeevilTrak program has been continuously updated to provide new resources and help superintendents stay on top of the latest trends.
    New in 2019 are text alerts that provide timely updates on local ABW progression, a blog updated by 11 industry-leading ABW researchers, secondary course monitoring for additional localized stage-progression information, a growing degree day model designed specifically for ABW and control strategies. 
    "ABW has historically been the most troublesome insect for golf course superintendents in the Northeast, and, in recent years, it has continued to move to other regions," said Steve McDonald, principal of Turfgrass Disease Solutions, and managing consultant for the WeevilTrak research team. "To help superintendents combat this pest, WeevilTrak continues to provide the tools they need to stay informed on ABW activity and the control options needed to prevent damage throughout the season."
  • World Golf Foundation CEO Steve Mona (below) says that while interest in playing golf is at an all-time high, getting people to the course and keeping them there is the real challenge. There has been plenty of reason for concern with the state of golf during the past decade, but when it comes to the game's future, Steve Mona is the eternal optimist.
    As the chief executive officer of the World Golf Foundation, Mona knows all the game's indicators backwards, forwards and sideways, and although the game has leaked players steadily for the past 12 years, he is confident that there are more reasons than ever to be encouraged about where the game is headed.
    Nearly 15 million people in 2018 said they were interested in playing golf, and more than 2.5 million played the game for the first time last year, according to industry statistics. Off-course facilities attracted about 13 million people during that time, some of whom already are golfers, but many of whom are not.
    "Two words I use to describe the game are stable and evolving," Mona said during a sitdown with TurfNet at this year's Golf Industry Show.
    "Golf is riding a high of interest. Last year, almost 15 million people said they were interested in playing the game right now. Not when the kids get out of the house. Not when they retire. Not when they sell the house. That's right now. Interest is high, and trial is high. Last year, 2.6 million people tried golf for the first time. That was an all-time high in interest and trial. We don't have an issue with people interested in the game. We don't have an issue with people trying the game. The issue boils down to keeping them in the game."
    Rounds played were down about 5 percent from 448 million in 2017 to 427 million last year, and are off by about 50 million since the turn of the century 19 years ago. According to Mona's statistics, the golfer population in the U.S. has dropped from 32 million to 24 million since 2002 (the National Golf Foundation puts those numbers at 30 million and 20.8 million, respectively). But of those 24 million, he said, 19.5 million are "committed to the game."
    "Golf is part of their lifestyle," Mona said. "They are responsible for 95 percent of the spending and 95 percent of the rounds. The challenge for golf has been how to build on those numbers."
    And new golf experiences such as Topgolf, Drive Shack and golf simulators can help introduce people to the game in new and different ways and maybe eventually generate interest in a more traditional on-course golf experience.
    "If you were interested in the game 20 years ago, your ways of acting on that interest were fairly limited," Mona said. "Today, you can try Toopgolf, you can try Drive Shack, you can try a simulator. You've tried it, and that could lead to that green grass experience. That's why we view these entry points as complimentary to the game and not competitors.
    "I actually think the future, we have a great opportunity. We have more people showing interest in the game and more people trying the game. But it's a conversion or retention issue. But at least now we have entry points into the game."
    Millenials view golf - and just about everything else - differently than their parents do, and golf course operators would do well to tap into that, Mona said.
    "Golf used to be 8 a.m. on the first tee on a Saturday morning at a private club with the same foursome you've played with for the last 10 years, steel spikes, khaki slacks, a golf shirt tucked in with a cap facing forward," Mona said. "Now, it can be 8 p.m., cargo shorts, flip flops, shirt untucked, hat on backwards and a beer in one hand at Topgolf. That is a golf experience and an entry point into the game."
    Forcing newcomers to the game to conform to the rules of yesteryear could prevent them from becoming committed golfers.
    "This way, they get introduced to the game and if they have fun the might want to pursue it further and eventually move to a green grass experience. Now, that's not going to be a Topgolf experience because it is different, but it needs to be more aligned with it than not," Mona said.
    "What we have to recognize now is that there are different ways to experience golf and that the way in which people experience golf has to align with how they experience other forms of recreational time. We are compared against going to a football game, basketball game or the Lucky Strike Bowl, but those are all forms of entertainment. If there are rules that prohibit you from doing things freely at those other forms of entertainment and that bothers you at any level, then you are going to matriculate away from golf toward those other forms of recreation.
    Attracting and retaining players is not just about bending the game's staid rules. A lot of it comes down to basic customer service.
    "We call it the moments of truth at a golf course," Mona said. "Is there a bag drop? And if there is, what is that person like? You're probably going to have a starter. What is that person like? . . . It all matters in how welcoming are they. We have to be thinking that golf competes with any other form of discretionary spending, not just bowling or tennis. It also competes with going to a movie or going out to dinner. However you spend your discretionary income, we have to compete with that.
    "The ingredients are in place to address this. It's a matter of us as an industry making sure that people have the right experiences at all these points along the way."
  • John Cunningham (left) and Jim Pavonetti are locked in a negotiation dual at SBI 2015. Bill Davis, Ph.D. (below) leads a session at SBI 2017. Photos by John Reitman By the time John Cunningham, CGCS, attended the Syngenta Business Institute in 2015, he already had been promoted to director of agronomy and assistant general manager at Bellerive Country Club.
    SBI helped round out the skill set needed for the evolving role of today's business-savvy superintendent who wants to take their managerial talent to a new level, like Cunningham, who today is the general manager at Aronimink Golf Club near Philadelphia.
    "Golf course superintendents are truly responsible for running a business. Having the opportunity to attend three days of business classes focused on the many challenges we face as superintendents was unbelievable," Cunningham said during SBI. "Spending time with other superintendents was beneficial and walking away with best management practices, tools and solutions to help some of these problems was awesome."
    Superintendents hoping for the same experience can now apply for the this year's edition of the Syngenta Business Institute. An intensive three-day program developed in partnership with the Wake Forest University School of Business, SBI is designed to grow the professional knowledge of golf course superintendents and assist them with managing their courses. In its 11th year, the program is scheduled for Dec. 3-6 in Winston-Salem, North Carolina and provides graduate school-level instruction in financial management, human resource management, negotiating, managing across generations and cultural divides, impact hiring and other leadership- and professional-development skills.
    About 25 superintendents will be selected to attend this year’s program. Application deadline is Aug. 13.
    "Superintendents work hard to make sure their turf is conditioned to perform at its best and recover quickly from stress," said Stephanie Schwenke, turf market manager for Syngenta. "But we know the turf is not the only thing they are managing. Every day, they make important business decisions and are responsible for leading their teams. At Syngenta, we don’t want to just provide products that help them take care of their turf. We want to continue to offer opportunities like SBI, where they can learn skills that will help them grow professionally and improve their golf courses." 
    Since its inception, more than 250 superintendents have graduated from SBI, and many recently attended a reunion event at the Golf Industry Show in San Diego. Over the years, they have continued to praise the program for its effectiveness and impact on their careers.
    "The reason I came is because this deals with things that are outside of our wheelhouse," said Jim Pavonetti of Fairview Country Club in Greenwich, Connecticut, when he attended in 2015. "Making greens great is what we do, but managing boards and owners, those are the kinds of things we can improve upon."
    The deadline to apply is Aug. 13. Selected participants will be notified in October.
  • Traditionally there is not a lot of show floor traffic on Day 2 of GIS. If the Golf Industry Show was a movie, it might have competed for an Oscar this year in the category of Best Animated Short Film, with a heavy emphasis on "short".
    With abbreviated trade show hours that included a 10 a.m. start on Wednesday and Thursday and a 90-minute, controversy-stirring variety show as its grand finale, GIS is nothing like the epic documentary version that once spilled over into Saturday. Heck, it's nothing like the the 2018 show that gave birth to the phrase "Forget the Alamo" and revived old standards such as “Viva Las Vegas.”
    Indeed, it appears as though the show is experiencing an identity crisis of sorts. The GCSAA places a lot of stock, as it should, in the number of "qualified buyers" who attend the show. Qualified buyers are people, like yourselves, who have the authority to make on-the-spot purchasing decisions on the tradeshow floor. There were about 5,950 such folks at this year's show, which is about 450 more than last year in San Antonio, but overall, that number, like most every indicator in golf, has been on a slow and steady decline for the past decade or more.
    What is not moving - at least not much, anyway - is the number of vendors displaying their wares at GIS. Although booth space is down in recent years, the number of exhibitors during that time has held strong in the low to mid 500s, and overall attendance is still solid, hovering around the 12,000 mark.
    Contrary to what some might believe, the GIS is not just an education and networking conference, although we heard many stories of superintendents who had gotten their fill of golf and education and headed home before the tradeshow kicked off Wednesday. 
    As the GCSAA's largest fundraiser, GIS still is a business-first event that typically enjoys brisk floor traffic for the first half of the first day then transforms into a ghost town where the only thing missing are tumbleweeds rolling across a convention center floor.
    When the GIS finale started late Thursday afternoon, the show floor was again flush with activity. The problem was most attendees flooded in from outside the convention center, because by then few superintendents were roaming the floor. It's a challenge for vendors to conduct business and support your fundraising efforts when attendees are outside waiting for the big show to begin, or worse, already on a plane heading home.
    And for those who still had business to conduct from 3:30-5 p.m. on the last day, doing so was nearly impossible since many booths were vacated due to the entertainment.
    With travel budgets heavily scrutinized, getting to GIS is no small feat in a city where hotels within walking distance of the convention center range in price from $250-$400 (or more). Even hotels a few miles out of downtown weren't a lot less, and even those quickly elevated into that range of $200-plus per night after throwing in roundtrip Uber fare.
    I can sympathize with the GCSAA, whose fundraising efforts are hitched to a wagon with a hobbled wheel. Although there is no clear-cut solution to strengthening show floor traffic, especially on Day 2, shortening the hours on an already abbreviated show and adding a 90-minute song and dance routine during the last 90 minutes sends a conflicting message, and makes it harder to sell that concept of business-first.
    It makes it harder to buy it, too.
  • Even a rare rainy day in Southern California can't dampen the spirits of Rose Bowl turf superintendent Will Schnell (right), assistant Miguel Yepez (left) and Martin Rodriguez. Photos by John Reitman Since Warren Harding occupied the White House almost 100 years ago, playing in the Rose Bowl - the game and the stadium - has been a dream for countless kids across the country.
    It's a legacy turf superintendent Will Schnell takes seriously at the world's most iconic stadium that opened in Pasadena, California in 1923.
    "Kids work their whole lives to get to this point," Schnell said. "We try to provide a surface where they can maximize their talents."
    Schnell has plenty of experience doing just that. For the past 18 years, he has been the man in charge of the most famous field in sports. Before that, Schnell, a Missouri native and graduate of Central Missouri State (now the University of Central Missouri), worked for the Cleveland Browns and several professional baseball stadiums, including three years across town as the sports turf manager at Dodger Stadium.
    He has a lot in common with golf course superintendents. Although the Rose Bowl game is played once a year, many other events are held there, and the turf must be in championship condition all the time. He has issues with shade, drought and traffic and even has to rope off access points so players and others don't wear a path from the locker room onto the field of play.
    He's been accused during most of the past two decades of managing the Rose Bowl turf like a 2.5-acre putting green. His field is held to such high standards that it often is compared favorably with that at Augusta National Golf Club - which opened in 1933, a full decade after the Rose Bowl.
    "That's what people tell me," Schnell said. "That's what we try to do. We try to make this field something special."
    It was just after 9/11 when Schnell made the move 10 miles from Dodger Stadium to Pasadena. College football's BCS National Championship system was in its infancy and the Dodgers had not been to the Major League playoffs in five years.
    "I had worked for the Browns and I like football," Schnell said. "The Dodgers weren't doing so well, and I wanted to be part of something new."
    Since then, Schnell has overseen 18 Rose Bowl games and four BCS National Championships.
    One thing that has been constant since Miami beat Nebraska for the BCS championship on Jan. 3, 2002, the field at the Rose Bowl, which Schnell and his team, which includes Miguel Yepez and Martin Rodriguez, resod several times per year and maintain anywhere from one-quarter to three-fourths of an inch depending on the next event, is nearly flawless every day.
    It has to be.
    Much like in golf, the Rose Bowl field must be in championship condition every day. Even when college football's best teams aren't competing there, the stadium is an important revenue-generating tool for the city of Pasadena that owns it and the adjacent Brookside Golf Course, and some part of it is used nearly every day.
    "The press box is important, the locker rooms are important," Schnell said. "There is not an area here that we don't rent out to raise revenue."
    And everyone who rents out space for a corporate event or wedding or whatever wants one thing - a field worthy of a Rose Bowl game.
    "UCLA plays seven homes games here, and there are events out here all the time every week," said Mike Steve, territory manager for Grigg/Brandt and a longtime partner in helping maintain the Rose Bowl look. "There can be a game on Saturday, a corporate event on Sunday and another one on Monday, and guess what I want? I want the field to look perfect like I know the Rose Bowl always does. That's the challenge; people have no idea the conditions people want here day in and day out."
    To achieve that, Schnell sods at least four times a year, including immediately after every concert with Bandera Bermuda grass from West Coast Turf. Grown an hour-and-a-half away in Palm Desert, it's the same overseeded sod used at historic sports venues across Southern California, such as Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and Los Angeles Country Club, and is noted for its resistance to shade, cold, traffic and drought.
    While the press box might be the site of a wedding one day, the field might be the site of a concert the next. In fact, the Rolling Stones are scheduled to appear there May 11.
    Such an event, including setup and teardown, usually is about a nine-day window where the field is covered with a floor capable of supporting 10s of thousands of fans and several 18-wheelers delivering and hauling away concert infrastructure.
    As the trucks are pulling out, Schnell and his team are going in behind them stripping off the top 2 inches of the field with a Koro Field Topmaker. The process takes 20 hours over two days.
    "We have to resod after concerts because there is nothing left when you have a driveable terra floor on that turf for eight or nine days," Schnell said. "As they are going out, we are right behind them ripping up the field."
    Like a golf course superintendent, Schnell often has little time between establishing new turf and when it has to be not only playable, but perfect.
    "After we resod, we'll have another event seven days later," he said.
    "Our timelines are short. We usually finish resodding on a Friday or Saturday and then have a game the next week. Our goal at the Rose Bowl is that when we sod you cannot tell we resodded. If a coach or player sees a seam, the focus is not on football. We don't want them to think there is anything wrong with the field."
    And, like a superintendent, Schnell often has to throw out the turf management playbook to produce conditions that have to be perfect not only for 200 football players on the field, but more than 15 million viewers watching on TV.
    "We're constantly asking for information, asking for help. 'Will this work? If I use a product this way, will it work. Maybe it will, maybe it won't,' " Schnell said. "I keep a lot of calcium in the soil profile. Most people aren't doing that, but here we have to think outside the box. We have so many events and our timelines are so short that we have to. If a game is at 1 o'clock and something is wrong, I can't call ESPN and say 'Hey, can you delay?' No, that game is going to be at 1 o'clock."
    When Schnell took the job at the Rose Bowl almost two decades ago, one of the first things he noticed was bare soil where players would enter the field from the locker room. Like a superintendent who must manage entry and exit points on putting greens, he immediately devised a plan manage traffic onto and off the field. He ropes off those entry points and directs players and anyone else onto a different path that changes daily.
    "Those are the hardest places to keep grass. We don't ever walk in those areas," said Yepez, the Rose Bowl's assistant turf superintendent. "The only time we use (the real entry point) is the day of an event."
    While nearly 100,000 in person and millions more watch on TV admire the work of Schnell and his team, they rarely stop to enjoy the contest before them. Instead, they are monitoring the field and looking for ways to make the world's best playing surface even better for the next event. The team rates the field on a scale of 1-10 for visual quality and playability.
    "There's always room for improvement," Yepez said. "We're always looking to learn what we can do better for next year."
    Martin Rodriguez records the English and Spanish broadcasts of the Rose Bowl game to listen to what announcer say about playing conditions and the visual quality of the turf. And while aerial views from the Goodyear blimp make for great theater on TV, the overhead shots of the field are fodder for improvement for those who maintain the field. 
    "This year, I altered the overseed rate. When I saw those shots from the blimp, I could see more Bermuda than usual. There was a blockiness that I did not like," Schnell said. "No one mentioned a thing, but the three of us saw it. I should have overseeded a little heavier. The field was a 9. Next year, we'll look for a 9-and-a-half."
    Such scrutiny, self-imposed an otherwise, is a small price to pay for the privilege of taking care of the turf at the most iconic venue in sports.
    "I remember as a kid watching the Rose Bowl on TV. At home, it was cold and snowing and you turn on the TV and see people in shorts and short-sleeve shirts," Schnell said. "Then you actually get here, and wherever you go and people ask where you work, they all say 'Oh, the Rose Bowl.' It's an honor and a privilege to work here."
  • Water use in the fairways at Corica Park's South Course is down 60 percent since a renovation patterned after some of Australia's top courses. Last summer, Greenway Golf unveiled a newly renovated Corica Park South Course in Alameda, California. The project was three years in the making and was designed to help reduce water use in one of the country's most water-challenged environments. 
    Elements of the Australian Sandbelt design based on some of Australia's most historic layouts include a 6- to 8-inch sand cap, new drought-resistant turf in the fairways, targeted irrigation and landforms that help move water to hundreds of catch basins.
    Although much of California finally has more water than it needs, the efforts of Greenway Golf to make busy city-owned Corica Park a model of sustainability continue to raise awareness across the golf industry.
    Recently, the South Course at Corica Park and Greenway Golf, which manages the property were named recipients of the inaugural Water and Sustainability Innovation Award, presented by Audubon International and Ewing Irrigation and Landscape Supply.
    This award recognizes a project that addresses sustainability and water efficiency challenges and contributes to a healthy environment, quality of life or a vital economy. 
    Corica Park is a busy 45-hole municipal property near Oakland that includes the William Francis Bell-designed South Course, and the North Course designed by William Park Bell that is being renovated nine holes at a time. About 70,000 rounds per year are played on the South Course. 
    The project was planned with Australian layouts like Royal Melbourne and Victoria in mind and was the idea of Greenway agronomist Mark Logan, who is a native of Australia.
    The South's large greens were grassed with Pure Distinction creeping bentgrass. At an average of 7,500 square feet, each has enough contouring for three exit points for surface water and enough to make them interesting yet not too difficult for golfers.
    Nearly 34 acres of fairways were sprigged with drought-tolerant Santa Ana Bermudagrass, the first successful sprigging of that variety on the Northern California coast. Collars are Seaside II creeping bentgrass to handle mower and roller turns, and bunker edges are covered in Agrostis pallens, a cool-season grass native to California that Cook says looks and performs like a tall fescue.
    As a result, water use in the fairways is down about 60 percent. The irrigation system, with 5,300 heads, was designed to target the specific needs of each variety.
    "This project focuses on water recapture, target irrigation, native grasses, the design and playability," Jason Cook, regional superintendent for Greenway Golf, told TurfNet when the redesign was unveiled last year.
    "The cost of water, the cost of labor, aging infrastructure all are impacting golf significantly, especially in California. Investing in infrastructure now saves money down the road. I don't see the cost of water going down."
  • Reinders Green Industry Conference is the largest independent green industry conference in the Midwest. Billed as the Midwest's largest independent green industry conference, Reinders 24th Green Industry Conference will be held March 13-14 at the Waukesha Expo Center in suburban Milwaukee.
    The bi-annual conference, which began in 1973, will include a panel of speakers and more than 35 educational seminars, making it an ideal destination for those in the upper Midwest who are unable to travel to national shows.
    Educational tracks are available for golf course superintendents, professional landscape contractors, lawn care operators, sports turf managers, equipment technicians and irrigation contractors.
    Attendees will enjoy the famous homemade donuts and an Entertainment Zone. The industry's top vendors will be offering show specials in addition to daily door and raffle prizes.
  • The Arroyo Seco runs through Brookside Golf Course and adjacent to the Rose Bowl (at left). There is no such thing as an offseason at Brookside Golf Course.
    Even when more than 100,000 golfers per year aren't playing this historic, 36-hole layout by architect William P. Bell, there is always something happening at the city-owned facility adjacent to the iconic Rose Bowl Stadium in Pasadena, California. Indeed, compared with other municipal golf courses, Brookside is, on one hand, an aberration in that some of the things that happen here occur nowhere else. On the other, it shares many of the same challenges other municipal and daily fee tracks face, just maybe at a slightly more intense level.
    "There are a lot of challenges here," said superintendent George Winters. "It's something you have to zen with."
    Designed by Bell in 1928, Brookside lies in a valley beneath Pasadena known as the Arroyo Seco that is named for the watershed that bisects the property and drains water - when there is any - from the San Gabriel Mountains to the Los Angeles River 25 miles away. Once a natural gulley that traversed along its current path, the Arroyo Seco was paved to prevent erosion in the 1930s as part of President Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal that was designed to help get unemployed Americans back to work on the heels of the Great Depression.
    Today, upwards of 150,000 golfers per year trek back and forth across the Arroyo Seco to play Bell's handiwork adjacent to the historic Rose Bowl Stadium, which opened six years before the golf course in 1922. 
    The golf operation, which is managed by American Golf, has a historic past. The larger No. 1 Course was the site of the PGA Tour's former Pasadena Open from 1929 to 1938, where winners include the likes of Horton Smith and "Lighthorse" Harry Cooper. In 1968, Billy Casper won the Los Angeles Open at Brookside.
    As a municipal operation, Winters has a limited budget to go along with a lot of play. Like everyone in California, he struggles with water-related issues and a full schedule of non-golf events on the Rose Bowl campus mean compaction issues. Serious compaction issues.
    When asked what is the primary turf type on the golf course, assistant superintendent Alberto Munoz laughed and answered "all of them."
    Winters and Munoz don't carry around a top hat, magic wand or a rabbit, but what they produce at Brookside under the circumstances they face dozens of times per year is nothing short of magic.
    The stadium and golf course, both owned by the city, are important revenue sources for Pasadena. The stadium is the site of a New Year's Day bowl game, a half-dozen or so UCLA home football games and countless other events that rely on Brookside's fairways for parking, tailgate areas and more. The golf course also is the site of a two-day music festival that attracts about 50,000 concertgoers. 
    "We don't just run a golf course," Winters said. "We run a golf course, concert venue, parking lot and festival area all on the same property." 

    Superintendent George Winters (right) and assistant Alberto Munoz flip Brookside from a golf course to an event-support center dozens of times a year. The city even markets the 16th and 17th holes of the No. 1 Course as The Greens at the Rose Bowl for the purpose of selling events.
    Several new events on the schedule for 2019 will mean even more challenges ahead for Winters, Munoz and their team.
    "There will be 28 Fridays this year where those two holes are closed. It's going to be interesting to see how that goes," Winters said. "That is in addition to the 40 to 50 other disruptions here. We're at almost 100 days of disruption on the campus. The wear and tear is not a big deal. It's about generating revenue."
    A former superintendent at Robinson Ranch - now known as Sand Canyon - in Santa Clarita, Munoz joined Winters' staff last October because he wanted to be part of something special.
    "What attracted me was all the things the happen here. The diversity of things, the golf, events, concerts, charity walks and runs," Munoz said. "There are all kinds of different things happening here, but you really don't have any idea what it's like until you actually get here. They tell you about all the events, the concerts and the parking, but until you get here and see the tailgating and the parking you, nothing prepares you for it. There are always so many people and so many things going on. So much of the golf course is taken up by some of these events, it becomes like a whole other world. It's not even like it's a golf course anymore."
    It took Winters about a year to zero in on the process of preparing the course for non-golf events that include removing items like ball washers, tee markers and flagsticks, staking off greens and bunkers and installing diesel-powered temporary lighting (pictured below). 
    "You're so immersed in the event, you're not even thinking of this as a golf course anymore. It's a property where you're trying to manage all these things around you," Winters said. 
    "For a UCLA game, we will have staff on site for almost 48 hours straight. It's not a normal golf course where we come in at 5 in the morning and leave at 1 in the afternoon. We are very good at preparing this to be a parking lot. It's like second nature to us. We are very organized and we have it down to a science. An outsider just can't understand when they see all these cars and tens of thousands of people here, then about nine or 10 hours after the last car is gone, it's a golf course again. There's no trash, greens are mowed and the bunkers raked. And we don't do it just once. We do it dozens of times a year. It's pretty neat to see."
    Of course that schedule does result in a great deal of compaction and ground under repair. Winters aerifies fairways eight or nine times a year and goes through a lot of city water to alleviate compaction and repair damaged areas.
    About a decade ago, Pasadena had reached a deal with nearby Glendale to bring reclaimed water to the Arroyo Seco area. Most of the infrastructure was in place when residents in the surrounding area squashed the plan because they didn't want purple pipe coming through their neighborhood.
    "We're all potable water," Winters said. "There is no other source on the horizon."
    Before the days of water-use restrictions, Brookside used about 750 acre feet of water per year. Today, that number is about 500 acre feet.
    "Or less," Winters said.
    That makes it a struggle to provide the kind of conditions golfers want when they play Brookside.
    "If we were just golf with no other events, we would probably be OK with that," Winters said. "Disruption to irrigation, when we have to turn it off for two or three days when it's hot, that is our biggest challenge. We figured there are at least 250,000 people in any event season going through the golf course to the stadium. That is an astounding number in golf course terms. Once we get into these events where we have to recover, repair and grow-in, it's not possible in my opinion.
    "We have 40-ton semis, many, many semis, coming onto the golf course many times a year. Some of the damage doesn't show right away, so when it does people sometimes wonder whether we are doing everything we are supposed to be doing. We have dozens of areas like this all over the place and that slowly chips away at the golf course."
    The daily challenge for Winters and Munoz is to chip back and do what they can to produce the best conditions to keep more than 100,000 coming back year after year, and keeping the spirit of William Bell alive in one of the game's most unparalleled environments.
    "It's very cool to be part of this - the uniqueness of the property," Winters said. "There's always something fresh. We have our frustrations, but what job doesn't?"
  • Seems like the overall golf industry and the education conference and tradeshow for superintendents that bears its name are joined at the hip.
    Both are unable to match pre-recession participation numbers and both are struggling to find ways to boost interest in what appears to be a declining model.
    Attendance at this year's Golf Industry Show in San Diego came in at about 11,900 with 5,950 qualified buyers. That's about 200 more attendees and 500 or so additional qualified buyers compared with last year's mid-America show in San Antonio, which in two attempts has been pretty much a total bust - at least as far as numbers go. That attendance figure is about 500 behind the five-year average of 12,440 that includes two shows in San Diego (2019, 2016), two in San Antonio (2018, 2015) and one in Orlando (2017).
    Long walkways make the layout at the San Diego Convention Center appear deceptively large. To that end, the 510 vendors who exhibited at the show were 21 less than last year, 40 behind the 2017 show in Orlando and easily the fewest since the current GIS model was implemented in 2005 in Florida. 
    The last time the GIS was in San Diego in 2016, 550 vendors rented out 250,000 square feet of exhibit space in the convention center. This year's show fell short of that number by nearly 42,000 square feet, or about 16 average sized U.S. houses. 
    That said, exhibit space this year was up from last year's 184,400 square feet in San Antonio. The all-time low for exhibit space in the GIS era was 172,900 in 2013 in San Diego. The all-time high was 2008 in Orlando when the combined show that included the Club Managers Association of America attracted 965 vendors covering 300,900 square feet of booth space. To be clear, that was a different show in a different era, and, like pre-recession golf, we're never going back there.
    The show does typically receive a bump when it travels through Orlando, and next year's show could get a big boost by a schedule change that has it running back-to-back in late January immediately following the annual PGA Merchandise Show. Word on the street is that since two large tradeshows are running in succession the next installment of GIS might be moved across International Drive to the North/South Concourse of the Orange County Convention Center and away from its traditional home in the West Concourse. Whether butting up to the PGA Show was intentional or not, it's a move that is long overdue and kudos to the GCSAA hierarchy for trying something different to boost attendance as well as cut down travel expenses for the select vendors who exhibit at both shows.
    The following year's show in 2021 will return to Las Vegas for the first time since 2012. That show was considered a dud when compared to some of the old line shows of Orlando and New Orleans. Today, however, numbers like 14,700 attendees, 7,000 qualified buyers and 540 vendors sound pretty good. What the show holds after that is anyone's guess. A site has not been announced for 2022, which would be the traditional San Diego slot. What we do know is that sky-high hotel rates and a city ill-equipped to deal with its homeless population is not a good match for an industry trying to find its way in a shrinking market.
  • All good things come to an end at some point, even Law and Order and Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood.  After almost 100 episodes over an eight-year run on TurfNetTV, Hector Velazquez is closing Hector's Shop as we know it and moving on to the next challenge in educating turf equipment technicians, whatever and wherever that may be.
    On the heels of an epic week hosting Inside the Shop at GIS2019, receiving the Edwin Budding Award and appearing on Good Morning San Diego, Hector decided to seize the moment and springboard to something new.
    "I appreciate the experience I was able to gain from my time with TurfNet. I've learned a lot with your help and really am grateful," Hector said. "My wife and I are excited about what the future holds for my family, even though we're not sure at this point what that is or where it will be. The only thing I know is that I want to continue helping equipment technicians."
    The Velazquez family is not afraid to pull up roots and find a new adventure. In 2015, Hector took Hector's Shop and his family on the road and spent the next four years crisscrossing the country while living in an RV and homeschooling their seven children. Along the way he worked on a temporary basis at several golf courses, did onsite tech training, extreme makeovers, shop organization consultations, speaking engagements and hands on classes.
    "Hector's Shop on Tour was an amazing experience for me and my family, allowing us to see and experience parts of the country and meet people that we never would have been able to otherwise," Hector said. "But after four years on the road, we are ready to settle down.  We are looking for property now, preferably with a shop on it already."

    Awards Hector has won representing TurfNet in TOCA's annual contests. Peter McCormick of TurfNet said, "There is little doubt that Hector has done more over the last eight years to elevate the stature of the turf equipment technician than anybody else, ever. He has trumpeted the value of a clean, organized shop, shown us how to paint a shop floor properly (even sprinkling on some glitter), how to properly use basic to the most specialized tools, and has introduced little-known tools, techniques and gadgets to broaden the skill set of the equipment tech. His influence on the industry has been huge."
    Speaking of huge, anyone who has met Hector and shaken his catchers-mitt-sized hands knows that he has spent time in the gym. He is an imposing presence.
    An early Tips & Tricks video Hector did for us back in 2010 while he was the equipment manager at Westwood Country Club in Vienna, VA. "One of the most enjoyable things for me while working with Hector over the years has been the masterful way in which he has built his personal brand," said McCormick. "From the evolution of his logo (to currently include his caricature) to his signature bowling shirts, a professional branding agency could not have done a better job than Hector has done for himself. I wouldn't be surprised to see him pitching products on TV or hosting a show like This Old House or NPR's Car Talk some day. He has an open road ahead of him."

    A future for Hector as a pitchman, or as Bob Vila for equipment techs? Of note is the fact that Hector produced all of his videos himself, learning the nuances of lighting, camera and audio gear, and editing applications along the way.
    Hector's influence has not gone unnoticed outside the turf industry. He was recruited several years ago to produce 50 videos for Home Depot's tool rental department, and has worked with the Equipment & Engine Training Council (EETC).
    For the son of a preacher from New Jersey with little formal training in mechanics -- and none in video, audio or marketing for that matter -- Hector has done an amazing job. We wish him and his family nothing but the best... and Keep Those Zerks Greased.
  • Syngenta turf market manager Stephanie Schwenke, right, presents Carlos Arraya, CGCS, with the TurfNet Superintendent of the Year Award, presented by Syngenta. Personal tragedy once caused Carlos Arraya to question whether he had made the right career choice by becoming a golf course superintendent. If he ever has those thoughts again, Arraya, the director of agronomy and grounds at Bellerive Country Club in St. Louis, probably has a future as a motivational speaker.
    That tragedy, the death of his son, Isaih, in a car accident in 2016, was the impetus for some honest introspection and sobering changes to the way he manages his life and his team as the 2018 PGA Championship loomed at Bellerive. 
    "Losing my son gave me a new perspective," Arraya said. "Tragedies really awaken people, or they make them go down a road they can't come back from."
    Count Arraya among the former.
    The pillar management style he implemented since the tragedy emphasizes people first, from recruitment through training, with the idea that "the best people will produce the best conditions and is a big part of why, during this year's Golf Industry Show, Arraya was named the recipient of the TurfNet Superintendent of the Year Award, presented by Syngenta.
    "The difficulty of this loss few of us will ever grasp," wrote Dr. Thomas Schneider, a Bellerive member and green chairman during the PGA Championship, in his nomination of Arraya for the award. "Carlos endured these dark days by crediting his deep faith."

    Syngenta's Stephanie Schwenke congratulates Superintendent of the Year winner Carlos Arraya, and finalists Brian Conn, Dwayne Dillinger and Matthew Wharton (left to right). It was eight months after he started at Bellerive as superintendent under John Cunningham that Arraya's son died. When Cunningham left the following year to become general manager at Aronimink near Philadelphia, Arraya decided it was time for him to change.
    "I told John I was going to do something different," Arraya said. "I didn't know at the time what that was, but I knew I wanted to do something different."
    His team-building management style helps members of his staff focus on specific tasks, take ownership of conditions and pride in the knowledge that their work in a definitive areas help prop up the pillars that hold up the golf course.
    The staff is separated into teams, and each member has six items as part of their routine and they have to take ownership of those six items. 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.
    "Culture has a variety of meanings," he said. "What does it mean to this group? Professional excellence comes from remembering life is more than work."
    That even applied during the PGA Championship. Although preparing a golf course to challenge the world's best golfers on the game's biggest stage requires a lot of work, Arraya made sure members of his team were not overworked, especially those with young children at home..
    "We have to love each other, take care of each other and take care of our children," he said.
    "The golf course has been here since 1897. A lot of generations have come and gone, one day I'll be gone, but the golf course will still be there."
    Arraya was chosen from a field of five finalists that included Brian Conn of Transit Valley Country Club in East Amherst, New York; Dwayne Dillinger of Bell Nob Golf Course in Gillette, Wyoming; Pat O'Brien of Hyde Park Golf and Country Club in Cincinnati, Ohio; and Matthew Wharton of Carolina Golf Club in Charlotte, North Carolina.
    Criteria on which nominees are judged include: labor management, maximizing budget limitations, educating and advancing the careers of colleagues and assistants, negotiating with government agencies, preparing for tournaments under unusual circumstances, service to golf clientele, upgrading or renovating the course and dealing with extreme or emergency conditions.
    As the winner, Arraya receives an expense-paid trip for two on the TurfNet members golf trip to Ireland in October.
    Previous winners include: Jorge Croda, Southern Oaks Golf Club, Burleson, TX, and Rick Tegtmeier, Des Moines Golf and Country Club, West Des Moines, IA (2017); Dick Gray, PGA Golf Club, Port St. Lucie, FL (2016); Matt Gourlay, Colbert Hills, Manhattan, KS (2015); Fred Gehrisch, Highlands Falls Country Club, Highlands, NC (2014); Chad Mark, Kirtland Country Club, Willoughby, OH (2013), Dan Meersman, Philadelphia Cricket Club (2012), Flourtown, PA; Paul Carter, The Bear Trace at Harrison Bay, Harrison, TN (2011); Thomas Bastis, The California Golf Club of San Francisco, South San Francisco, CA (2010); Anthony Williams, Stone Mountain (GA) Golf Club (2009); Sam MacKenzie, Olympia Fields (IL) Country Club (2008); John Zimmers, Oakmont (PA) Country Club (2007); Scott Ramsay, Golf Course at Yale University, New Haven, CT (2006); Mark Burchfield, Victoria Club, Riverside, CA (2005); Stuart Leventhal, Interlachen Country Club, Winter Park, FL (2004); Paul Voykin, Briarwood Country Club, Deerfield, IL (2003); Jeff Burgess, Seven Lakes Golf Course, Windsor, Ontario (2002); Kip Tyler, Salem Country Club, Peabody, MA (2001); Kent McCutcheon, Las Vegas (NV) Paiute Golf Resort (2000).
  • The Toro Co. is celebrating its 100th anniversary of serving the needs of golf course superintendents and greenkeepers.
    Founded in 1914, Toro brought the first motorized fairway mower to market in 1919. Known as the Toro Standard Golf Machine, the unit was developed for use at The Minikahda Club in Minneapolis. It consisted of five reel mowers attached to the front of a farm tractor and immediately was recognized as superior to horse-drawn equipment.
    Since then, the company's contributions to the golf business have been well chronicled - and used - with mowers for every applications, bunker-maintenance and irrigation equipment, soil-monitoring technology and more.
    The company credits its staying power to: listening to customer feedback, innovative products, customer relationships and its distribution network.
    The Bloomington, Minnesota-based company has a long list of influential employees who have helped it be a pioneer in the golf industry.
    The company's first president and co-founder, John Samuel Clapper, personally held several patents for golf course equipment, including the first electric-powered (corded) greensmower in 1928. Also on that list is Dr. James "Doc" Watson, who joined Toro in 1952, and is revered as a pioneer in agronomics and teacher. John Singleton joined the company in 1967 and was instrumental in establishing Toro's golf course irrigation division.
    "Without a doubt, we owe much of our success to the Toro employees who have helped shape the golf industry with countless innovations," said Rick Rodier, vice president and general manager of Toro's Commercial Business. "But we wouldn't be here today without the Toro customers across the globe who put their faith and trust in our products every day. As we celebrate a century in the golf industry, we simply want to say thank you to our customers and channel partners for continuing to put your trust in Toro people and products."
    The company has a long history of serving its community and industry.
    This year, the Melrose Leadership Academy sent 13 golf course superintendents to the Golf Industry Show.
    Developed in 2012 by former Toro CEO and chairman Ken Melrose, the foundation that bears his name supports professional development of golf course superintendents based on financial need, volunteerism and desire to advance their careers.
    Superintendents sent to this year's show through the program are: Dean Chase, Carnegie Abbey Club (RI); Benjamin Culclasure of Kilmarlic Golf Club (NC); Jason Culver of Pine Acres Country Club (PA); Ryan Dykes of Camp Creek Golf Club (FL); John Hardin of Oro Valley Country Club (AZ); Richard Lewis of Willowdale Golf Club (ME); Mitchell Miller of The Dunes Golf & Tennis Club (FL); Manuel Oliveira of Green Valley Country Club (RI); Charles Passios, CGCS, of TGC at Sacconnesset (MA); Patrick Skinner of Brown Acres Golf Course (TN); Douglas Vogel of Preakness Valley Golf Course (NJ); Toby Young of Val Halla Golf Course in Cumberland (ME); Timothy Zurybida of Alverthorpe Park Golf (PA).
  • The definition of purgatory is a place where the souls of sinners suffer and atone for their misdeeds in life before going to heaven: Think the ghost of Jacob Marley who wears his burdens in Charles Dickens' Christmas Carol.
    The golf business has been going through its own version of perdition for several years. After more than a decade of contraction, the golf industry might be stuck in this state of limbo for much longer than anyone ever thought possible.
    A total of 120 golf courses closed in 2018, while only 30 new courses opened, resulting in a net loss of 90 18-hole equivalents.
    The news marked the 13th consecutive year that more courses closed than opened, according to the annual Pellucid Corp., Edgehill Golf Consulting State of the Industry reported delivered at the recent PGA Merchandise Show.
    Back in the mid-2000s, when golf course closings began outpacing openings in the wake of the "build a course a day" mantra, some industry stakeholders suggested it might take 10-15 years for the market to reach that magical place where supply and demand peacefully coexist.
    Since then, 1974 golf courses (measured in 18-hole equivalents) have closed, been plowed under, redeveloped and repurposed vs. 586 new openings, for a net loss of 1,388 EHEs. As demographics constantly shift and the rate at which golf courses close (about 1 percent of the total inventory each year) closely mirrors the pace at which the game loses players, the market might never reach equilibrium, according to Pellucid's Jim Koppenhaver.
    Other key indicators from the report, rounds played nationwide dropped about 5 percent from 448 million rounds in 2017 to 427 million rounds last year, and rounds per 18-hole equivalent dropped by about the same percentage to 31,700 rounds per year per facility. The high for rounds played in a year was 518 million in 2000.
    The game also lost about 100,000 players last year, down from 20.9 million two years ago to 20.8, a difference the industry dismisses as "flat", but even flat, or marginal losses add up over time. The game has lost 7 million players since golf course supply contraction began 13 years ago and 9 million since 2002.
    Currently, there are about 13,500 golf courses in operation across the country. At the current play rate, equilibrium will be reached when the the number of 18-hole equivalents drops to 12,200. The problem is, the play rate is a fluid number.
    On the other side of that coin, if the number of golf courses in the inventory is going to stick at 13,500, rounds played will have to climb to 472 million - and stay there - to reach equilibrium.
    "Unless/until rounds trend reverses, supply contraction is the only path," Koppenhaver wrote. 
    "The definition of purgatory, 1 percent rounds decline matched to 1 percent supply reduction. We never reach equilibrium."
    For years, the game has been carried by baby boomers who fall into the category of committed golfers, or those who play 40 or more rounds per year. As that demographic decreases in numbers, the results are now showing in rounds played, as the industry lost some 300,000 committed golfers. Those who play on a casual level increased by the same amount, while another 100,000 people walked away from the game.
    Increases among might be attributed to off course entities like Topgolf, which is attracting the demographics traditional golf is seeking.
    A total of 70 percent of traditional golf rounds are played by those 35 and older, and only about one-fourth of all players are female.
    In 2011, there were 10 Top Golf facilities nationwide. This year, there are expected to be 60 facilities across the country earning $1.5 billion in revenue. Last year, off-course facilities like Topgolf attracted 13 million visitors, 51 percent of whom identify as non-golfers, 70 percent are under 35 years of age and 32 percent of which are female. The good news is that about 29 percent of those who attend these off-course facilities. 
    Whether it will actually translate to more rounds at traditional golf facilities, you'll have to wait. But that's nothing new.
  • TurfNet founder Peter McCormick with the 'Where's TurfNet?' banner at the 2011 GIS in Orlando. Armed with little more than a freshly inked monthly print newsletter, a $20 bill in his pocket, and a blank slate for ideas to come, Peter McCormick filed the incorporation papers for TurfNet on February 1, 1994. His initial goal was to not be one of the 90% of new businesses that fail within the first five years. With the support, participation and intellectual investment of forward-thinking superintendents and commercial members, TurfNet made it. In spades.
    In his editorial column in the inaugural issue of TurfNet Monthly, McCormick wrote, "... 'a good business enhances the lives of all who work within it and enriches the lives of all who are touched by it'. ... I will grow a good business. I will add quality people over time who will fuel that growth. and we will all have fun doing it." A pretty accurate forecast.
    For perspective, 1994 also saw the release of Forrest Gump, Shawhank Redemption and The Lion King. The Sony PlayStation was launched. Justin Bieber was born. Yahoo and Amazon were founded.
    Kicking off in the NJ/NY metro area where McCormick had previously been the sales manager for a Toro distributor, TurfNet steadily carved a niche among early-adopting superintendents who saw its potential. McCormick was assisted in the early years by his brother Bob, with a satellite office in Charlotte, NC.
    "When I think of Peter, it immediately puts a smile on my face," said Matt Shaffer, a pioneering superintendent in his own right before retiring two years ago. "Here is a man that never once walked at the back of the pack. Had he been born in the late 1700s, there is no doubt in my mind that he would have left before Lewis and Clark to explore the Wild West."
    Longtime TurfNet member Rick Tegtmeier, CGCS MG at Des Moines Golf and Country Club, recalled visiting an early online message board when he first learned about the possible advent of TurfNet.
    "I remember being on Turfbyte and Peter calling me to tell me about his idea of TurfNet," Tegtmeier said. "I thought at the time it was a futile endeavor and why would one pay to join this group when we had GCSAA. Well, time has proven me wrong, and I am so happy I jumped on the TurfNet train at that time."
    Much has changed since McCormick’s first trade show, the 1996 NYSTA conference that involved a $6,000 investment in a new booth backdrop, no member signups and a long, soul-searching drive home to New Jersey.

    It hasn't always been a bowl of cherries. McCormick's enthusiasm for his first trade show was tempered by zero business done. TurfNet soon brought the industry's first job board that through the years has helped thousands find employment, and a marketplace for used equipment that has allowed buyers and sellers alike to save money that can be used elsewhere. The members-only forum provides a venue where superintendents, assistants and equipment technicians can give or receive solutions to nagging agronomic, equipment, irrigation or labor-related issues, or discuss current events, politics, movies and more.
    Those keystones continue to serve as TurfNet's foundation today.
    "TurfNet is more than a page that loads on my browser at startup," said Jim Campion of NCR Country Club in Kettering, Ohio. "It is a consolidated, easy-to-use tool for me to utilize when looking to network, sell or buy equipment, hire staff or stay current with hot topics in the forum."
    Although there are many media where one can get advice on agronomic and other issues important to superintendents, the sense of community and camaraderie of the TurfNet Forum make it a trusted source for many, says Tegtmeier.
    "I have learned so many innovative ideas from the TurfNet family," Tegtmeier said. "Many times, we think we need to try something, but were afraid of the consequences. However, being on TurfNet one just had to post the idea and pretty soon you would have some answers from others that had tried it, or they encourage you and your ideas. I have met so many friends and colleagues on TurfNet, it has broadened my networking opportunities over the years. I can't imagine doing my job without the support from the TurfNet family. If I had one recommendation today for a young turf professional, it would be to join TurfNet and become an active participant. Sure, there are other forms of networking through social media, but the TurfNet family is so much more than 140 characters."

    Superintendent of the Year Rick Tegtmeier (l) with Peter McCormick at GIS 2018. Shaffer agreed, saying the Forum has been unique because it is a place to get frank advice and unbiased critiques of products and equipment.
    "There is no doubt about it, when God put Peter McCormick on this earth, he intended for him to be a disrupter, and he couldn't have found a more qualified candidate," Shaffer said.
    "He stirred the pot with his online forums. Peter took issues that everyone was whispering about, exposed them and they were resolved years ahead of schedule."
    Like any good business, TurfNet has grown and evolved since 1994, but the emphasis always has been on creating and maintaining a place where superintendents could feel like they were part of a community, where they could network with peers with common interests and issues, trade stories and advice and have a laugh along the way. To that end, the inaugural "Beer and Pretzels Gala" was launched at the 1997 GCSAA annual conference and show (now the Golf Industry Show) in Anaheim, California, and two years later, Team TurfNet participated for the first time in the annual Golf Course Hockey Challenge tournament in Ontario. Both continue to this day.
    "I have made so many great friends from all over the country, shared lots of laughs and the stories from years past. You can't make this stuff up," said Ken Lallier, CGCS at the Quechee Club, in Quechee, Vermont and sole participant as goaltender in all 21 seasons with the TurfNet hockey team. "Thanks to Coach (McCormick) for using TurfNet to bring a bunch of hockey-loving turfheads together each year in Niagara Falls. It has been priceless. Another unexpected benefit from the TurfNet brotherhood."

    21-year goaltender and team captain Ken Lallier with Team TurfNet 2019 earlier this week at the 25th Annual Golf Course Hockey Challenge in Niagara Falls. Coach/sponsor Peter McCormick is at right. McCormick sold TurfNet in 2001 to Turnstile Publishing Co., an Orlando, Florida-based company owned by Rance Crain of Crain Communications fame. Turnstile published Golfweek and Golfweek's SuperintendentNEWS magazines and wanted to add a turf-oriented web presence. McCormick stayed on to manage the TurfNet business segment and orchestrate it's future growth. 18 years later, he's still there.
    In late 2007, Turnstile ceased publication of SuperNEWS (which had become TurfNet the Magazine for several issues). John Reitman and Jon Kiger, the magazine's editor and advertising director, joined TurfNet in similar capacities. Also joining TurfNet at that time was Eleanor Geddes. As TurfNet's "director of member happiness" she continues to be the administrative glue that holds everything together and keeps everyone moving forward on a day-to-day basis.
    Making the migration with SuperNEWS were the publication's annual Superintendent of the Year and Technician of the Year awards that recognize industry leaders for their hard work, dedication and ingenuity. The Superintendent's Best Friend dog calendar also assumed TurfNet branding.
    Added to the TurfNet offerings over the ensuing years were TurfNet University (2008), TurfNetTV (2009) and TurfNetRADIO (2014), as well as blogs by Paul MacCormack, Joe Fearn, Matt Leverich, and Jim McLoughlin.

    The Beer & Pretzel Gala in New Orleans, 2000, was the party 300 attendees were still talking about ten years later. The TurfNet University Webinar series brought more than 20 online educational seminars to thousands of viewers annually.  TurfNetTV introduced the irreverent Randy Wilson and his fictional Rockbottum Country Club, Hector Velazquez and Hector's Shop,  OnCourse with Kevin Ross, and hundreds of Tips & Tricks videos.
    TurfNetRADIO podcasts include the popular Frankly Speaking series with Cornell University professor Frank Rossi, the Turfgrass Zealot Project with Dave Wilber, profiles of career superintendents in Living Legends, career guidance in The Ladder, and a roundup of renovation and restoration projects with Anthony Pioppi in The Renovation Report.
    "Being one of the first 50-members of TurfNet I can honestly say it's been a big part of my career as a turfgrass professional," said Tony Girardi, CGCS MG at Rockrimmon Country Club in Stamford, Connecticut. "The forum has been invaluable through the years and I have learned many tips and tricks, as well as making many friends along the way. I don't know where we would all be in the turf industry without TurfNet by our side for the past 25 years. Kudos to Peter and everyone at TurfNet who have made this a wonderful journey."
    Former superintendent and general manager at Huntsville Golf Club in Shavertown, Pennsylvania and the founder and owner of Elite Sports Turf Management, Scott Schukraft was one of those early adopters of technology looking for an edge in his career.
    "I didn't know Peter McCormick when he started TurfNet, but I immediately saw how important and impactful a tool it was," Schukraft said. "I signed on 25 years ago, and have never looked back. I can still remember anxiously awaiting the monthly print newsletter, if for no other reason, to read his always-insightful View from the Cheap Seats. TurfNet has become my go-to trusted industry resource for just about everything. Throughout the years and many changes, it has evolved and remained relevant unlike any other that comes to mind. Looking forward to the next 25 years."
    Other additions to the TurfNet inventory of benefits include an annual members golf trip that has visited Ireland on several occasions, Scotland, Bandon Dunes and the Kohler properties in Wisconsin, a members trip to the British and International Golf Greenkeepers Association turf exposition in the United Kingdom and an overseas internship for a U.S.-based turf management student.
    John Paquette of Indian Hill Country Club in Northport, New York is a charter member of TurfNet from that first year in 1994. Last year, his family was one of the recipients of the inaugural Coldiron Positivity Awards, named in honor of longtime TurfNet friend Jerry Coldiron, a former superintendent who was working for Hector Turf in South Florida when he died suddenly on Nov. 22, 2017. Paquette's family was singled out for one of the $2,500 awards disbursed by the Jerry Coldiron Embrace Life! Fund after son Nick Paquette was diagnosed with leukemia. With the support of his family, Nick completed treatments last year and is back in action at SUNY New Paltz, where he is a senior on the basketball team.
    The elder Paquette is grateful for the sense of community TurfNet has brought not only to him, but his family.
    "I've been able to hire great people; make great friends; buy and sell equipment; blow off steam; learn, learn and learn more about turf and tips on how to do it better," Paquette said. "I traveled with my dad and a fantastic group of gentlemen, led by Jon Kiger, to Ireland in '11 for which we both often recall as one of the best weeks of our lives. And, most importantly, my son, Nick, and I have and continue to receive tremendous, uplifting support from our membership with respect to his unending battle with Leukemia for which we are forever grateful. Peter, I thank you for this gift you have given us all."

    John Paquette (r) with his father, Bill, at Ballybunion on the TurfNet Members Trip, 2011. No one has a crystal ball, but one thing is certain: TurfNet will continue to lead, innovate and bring new ideas and solutions to the turf industry.
    "I always wonder 'what is Peter thinking about now?' " Shaffer said. "I am sure it is something none of the rest of us have thought about yet."
  • Playbooks for Golf launched Conditions, a new software platform designed to help superintendents do their jobs faster and more efficiently than ever.
    The easy-to-use mobile app is the culmination of 20 years of work for those seeking better communications, and was released after 18 months of beta testing at golf facilities nationwide, says Playbooks co-founder Matt Leverich. It easily integrates third-party software to communicate critical course conditions faster and more efficiently with other departments and golf facility staff.
    Using Conditions is as simple as writing a blog post or tweet, and it allows the superintendent to update course conditions in real time, making it accessible to golfers and facility staff.
    "The problem with all current forms of communication is that they require the golfer to visit them on their own or filtered through a social feed with all kinds of distractions," Leverich said.
    "With Conditions, we take the critical course information straight to golfers' phones where they can easily see the entire operation, and get alerts via push notifications, in a great app format. Plus checking Conditions becomes part of their routine just like checking other critical apps."
    It can work seamlessly with any clubhouse app, while still allowing the superintendent the ability to send alerts to golfers only, and it promises to increase member satisfaction, save superintendents time — and minimize negative feedback for factors beyond their control by addressing misunderstandings or misperceptions that arise when members and staff don't have the information necessary to understand the "what" and "why" of course conditions.
    "As a former superintendent, I know how challenging it can be to get the right information to the right people at the right time," says Playbooks co-owner Greg Wojick. "We try everything to keep the right people informed — Twitter, Facebook, email, and even Instagram. But we can never be sure the message gets through. Conditions renders these and other forms of communication obsolete by making it possible for superintendents to share real-time course conditions and project updates at any time — quickly and easily."
    Playbooks also works with ezLocator to integrate daily hole locations from that platform, for both ezLocator and ezPins clients. This allows golfers to only need one app for both Pins and course conditioning information.
    Houston Country Club was among the Conditions test sites, and it helped superintendent Billy Weeks communicate course conditions regularly with players and golf facility staff. 
    "Our membership loves it," Weeks said. 
    For a demonstration of Conditions, visit goplaybooks.com.