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From the TurfNet NewsDesk


  • Peter McCormick
    It was a hazy, hot and humid day at Greenville (SC) Country Club March 22 for the first North American Turf Science Live event, presented by Jacobsen, Syngenta, Smithco and Turfco.
      Approximately 60 superintendents from within a 3-hour drive radius rotated between eight stations at the outdoor field day that showcased the latest research and technological innovations in turf agronomy.  The event was patterned after similar events held in England over the last several years, also sponsored by Jacobsen/Ransomes, Syngenta and local partners.   "We wanted to host a program where new technology and research could be explained and demonstrated in small group settings," said Chris Vernon, VP of Marketing and Product Management at Jacobsen. "The schedule also allowed ample time for questions from superintendents, networking among themselves and product feedback from attendees for us."   The eight stations set up across the grounds of Greenville Country Club included:   1. Turf Application On Target - Dan Kidder, Ph.D., Syngenta.   Dr. Kidder talked about methods of optimizing turf spray applications through nozzle selection, sprayer pressure, sprayer calibration, mixing procedures, water volume and pH of the spray solution.  He also introduced Syngenta XC spray nozzles, which are currently available in the UK but under testing in North America.     Syngenta XC nozzles (manufactured by Hypro) are specifically designed with a flexible spray pattern that maintains proper coverage on sloping ground or over contours where boom height may vary from the typical 20".  They reduce drift and incorporate a rear-facing spray angle calculated to counteract the forward motion of the sprayer to deliver all-around coverage of the turf leaf.   It only makes sense for a plant protectant provider, after jumping through all the hoops and expense of product research, development and registration, to optimize the application process by supplying what they consider the ideal nozzles for each product.   2. Maximizing Putting Green Performance and Stress Tolerance - Lane Tredway, Ph.D., Syngenta. New technologies from Syngenta -- including plant activators, pigments and new fungicide chemistries -- have been incorporated into eight new products introduced by Syngenta over the last year or two. Syngenta has been working with Chuck Connolly and his staff at Greenville Country Club to develop agronomic programs to provide season-long disease control and maximum stress tolerance of bentgrass greens in the transition zone.   An example of a plant activator is Acibenszolar-S-methyl, a component of Daconil Action.  This "fortified" chlorothalonil formulation increases the turf's resistance to anthracnose, Pythium blight and bacterial wilt, while also increasing drought tolerance and overall turf quality.   Dr. Tredway explained the Syngenta Premium Program in use at Greenville Country Club, which includes Headway, Avid, Secure, Segway, Heritage, Appear, Daconil Action, Subdue Maxx and Briskway products at various rates and combinations.  Half of the demonstration green was treated with this program and the other half by a similar program of competitive products.   Syngenta agronomic programs can be found at greencastonline.com/programs/   3. The Truth About Hybrid Mowers and What it Means to You - Greg Walker, Jacobsen.   The Big Three turf equipment companies have all introduced "alternative" power sources over the past few years, including all-hydraulic, e-reel units, true hybrids and true all-electrics. Each also has their own spin on which is "best".   The title of this presentation was a tad misleading, as it thankfully wasn't the to-be-expected pitch for Jacobsen's choice of electric and hybrid systems, but rather a fair and relatively unbiased explanation of the various technologies including an explanation of  the benefits of lithium-ion batteries compared to traditional lead acid.  Greg Walker, technical training manager for Jake, did a very nice job of explaining some of the little-known nuances of performance and capabilities of the various technologies.   4. Frequency of Clip, Height of Cut and Ball Roll on the Green - Chris Fox, Jacobsen. This demonstration utilized a Pelzmeter to measure ball roll distance on plots mowed at various heights and frequency of clip settings in an effort to show how superintendents can utilize FOC settings and adjustments to increase ball roll distance without lowering the height of cut, or maintain current BRD with a higher height of cut in stressful situations. (photo at top of page)   5. Precision Topdressing - Scott Kinkead, Turfco Turfco launched the new WideSpin 1550 topdresser at the recent GIS in San Diego (see our coverage here), and Scott Kinkead used it at Turf Science Live to highlight the new capabilities its technologies bring to topdressing.     By integrating an electronic controller (similar to those on sprayers) with hydraulic spinner drive, the WideSpin 1550 enables the superintendent to identify specific, quantified rates (rather than guessing by number of hoppers used, etc) then them dial in for different applications (greens, tees, heavy/light, wide/narrow swath).  The operator has to only throw one switch on the handheld controller to start/stop the conveyor and spinners, and cannot start the conveyor before the spinners.  Width of swath and application rates can be changed on the fly with no manual adjustment on the machine itself.   6. Increasing Seeding Success - George Kinkead, Turfco. Turfco showcased their recent improvements in overseeding technology at Turf Science Live.  George Kinkead gave a rundown of the technologies incorporated into the Turfco TriWave seeders to optimize seed-to-soil contact, increase germination rates and speed, reduce cleanup and turf disturbance, and reduce the amount of seed used.   The solid 'wave' blades on the TriWave units create square, flat-bottomed slits that capture and hold seed better than traditional v-shaped slits. They also enable double- and triple-cross seeding without tearing out "pizza slices" of turf as happens with notched blades.     Floating heads on the TriWave units enable seeding on a curve and avoid damage to sprinkler heads and high spots.   The 'hook up and go' capabilities of the tow-type TriWave 40 enable the unit to be quickly dispatched for spot seeding on a regular basis without exchanging attachments. No tools are required to adjust seed rates and depths so changes can be made in the field as required.   7. Make Spraying More Efficient, Convenient and Accurate - Doug Colley, Smithco
    Technologies new to the professional turf market have been available and proven in agriculture for some time now.  Smithco has incorporated multi-nozzle "Blended Pulse Technology" (BPT) of the Capstan Sharpshooter system to unlock the relationship between ground speed, rate, tip size and pressure, basically creating a situation where "speed no longer matters" as a discrete function of chemical delivery.   Don't confuse "multi-nozzle" in this case with turret-type nozzle heads.  Multi-nozzle means two nozzles operate simultaneously at each position on the boom to allow the operator to spray at speeds of two to ten mph and at rates of 0.4 to 5.0 gallons per thousand while maintaining a constant operator-set pressure.   Solenoids are located right at each nozzle assembly so spray material and pressure are maintained to the tip for instant on/off capability.   The operator can invoke "on-demand drift control" when required by reducing the pressure for bigger droplets and fewer driftable fines. Application rate is maintained independent of this pressure change.   8. Using GPS Satellites to Guide and Control the Spray Vehicle - Emil Miller, Smithco The Star Command spray system from Smithco couples the Sharpshooter BPT system to a Raven Envizio Pro II advanced rate controller which incorporates GPS technology to identify and monitor the location of the sprayer and each spray tip, and where it has been already.  The system automatically controls spray application coverage down to the individual spray tips, which are turned on and off to avoid pass-to-pass overlap errors or skips.   GPS technology enables "defined boundary" applications to eliminate overspray or drift into non-target areas.  By automatically shutting off nozzles that would otherwise apply material to non-target areas, significant reductions in chemical use and subsequent cost savings can be achieved.   The Star Command system records all application functions and exports it easily to a desktop computer for record-keeping, planning and analysis. The superintendent will know exactly what has been applied, where it has been applied, how well it has been applied and how long it has taken.   * * *    Conversations with various Syngenta and Jacobsen personnel after the Turf Science Live event indicated a good probability of proceeding with future events around the country. Attendees had the option of playing golf today at Greenville Country Club to wrap up the event.
  • Each week, Paul Carter spends about as much time on environmental management issues as he does turfgrass maintenance. For Carter, superintendent at The Bear Trace at Harrison Bay, and director of agronomy for the Tennessee State Parks golf system, those duties go hand-in-hand.   Although he has gained statewide and national acclaim for his work in environmentalism, Carter's efforts also have become the subject of an ongoing gag at the course near Chattanooga.   "Our job is to protect our resources, and provide a better product for our customers," Carter said.   "We spend half our time with the environment. The other half is the turfgrass. There's a running joke around here now that we're The Bear Trace at Harrison Bay Golf Course and Nature Preserve."   But developing a reputation as a leader in environmental issues is no joke for Carter. Developed in 1937, Harrison Bay is the first state park in Tennessee, and the golf course located on its grounds is the flagship of the park system's nine courses collectively known as the Tennessee Golf Trail.   "We try to be a leader in environmental stewardship," Carter said.   "The animals were here first. I get to go home at the end of the day, but they stay here, so we need to leave it better than how we found it."   Carter recently began writing a new chapter in his work to preserve resources while also providing exceptional playing conditions for park customers.   On March 4, he began using, as part of a state-sponsored emissions-reduction project, an ell-electric maintenance fleet that includes 18 pieces of equipment valued collectively at $440,000. The only things on the course that still use diesel fuel are fairway and rough mowers, but that too likely will change with coming advancements in battery technology.   His electric fleet, which was on display May 21 during a demo day at the golf course includes three Jacobsen Eclipse 322 greensmowers, four Eclipse 322 mowers for use on tees and approaches, five Toro MDE Workman vehicles, two TruTurf greensrollers, a pair of Smithco Super Star bunker rakes and two Club Car Carryall II vehicles.    Funding for the Harrison Bay project comes from an April 2011 Clean Air Act settlement with the Tennessee Valley Authority. Under the Consent Decree, Tennessee will receive $26.4 million over five years to fund clean air programs in the state (at approximately $5.25 million per year). As part of the grant programs initial offering, a total of $5.3 million in Clean Energy Grants was awarded in 2012 to a variety of projects within state government, municipalities, utilities, state colleges and universities and communities throughout the state.   The project, which includes what Jacobsen's Adam Slick says is the largest single Eclipse purchase to date, was made possible through a grant from the Tennessee Department and Environment and Conservation. Brock Hill, deputy director for parks and conservation for TDEC jokingly referred to Harrison Bay as "the quietest golf course in the state of Tennessee, maybe even the entire Southeast."   TDEC had considered several other high-profile properties for its grant, including the Tennessee Aquarium. The agency finally settled on Harrison Bay for a couple of reasons. First, the group never had partnered with a golf course and second, because observing and measuring the benefits of an electric equipment fleet could be easily monitored and measured, TDEC commissioner Bob Martineau said.   In just 60 days those measurable results include a reduction of 317 gallons of diesel fuel. Meanwhile, the electric bill at Harrison Bay has gone up just $47 in that same period. Carter says the new mowers are expected to pay for themselves in three years.   TDEC officials and Carter estimate that the project will reduce annual diesel consumption by 12,000 gallons, carbon dioxide emissions by 30 percent and operating expenses by $30,000 while eliminating almost all air and noise pollution on the property.   "We wanted to do this in public places so we can be an example for others," Martineau said.   "It's a win for us from a cost-savings and operational approach, it's a win for our customers and it's a win for the environment."   Previously, Carter said the lowest he could mow the Champion ultradwarf Bermuda at Harrison Bay was 0.135 inches. The new Jacobsen mowers sport a cutting unit with a 15-blade reel that allows him to cut at one-tenth of an inch.   The most common reservations expressed by superintendents about all-electric equipment center around battery life, specifically will the machines retain enough juice to finish a job, and what happens in the event of a power outage.   Neither is a concern for Carter. Each of three walk mowers charges in about two hours and he is able to double-cut and complete a clean up lap on 10 greens with a single charge.   "My thinking is if we get a storm that's bad enough to knock out power, then the last thing I'm thinking about is mowing," he said.   Carter is accustomed to being a leader when it comes to environmental stewardship initiatives.    A certified Audubon Sanctuary golf course, The Bear Trace has gained worldwide acclaim the past two years for its Eagle Cam that has brought the nesting habits of bald eagles to computer screens around the world. The course also is a certified Groundwater Guardian Green Site through the Groundwater Foundation and last year was named a winner of the Governor's Environmental Stewardship Award program.   The project did require new electrical work in the maintenance facility so Carter can quickly and easily charge his new fleet of equipment. His plan eventually is for the golf operation to produce its own electricity via solar power and ultimately implement the same green technology at the eight other state park golf courses.   "Our job is to protect our resources, and provide a better product for our customers," he said.   "Golf has developed a reputation of being a polluter and something that wastes resources. This program gives me something I can show them to prove we don't do that."
  • Assistant superintendents interested in furthering their education can apply for one of 50 slots in the eighth annual Green Start Academy.   A professional development initiative presented by John Deere Golf and Bayer Environmental Science, Green Start Academy includes educational sessions, workshops and roundtable discussions for assistant superintendents from the United States and Canada.    This year's Green Start Academy is scheduled for Oct. 2-4 at the Bayer Development and Training Center in Clayton, N.C., and John Deere's Turf Care facility in Fuquay-Varina, N.C. Attendees will have the opportunity to network with peers, absorb best practices from industry leaders to propel their careers and gain insights into trending topics and key issues they can take back to their courses.   Those interested in attending must submit a resume and complete the application process here.   http://www.backedbybayer.com/green-start-academy   Submissions will be judged by Chris Condon of Tetherow Golf Club, Bob Farren of Pinehurst Resort, Pat Finlen of The Olympic Club, Ken Mangum of Atlanta Athletic Club and Bryan Stromme of Billy Casper Golf.   Application deadline is June 28.
  • An elusive enemy

    By John Reitman, in News,

    Although zoysiagrasses have been around for more than 100 years, they still encounter, comparatively speaking, some rather new world problems.   Chief among those challenges associated with managing Zoysia japonica and Zoysia matrella for use on golf course fairways is large patch.    "Everything takes place when the turf is dormant or only actively growing enough that we don't see the symptoms right away, so it's difficult to know what is going on and how to get a good handle on it," said Brandon Horvath, Ph.D., turfgrass pathologist at the University of Tennessee. "A lot of work still needs to be done on it. Here at Tennessee we've been interested in conducting efficacy trials on fungicides. The challenge we've had is getting repeatable, reliable disease events and treatment intervals."   A disease of the pathogen Rhizoctonia solani, large patch is a blight of warm-season grasses and is especially troublesome in zoysiagrasses. Symptoms manifest as light green patches that can become yellow and then brown. It typically strikes in fall and spring as the growing season winds down and again begins to heat up. It also affects Bermudagrasses, which typically can recover rather quickly. Zoysiagrasses, however, can be adversely affected for several weeks.   One of the problems associated with large patch is that few things with it are black and white. There are a lot of gray areas when dealing with this disease.   Typically associated with cooler conditions in fall and spring when turf is dormant or just hanging onto active growth, large patch has been detected well into the heart of the growing season.   "There has not been enough research conducted on this pathogen or the disease cycle," Horvath said.    What researchers do know is that outbreaks in fall and spring are two different animals. It is possible, when dealing with infestations in spring, that the grass can naturally grow out of large patch. Outbreaks in the fall, as the turf heads into dormancy, can be devastating if left untreated.   "They are separate. Now, with that said, if you make applications in the fall you lower the probability of a significant outbreak in the spring," Horvath said. "The fall epidemic is in my mind the critical one to control."   Although more research on the topic is needed, the typical treatment includes two preventive fungicide applications. In the fall, the first application should be made when temperatures in early autumn first reach about 70 degrees, with the second coming 28 days later, and ideally when temperatures are still in the low 60s.    The first spring application should be made when temperatures are in the low 60s, with the follow-up coming four weeks later when temperatures, again ideally are at about the 70-degree mark.   DMI fungicides, along with QOI's have been shown to elicit very high rates of success. Still, nothing with large patch is ever absolute.   Megan Kennelly, Ph.D., turfgrass pathologist at Kansas State, told TurfNet last year that disease outbursts even after spraying are not uncommon.   "You can still get some breakthroughs even when you spray," Kennelly said. "Even if you spray multiple times in the fall."   Large patch has been a problem on Meyer zoysia just about since its inception in 1941. Micah Woods, Ph.D., of the Asian Turfgrass Center has written about his observations that show Zoysia japonica to be more susceptible than Zoysia matrella to the disease-causing pathogen. But when outbreaks on the latter do occur in this country it causes more of a stir because of the use of Zoysia matrella as fairway cover on high-end courses throughout the southern end of the transition zone.   "The real challenge for superintendents is a cost issue," Horvath said. "Fungicide applications on fairways in the North, that's just another day in the life. They have to do that if they are a high-end facility. In the transition zone the mindset is that you have to make two applications in the fall and two in the spring, but you don't want to be spraying all the time."   It is important that superintendents and their committees communicate proactively to determine acceptable levels of disease outbreak in fairways and base programs on those expectations and cost factors.   "We have to balance what we can recommend on data that we have with the understanding that the information is imperfect," Horvath said. "We can get good control, but we have to educate golfers and the front office that rarely are there things that are a sure bet.   "That's what we strive to push with our students. You have to communicate what it is that you are doing; what your successes are and what the failures are. The problem isn't disease, the problem is when you hide in your office and pretend there isn't a problem."  
  • Ken Venturi, winner of the 1964 U.S. Open and the voice of golf for CBS Sports for 35 years, died May 17.

    Venturi's son, Matt, broke the news of the death to the San Francisco Chronicle, Venturi's hometown newspaper.

    Venturi, who turned 82 on Wednesday, had been hospitalized for several months in Southern California. His son said he had developed an infection and pneumonia. Venturi had been unable to travel across country to attend his induction ceremony into the World Golf Hall of Fame in St. Augustine, Fla., on May 6.

    Venturi's U.S. Open victory at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md., has long been celebrated for the odds he overcame. On a day when temperatures soared above 100, Venturi survived a 36-hole pressure-cooker and limped home as the champion of the tournament he dreamed of winning all his life.

    Venturi led one of golfs most fascinating lives: tutored by Byron Nelson, a regular golf companion of Ben Hogan, pals with the likes of Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, and the man whom Gene Sarazen asked to deliver his eulogy.

    Born in San Francisco on May 15, 1931, Venturi learned the game at Harding Park, where his father worked in the pro shop. Venturi became an amateur sensation with a swing to die for and an ego to match his talent. When he bragged of winning a junior tournament, his father shot back, "When youre as good as you are, you can tell everybody. When youre really good, son, theyll tell you."

    Labeled the next "Cant-Miss Kid," Venturi suffered three heartbreaking losses at the Masters, in 1956, 58 and 60. Then, injuries sustained in a car accident in 1961 started a three-year slide, which had him on the brink of giving up. Venturi might have quit, if not for his fathers tough love: "Son, thats the easiest thing in the world to do. Anybody can give up. It takes no talent."

    When Venturi's final putt fell at Congressional, he dropped his putter, raised his arms, removed his trademark white linen cap, and said, "My God, Ive won the U.S. Open."

    It was his finest hour as a golfer.

    "If I could choose to be anyone in the world, Id choose to be me," he said in an interview in 2012. "Ive been very fortunate. The only thing I think about is, I wonder what I couldve done if I hadnt lost the use of my hands."

    Venturi won 14 times, but his playing career was cut short when he was diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome in both wrists. A year after winning the Open in '64, Venturi had an operation on his left hand. In his final trip to the winner's circle, in 1966, he won on the same golf course, Harding Park, where he had learned the game. In 1970, he had surgery on his right hand. The surgery was risky, he explained to his father. "The doctor told me I may lose three fingers," Venturi said. "My father said to me, It doesnt make any difference if you ever play golf again. "

    Venturi asked, "How can you say that?"

    "Because you were the best I ever saw," father told son.

    At last, Venturi had received the parental approval he so deeply desired.

    After the surgery, Venturi asked the doctor if he would ever be able to play golf again.

    "Yes, but never to your standard," he said.

    Even in retirement, Venturi continued to make an impact on the game. He overcame a childhood stammer to broadcast the game for 35 years as a television commentator and analyst for CBS Sports. To a younger generation, Venturi is better remembered as the CBS analyst who sympathized with Greg Normans collapse at the 1996 Masters and delivered an endless array of "Strokesaver" lessons.

    "He became the voice of golf in America's living room," said his broadcast partner, Jim Nantz.
     
    Venturi also served as the captain of the 2000 U.S. Presidents Cup team, and could hardly restrain his joy when he was finally selected for the World Golf Hall of Fame, in the veterans category.

    "Jack Whitaker was introducing me once at the Waldorf Astoria," Venturi said. "And he said the most beautiful thing: Fate has a way of bending a twig and fashioning a man to his better instincts. I wouldnt trade my life for anything in the world. I know they make a lot today, but Id never trade my era."
     
    - Adam Schupak, Golfweek
  • TurfNet picked up seven awards, including four first-place entries, at this year's Turf and Ornamental Communicators Association annual Communication Awards contest.
     
    Jon Kiger won two first-place awards for video work and Peter McCormick took first place in the Writing for Media Kit category.
     
    Kiger's winning entries were in the categories of Best Short Video/DVD (Superintendent's Best Friend Calendar) and Best CD/Audiovisual Presentation (Rossi on Location in Las Vegas).
     
    Hector Velazquez, equipment manager at Walnut Creek Country Club in South Lyon, Mich., won first place in the Best Instructional Video/DVD category (Daily Setting of Jacobsen Trueset).
     
    TurfNet also took second-place or Merit awards in three categories.
     
    Kiger claimed a Merit award for Best CD/Audiovisual Presentation (2012 TurfNet Outtakes), and John Reitman won a Merit in the New Media category for Water Week 2012.
     
    Kevin Ross, CGCS, also won second place in the Best Instructional Video/DVD category (Return of the Rock Sled).
     
    "It's nice to have the efforts of our staff recognized by TOCA with these awards," said Peter McCormick, founder of TurfNet. "But what is really impressive is that the video work of two TurfNet members -- Kevin Ross, CGCS, a golf course superintendent, and Hector Velazquez, an equipment technician -- was honored with awards after being held up against the work of media professionals."
     
    In its 24th year, the Turf and Ornamental Communicators Association is a 200-plus member association comprising editorial, advertising and marketing professionals working in various segments of the green industry.
  • The University of Tennessee turf and ornamental weed science team has developed a new Web site and free mobile app called Mobile Weed Manual for turfgrass managers who need help identifying weeds and finding just the right product to control them.   An online resource for golf course superintendents, athletic field managers, lawn care professionals and homeowners, the Mobile Weed Manual is designed to help users choose herbicides for use in warm- and cool-season turfgrasses and a variety of ornamentals.   End users can search for specific weed pests and the searchable app provides advice on herbicides that are most effective at controlling them.    The site was designed to replace hard copy extension manuals with a Web interface optimized for use on Apple and Android mobile devices.    "The Mobile Weed Manual contains not only weed control efficacy ratings for problematic weeds of turf and ornamentals, but tolerance information for over 2,300 different species, and labels for nearly 100 different herbicides," said Jim Brosnan, Ph.D., assistant professor of turf and ornamental weed science at Tennessee. "This powerful resources places all of this research based information in the palm of your hand."
  • Turf managers and irrigation professionals can hone their irrigation skills at one of several training seminars provided by Rain Bird Services.   Rain Bird Services will conduct more than 20 irrigation-related workshops around the country during the next several months.    Training will follow two tracks: the Rain Bird Factory Trained program will train users on Rain Bird equipment only while the Rain Bird Academy will provide general irrigation training skills that are not manufacturer-specific. Both programs focus on professional level, non-commercial irrigation training and the latter is a boot camp-style program that in a matter of days teaches attendees to design and install their own irrigation systems.   Rain Bird Services also is offering five new Rain Bird Factory Trained courses aimed at light commercial irrigation users. This program includes the following educational tracks: Water Efficient Product Expert, Low Volume Technician, Drainage Technician, Decoder Installer and Residential Installer.   Rain Bird also offers customized training on location for those who are unable to travel to any of the sites listed.   Rain Bird Factory Trained dates and locations are: May 13-17, Apopka, Fla.; May 20-23, Tucson, Ariz.; May 28-30, Denver; June 10-14, Hollywood, Fla., and Apopka; June 17-21, Irvine, Calif.; June 24-28, San Diego; July 8-12, Sacramento, Calif.; July 15-19, Apopka; July 22-26, Santa Maria, Calif.; July 23-26, Tucson; July 29-Aug. 3, San Antonio; Aug. 5-8, Tucson; Aug. 5-9, North Carolina; Aug. 12-14, Tucson; Aug. 12-16, Dublin, Calif.; Aug. 19-23, Seattle; Aug. 26-30, Atlanta; Sept. 16-20, Tucson; Sept. 30-Oct. 3, Tucson.   Rain Bird Academy dates and locations are: May 13-17, Naples, Fla.; June 10-14, Los Angeles; June 10-14, Jacksonville, Fla.; June 17-21, South Carolina and Irvine, Calif.; June 24-28, San Diego and Gainesville, Fla.; July 8-12, Sacramento; July 15-19, Apopka; July 22-26, Columbus, Ohio; Aug. 5-9, Huntsville, Ala., and North Carolina; Aug. 12-16, Riverside and Dublin, Calif.; Aug. 19-23, Seattle; Aug. 26-30, Atlanta; Sept. 16-20, Tucson.
  • Necessity is the mother of invention, at least on some of the golf courses around Chicago.
     
    When a series of spring showers dumped 8 inches of rain around the city in mid-April, including 3 inches in a 24-hour period, crews at some of the courses relied on the power of teamwork to alleviate flooding. Others waited for engineering and design features to move water off the fairways. And still others, reminded of last summer's lack of rainfall that left courses throughout the Midwest parched, were thankful the back of that drought appeared to officially be broken.
     
    "This spring was unlike any other I've gone through in recent times. It was cool, wet and constantly raining," said Matt Kregel, superintendent at The Club at Strawberry Creek in Kenosha, Wis., about one hour north of Chicago. "It was constantly raining and we couldn't get out to do much of anything, or not do it well, I should say."
    Nearly 3 inches of rain fell on an already soaked Chicago area on April 17-18, leaving many courses under water, including many of the facilities operated by Billy Casper Golf.
     
    The Vienna, Va.-based management company manages more than 20 courses throughout Illinois, including a combined 16 for the Chicago Park District and Cook County Forest Preserve. High water is nothing new at the Chicago Park District facilities that hug the shores of Lake Michigan, or the Forest Preserve facilities located in flood plains near the Des Plaines River. And the superintendents there don't wait for the water to rise before springing into action.
     
    "Our superintendents are used to this, so they don't sit around and wait for it, they prepare for this a couple of days in advance," said Bryan Stromme, regional director of agronomy for Billy Casper Golf.
     
    "We own a lot of pumps. But when we get rain like that we still rent them. Our superintendents are calling two days ahead of time, because if you wait you'll never get one."
     
    The Des Plaines River features a series of locks designed to control high water in Chicago's western suburbs. Once locks open sending water downstream, the pumps go into action to clear water from the golf courses.
     
    Billy Casper Golf also manages the Bridges of Poplar Creek Country Club, a real estate golf course in Hoffman Estates. A recent restoration project there keeps in-play areas on the golf course drier during times of excess rain while also helping to maximize flood control of Poplar Creek, which runs through the property.
     
    Completed in accord with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and other local and state agencies, the restoration included raising fairways to help keep the golf course dry while also expanding the water-holding capacity of catch basins on the property. That allows the golf course to retain large amounts of water for longer periods, then releasing the water back into the creek in manageable levels to prevent flooding in the surrounding neighborhoods.
     
    Sopped ground has been a concern at Strawberry Creek in Wisconsin as well. Cold, wet weather that included snow late into the spring left turf soaked and brown well past historic green-up time, and April's constant deluge resulted in parts of four holes under water in mid-month.
     
    "We had all this moisture, the soil temperatures were cold, there was no sunlight. We were dormant for the longest time," Kregel said. "We were playing the waiting game for a while.
     
    "I know the calendar says May 1, but it's more like March 1."
     
    Kregel can't do much to change the temperature, but he is able to manage water movement off the course thanks to features installed during course construction in 2004-05.
     
    The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, state department of natural resources and civil engineers designed a three-phase flood control system at Strawberry Creek. That system includes several water-retention areas on the course that capture vast amounts of water during rain events to prevent flooding of nearby residential neighborhoods. A controlled-release system that includes drainage pipes of varying sizes automatically removes water from those areas as water levels in the creek that runs through the property subside. During phase 3, which was realized in April, the system automatically pulls huge amounts of water off the course after water levels in the stream have gone down and stabilized.
     
    That means fairways that are flooded one day, often are cleared the next, leaving nothing behind but a thin layer of silt, Kregel said.
     
    "We were flooded one day, and the next day it was gone," Kregel said. "We're lucky. Everything that backs up onto the golf course is released pretty quickly."
     
    Sam MacKenzie, CGCS at Olympia Fields Country Club also counts himself lucky this spring.
     
    This time last year, MacKenzie and just about every other superintendent in the Chicago area was on the brink of one of the worst droughts the Midwest has ever seen.
    A little excess water when temperatures are still cool is a minor setback compared to no water and triple-digit heat, he said.
     
    "Since February, we are at or above normal rainfall levels, and April has been double the normal amount," MacKenzie said. "That's been a good thing here. It's broken the back of the drought.
     
    "Excessive rain is more of a positive than a negative in light of how dry we've been."
  • Milt Engelke, Ph.D., knows a thing or two about plant genetics. A professor emeritus and plant geneticist at Texas A&M, Engelke is the Godfather of zoysiagrass research, having developed several species, including Diamond and Palisades.
     
    Through his career researching turfgrasses that help turf managers reduce inputs, Engelke also has developed a passion for sustainability.
     
    "Water shortages and salinity are things that we are facing in our industry that are going to be absolutely devastating," Engelke said during a presentation the Turf and Ornamental Communicators Association annual meeting in Portland, Ore.
     
    "We're starting to see it, and we're going to see a whole lot more of it."
     
    Two years ago, Engelke relocated from Dallas to Oregon. Although parts of the state's western corridor receive 60 inches or more of rain per year, rainfall in the Portland area is 8 inches below the historic average, according to the National Weather Service. And some areas of the state, Engelke said, rainfall is off by as much as 14 inches.
     
    "We're in the middle of the rainy season, and we're 14 inches off ourselves, and the snow pack is way off," Engelke said.
     
    "We're going to find ourselves in a drought that the Midwest had last year. And we're not so sure that the Midwest is not going to have that drought again."
     
    Such conditions, Engelke said, are why it is more important than ever to select turfgrass varieties that are best adapted for a specific environment.
     
    In other words, if shade is an issue, choose turf that is bred for shade tolerance. If drought and water restrictions are a concern, choose a variety developed for drought tolerance.
     
    When considering factors such as temperature, moisture and light exposure, Engelke said it is equally important to weigh the extremes of these factors and the duration of these extremes, many of which are affected by shifting climate patterns.
     
    Engelke noted that early in his career the fad in Texas was to install creeping bentgrass putting greens. During the past several years, most of those surfaces have been replaced by one of several warm-season grasses. And that demarcation line is moving farther northward.
     
    "Being green isn't a St. Patrick's Day event," Engelke said. "It's something that is very, very important."
     
    More than 5,000 turfgrass varieties have been developed since the Plant Variety Protection Act was enacted on Dec. 24, 1970 to protect crop species, including turfgrass as intellectual property. With so many varieties bred for specific conditions, Engelke recommends that turf managers examine the most recent NTEP trial results for turfgrass varieties for geographic and environmental adaptability.
     
    "There are a lot of grasses out there that are marketed with a lot of BS," Engelke said.
     
    "BBS is what I support, and BBS is backed by science.' And that's what we want, to make sure we're not promoting varieties based on BS. We want to make sure we have good science behind them."
  • Golf course superintendents interested in going back to school are invited to apply for one of a dozen slots in the inaugural Healthy Turf, Healthy Tomorrow Plant Health Academy by Bayer Environmental Science.
     
    Healthy Turf, Healthy Tomorrow is a two-part educational initiative that combines field and classroom instruction all centering around a plant health curriculum designed to provide practical knowledge superintendents can implement on their golf courses.
     
    Attendees will receive instruction on a wide range of topics related to plant health, including how to measure plant health and its benefits, available treatments and preventive products, and issues such as nutrient, water and pest management.
     
    The first phase of the program will include field instruction scheduled for Sept. 25-27 at the Bayer Training and Development Center in Clayton, N.C., followed by two days of classroom training set for March 3-5 at GCSAA headquarters in Lawrence, Kan.
     
    GCSAA Class A and superintendent members who are enrolled in the Bayer Accolades program can apply for one of the 12 slots through June 5 by visiting the Plant Health Academy Web page. Applicants must complete an application and respond to two short-answer essay questions, which will be evaluated by a selection committee of GCSAA and Bayer representatives.
     
    For more information, visit www.backedbybayer.com.
  • You won't find an Angry Birds app on John Kaminski's iPhone, but that doesn't mean he's not a believer in the power of mobile technology and information sharing. In fact, Kaminski believes that mobile technology could help anyone who with an interest in growing turf with an outlet for identifying turf pests, developing preventive and curative control plans.   Kaminski, who oversees Penn State's two-year turf management program, has been working for the past two-plus years with mobile app creator Mobile Roadie to develop the Turfpath app.   In its first iteration, Turfpath offers users a library of photographic images of common turfgrass diseases as well as weed and insect pests as well as information on each a variety of chemical control options for each pest issue. The app also includes geographic-specific information on outbreaks.   While reference material constitutes the bulk of the information available on Turfpath, its real potential will come in the place of social interaction in future iterations, said Kaminski.   Currently, users can post photographs of weeds or insect pests and interact with others on the site to help identify them or find a cure. Future upgrades will pin those photos to a map via the GPS tracker located in smart phones, Kaminski said. That will allow users to seek geographic-specific information on pest problems. Eventually, said Kaminski, that same capability also will allow him to proactively push geographic updates and warnings about disease and pest outbreaks to users as well.   "The reference material is the meat and potatoes," Kaminski said. "The real power is going to be in sharing information and uploading images.   "I can see where it's going to go when we take it to the next step. That's in iterations 3, 4, 5 and 6. Right now, we're just in iteration 1. What we've done so far has just scratched the surface."   Turfpath is a concept that has been almost three years in the making, said Kaminski, who also has developed the Turfdiseases Web site and blog that includes updates from pathologists located throughout the country. Where Turfpath and the Turfdiseases platforms differ is in the source of the information provided to end users. 
    "The biggest thing is going to be the mapping system and tracking geographic-specific pest problems..." -- John Kaminski
    "The biggest thing is going to be the mapping system and tracking geographic-specific pest problems," he said. "That will allow us to crowd source and harness the power of the end user.   "We will be able to give them what they want and where they want it."   Developed privately by Kaminski, the app (which is not associated with Penn State) is available for the iPhone and Android markets. A version for iPad is due out later this year. It is intended for professional turfgrass managers, such as golf course superintendents, sports field managers, landscape professionals as well as homeowners.   "So many people have answers to these problems," Kaminski said. "You don't have to be a university professor to know these answers. Our power is in crowd sourcing our end users."
  • In an interview prior to the 2002 U.S. Women's Open, former Tim Moraghan, then director of championship agronomy for the USGA, called Prairie Dunes Country Club one of the 10 best golf courses in the world. It's also ranked No. 13 on Golfweek's list of the 100 best classic era (pre 1960) layouts. Much of the credit for such high praise no doubt belongs to architect Perry Maxwell, who designed the course in 1937. Some of that credit also goes to golf course superintendent Stan George.
     
    George, who was superintendent at the course in Hutchinson, Kan., since 1991, died April 27. He was 57.
     
    A native of Pittsburg, Kan., George developed a reputation for practicing sustainable golf course management long before it became a catch phrase. Prairie Dunes was as much a wildlife-friendly habitat as it was a destination for scratch golfers. 
     
    During his time at Prairie Dunes, George was the host superintendent of at least three national championships, including the 1995 U.S. Senior Amateur, '02 Women's Open and the 2006 U.S. Senior Open. He also was a mentor and teacher to dozens of aspiring golf course superintendents.
     
    A skilled golfer, he was being considered for induction into the Kansas Golf Association Hall of Fame at the time of his death.
     
    For all of his accomplishments on the course, George also was a giving member of Grace Bible Church and his community, including serving as a volunteer for the Boys and Girls Club, Toys for Tots annual Christmas toy drive and Big Brothers and Big Sisters.
     
    Survivors include wife Debbie, sons David (Birdie) and Chance and six siblings.
     
    Donations in lieu of flowers can be made to the Stan George Children's Education Fund, in care of Elliott Mortuary, 1219 North Main, Hutchinson, KS 67501.
  • Repair work to some of the greens at the home of the PGA Tour's Wells Fargo Championship might appear patchy on TV during this year's tournament, but that look should be nothing more than a cosmetic distraction to viewers at home, according to a turfgrass researcher who has spent years monitoring conditions at Quail Hollow Club.   Two of the aging Penn G-2 bentgrass greens at the course in Charlotte, N.C., have been sodded twice in the past three weeks to replace patches of thinned turf. The most recent repair work was performed on April 22, just nine days before the first round of the tournament scheduled for May 1-5.   Since then stories have circulated about the quality of the greens at Quail Hollow, with accounts of club members blaming PGA Tour agronomists for conditions, and a Tour official discounting those accusations. Andy Pazder, the PGA Tour's chief of operations, admitted in published reports that conditions on Nos. 8 and 10 were not up to snuff, necessitating new sod, but went on to say the damage was not the fault of Tour agronomists.   While members take shots at the Tour, Fred Yelverton, Ph.D., professor of crop science at North Carolina State University, said that blame is misguided. The culprit, he said, is a turfgrass variety ill suited for conditions at Quail Hollow.   Yelverton has been working with Quail Hollow superintendents since 1995. He said the two greens in question, as well as the 16 others, should be just fine for the tournament. He and fellow NC State professor Grady Miller, Ph.D., are working with Quail Hollow superintendent Chris Deariso and Tour agronomists to ensure playing conditions worthy of a PGA Tour event.   "All these problems are overstated," Yelverton said. "The greens are going to be just fine."   Although G-2 is a proven performer on many courses around the country for its improved shoot density, overall turf quality and disease resistance, it has been an awkward fit at Quail Hollow, where heat stress prevails for much of the year.    In the 16 years that Quail Hollow superintendents have been growing G-2, segregation has been a consistent problem, resulting in stressed turf, occasional turf loss in random patterns and an overall weakened stand that Yelverton said has become nearly unmanageable. The segregation of G-2 has resulted in contamination from Poa annua, other bentgrass varieties and even some Bermudagrass, and its response to even the most basic management practices has been erratic.   And while some headlines give the illusion the tournament might be decided upon patches of barren soil, Yelverton said conditions could have been far worse if not for the expertise of Deariso and those same PGA Tour agronomists with whom others cast blame.   "They've done an outstanding job," Yelverton said.    "I've been looking at these greens for years, and I've never seen turf segregate like G-2 has at Quail Hollow. And this is key to what everyone with a non-agronomic background is talking about. Because of that segregation, the (G-2's) response to any normal agronomic practice has been unpredictable. I've seen little patches 6 to 8 inches wide turn yellow and die from heat stress while the other 99 percent of the green is fine. And I've never seen that before, and I've never seen it anywhere other than (at Quail Hollow)."   Enough was left from the 42-inch-by-60-foot rolls of sod that some cosmetic work was performed on roll-off areas on Nos. 12 and 13.   Any problems associated with managing G-2 at Quail Hollow, however, soon will be a thing of the past.    Talk of a restoration has swirled for years at Quail Hollow, which last year was named the site of the 2017 PGA Championship. That much-needed restoration will begin later this year and will include regrassing the putting surfaces with an ultradwarf Bermudagrass, probably Champion or MiniVerde, that is better suited for August conditions in North Carolina.    "Everybody involved realized that needed to be done. It was a matter of when it was going to be put on the calendar," Yelverton said. "It wasn't a matter of if, it was a matter of when."   In the meantime, work will focus on rolling the newly sodded greens to ensure a smooth playing surface and minimal sod seams for this year's tournament. Yelverton said Stimpmeter readings for the tournament should be in the range of 10-11 feet, which is plenty of speed for Quail Hollow's undulating greens.   "Everyone needs to move on and enjoy the tournament because it's going to be a good one," Yelverton said. "I'm sure whoever wins on Sunday will think the greens putted just fine."
  • At Grigg Brothers Foliar Fertilizers, they know it takes a community to manage a golf course. Gone are the days when a superintendent could exist on an island. The successful superintendent of today has a vast network of resources to help him get through challenging times. That network includes colleagues at nearby courses or across the country, chapter and association contacts, university extension personnel and online education.   For the past four years, the folks at Grigg Brothers Foliar Fertilizers have recognized the value of distance education for golf course superintendents by sponsoring the TurfNet University Webinar series as well as teaching some of the Webinars.   The Grigg Brothers series of Webinars, all of which are free to TurfNet members and non-members, begins May 30 with Matt Nelson of Grigg Brothers presenting "Managing Soil Chemical Challenges".    In this Webinar, Nelson will discuss the options available to superintendents for managing turf with soil chemical concerns, such as suboptimal pH, high salt content, sodicity, hydrophobicity and nutrient deficiency. His presentation will include solutions for overcoming these issues to produce high quality golf course turf.   Other free Webinars produced by Grigg Brothers this year will include Gary Grigg, CGCS, presenting "Phosphorus Fertilization Strategies and Environmental Fate" and a seminar by Gordon Kauffman III, Ph.D., entitled "Pigmented Produce Use and Current Research" (both TBA, so check back soon for dates).   TurfNet members can click here to register for other members-only Webinars. Or click here to check out our archive page that includes recorded versions of Webinars from 2011-13, including previous presentations from Gary Grigg, Nelson, Kauffman and others from Grigg Brothers.
  • For the fifth year, Syngenta is inviting a select group of U.S. golf course superintendents to attend the Syngenta Business Institute, a four-day professional business development program that provides attendees with graduate school-level business education in a compressed and interactive format.
     
    Developed in conjunction with the Wake Forest University Schools of Business, the program supplements superintendents' management skills with a curriculum that includes financial management, personnel management, effective communications and negotiating skills delivered in an interactive series of seminars and workshops conducted by members of Wake's MBA faculty.   The Syngenta Business Institute is scheduled for Dec. 6-9 at Graylyn International Conference Center on the Wake Forest campus in Winston-Salem, N.C.   To apply, superintendents must complete an application that includes an essay on why they believe they should be selected to attend. Syngenta will select 25 attendees from its pool of applicants to attend the event. All expenses, including airfare, hotel and meals will be covered by Syngenta. Application deadline is Aug. 20.   Click here for more information or to apply.
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