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From the TurfNet NewsDesk

  • John Reitman
    Whistling Straits in Wisconsin was developed by Herb Kohler and designed by Pete Dye. Destination Kohler photo The Kohler Co. looked within to quickly fill the role of board of directors chair after the recent passing of Herb Kohler.
    The company's board of directors recently elected Kohler's son, David Kohler (right), as chairman of the board, following the passing of Herb Kohler Jr. on Sept. 3 at age 83.
    The board had previously undertaken a comprehensive succession planning process to ensure a quick and orderly transition of leadership to guide the Wisconsin-based company.
    David Kohler will chair the board of directors and executive committee, in addition to his role as CEO over all three of the company's the three business groups - Power, Kitchen & Bath and Hospitality.
    David Kohler has been with the family run company for 31 years and was named president and CEO in 2015. He had been the organization's chief operating officer since 2009. He is the fourth generation of Kohler family leadership since the company was founded in 1873 by John Michael Kohler as a manufacturer of agricultural implements. He is only the ninth person to lead the company in nearly 150 years.
    "I learned so much from my father, including a tireless strong work ethic, leading with candor and humility, and always driving to innovate," David Kohler said. "He believed that you must have passion for whatever you do in life if you want to be successful. Working alongside him for decades showcased the impact of embracing an entrepreneurial spirit, not being afraid to fail, and always striving for accuracy and consistency. He left an indelible mark on me personally and professionally."
    David Kohler credits his father as well as golf course architect Pete Dye for affirming Wisconsin's role in championship golf, he continues to broaden the company’s influence on the game on an international scale. He served as General Chair of the 2015 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, which at the time was the highest revenue championship in history.  David also served as General Chair of the 43rd Ryder Cup in 2021 also at Whistling Straits, which many golf experts have proclaimed as the best-ever in the international event’s storied 94-year history.
    Under David Kohler’s tenure as president and CEO, the company surpassed $8 billion in annual revenues in 2021. The Power Group has experienced sustained growth globally, including the acquisition of U.K.-based Clarke Energy in 2015 and the 2021 acquisitions of Curtis Instruments (electric vehicle controls) and Heila Technologies (microgrid software controls).
  • Audubon International's third edition of "A Guide to Environmental Stewardship on the Golf Course" is now part of the official turf management curriculum in the University Of Guelph Diploma in Turfgrass Management program.
    The publication will help students enrolled in classes titled "Turf Environmental Management" and "Turf Case Studies" learn more about environmental sustainability, ethical land stewardship and stakeholder communications.
    As part of the partnership, Audubon International, which is celebrating its 35th anniversary this year, will provide the University access to its newly released 3rd edition of "A Guide to Environmental Stewardship on the Golf Course" for students enrolled in classes titled "Turf Environmental Management" and "Turf Case Studies" during the fall and winter semesters.
    With this training, students will better understand the relationship between turf management and the environment, ensuring best management practices are utilized, which will result in environmental sustainability wherever they may work, says Frank LaVardera, Director of Environmental Programs for Golf for Audubon International.
    The Guelph Diploma in Turfgrass Management program is a 20-month program that provides students with hands-on learning opportunities and real-world experience for a variety of career opportunities, such as golf course management, lawn care, sports field management, parks management, sod production and related supply and service businesses.
    "Audubon International's Cooperative Sanctuary Program core philosophies and success stories have proven to be valuable teaching tools in our classroom," said Cameron Shaw, Manager of University of Guelph's DTM Program. "We are particularly excited about Audubon International making its newly updated guide accessible to our students as it will not only help them identify key principles in sustainability, but allow them to observe case studies and real-world stories being implemented successfully by current industry leaders."
    The Diploma in Turfgrass Management requires a minimum 15-week industry co-op/internship and students have historically landed internships at golf courses and other turfgrass-based enterprises across Canada as well as in the U.S., Australia, New Zealand, England, Scotland, Germany and the Caribbean.
  • Phoenix Country Club was originally founded in 1899. Mention the phrase "classic-era golf course architecture" and the mind immediately wanders to courses in places Chicago, metropolitan New York, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Detroit or even Augusta, Georgia.
    It is not often those words are uttered in the same sentence with Arizona, but there are several classic-era courses in Arizona - two to three dozen of them, according to architecture expert Bradley Klein, Ph.D.
    Founded in 1899 and moved 22 years later, Phoenix Country Club has been at its current location for more than a century, and golf course architect Andy Staples and superintendent Kenton Brunson are working to ensure it is around for 100 more years.
    The pair are preparing for a master plan that will address issues like water and fertilizer use, drainage, putting green standards, soils, bunkers and turf type to help Phoenix remain relevant in the face of several hot button issues.
    Renovated 20 years ago by John Fought and Tom Lehman, little has changed at Phoenix since Chicagoan Harry Collis's original design in 1921 on the northern edge of downtown. It was the on-again, off-again site of the Phoenix Open from 1932 to 1986 and today is the site of the Champions Tour's Charles Schwab Cup.
    Current and former members include notables such as Alice Cooper, former Chicago Cubs second baseman Ryne Sandberg, real estate mogul Del Webb and one-time presidential candidate Barry Goldwater.
    If Goldwater, who died in 1998, showed up today he probably would still recognize much of what is in place there. The vibe, Staples said, is like the classic Los Angeles golf course like Riviera or L.A. Country Club, only without the elevation changes.
    "Not a lot has changed in 100 years. They never really addressed the greens, bunkers or irrigation. This is more of an infrastructure project," Staples said. 
    "It's like a classic L.A. course that never got to L.A. Those courses have branches and rises and falls. This course is dead flat, with lots of trees on the edge of downtown. I hope to bring in some of that inspiration from those courses in L.A."
    That project, Staples and Brunson hope, will eventually include a little more terrain change, at least in the way of swales, to promote drainage much in the way they are in use at Oakmont.

    Phoenix Country Club moved to its current location near downtown in 1921. Brunson, who has been at Phoenix for about a year-and-a-half, said he looked through records and said the club had been doing what amounted to a major project every year. He thought now would be a good time to try to change that philosophy.
    "Let's circle up and do this all in one year," he said. "That way, you don't have interruptions to play every year."
    The club's leadership agreed and settled on Staples, a Phoenix-area resident, to help guide them through the process.
    The first phase of the project will be getting feedback from the club's various constituencies. Focus groups include single-digit players, women, juniors, seniors and committed golfers who don't fit into any of these other groups.
    "It's their golf course," Brunson said. "We want to hear what they like and don't like. We want every member to feel like their voice is being heard. And we might learn some things in the process."
    Staples hopes to have a plan ready for review by next spring, and Brunson said scheduling contractors and supply chain issues probably will push moving dirt off until some time in 2025.
    "Contractors are scheduling out 18 months now.
    New water restrictions recently announced in Arizona call for a 20-percent reduction by all users. Brunson said choosing the right turf type can help Phoenix CC meet that standard before even taking any turf out of play.
    Years ago, the course was grandfathered in and does not pay for water. Still, Staples and Brunson know the right thing is managing the course to use as little water and fertilizer as is necessary.
    To that end, Brunson currently has planted a nursery that includes several varieties of Bermudagrass including TifTuf, Tahoma, 419 and 328, as well as some paspalum and zoysia varieties. He plans to select a turf that will use less water and will be more cold tolerant so Phoenix CC can join a growing trend of valley golf courses that are no longer overseeing fairways.
    "What we want to do is nothing new," Staples said. "We're just now bringing it into an area where it has never been done before."
    Dynamic leader and Kohler Co. Executive Chairman Herbert Vollrath Kohler, Jr. passed away on September 3, 2022, in Kohler, Wisconsin. He was 83. His bold ideas and hands-on leadership transformed the plumbing products manufacturer founded by his grandfather into a global and diverse family of businesses synonymous with unmatched quality, creativity, and bold innovation. He literally put his beloved home state of Wisconsin on the map as a global golf destination culminating with the Ryder Cup in 2021.
    Herb Kohler's personal mission was to create delight. For him, there was no halfway. To warrant the "KOHLER" nameplate, a product had to be more than durable, functional, and attractive. It had to be joyful and memorable.
    "His zest for life, adventure and impact inspires all of us. We traveled together, celebrated together, and worked together. He was all in, all the time, leaving an indelible mark on how we live our lives today and carry on his legacy," said his family.
    He was admired by many as an accomplished, dynamic leader; independent-minded entrepreneur; courageous innovator; and passionate creative. Herb, more than anyone, lived and breathed Kohler Co.'s mission of providing customers with gracious living each day. He was a big personality who was steadfast in guiding Kohler associates in the relentless pursuit of the company mission, and he took immense joy in witnessing his customers' delight firsthand.
    "If I sell you a bathtub, there has to be something about it that gives you pleasure not only at the time of the transaction. Years later, we want you to think this is one of the best buys of your life," he once said in an interview. "The same applies with everything we provide – an engine, generator, toilet, table, hotel room, spa service, golf course, you name it. If you think about it five years later and, inwardly or outwardly, it makes you smile and we can do this consistently, then we're living up to our mission."
    Early life
    Herb Kohler – who preferred to use his first name but was so respected by Kohler Co. associates who addressed him as "HVK" or "Mr. Kohler" – was born in Chicago on February 20, 1939. His father Herbert V. Kohler, Sr., son of Kohler Co. founder John Michael Kohler, served as Board Chairman and CEO of Kohler Co. from 1940 until his death in 1968. His mother Ruth De Young Kohler was a historian and former women's editor of the Chicago Tribune.
    Herb was educated at the Kohler schools in Kohler, Wisconsin, and at Choate Rosemary Hall in Wallingford, Connecticut. As a young man, he spent many summers as a laborer on the Kohler farms and in most of the manufacturing divisions of Kohler Co. After serving with the U.S. Army Reserve, studying at the University of Zurich in Switzerland, and launching a brief acting career at Knox College in Illinois, he completed his education at Yale University, graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree in industrial administration in 1965.
    He rejoined Kohler Co. full-time as an R&D technician shortly after graduation. He became a Director of the company in 1967, and when his father died a year later, he became Vice President of Operations. He was named Executive Vice President in 1971, was elected Chairman of the Board and CEO in 1972, and President of the Company in 1974 – at the age of 35. In 2015, he became the company's Executive Chairman, with son David taking the helm as President and CEO. He served Kohler Co. for 61 years.
    Creative passion and THE BOLD LOOK OF KOHLER
    In the early 1970s, Herb created a force with THE BOLD LOOK OF KOHLER that forever changed the American bathroom and kitchen, transforming what were once utilitarian spaces into statements of design, style, sophistication, and craftsmanship. During his 43-year span as CEO, he also transformed his family-owned company into a world leader, with more than 40,000 associates and dozens of manufacturing facilities on six continents.

    The National Kitchen and Bath Hall of Fame inducted him in its founding year of 1989, followed by the National Housing Hall of Fame in 1993. Ernst & Young named him National Entrepreneur of the Year in Manufacturing in 2002, and Junior Achievement inducted him into its U.S. Business Hall of Fame in 2006.
    THE BOLD LOOK OF KOHLER began in 1967 as a unique program of beautifully designed toilets, bathtubs, sinks and other fixtures in unique colors supported by imaginative consumer advertising. But under Herb's watch, it went beyond a corporate promotion to become a bold new guiding spirit for the company and its associates. It was a spirit that positioned them on the leading edge of everything they set out to do, while maintaining a single, high level of quality in the company's products, processes, and services.
    "We have the people, the products, the focus, the resources, and the passion to pursue our mission and compete successfully," Herb once told associates.
    That is exactly where he led them, based on three primary guiding principles. One, live on the leading edge of design and technology of product and process. Two, have a single standard of quality above the norm with everything the company does. And three, invest 90 percent of Kohler Co.'s annual earnings back into the company.
    Herb invested in state-of-the-art manufacturing technologies, revitalized the company's tradition of product innovation, and launched bold brand-awareness advertising campaigns geared toward consumers – taking the KOHLER plumbing brand to number one on a global scale and never looking back.
    Always a hands-on executive who was full of ideas for improving products and processes, he involved himself in design decisions to a degree that was uncommon among CEOs. He thoroughly enjoyed the creative process – from reviewing 30-second television commercial storyboards to testing new products personally by soaking in a whirlpool bath or sampling a decadent piece of KOHLER chocolate. He designed many of the company's products himself and held more than 200 design and utility patents.
    He invested in new designs, products, manufacturing facilities, and distribution strategies. Realizing the opportunity to compete in the changing world marketplace, he gave the company and the KOHLER brand new global perspective and greater presence by adding production, distribution and marketing in Mexico, United Kingdom and Continental Europe, North Africa, India, Middle East, Latin America, Brazil, and the greater Asia Pacific region, including China, Thailand, South Korea, Australia, and New Zealand.
    He took the company into new businesses with more than 48 acquisitions over his tenure. This began with Sterling Faucet Co. that joined the Kohler family of businesses in 1984, followed by French plumbing company Jacob Delafon in 1986, and U.K. shower manufacturer Mira in 2001. He formed the Kohler Interiors Group acquiring premium luxury brands Baker Furniture, McGuire Furniture Company, Ann Sacks Tile and Stone, Kallista plumbing, and Robern mirrored cabinets.
    Herb invested beyond plumbing products to strengthen the company's other core business – Power – and expanded the portfolio with a series of acquisitions including Italian diesel engine manufacturer Lombardini in 2007 and France-based generator company SDMO in 2005. Today, Kohler Co. is the third largest global power systems organization in the world.
    In the late 1970s, Herb convinced skeptical colleagues to develop The American Club – originally built as an immigrant workers' dormitory in 1918 – into a luxury spa and resort. The
    Board of Directors twice rejected the idea, but he persisted. Today, The American Club is the Midwest's only AAA Five Diamond Resort Hotel, a member of the National Trust for Historic Preservation's Historic Hotels of America program, and among a handful globally to have both the AAA Five Diamond and Forbes Five-Star designations. In 2018, Historic Hotels of America and Historic Hotels Worldwide recognized Herb as the recipient of its annual Steward of History and Historic Preservation award for The American Club.
    With The American Club serving as the anchor property, Destination Kohler was formed and today includes the 500-acre wilderness preserve River Wildlife; a second hotel, Inn on Woodlake; the Kohler Waters Spa; multiple casual and fine dining restaurants and pubs; Sports Core health and racquet club; Yoga on the Lake; Bold Cycle; Riverbend private membership club; Kohler Original Recipe Chocolates; the Kohler Design Center and a host of home furnishing and specialty shops. Destination Kohler paved the way for the Hospitality & Real Estate Group. Another hotel called LODGE KOHLER opened in 2017 and is an anchor property within the Green Bay Packers' Titletown entertainment destination.
    But it was another of Herb's bold moves that garnered infinitely more international acclaim for the company and opened the floodgates to a new and prosperous expansion of Kohler Co.'s impact – golf.

    A golfer's dream
    The Chicago Tribune once wrote about Sheboygan County, "The likelihood of turning this vast rural farmland into a golf mecca is about the same as making a toilet a work of art. Herbert Kohler can now say he has done both."
    During The American Club's early years, guests asked Herb why the resort offered transportation to local golf courses, but no golf course itself. The question ultimately inspired first a partnership and then deep friendship with hall-of-fame golf course designer Pete Dye, and a vision that brought forth what some have called the most spectacular 72 holes of championship golf in America.
    Blackwolf Run, the first piece of Destination Kohler's golf portfolio, opened in 1988. Whistling Straits came 10 years later, transforming a polluted, abandoned airfield site into a world-class golf experience evoking the seaside links courses of the British Isles – right down to the flock of Scottish Blackface sheep Herb acquired that still roam the grounds today.
    Herb's next golf adventure took him to the game's birthplace in St Andrews, Scotland, where he bought a hotel alongside the legendary Old Course and turned it into the Old Course Hotel Golf Resort and Spa and added The Duke's – a heathland golf course outside of town. His most recent projects are closer to home, including the Straits Chapel, serving as the co-designer of the enjoyable 10-hole, par-3 Baths of Blackwolf Run golf course that debuted in June 2021, as well as plans to build an 18-hole public golf course on company property along more than a mile of Lake Michigan shoreline in southern Sheboygan County.
    Whistling Straits and Blackwolf Run have been recognized among the best golf courses in the country – in 2000, Golf Digest named Sheboygan County 7th among the top 50 golf destinations in the world – and continue to challenge professional and amateur athletes from across the globe. The Kohler courses have hosted six Major golf championships to date, including one of the most exciting PGA Championships on record at Whistling Straits in 2015. In 2021, in perhaps the culmination of his legacy and passion for golf was hosting the 43rd Ryder Cup – which many golf experts called the best-ever in the 94-year history of the storied competition.
    In 2016, Herb earned the Old Tom Morris Award from the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America; the award recognized his "indelible mark on golf and focus on the importance of environmental stewardship." Then in 2019, the Wisconsin Athletic Hall of Fame enshrined Herb as part of its 69th class for transforming Wisconsin into a worldwide golfing destination and bringing six golf Major Championships to Wisconsin and the 43rd Ryder Cup in 2021.
    The business of golf sparked a passion within Herb for the sport itself, and he became a serious student of the game in his 50s. He spoke fondly of the values associated with golf and the friendships he made – particularly with his beloved "Gnarly Balls" gang of friends, who played courses all over the world, usually in harsh weather, and always with a friendly wager. Herb recorded his only hole-in-one on the 11th hole of the Old Course at St Andrews in 2007. It was a "postcard moment" he laughingly remembered not only for the achievement, but also for the fact that his golfing companions celebrated by downing expensive shots of scotch – and presenting him with the bill.

    A greater purpose
    Herb Kohler found strong inspiration in the life of his uncle, Walter J. Kohler Sr., who led Kohler Co. from 1905 until his death in 1940. The elder Kohler often quoted a business principle coined by 19th century English critic John Ruskin: "Life without labor is guilt, labor without art is brutality." The quotation resonated with Herb, who saw business as a process that thrived on creativity, provided constant challenges, and offered a means by which to help others. He worked diligently to be a positive influence in his community and was an ardent supporter of the arts, the environment and historic preservation.
    Working closely with his sister Ruth and the John Michael Kohler Arts Center, Herb helped establish an innovative Arts/Industry residency program that invites artists into the Kohler factories to work alongside production associates turning out stunning works of handcrafted sculptures of art made from plumbing product materials, such as vitreous china, cast iron and brass. To date, more than 500 artists have participated in this unique residency that intersects art and manufacturing.
    Walter's influence was also evident in Herb's community services. In the early 1900s, Walter hired the pre-eminent landscape architecture firm of the Olmsted Brothers – whose portfolio included New York's Central Park and the U.S. Capitol – to create a 50-year plan for the Village's green spaces. In 1977, Herb worked with the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation to put together a second 50-year plan for the Village, paving the way for additional development of residential and company properties including the Sports Core, Shops at Woodlake, and the Woodlake Market.
    Herb established and chaired the Kohler Trust for the Arts and Education, the Kohler Trust for Preservation, passing the chair role to his daughter Laura in 2015. Herb also established the Kohler Trust for Clean Water in 2019, of which Laura is also chair. Among the beneficiaries of the Trusts are the Wisconsin Chapter of The Nature Conservancy, and recently a major conservation project in the Sheboygan River Watershed.
    He served as President of the Kohler Foundation that provides hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships annually, sponsors a Distinguished Guest Series that brings internationally recognized performers to Sheboygan County and manages the Waelderhaus – a replica of the Austrian home of John Michael Kohler that is open to the public.
    The Foundation and Trusts have funded the preservation of significant art environments and collections, as well as the re-creation of a working sawmill and millpond at Wade House State Park in Greenbush, Wisconsin, a state historical site initially preserved by the Kohler Foundation under the leadership of Herb's mother. Herb also served as co-chairman of the successful fund raising effort in support of the creation of Old World Wisconsin, a living ethnic museum built by the Wisconsin State Historical Society in Eagle, Wisconsin.
    Herb's interest in the outdoors and environmental preservation led to the creation of River Wildlife, a 500-acre nature preserve along the banks of the Sheboygan River; and the preservation of Eagle Valley, a 1,440-acre eagle preserve along the bluffs of the Mississippi River, which earned a Wisconsin Wildlife Habitat Development Award. Additionally, Herb developed Kohler Co.'s 12 Environmental Principles, allowing the company to meld environmental stewardship with industrial manufacturing. And in September 2022, the KOHLER Center for Marsh Education was opened at the Sheboygan Marsh Wildlife Area to promote the environment, conservation, and stewardship through education, hands-on activities, and advocacy.
    In 2012, Herb helped finance and led the design and construction of the Kohler Environmental Center at Choate Rosemary Hall, his alma mater. This LEED-Platinum environmental research and education center is outfitted with three working laboratories, two classrooms, and a greenhouse. It is home to the Environmental Immersion Program, a year-long residential and interdisciplinary program.
    Herb was an advocate of youth development and education. He volunteered his time as a board member of Outward Bound USA, a leading provider of experiential and outdoor education programs. He was personally impacted by Outward Bound in 1986 through an Invitational Expedition on North Carolina's Chattooga River. Immediately captured by the adventure and experience, Herb joined the Board of Directors in 1997 on which he served until 2010 and introduced each of his children – and subsequently grandchildren – to the organization, who attended expeditions as youth. A life of service, impact, and commitment to this non-profit earned Herb and daughter Laura the highly coveted Kurt Hahn Award in 2020.
    He also served as a trustee at Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin; Choate Rosemary Hall; the National Housing Endowment; and Friendship House, a home-based facility for at-risk youth in Sheboygan. He was an active supporter of The First Tee, an initiative to create new golf facilities around the country and make the game more affordable and accessible, especially to youth.
    As part of his commitment to education, Herb established the Kohler Scholarship Endowment in Drama at Duke University. He also endowed the Kohler Center for Entrepreneurship in the College of Business Administration at Marquette University, creating a program putting Marquette students in regular contact with established business leaders to study entrepreneurial success. In 2018, the UW-Madison College of Engineering was a benefactor when the Kohler Innovation Visualization Studio was opened, and in 2014 Lakeshore Technical College in Cleveland, Wisconsin, was a benefactor when the KOHLER Center for Manufacturing Excellence was unveiled.
    In 1997, Herb earned the Ellis Island Medal of Honor for "exemplifying American ideals and preserving an Austrian heritage."  In 2018, the University of St Andrews presented Herb with an Honorary degree, Doctor of Laws for demonstrating a lasting commitment to the town and people of St Andrews.

    Foundation in family
    Herb Kohler never pushed his three children into the family business, instead encouraging them to follow their own paths. The fact that all three paths eventually led Laura, Rachel, and David to Kohler Co. is testament to their father's steady influence and example. David oversees Kohler Co. in the role of President and CEO, Laura is Senior Vice President of Human Resources, Stewardship and Sustainability, and Rachel formerly served as Group President of Kohler Interiors and now an entrepreneur in her own right, is a member of the company Board of Directors.
    Herb married the former Natalie Black in 1988 and together they built a life focused on growing the business on a global scale. Natalie Black Kohler is now retired, having recently served as Senior Vice President and Chief Legal Officer for Kohler Co. She is also a member of the company's Board of Directors and President of the Kohler Foundation.
    Herb was devoted to his family, often sharing adventurous vacations with them. Close friends say his forceful personality could be tamed within seconds by the smiles of his 10 grandchildren and three great grandchildren.
    His marriage to Linda Kohler Anderson ended in divorce in the early 1980s. Linda, the mother of Laura, Rachel, and David, died in 2005. Herb was also preceded in death by his parents, Herbert V., Sr., and Ruth DeYoung; his younger brother, Frederic Kohler; and younger sister, Ruth DeYoung Kohler II.
    Herb is survived by his wife, Natalie; two daughters, Laura Kohler (Steve Proudman), and Rachel Kohler (Mark Hoplamazian); and one son, David Kohler (Nina). He is further survived by 10 grandchildren, Lily, Hannah, and Rachel Proudman; Mara, Lena, and Leo Hoplamazian; Ashley, Samuel, Jack, and Tait Kohler; and three great grandchildren, Ophelia, Herbert, and Uma Cartwright.
    He will be greatly missed by his family, a large circle of friends, tens of thousands of Kohler Co. associates and retirees worldwide, as well as many others who came to know him.
    Celebrating herb's legacy
    The family plans to host a private service. At a date to be determined, Kohler Co. will host a tribute to Herb Kohler for associates, past and present.
    Coming soon is a tribute website to learn more about Herb Kohler's countless contributions, his dynamic life, business impact and well-deserved accolades. Information regarding ways to honor his memory will be detailed on the website.
    Courtesy of Kohler Co.
  • The well-chronicled story of Bayer, Roundup and hundreds of thousands of litigants claiming the weedkiller caused their cancer is entering new territory that should be a wake-up call not only to other companies in the agri-chemical sector, but in other industries as well.
    As the case against Bayer wears on - with more than 100,000 already decided and half that amount still awaiting litigation - the U.S. legal system is shifting its focus on the company's CEO.
    On Aug. 22, a state judge in Arkansas ordered the deposition of Bayer AG CEO Werner Baumann, who resides in Leverkusen, Germany, and he is willing to send court officials across the world to do it.
    According to documents, circuit judge Robert Gibson said "that as the head of Bayer, no one knows better about what the company is doing than Baumann and it would be shocking if he didn't have any unique or specialized knowledge." 
    It doesn't matter that the company's CEO is an economist by trade, not a chemist. It doesn't matter that he was CEO for only four months when Bayer acquired Monsanto (and all the headaches that were to follow) for $66 billion. It didn't matter that Hugh Grant, the former CEO of Monsanto, who for 15 years led the company that invented Roundup, already testified three years ago. It doesn't matter that there are many people who know much more about Roundup - and its active ingredient glyphosate - than the company CEO. 
    After all, this is the same case in which the defense has not been permitted in court to present some evidence on Bayer's behalf.
    "Numerous company officials with relevant knowledge of scientific and regulatory issues already have testified in the nationwide Roundup litigation," the Bayer spokesperson told Law360. "Mr. Baumann is not an expert in science, government regulation or the U.S. legal system and does not possess unique knowledge relevant to this case."
    Former Monsanto CEO Hugh Grant, who for 15 years led the company that invented Roundup, already has testified in court as have many other researchers and scientists, all of whom know more than Baumann, but since when have facts or truth mattered in anything lately?
    To date, Bayer has spent more than $11 billion settling more than 100,000 claims that glyphosate caused their non-Hodgkins lymphoma. Another 30,000-plus cases are pending, including an instant suit by an Arkansas man whose conditions warrants an expeditious approach.
    In the Arkansas case, the plaintiff says he had worked in agricultural and maintenance landscaping for more than two decades in various positions and used Roundup regularly around his own yard.
    The rub in the Roundup saga has always been conflicting information from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the World Health Organization.
    The latter has said glyphosate is likely a carcinogen. The EPA has consisted disputed those findings.
  • With golf course maintenance equipment more reliant than ever on technology, hacking into onboard computer systems is a source of concern.
    John Deere recently invited 20 college students from around the country to try to do just that. 
    The week-long event called the Cyber Tractor Challenge was part of the company’s efforts to proactively find and address vulnerabilities within its operating systems while also attracting some of the best talent in the world.
    "We have a room full of bright engineers who are aspiring embedded software engineers as well as security hackers," said John Kubalsky, business information security officer for tech stack and cloud.
    The students, whose experience ranged from undergraduates to PhD candidates specializing in the fields of computer engineering, electrical engineering, industrial technology and cyber security, were excited by the opportunity to work with us.
    "I have some experience in the ag-tech industry, so it's relevant to what I already know," said University of Illinois student Josh Park. "And it would just be fun hacking tractors. That's fun."
    Kubalsky said the first-year event is a great way for Deere to find people with the skills the company needs.
    "There is a real need for people that have the talents that they have to come and help us find where there might be some holes or opportunities in our products," Kubalsky said, "so we can button those up, continue to be that premiere ag equipment and technology producer, and keep our customers safe in the field."
  • John Spodnik, who mentored dozens of would-be superintendents and was an industry leader at the national, state and regional association level, died Aug. 26. He was 93.
    His entire 35-year career as a superintendent that began in 1959 was spent at Westfield Country Club in suburban Cleveland. 
    Among those influenced by Spodnik is Mark Jordan, his protege at Westfield and now the club's natural resource manager.
    "He was a very influential leader in the industry, community & to Westfield Insurance," Jordan wrote on social media. "Those of us fortunate enough to know John are better people today."
    Nicknamed the Sodfather because of his leadership in the industry he loved, Spodnik was a major association influencer at all levels. He was the secretary treasurer of the Northern Ohio GCSA chapter throughout the entirety of his career and was named honorary president in 1994. He was among a group of superintendents who together helped found the Ohio Turfgrass Association and spent seven years as its inaugural director. He also was active at the national level, and was GCSAA president in 1969. He was active in the Musser Foundation and was the recipient of the GCSAA Col. John Morley Award that is presented annually to "an individual who has made an outstanding contribution to the advancement of the golf course superintendent's profession."

    John Spodnik, left, with protege Mark Jordan, was a leader at all levels of the green industry. Mark Jordan Twitter photo "I'm proud of what OTF has done not only for golf course superintendents, but for everybody in the green industry," Spodnik said in an OTF video in 2016. 
    A Coast Guard veteran in the period between World War II and the Korean War, Spodnik eventually earned a degree in industrial engineering from what is now Cleveland State University. During his college days, he worked at some of the historic and legendary Cleveland-area clubs, including Canterbury and Shaker Heights before being named superintendent in 1959 at Westfield, where he remained until his retirement in 1994.
    Although he probably never spent much time updating a resume, Spodnik was focused on his own career as well as those of other superintendents. He was a pioneer in the Northern Ohio chapter that grew into one of the country's most active and well-organized regional superintendent organizations. He and others helped start the OTF as q way for superintendents to get access to education and networking opportunities without the cost of attending a national show.
    "One of the pillars of the turfgrass industry in Ohio," Ryan DeMay, principal of Field Source Ohio, a sports field consulting firm and the current president of OTF, wrote on Twitter. "Without John Spodnik's reverence for our industry, and those in it, we would not have the integrity, respect, or education we all take for granted today."
    Survivors include his wife, Mary, and their children Jennifer, Jeff (Lee) and Jason (Lisa) as well many grandchildren, nieces and nephews.
    Services are scheduled from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Aug. 31 at Waite & Son Funeral Home in Medina, Ohio, with interment to follow at Westfield Cemetery in Westfield Center.
  • There are many reasons golf course operations might want to implement a recycling program.
    It eliminates the amount of waste deposited into landfills, conserves resources and reduces pollution. It also can be monetized and the PR value can be important for an industry that struggles to communicate its work in environmental stewardship.
    For all the reasons people believe they should recycle, using the pieces to build a utility vehicle likely is not among them. But that is exactly what Deere and Ford are doing.
    Plastic bottles pulled from the Mississippi and coconut filler are just two of the materials used to construct the new Sustainable Concept Gator utility vehicle (right) in a collaborative effort between John Deere and the Sustainable Materials division of Ford Motor Co. The vehicle came about largely due to the latter's desire to find ways of turning waste into viable machine components.
    “When the idea of the Sustainable Concept Gator project came about, the goal was to explore a variety of materials to be used for possible adoption across product lines to support our goals around increasing use of sustainable materials,” said Andy Greenlee, senior staff engineer for sustainable solutions at John Deere.
    Ford was an ideal partner, Greenlee said.
    “Ford is a long-time leader in sustainable materials and has been integrating sustainable parts into their vehicles for decades – even back to Henry Ford experimenting with soybean oil in the 1930s,” he said.
    "Getting the opportunity to look at things that are out in the future and focus on what we need to develop to add value to our customers while reducing our environmental footprint was a great experience."
    The project was a complex collaboration with both Deere and Ford’s supplier networks, many going above and beyond to support the project, to build a prototype created with renewable, recycled and recyclable materials such as soybeans, flax fiber, sugar cane, hemp fiber, bottles, and even fishing nets.
    “It was difficult because we had to work within our current framework of production tooling, we weren’t going to invest in new tooling for a product that won’t go to market, but we did everything we could to find sustainable materials that were suitable replacements,” said Keith Shanter, senior materials engineer for Deere.
    Despite the uniqueness of the sustainable Gator, which has been in the works since 2018 , the vehicle is not for sale, nor will it go into mass production anytime soon. Instead, the vehicle is a symbol of the future of sustainability.
    “The Sustainable Concept Gator has provided us key learnings,” SAID Jill Sanchez, Deere's director of sustainability. “It shows how innovative thinking and innovative partnerships provide invaluable insight into how we can apply sustainable material use in the future.”
    Though many components used in the Sustainable Concept Gator are not a short-term production solution, the materials pave the way for sustainable solutions, including one that is in production now.
    “One component from this project that’s in Gators produced today," Shanter said, "is a defrost louver made out of recycled tires.”
  • Golfers have not been lining up to play in record numbers in 2022, but data shows they might be if not for the weather. The number of rounds of golf played are down through the first half of the year, but that is not necessarily a sign of bad news.
    Thanks largely to Covid, a lot of people discovered the benefits of golf during the past three seasons. Golf courses everywhere bragged of record play, claims that were backed up by rounds played data provided each month by entities like Golf Datatech and the National Golf Foundation. 
    Rounds increased by nearly 20 percent during Covid, reaching 518 million rounds played last year, a figure that matched an all-time high set in 2000. So, when rounds played are off, like they are in the first half of 2022, does it mean people are once again leaving the game, or are they impeded by factors - such as weather - that limit access to the game?
    Rounds played in June were up slightly - 2.7 percent - compared with the same month a year ago, but overall were down by 5.7 percent through the first half of the year.
    For once, it appears that we really can blame the weather. According to Jim Koppenhaver's Golf Datatech, the number of golf playable hours (a function of outside factors that directly influence the number of possible golf-playing hours) were down by 19 percent in the first quarter of 2022 and 9 percent in the second. So, it appears golfers are actually outperforming the weather, which is a sign that despite the hot, rainy patterns that have dominated weather east of the Mississippi River, inflation and high gas prices, golfers were still hitting the golf course whenever possible in the first half of the year.
    "We’ve just passed the half-mile post for the ’22 calendar year," Koppenhaver wrote in his monthly email report. "And things aren’t looking that bad considering the obstacles we’ve had to navigate between the economy, non-cooperating weather and the still fluid work-from-home situation that has been beneficial to golf."
    Despite the weather and other influences, rounds played were up in June in 32 states. The biggest winners were Alabama and North and South Dakota, where play was up 18 percent. Other double-digit increases were in Indiana and Michigan, both up 14 percent, and Kentucky and Tennessee (up 11 percent). The biggest losses were in Hawaii (down 10 percent).
  • For golf course superintendents who want to monitor, manage and track all aspects of their operation in one place, Toro recently introduced the IntelliDash Irrigation and Fleet Management Platform. IntelliDash lets superintendents view real-time data, such as agronomic conditions, labor, asset location and equipment health to help them improve operational efficiency.
    "By bringing together key course elements, the IntelliDash platform provides course managers and superintendents greater visibility to course health and unique access to equipment fleet and irrigation data," said Norma Frotton, product marketing manager for the Toro golf irrigation business.
    IntelliDash can easily integrate Toro equipment and irrigation systems to generate information that users can access from a mobile device or computer to monitor systems in real time. Users also can customize the dashboard to display the information that is most important to them. Data sets can easily be turned on and off to ensure only what's most important to the user appears on the dashboard.
    The dashboard offers information on course and fleet data so superintendents can make informed decisions with information from multiple sources, including weather and radar streams and evapotranspiration forecasts so users can make real-time decisions about course maintenance without leaving the office or home.
    For agronomic conditions, IntelliDash connects Toro Irrigation systems to help users manage water use while maximizing course playability and visual quality while also helping manage labor, track expenses and operational inputs.
    Integration of Toro's myTurf Pro Fleet Management tool helps superintendents track usage, including hours and fuel consumption, schedule maintenance and manage and order parts.
    "With vital course information easily accessible in one location," said Janel Hinde, product marketing manager for Toro commercial equipment, "superintendents and course managers can make confident, data-driven decisions."
  • There are several weed-identification guides available for consumers and turf management professionals alike. There is one that superintendents can carry around in their pockets that can help identify thousands of plants and weeds quickly and accurately.
    The PictureThis mobile app can precisely identify more than 10,000 weeds and plants in a matter of seconds. Developed by the Chinese artificial intelligence firm Glority, PictureThis was named the most accurate plant-identification mobile app by a Michigan State University study.
    The app, which is available on the App Store and Google Play, is free for a seven-day trial, then is $30 per year.
    Users can save plants into their own personal library. The app then provides plant-specific information such as optimal growing conditions, water needs, geographic areas where the plant thrives, when and how to plant and when to harvest, when to water and when to fertilize.
    Another section provides benefits (if any), how does a plant spread and tips on how to eradicate it.
  • Fred Gehrisch, CGCS at Highland Falls Country Club in North Carolina, is working with state and local officials to identify potential new employees. Fred Gehrisch has always been more about finding solutions than stewing over problems.
    When others began to find it difficult to attract assistants, interns and seasonal help, Gehrisch took a different approach, focusing on his recruiting efforts to ensure new hires got the most out of their time at Highland Falls Country Club in Highlands, North Carolina. He tailored job listings to communicate what applicants would get from the experience, rather than what was expected of them.
    "A lot of the ads I read all sound the same," Gehrisch told TurfNet in 2016. "They're cookie-cutter: 'Here is the job, here is the course. Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.' Hiring an assistant is a sales job in two directions. They have to sell themselves to you, but by God, you better be selling what you have to them. You have to prove that you are just as worthy of their investment in your club. Tell them what you are going to do for them. Tell them that you are going to teach them to be a golf course manager, that you are going to teach them to be a leader. Tell them you are going to take them to trade shows and teach them the business of golf course management. Tell them the club is going to invest in them and their future."
    In the post-pandemic golf economy, in which most courses have a surplus of players on the golf course and a shortage of workers managing it, Gehrisch again is seeking new and better ways to find employees. 
    Highland Falls is in the early stages of working with state and local officials on ways to find and attract potential employees who might be seeking to learn a trade but have no idea work on a golf course is even a career option.
    Those efforts include working with the North Carolina State Board of Education on implementing a registered apprenticeship program, and a Workforce Development Board program designed to retrain people who have fallen out of the labor force for a variety of reasons.
    He also is working with local schools to offer field days in hopes of making kids aware that there are careers in golf.
    "Most people don't even know they can do this for a living," Gehrisch said. 
    The apprenticeship program, run in cooperation with the state's public schools system, is targeted toward those who will not attend college, but still need to learn a trade. It offers a mix of on-the-job training and classroom curriculum. 
    The state's Workforce Development Board, which falls under the North Carolina Department of Commerce umbrella, seeks to train those dropouts, veterans, those with addiction problems or have had any other employment issues.
    "When it comes to finding employees, I can't look my board in the eye and say I've tried everything I could to solve this problem if I didn't really try everything," Gehrisch said. "So, we're going to try it."
    Highland Falls is not immune to many of the labor issues that plague other golf courses. Located in a remote area of North Carolina, the city of Highlands is an isolated upscale community, and most employees at the club cannot afford to live there, so they have to commute from a long way away. With one K-12 school in the local community, there is not a large local pool of potential workers from which to draw.
    To solve the housing challenges that so many clubs encounter, Highland Falls offers on-site housing for up to 15 employees and has secured apartments in town for another 10 workers. A renovation project will increase the number of beds for on-site housing.
    "The problem for superintendents is we are used to seeing inputs into a problem and seeing an immediate result," Gehrisch said. "(Finding workers) is not like that. We have to be patient.
    "We have to be proactive in letting kids know we are here and you can do this for a living."
  • When Californians faced mandated water-use restrictions during a six-year drought, groundwater, which was immune from the cutbacks, slipped through the cracks, literally.
    A bill introduced by California Assembly member Steve Bennett of Ventura would permit new well-drilling projects only after proof is provided that they will not harm drinking water or otherwise obstruct sustainable groundwater management.
    AB 2201, known as the "Community Drinking Water Protection Act," is moving through the state Senate, where it faces opposition from some agricultural organizations and water districts.
    Permits for new wells are determined by county governments, which are not required to consider groundwater sustainability when granting them. This is why more than 6,200 new agricultural wells have been drilled throughout California since 2014.
    The bill is aimed at counties in California's Central Valley and Central Coast, which are among the world's most fertile agricultural regions and where new wells have been permitted in high-priority basins, the law would also apply to the sinking of new wells in medium priority basins as well. There is a chance the bill can be amended to apply only to the higher priority groundwater basins, leaving those basins currently in a state of replenishment, such as the golf-centric Coachella Valley, outside the confines of the additional regulatory hurdles.
    Introduced in February, AB 2201 passed the full Assembly by a vote of 44-24 (10 abstentions) on May 23, and was referred to the Senate.
  • For nearly a century, the German company Kress has been a leader in the manufacturing of electric batteries and now professional turf care equipment. 
    A staple in the European market for decades, Kress is expanding its line of professional equipment for the turf industry into the North American market.
    Today, Kress makes a full line of battery-operated outdoor power equipment and small-area autonomous mowers.
    Leveraging the brand’s German engineering and design heritage, Kress will introduce commercial-grade turf management and other outdoor power equipment for turfgrass management professionals in the U.S. and Canada interested in transitioning from gas-powered equipment.
    Founded in 1928, Kress launched to the European market clean, quiet, professional- grade tools. Today, with the brand’s introduction to North America, Kress's proprietary technologies will now be available to turf management professionals in the U.S. and Canada.
    "For decades, Kress has demonstrated its quality, durability and innovation in the European markets," said Don Gao, CEO of Positec Group, the parent company of Kress.
    Kress will make its entry into the North American market at the Equip Exposition (formerly the GIE+Expo) in October in Louisville, Kentucky.
  • With water-use restrictions and fertilizer and pesticide bans making headlines on a regular basis, it is difficult to argue against the benefits of a BMP program.
    Golf course superintendents do not have to adopt or become certified in a BMP to be a good steward of the environment. So, anyone who raises the question of "what's in it for me?" when it comes to BMP certification need only look at Florida for an answer.
    The BMP program developed by faculty from the University of Florida for the state's golf course superintendents officially became law there on July 1. House Bill 967, known as the Golf Course Best Management Practices Certification was introduced Dec. 17, 2021. It was signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis on June 20 and became law July 1. The bill passed through the Florida House of Representatives 112-1 on March 2 and the Senate 38-0.
    "When it was introduced, I was a little surprised it made it," said Bryan Unruh, Ph.D., professor at the University of Florida and associate center director of the West Florida Research and Education Center in Jay, Florida. "I was really surprised it passed both chambers with one no vote."
    The bill provides some level of relief for superintendents who are certified in the UF BMP program that has been adopted by the state's GCSA chapter. Certified superintendents are exempt for some restrictive ordinances, such as fertilizer bans and rules regulating water use.
    There are more than 100 fertilizer bans on the books in Florida.
    "Golf was getting really close to being included in those," Unruh said. "Most prohibit fertilizer applications from May through October. "I'm not sure how you manage a golf course in Florida if you can't apply fertilizer from May through October."
    The law does not provide blanket immunity, however.
    The bill does not provide relief in areas adjacent to Basin Management Action Plan areas, sensitive watersheds that fall under the Clean Water Act of 1972.
    "This is an important step," Unruh said. "It is important to remember this does not give superintendents carte blanche in every situation."
    The inaugural version of Florida's BMP program, which Unruh helped write, was developed 15 years ago. It served as the bones for a national BMP program that Unruh and his colleagues at UF were charged with writing. The program was brought online during the pandemic and is currently in the process of being updated.
    Participation in the BMP program has been on the uptick since the bill was signed into law by the governor.
    "This is a huge win. It recognizes the hard work of golf course superintendents, but it's not a carte blanche exemption," Unruh said. 
    "Superintendents have to be part of the solution. Just because you have a book on the shelf, it doesn't make you part of the solution."
  • After more than a year as a golf course owner and superintendent, Matthew Woodcock has learned a lot. 
    With two seasons of ideal putting conditions under extreme weather conditions and record play, Woodcock, 32, has learned that many of the decisions he has made as owner-operator (along with wife Jill) of Old Erie Golf Club in Durhamville, New York, have been spot on. 
    "We just had the first measurable rain in three weeks, and the greens have never looked better," Woodcock said.
    "Last July, we had 13 inches of rain. It was the wettest since they've been keeping records, and the hottest, and the greens were as good as they've ever been. From one extreme to the other, and the place looks great."
    He also has learned that the jury is still out on some of the other decisions he has made.
    Woodcock, 32, spent almost every waking hour in 2021 at the golf course. He knew it was time to make a change for the sake of work-life balance when he missed his son's baseball season and his daughter Ellis informed him in a not-so-direct way that he was spending too much time at the golf course.
    "I brought her to the golf course and she asked where my bed was," Woodcock said. 
    "I was never home when she went to bed at night, and I wasn't there when she got up in the morning. She thought I was spending nights at the golf course. I'm living the dream. Well, I'm living someone's dream."
    The time focused on the golf course can take its toll.
    About the time this story was published, Woodcock spent the night in the hospital when it was thought he might have had a heart attack. Fortunately, those concerns were unfounded and he was home again the following day.
    Keeping Old Erie playable is not without its challenges on and off the golf course. Whether it is too much rain or not enough, pumping water from any of seven surface water ponds, learning the ins and outs of being a business owner on the fly, making agronomic decisions under severe conditions or doing all of the above with barely enough people to keep a putt-putt course in top shape.
    That laundry list is a big reason why Woodcock spends so much time at the course. Woodcock does everything from change cups to mow to tending bar and cooking hot dogs.
    "It's not hard work, but it's a lot of work," Woodcock said. "I have to get up at 4 or 5 or whenever it takes to get it done.
    "I have four kids and a wife who are depending on me to get this done."
    Woodcock does not have a lot of help, but in this business it is more about quality than quantity.
    Woodcock's team consists of one regular employee and two seasonal high school students, who came on last year just weeks before the start of the school year.

    Sasquatch is the unofficial mascot of Old Erie. Photos by Matthew Woodcock "Everything took a turn here the day they showed up," Woodcock said of his high school help. "They treat everything like it's theirs. This year, they showed up at the beginning of the season, and we were able to hit the ground running.
    Quality help allows Woodcock to take care of some of the cultural practices that help keep Old Erie playable, rain or shine, like aerifying twice a year and verticutting monthly.
    Good help also helps him reclaim some of his personal life.
    This year, he coached his son's baseball team.
    "In the last year-and-a-half, I've learned a lot more about agronomy than business. I've also learned that I have to let some things go," Woodcock said. 
    "Last year, I wasn't able to attend my son's baseball practice. This year, I was able to step away and coach my son's baseball team."
    Not only was he the coach, but the course was the team's sponsor, and the team name was a play off Old Erie's unofficial mascot - Sasquatch. 
    Every team huddle ended with a "1-2-3-Sasquatch!"

    Jill and Matthew Woodcock, 4th of July 2022. Baseball aside, Woodcock is still logging a lot of time at the golf course where his focus is on growing the business further. Rounds and revenue were up by 10 percent in 2021. So far in 2022, play and revenue are up by 45 percent over last year's numbers.
    "As much as I'd like to get up at 3 a.m. and have everything finished by 9 a.m., that's not possible," he said. 
    He still tends bar for tournaments, wants to add more tournaments and events, is working to boost Old Erie's budding junior program and more. Much more.
    "When I say this, I know my wife is probably going to kill me," Woodcock said. "In five to 10 years, I think I want to buy another golf course."
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