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From the TurfNet NewsDesk

  • John Reitman
    Deere goes mobile with parts platform

    John Deere has launched a mobile version of its parts Web site that allows customers easier access to much-needed parts. 
    By visiting jdparts.deere.com from a smart phone or tablet customers can view equipment parts information from nearly any location. 
    Like its desktop counterpart, the mobile version allows customers to quickly access parts information, pricing, availability and order parts online. Customers can search by parts catalog, model number, part number or keyword to locate the appropriate parts and attachments.
    For more information, visit jdparts.deere.com.

    Lebanon tabs Bially as new product manager

    LebanonTurf recently named Paul Bially as product manager for its biostimulant division.
    Bially brings years of turf industry experience to LebanonTurf, including prior service with Aquatrols and Precision Labs in which he worked extensively with surfactants and other specialty products. 
    Most recently, he worked as a sales and technology specialist for Lamberti USA managing the company's line of surfactants, polymers and pigments.
    For more information, visit www.lebanonturf.com.

    Hunter controllers earn EPA nod for saving water

    Hunter Industries' AC-powered controllers that are paired with Solar Sync sensors will carry the WaterSense label for professional turfgrass managers interested in getting the most for the least from their irrigation systems.
    Controllers to carry the WaterSense label will include X-Core, Pro-C, I-Core and ACC lines. Hunters' controllers are the only in the industry to carry the label granted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
    Water Sense is an EPA partnership program that recognizes products that perform as well or better than their less-efficient counterparts, are 20 percent more water efficient than average products in their category, realize water savings on a national level, provide measurable water savings results, achieve water efficiency through several technology options, are effectively differentiated by the WaterSense label, and obtain independent, third-party certification.
    For more information, visit www.hunterindustries.com, or www.epa.gov/watersense.
  • When it comes to golf course architecture, few if any course designers have left an imprint as longstanding as that of Donald Ross. His name is attached either as the architect of record or for restoration efforts to as many as 400 golf courses.
    Golfweek, TurfNet's sister property, is offering Ross fans, or those interested in knowing more about his contributions to the game, a three-day symposium at the home of one his most renowned creations - Pinehurst No. 2. The event will showcase the accomplishments of Ross as well educate attendees on how to implement classic architectural concepts into restoration and renovation work.
    Donald Ross and the Art of Golf Architecture Restoration is scheduled for Nov. 10-12 at Pinehurst Resort in North Carolina.
    Scheduled speakers include Golfweek's Bradley Klein,; architects Tom Doak, Tom Fazio, Rees Jones, Scott Pool and Ron Pritchard; Bob Farren, CGCS, director of golf course maintenance and grounds at Pinehurst; Pete Garvey of Idle Hour Country Club in Lexington, Ky.; Jim Mrva of Monroe Golf Club in Rochester, N.Y.; Larry Hirsch of Golf Property Analysts; and Paul Wold, former green chairman from the Country Club of Rochester (N.Y.).
    The event includes a round of golf on the Pinehurst No. 2 layout.
    For more information, visit www.golfweek.com.
  • Anyone unsure of Brian Sjögren's work ethic could have learned all they needed to know after an impromptu safety meeting recently at the central Californian golf course where he has worked for more than 20 years.
    The meeting was called as a ruse to assemble the crew at Corral de Tierra Country Club to discuss safety issues over lunch. A wrinkle in the program came when Sjögren, 58, was awarded the TurfNet 2013 Technician of the Year Award, presented by Toro. Shortly after the gathering adjourned the crew went back to work, including Sjögren who had been busy with a multitude of tasks, including rebuilding mowing reels. In his rush to get back to the shop, he'd left his award on the table where he and co-workers had been eating lunch just minutes before.

    "Did he forget it? I'm not surprised," said superintendent Doug Ayres as he looked down and gathered up the Golden Wrench Award to return it to its rightful owner.

    Sjögren is a self-taught mechanic who can fix or make just about anything, a brute with vendors over pricing, an amateur civil engineer who designs and builds bridges and a wildlife enthusiast who enjoys the company of wild birds that have nested inside the maintenance shop and eat from a feeder erected in a flower bed outside its doors.
    Sjögren was selected from a list of three finalists that also included Jonothon McGuigan of Fox Meadow Golf and Country Club on Canada's Prince Edward Island and Ed Greve of Highland Woods Golf Course in Hoffman Estates, Ill.
    TurfNet has been presenting the award annually (almost) to a golf course equipment manager who excels at one or more of the following: crisis management, effective budgeting, environmental awareness, helping to further the careers of colleagues and employees, interpersonal communications, inventory management and cost control, overall condition and dependability of rolling stock, shop safety and work ethic.   Previous winners include Kevin Bauer, Prairie Bluff Golf Club, Crest Hill, Ill. (2012); Jim Kilgallon, The Connecticut Golf Club, Easton, Conn. (2011); Herb Berg, Oakmont (Pa.) Country Club (2010); Doug Johnson, TPC at Las Colinas, Irving, Texas (2009); Jim Stuart, Stone Mountain (Ga.) Golf Club (2007); Fred Peck, Fox Hollow and The Homestead, Lakewood, Colo. (2006); Jesus Olivas, Heritage Highlands at Dove Mountain, Marana, Ariz. (2005); Henry Heinz, Kalamazoo (Mich.) Country Club (2004); Eric Kulaas, Marriott Vinoy Renaissance Resort, St. Petersburg, Fla. (2003). No award was given in 2008.  
    Since Ayres arrived at Corral de Tierra eight years ago, he has undertaken one giant project after another. In that time, he has accumulated a vast inventory in turf maintenance equipment that must be operational on a moment's notice.

    "We do a lot of projects here, and if something breaks down, we need to get it back out here quick," said assistant superintendent Rick Smith. Having somebody like Brian who is a good troubleshooter is huge. He can figure things out pretty quickly and get it back out on the golf course."

    Sjögren has been working on cars since his days as a student at nearby Pacific Grove High School. He started working on Volkswagens and his parents' cars, before graduating to more complex projects.

    His career in the golf business began 29 years ago when he was mowing greens and raking bunkers at Quail Lodge and Golf Club in Carmel Valley. He also spent a two days each week helping the club's mechanic in the shop and filled in when the tech was on vacation.

    Since then, he has become an integral part of the team at Corral de Tierra.

    If a project requires a specialized tool that has yet to be invented, Sjögren will build it. He also maintains a lean inventory that includes only the most oft-used parts. If he doesn't have what he needs, he scours the Internet for the best price, even if, in some cases it means having something shipped from around the world.

    He also manages a biodiesel-production program in which he makes about 40 gallons of fuel per week from used cooking oil he gets from the Corral clubhouse as well as from nearby Pasadera Country Club.

    In 2012, that program yielded about 2,000 gallons of biodiesel produced at a cost of 90 cents per gallon, vs. the $4-plus per gallon rate for standard diesel fuel, resulting in a savings of about $6,000 in fuel costs, Ayres said.

    The program has been so successful that the Toro Workman Ayres uses to get around the course has never used anything but biodiesel concocted by Sjögren.

    Sjögren's contributions to the maintenance operation at Corral de Tierra, located between Monterey and Salinas, go far beyond rebuilding mowers, grinding reels, ordering parts and managing an inventory of $2.4 million in machinery and equipment. He also plays an active role in planning and managing many of these projects, helping take them from the drawing board to completion.

    "In order to accomplish all the massive projects and changes over the last eight years, I have counted on Brian to help think out innovation solutions to all my problems," Ayres said.

    Help from assistant technician Mario Gonzalez frees up Sjögren to take on some of Corral's bigger projects.

    In the recent past, Sjögren has helped design and build bridges able to withstand mower and tractor traffic, a skill he learned on-the-job at Corral de Tierra. In fact, he'd built several bridges at the club before Ayres arrived on the job. When his new boss didn't like the design of one of the bridges on the course, Sjogren altered the design, copying from a vehicle bridge he'd seen at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park.

    The only problem for Sjögren was that the railings were too heavy and caused the bridge to sway, a problem rectified by the addition of buttress supports.

    "After that, it was fine," Sjögren said.

    The modular design also means that if individual parts of the bridge fail in the future, it can be dismantled in piecemeal fashion and repaired without deconstructing the entire bridge.

    "With the first bridge we did at No. 3, there are some imperfections. Someone else might not notice them, but I can see them," Sjögren said. "But after the first one we did, each one got better, looked better and was done faster each time.

    "We've always been good about doing projects over the years, but since Doug has been here we've taken on big projects. And it's been good experience. People now are more likely to go headlong into a project where before they might have been more hesitant."

    Sjögren went above and beyond the call of duty of any equipment manager in 2011 when he and Ayres inspected the clubhouse after they received a call from someone saying they could smell natural gas outside the building near the club's No. 9 green.

    Closer inspection revealed a 1-inch hole in a gas line. Exhaust fans left on in the clubhouse were sucking the gas out of the building where gravity was at work, causing the fumes to settle down over the golf course.

    While the pair were inspecting the line, a spark ignited the gas, causing a huge flash that enveloped his superintendent's head.

    "Doug was in shock for a while, I could tell," Sjögren said. "We high-tailed it out of there and hit the fire alarm.

    Actually, Sjögren made a stop along the way, warning members in the club's fitness center to get out.

    "The gas had been on all night," Ayres said. "If the exhaust hadn't been on, the whole building would've blown at some point."

    Both emerged relatively unscathed, save for some singed eyebrows on Ayres' face and what he described as a glowing complexion that resembled a sunburn.

    "There was supposed to be an emergency on-off valve, but there were no signs and we couldn't find. When we eventually did, the handle was missing," Sjögren said. "We were pretty lucky. Someone from the fire department told us we should buy a lottery ticket."
  • Waite leads 3 superintendents to win in John Deere Pro-Am
    Talk about global appeal. Leading the winning team at this years John Deere Classic Superintendent Pro-Am was PGA Tour professional and New Zealand native Grant Waite. He was joined by Jason Manfull of Crow Valley Golf Club in Davenport, Iowa; Rich Hohman, president of Kitson and Partners, Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., and Ben Tilley of Headland Golf Club in Queensland, Australia. The winning team emerged from the 28-team field with a net 54. Held July 8, the event is conducted annually in conjunction with the PGA Tours John Deere Classic at TPC Deere Run in Silvis, Ill.
    Representing John Deere in the winning group was Rob Jeske, general manager of corporate business for the company's agriculture and turf division.
    Rich Hohman of Kitson and Partners; Rob Jeske general manager of corporate business for John Deere Agriculture and Turf; PGA Tour player Grant Waite; Ben Tiller of Headland Golf Club; and Jason Manfull of Crow Valley Golf Club won this years John Deere Classic Superintendent Pro-Am at TPC Deere Run.
    Bayers Tribute Total OKd for use on zoysia
    The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has approved Bayers Tribute Total herbicide for use on Zoysiagrass.
    With the active ingredients foramsulfuron and thiencarbazone-methyl, Tribute Total is labeled for control of 55 varieties of grassy and broadleaf weeds, including creeping bentgrass, ryegrass, crabgrass, goosegrass and dollarweed.
    Bayer Environmental Science launched Tribute Total in May 2012 for use on Bermudagrass.
    Tribute Total can be tank mixed with pre-emergent and other post-emergent pesticides, and should not be applied within eight weeks of overseeding.
    For more information, visit www.backedbybayer.com.
    Simplot acquires some seed varieties from Scotts
    The J. R. Simplot Co. and the Scotts Co. recently finalized an agreement to transfer several turf seed programs, including Sea Spray Seashore paspalum, from Scotts to Simplot. Scotts has been communicating to customers and partners that as part of their divestiture from the professional seed market, they have been looking for a suitable partner to take certain programs. 
    Other seed programs included in the deal include three Kentucky bluegrasses; Midnight, Midnight II and Midnight Star.
    Along with these programs, Simplot also welcomes Gordon Zielinski who will manage the paspalum program and perform other duties. Zielinski was formerly a director of Pure-Seed Testing Inc., and the CEO of Turf Seed Inc., and most recently worked with Scotts as director of international seed sales.  
    In other news, Jacklin Seed by Simplot named Katie Dodson senior turfgrass scientist.
    She will conduct research trials that help demonstrate the benefits of Jacklin turf seed varieties.
    For more information, visit www.simplot.com.
  • It's beginning to seem like a lifetime ago when gains in rounds played dominated golf industry news in 2012.   Year-over-year rounds played are down every month this year, including 5.5 percent in May, according to Golf Datatech's National Golf Rounds Played Report that surveys 3,530 private and daily fee facilities nationwide. The drop marked the sixth consecutive month in which play was down compared with the same month the previous year, according to Golf Datatech.   The last month in which play was up was November 2012, when participation jumped 2.6 percent.   Although play was down overall nationwide, there was an increase in demand in 18 states, including Hawaii, which led the country with a 7.3 percent bump in participation.    Year-to-date rounds played are down 12 percent nationwide, compared with the first five months of 2012. Dailey fee and private facilities both are feeling the pinch, with year-to-date play down 11 percent at public access facilities and 16 percent at private clubs.   The biggest losses in May were felt in the northern plains states, including North and South Dakota (down 31 percent), Iowa (24 percent) and Kansas (20 percent).    The news could have been much worse. Golf playable hours, a statistic compiled by Jim Koppenhaver's Pellucid Corp. that measure of the total number of daylight hours compared with factors that influence play such as precipitation, humidity, daylight variances, etc., were down 3 percent for May. The year-to-date measure for golf playable hours is down 17 percent compared with the first five months of 2012, according to Pellucid.
  • In an era in which some golf course operations scrutinize how nearly every penny is spent, a host of decisions made in an effort to save money now, can be costly long-term mistakes.
    Larry Hirsh, whose firm Golf Property Analysts provides brokerage and consulting services for golf courses, said there are many decisions made by cost-conscious owners and operators that blow up in their faces.
    The biggest problem I see with member-owned clubs is that everyone wants to be a champion of saving money, Hirsh said. And they do so to a fault. Its not all about cost.
    Hirshs list of top mistakes clubs make in the name of cutting costs includes: allowing facilities to deteriorate, cut costs to diminish quality, ignore member satisfaction, limit golf course maintenance, allow food quality to slip, reduce service, failure to reinvest in the club, emphasize cost over value, incur too much debt, resist change.
    Clubs are about value, Hirsh said. I was a member at club that refused to make the club better and move forward. As a result, it failed.
    Cutting corners can affect golf course maintenance, particularly because turf maintenance typically represents the largest chunk of a clubs budget.
    Hirsh said clubs in financial straits often look to golf course operations because they fall into a trap of thinking that effects of cutting expenses a little will go unnoticed.
    To help superintendents avoid the pitfalls of the decisions of cost-cutting members, Gary Grigg, CGCS, a former superintendent and now vice president of Grigg Brothers Foliar Fertilizers, speaks regularly on the need for a program-based budget.
    It is critical in order to meet golfer expectations as well for job security for the superintendent that the golf maintenance budget includes expectations for course maintenance along with a corresponding cost for each task required to produce those conditions, Grigg said in a TurfNet University Webinar.
    Grigg recalled from his days of managing multiple courses that each had different levels of maintenance, yet all had one thing in common.
    Every course had membership that wanted their course to be the best, Grigg said.
    Most want more than they are willing to pay for."
    The key to success for any course and its greenkeeper, Grigg said, is creating club buy-in of the budget process. That means learning what conditions on the golf course are most important and what the club is willing to spend. Only then can superintendent and members sit down and figure out what the club can get for its money.
    Its not your budget, its their budget, Grigg said. Most want the best. You need to find the best they are willing to pay for.
    And when that buy-in means making cuts to the budget, it is up to the superintendent to inform them that doing so will mean cutting into maintenance practices, too.
    They have to understand if they cut money from your budget that they are taking money out of your programs, Grigg said. And if theyre taking money out of their programs, then their approved standards might not be met.
    Those who fail to convince the club of the importance of written stands run the risk of constantly trying to hit a moving target, one that changes depending on who is judging the work of a superintendent.
    Written maintenance standards establish expected results and a baseline of acceptable conditions. They have a place in all golf operations regardless of size or stature.
    In his Webinar presentation, Grigg borrowed a line from Jon Scott, agronomist for Nicklaus Design.
    The quicker you can develop and publish a written standard document for any club, rich or poor, private or public, the more likely the expectations will match the resources. The biggest problem I see today in my maintenance consulting work is expectation levels are not being managed well enough, and they almost always exceed the resources available to the superintendent. This inevitably leads to conflict and loss of credibility. The end result is usually a change of superintendents.
    Hirsh agreed every superintendent and club need to reach agreement on a maintenance plan.
    When membership is down and the board wants to cut costs, they look at the maintenance budget because it is so large, and they think they can cut a little there and no one will notice, he said. Every golf course needs a written maintenance plan, and we can help them make one. In the written plan, when the board cuts the budget, it is incumbent on the superintendent to show them what is going to happen when they make those cuts. Are you going to rake less often, mow less, raise height of cut? When the board says theyre going to cut $50,000, the superintendent has to show them the specs of what that is going to mean. That is Job One.
    Even a set of agreed-upon maintenance standards is not enough to stop budget cuts in times of economic concern. When the board or an owner/operator decides to make cuts to the maintenance budget, there is a right way and a wrong way to handle the news.
    Don't say no, I cant do that, Grigg said. If you have a program-based budget lay down the management plan and your standards policy and say 'which programs do you want me to eliminate or cut, because I'm going to have to cut that money out of programs, and how is this going to affect our standards policy?'
    Many courses are adjusting budgets without adjusting standards. Standards have to adjust to the means, and the best way to do that is to have a written document that everyone can read and understand. Not everyone may agree to it, as there will always be dissenters. Many think that all they have to do is just impose a smaller number and superintendents will rise to the occasion, or they will someone else who can.
  • Family affair

    By John Reitman, in News,

    One of the common complaints golf course superintendents hear is that they don't spend enough time with their families.   That's not the case with Eric McPherson, superintendent at Omaha Country Club, site of the U.S. Senior Open. McPherson still spends plenty of time at the course, as many as 100 hours per week in the run up to this year's Open. The thing is his wife, Stephanie, who is the office manager in the OCC maintenance shop, spends a good deal of time there each week as well often as many as 50 hours per week.   "When I came here, they really wanted me to be outside and get the golf course into shape," said McPherson, who has been at OCC since February 2011. "I really needed someone inside to help me achieve all I needed to achieve. She does everything in here, and it's one more way for us to spend more time together."   An advertising professional by trade, Stephanie McPherson has been her husband's office manager for the past 10 years, when Eric was superintendent at Point Judith Country Club in Narragansett, R.I.    It's only fitting that one of her accounts in the advertising business was Border's, because she also proofreads and edits every piece of communication that leaves the shop.   "She has very good proofreading skills," McPherson said. "Nothing goes until she sees it first."   Stephanie McPherson also is the volunteer coordinator for the championship, making sure that the dozens of people coming onto the property to help keep the course in top shape are credentialed and have accommodations and transportation while in town.   A graduate of Michigan State University's turfgrass management program, McPherson, 40, has a great deal of tournament prep experience. Before Omaha Country Club and Point Judith Country Club, he worked from 1998-2003 at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md., the last three years of which he spent as superintendent of the Blue Course, site of the PGA Tour's AT&T National.   But his greatest accomplishment in the golf business is assembling the championship crew he has in place at OCC, including assistant superintendents Spencer Roberts, Jeffrey Thoman and Jarod Kalin, as well as equipment manager Randy Strohfus. Together they've produced a course worthy of a national championship, and for that McPherson is grateful.   "I think this course has surprised a lot of people," McPherson said. "People come here and they don't expect this much changing terrain. The course is firm and fast, and it plays longer due to the elevation changes.   "Everything has come to fruition here. We have a great staff. My job now is to figure out what they want to do and help them get to that next level and help them succeed and keep our members happy."
  • Participants at three First Tee chapters will learn first hand what it is like to be a golf course superintendent.   Careers on the Course is a summer initiative made possible by John Deere that introduces teens in the program to golf course management and the science of agronomy. Developed in conjunction with the PGA Tour, the program will be in place throughout the summer at TPC Sugarloaf near Atlanta in July and Cog Hill Golf and Country Club, Chicago, in August. The program kicked off last month at TPC Boston. It will be expanded into additional markets in the future.   "The Careers on Course program builds on the leadership development activities already taking place in The First Tee while providing participants with the opportunity to better understand the business of golf course maintenance," said James M. Field, president of John Deeres Worldwide Agriculture and Turf Division.   Deere announced in February that it would contribute $1 million over five years to The First Tee, a non-profit youth organization that uses golf as a platform to teach life and leadership skills and provide character education programs for young people.     Participants in the Careers on Course program learn from professionals who work at PGA Tour golf courses partnering with The First Tee. Students will learn the work required to present a well-manicured, environmentally safe and playable course. In addition, participants will also receive an introduction to club operations. The program curriculum was developed in conjunction with the PGA Tour.   In 2014, select participants will be invited to the Deere and Company World Headquarters in Moline, Ill., and TPC Deere Run in nearby Silvis, Ill., to learn about business operations and other career opportunities.  
  • There is a great deal of hoopla surrounding the preparation for a major golf championship and deservedly so. The amount of work required of a superintendent, staff and volunteers is immense, especially in the face of grueling conditions, as was the case at this year's rain-soaked U.S. Open at Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pa.   Relentless rains made the final run-up to the tournament a daunting task for Merion's Matt Shaffer and his crew. The rain hasn't stopped since Justin Rose hoisted the trophy in mid-June, making a return to normal playing conditions equally challenging. And unlike Open week, there aren't a lot of volunteers around to help.   Many of the challenges before, during and after the Open are a direct result of a rainy June that will go down in the history books as one of the wettest months ever in the Philadelphia area.    A total of 10.56 inches of rain fell in June in Philadelphia, marking the wettest June ever for the city, and the sixth wettest month on record since 1872. It also was fourth time in the past 10 years that 10 or more inches of rain have fallen in any month in Philadelphia, the others being August 1873 (11.79 inches), September 1882 (12.09 inches), August 1911 (12.10 inches), September 1999 (13.07 inches) and August 2011 (19.31 inches).   At Merion, 7.2 inches fell in the first two weeks of June, including 3 inches in one day the week before the tournament. An additional 3.5 inches has fallen since, complicating the comeback from this year's national championship.    That June deluge resulted in washouts prior to the Open on Merion's East Course, suspended play on Day 1 and accelerated turf growth around the property, making mowing a challenge. The constant pressure of one downpour after another also beat clippings into the turf canopy.    Getting the course back into shape for members is tough enough. Doing so between showers on an already-soaked golf course borders on ridiculous.   "All the equipment is returned, our buildings are back to normal and we have had some really rainy weather, so the staff is well rested," Shaffer said.   "I would think by next year this time it will look as though nothing has happened. We have a great membership, and I think they are so excited about playing golf again that they will be patient with rough grass."   Playing surfaces in some areas around Merion indeed are thin and in need of repair and much of the infrastructure required to conduct last month's national championship still is in place including on Merion's West Course, which was used primarily as a staging area for hospitality tents and spectator viewing.    "Everything (on the West Course) is good here, except the gravel roads and the first fairway that had bleachers on it for three weeks. But all the other 17 holes are open," Shaffer said. "All the tents and bleachers are not down yet, and none of the TV towers are down, but they assured me in another week I will be amazed."   The East Course greens, even on the flood-prone 11th hole, came through mostly unscathed. The exceptions are Nos. 2 and 6, which, Shaffer said, will require about 60 plugs each.    "Which is nothing at all when you think we resodded 45,000 divots last year," Shaffer said.   Cut to a height of .093 inches, the 90-10 bent-Poa surfaces are now being mowed at a member-friendly .103 inches.   Approaches took the biggest hit on the golf course.   Shaffer has hit those areas with solid tines twice already, but the beating they took throughout the tournament, including double mowing daily, has made core aeration a must. The constant rain has made that task impossible so far, Shaffer said.   Patron walkways in the fairways (80-20 bent-rye mix) have been pressure washed and reseeded. Most are on the mend, but some of the hardest-hit areas continue to lag behind. The same can be said for out-of-play areas where recently cast seed has yet to germinate, Shaffer said.   Some of Shaffer's more challenging times have been in the rough areas, where rain resulted in rapid growth through the tournament, and impaired Shaffer's ability to get the mix of grasses (bent, fescues, Bermuda, rye and even some weeds) down to desired tournament heights of 4 to 5 inches. Continual rain since has made getting them down to a member-friendly 2.5 inches equally tough.   Although the return to normal has been a challenge, what matters most to Shaffer is that the hard work by his crew and volunteers, and himself, combined with a tight, tough Merion layout provided a national championship that club members can be proud of.   "All in all, even though the weather was a challenge, it turned out to be an extremely successful U.S. Open for the club, and all the members are extremely excited, so I too am very happy," he said. "I did it for them. I think future championships at Merion are a better bet than when I got here, and I think we had a little something to do with that."
  • He might be gone from the turf business in an official capacity, but Peter Dernoeden, Ph.D., doesnt appear to be going anywhere any time soon.   Dernoeden, 65, a widely published turfgrass pathologist serving the industry for more than 30 years, retired this week from his position at the University of Maryland. Although he no longer is working out of his College Park office, he said he hopes to continue his work as a consultant after he and wife Kathleen relocate to Delaware.   A native of the Philadelphia area, Dernoeden earned bachelors and masters degrees from Colorado State University. He joined the Maryland faculty in 1980 shortly after earning a doctorate in plant pathology from the University of Rhode Island. Two years later he started the schools turfgrass field day, which has grown into one of the industrys most highly regarded annual research events.    "Peter Dernoeden is one of the top turfgrass pathologists in the world. He has had a major and very positive impact on turf managers not on in Maryland, but throughout the U.S. and abroad," said Rutgers turfgrass professor Bruce Clarke, Ph.D. "He has been a dedicated mentor to his students, a tremendous asset to his colleagues, and a friend to everyone in the industry. His departure leaves a very big void in the scientific community. I will miss seeing him at professional meetings and wish him the very best in his retirement."   Dernoeden, whose areas of expertise include weed and disease management in turf as well as development of integrated pest management strategies, is a prolific writer. He authored or co-authored several books on various turf management topics, including Turfgrass: Biology, Use and Management (American Society of Agronomy, 2013), which he co-authored with John Stier, Ph.D., Brian Horgan, Ph.D., and Stacy Bonos, Ph.D. He counted his work at Maryland on etiology, epidemiology and management of dead spot, spring dead spot, patch diseases, dollar spot and Pythium-induced root dysfunction among his most important work.   He served turf managers in Maryland through extension work and reaches others outside the state through his vast amounts of peer-reviewed research.   "Dr. Dernoeden's retirement will leave a large hole to fill in turfgrass pathology. Superintendents not only in the Mid-Atlantic but around the world have come to rely on the insight that Pete has brought over the years in managing healthy turfgrass," said Mike Giuffre, director of greens and grounds maintenance at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md. "Pete was always there to support superintendents in maintaining healthy turf to meet the expectations of the golfing public. He tirelessly made field visits to golf courses to help whenever called upon.  His work in the field of pathology is second to none, providing insight to superintendents on turf diseases, their life cycles, cultural controls as well as chemical controls. Pete brought to the table a unique combination of a thorough knowledge of disease pathogens and course conditioning practices. He used this knowledge to provide common sense approaches to managing turfgrass diseases."     When reflecting on his career, Dernoeden credits Jack Butler, Ph.D., and Noel Jackson, Ph.D., formerly of Colorado State and URI, respectively, with helping him along the way.   "They were my mentors and helped me greatly," Dernoeden said by email. "(I) had a lot of support from the Maryland Turfgrass Council, Mid-Atlantic and Eastern Shore of golf course superintendents, USGA, as well as ag. chemical companies like Syngenta, BASF, Bayer, Dow and others."   Cornell University associate professor and fellow URI graduate Frank S. Rossi, Ph.D., said Dernoeden helped him in the formative years of his career, and that his dedication to tirelessly assisting others was a result of working under Jackson.   "Pete did a lot of important work. He was always very busy, but he always found time to return my phone calls," Rossi said. "He helped me a lot in my early days.   "Pete held himself to high standards because Noel held all of us to those standards."
  • Toro's new Tier 4-compliant 5410-D and 5510-D Reelmaster fairway mowers are now available. The Tier 4-compliant 5410-D and 5510-D meet new requirements for lower emissions and reduced environmental impact.   Powered by a 36.8 hp Yanmar diesel engine, the new mowers feature direct injection for clean-burning power and improved fuel efficiency, common rail electric system for precise control of fuel injection, cooled exhaust gas recirculation to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions, diesel particulate filter which minimizes particulate matter in exhaust, and Toro's InfoCenter LED display with on-board diagnostics and maintenance reminders.   The new Yanmar engine was selected for these models based on low total cost of ownership, fuel efficiency and intelligent engine technology. See this article for more information.   Direct injection technology has traditionally delivered better fuel efficiency than alternative technologies, Toro says. Although field test data is limited, Toro says it is confident that their new Tier 4 final mowing solutions will deliver improved fuel efficiency for Turf applications.   The Yanmar engines also have a modern, state-of-the-art design with a more robust bottom end, including crankshaft, connecting rods and bearings.
  • When Larry Pakkala, CGCS, resigned his last post as a golf course superintendent five years ago, he swore it would be his last . . . unless he could work for a single owner of a private club.   Pakkala had pretty much given up hope of that ever happening. Then, when he wasn't looking, that dream job appeared just a few minutes down the road from his Connecticut home.   After trading the profession he'd known for 40 years for an industry sales position, the 60-year-old Pakkala in January was named superintendent of Silvermine Golf Club in Norwalk, Conn.   "I said I'd never get back in it again unless I found the right spot. This is the right spot," Pakkala said.    "This is not your regular country club."   Silvermine is a 27-hole layout built on 98 acres by John Warner. Opened in 1959, the course still is owned by Warner and his siblings, Billy and Kitty. It has no green committee and no chairman, just owners.    Pakkala, who still works as territory sales manager for New Jersey-based Plant Food Co., accepted the Silvermine post with the understanding that he would be on the job for just a few years while he trains longtime assistant Chris Vitali to take over and waits for his wife, Carole, a local school administrator, to retire. When the latter happens, the couple plans to relocate to their winter home in Longboat Key, Fla.    "Before I accepted the job, I met with the staff and told them my No. 1 goal was to give them the tools they need to succeed, then step down," Pakkala said.   "I'm going to be here three or four years training the staff to come into 21st century maintenance practices."   Pakkala has made his presence known immediately.   "The attention to detail and the playability of the golf course have improved dramatically," said assistant professional Matt Noel.    "The course was nice before, but Larry has taken it to another level."   Pakkala will continue to serve Silvermine as a consultant after he retires. So, the club will continue to benefit from his experience for years to come, whether it is long-distance advice given from a Florida beach, or in person during trips north in the summer.   "I'll be on call forever," he said. "My deal includes lifetime membership, so I'll be here playing golf in the summer and helping the club bring back members."   Noel said a key to Pakkala's success is that because he plays a lot of golf he can see the course from a player's perspective.   "He understands what it takes to make this place into a gem. And that is what it is," Noel said.    "The greens used to Stimp at about 8. Now, they're about 10. And that's as fast as we can get them with the slope we have. A 10 here is really like an 11 or 12 because of the slope. If they were any faster, you wouldn't be able to putt on them."   Despite the unique situation at Silvermine, Pakkala hardly has an open checkbook for course maintenance. In fact, it's anything but a sky's-the-limit operation.   Before Pakkala arrived, membership levels in recent years had fallen from 400 to 350, give or take, due to a combination of a lagging economy and faltering playing conditions. Membership levels, like course conditions, are on the rebound.   "We've gotten it to another level. But the next level from here is very expensive," Pakkala said. "The course is up to snuff. It's as good as I can get it on the budget I have. In fact, it's in damn good shape.   "We've already gained some new members. Our goal is to put this course on the map. The prognosis here is for a good future."  
  • Just about every golf course maintenance facility has one - an old farm tractor that, thanks to the skill of a wily equipment manager, defies time.   While every contemporary red, green or orange mowing unit produced today comes with manufacturer-installed rollover protection that includes a roll bar and seat belt, some of those old agricultural-style tractors that many golf courses still rely upon might lack that same protection.   A recent incident in the Pittsburgh area is a reminder that all pieces of mechanized equipment used on golf courses, regardless of age, must be in compliance with current safety standards, and that any superintendent who has an old tractor that hasn't been retrofitted with contemporary safety features should have his mechanic do so immediately.   On June 10, 66-year-old Dennis Miller was killed when he fell off a farm tractor and into the reels of an open seven-gang unit he was towing at Cherry Wood Golf Course in Apollo, Pa.   Bell Township Police and the Westmoreland County district attorney's detective unit said, according to published reports, that Miller was mowing a flat area near the 14th hole at Cherry Wood when the front of the tractor he was operating tilted upward, ejecting him from the seat and back into the gang unit while it was in operation. It was not known whether the machine had a seatbelt, but if it did Miller must not have been wearing it. It also was not known whether the tractor was equipped with an operator-presence switch that disables the unit when the driver is not seated. When contacted by TurfNet, Det. Thomas Horan of the district attorney's office declined to provide further information.   Rollover protection, including a roll bar and seat belt, is required on all mowers weighing 882 pounds to 1,323 pounds with a lateral or longitudinal stability angle of less than 30 degrees and all mowers weighing more than 1,323 pounds, according to the American National Standards Institute and the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute. Agricultural tractors with an output of 20 hp or more also require rollover protection, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The exceptions are low-profile tractors as well as those used to tow large agricultural implements, such as harvesting equipment, that would prevent rollovers, according to OSHA. Farm tractors are not required to be outfitted with an operator-presence switch, according to the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers.   Miller had been working on the course for about an hour when a co-worker discovered his body about 3:50 p.m., police said. There were no golfers in the area at the time.
  • Garret Bodington was introduced to golf the way many young boys are by sneaking onto the course after hours or between foursomes and playing a few holes without the burden of green fees. He quickly became hooked on the game after his first few forays onto Sakonnet Golf Club in Little Compton, R.I. Given his zeal for the game, it wasn't long before he became involved in more legitimate concerns at the club, like working in the cart barn and eventually managing the golf shop before launching a career as a golf course superintendent.    Cart barn to pro shop is an unorthodox route to becoming a greenkeeper, said Bodington, now superintendent at Sebonack Golf Club in Southampton, N.Y. But it's one that has served him well in the run-up to this year's U.S. Women's Open that began June 27 at Sebonack.   "At a young age I learned how to interact with members," Bodington said. "That experience was invaluable and really formed who I am."   A graduate of the University of Rhode Island, Bodington, 40, has been at Sebonack since construction there began in 2004. Before becoming a head superintendent he worked at some of the country's most famous courses, including Augusta National Golf Club and Bethpage Black, where he worked the Masters (1997-99) and U.S. Open (2002), respectively.   Bodington also volunteered with the USGA at last year's U.S. Open at The Olympic Club in San Francisco. There he worked alongside USGA officials on the Stimpmeter team, helping provide the world's best players with consistent putting conditions throughout the championship.   For the U.S. Women's Open, patrons and TV viewers will experience a golf course that Bodington says captures the best of classic and modern-era architecture.   Built along the environmentally sensitive Peconic Bay, Sebonack is the result of a collaborative effort between architects Tom Doak and Jack Nicklaus. The course evokes the classic-era look associated with Doak's layouts as well as the high risk-reward options common to Nicklaus designs. Bodington said it reminds him of another team effort that revolutionized the game. (Click here for a hole-by-hole rundown of the course.)   "I like to compare this combination to (the Augusta National tandem of) Alister MacKenzie and Bobby Jones," said Bodington, who oversaw construction of Sebonack. "This course has Tom Doak's look and routing combined with Jack Nicklaus's strategy.   "We took a minimalist approach and tied the golf course in so that it looks like it has been here a long time. We wanted people to enjoy the natural beauty of the course with the bay in the background. It's a beautiful spot and I'm glad that people will get to experience what I see every day."
  • Creating a buzz

    By John Reitman, in News,

    Going green has been en vogue in the golf business long before sustainability became a public relations buzzword.   As managed out-of-play areas on courses around the country give way to wild flowers there are more big-picture benefits to going native outside the ropes than just reduced mowing frequency and saving water. Ongoing research at the University of Kentucky shows that establishing the right plantings can help resuscitate dwindling bee and butterfly populations as well, making establishment of wildflowers not only environmentally sound from a turf management perspective, but also a responsible part of any restoration program that includes native areas.   Wildflower areas can help revive dwindling bee populations and also can provide needed sanctuaries for migratory butterfly colonies that are losing habitat for a variety of reasons, according to UK entomologist Dan Potter, Ph.D., and graduate assistant Emily Dobbs, who have adopted a European program aimed at helping these insect populations.   Started in the United Kingdom in 2003, Operation Pollinator involves establishing nectar-producing plants that are beneficial to native bee populations that have been on the decline around the world since the 1990s.    Potter, recipient of the 2010 USGA Green Section Award, wanted to bring the program to Kentucky, and Dobbs volunteered to make it part of her master's research. What started as a side project for Dobbs has transformed into a passion with plots established at UK's A.J. Powell Research Center as wells as on five golf courses around Lexington.   "It's no longer a side project," Dobbs said. "It's become my favorite part of my master's project."   Dobbs worked with Sharon Bale of UK's horticulture department and Diane Wilson of Applewood Seed Co. in Colorado to develop a list of 27 nectar-producing perennials that are native to Kentucky as well as other parts of the transition zone. Dobbs has developed three mix programs as she continues to zero in on the best mix to promote bee and butterfly activity on golf courses, parks and horse farms throughout Kentucky and the rest of the transition zone.    "We're still working on what is the best mix," Dobbs said. "It doesn't do us much good if we include a flower that doesn't attract more than one specie of bee."   Scott Bender, CGCS at Marriott Griffin Gate Golf Club in Lexington said the Operation Pollinator plot located between the Nos. 2 and 8 greens has generated interest among some of his golfers thanks to signage that marks the area.   "That gave us a story to tell," Bender said.    "Our philosophy here is that any time we can showcase something that is positive for the environment and it doesn't detract from our golfers' experience, then we're going to do it."   For superintendents who believe establishing a butterfly and bee garden might take more time and resources than they can afford, Bender said: "It requires almost no time or resources, and the area, we barely touch it, and it's easy to establish. For me, it was a no-brainer."   Although Dobbs' work is still in the experimental phase, the research is producing positive results with several species of bees, both social and solitary, as well as butterflies and moths among the regular visitors to her plots.   The cause or causes of declining bee and butterfly populations is not fully understood by researchers, but some blame some of the pesticides used to control insect pests on golf courses.   Some chemical classes, particularly neonicotinoids that are used in agricultural production as well as turf and ornamental protection, have come under heavy scrutiny for alleged non-target effects on bees and other insects. Although no peer-reviewed studies in the United States have linked neonicotinoid use to declining bee populations, the European Union in April voted for a two-year restriction on some pesticides within that chemistry class.   What researchers do know is that something is causing a spike in bee mortality and reproductive rates as well as a problem called colony collapse disorder. The latter is a phenomenon in which the bees lose the ability to effectively forage for pollen and find their way home to the colony. Dobbs said that neonicotinoid use since the 1990s, along with parasitic pressures and habitat loss are coming together to affect bee populations.   "It's a very complicated issue, and I don't think anyone really knows what is causing colony collapse. I do know that the belief in the academic community is that several things are combining to create a perfect storm, such as habitat loss and fragmentation, pesticide use and parasitic pressure," Dobbs said.    "Any one of those things alone wouldn't be enough to take down a bee colony, but when they're all happening at the same time, the bees can't withstand that."   Whatever, the cause for declining populations of bees and butterflies, there are many who share Dobbs' passion for helping protect them.   Since being implemented in the United Kingdom 10 years ago, Operation Pollinator plots have been established on more than 2,000 sites across 15 countries, with some bee populations increasing by 600 to 1,200 percent across Europe, according to Syngenta, which helps support the program worldwide.   It is Dobbs hope that once her research is completed that others will be able to put it into place throughout much of the transition zone. The flowers in her study also are native to many other states, including Alabama, Indiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee and Virginia.   Marriott Golf will be replicating the program at some of its other courses, Dobbs said.    "Hopefully after this year, the experimental part will be done and anyone can pick out a wildflower mix and put it out wherever they want to," she said.   "And it's not just for golf courses. This can go into any area schools, gardens, horse farms. I'm receiving a lot of feedback from those who are interested and want to use it as an educational tool.    "In different areas it might take some tweaking. I don't think you can lay this down in Montana and get the same results, but the backbone of the project has been laid down, and it should be pretty straightforward to adapt a mix we've created."
  • For golf course superintendents who maintain rolling terrain Jacobsen recently launched an updated version of its AR-522 rotary mower.   With Jacobsen's SureTrac four-wheel drive traction and weight transfer control, the AR-522 is a five-gang unit specifically designed for mowing undulating green and tee complexes as well as intermediate rough areas.   "The hilly and contoured roughs of golf courses are just as challenging for superintendents as they are for golfers," said Rachel Luken, product manager for Jacobsen. "The peaks and valleys of these areas can be very difficult to maintain and as a result, cut quality can vary greatly. By enhancing the climbing and ground-following capabilities of the AR522, we've made it easier for superintendents to get a superior after-cut appearance on their contoured rough areas."   Jacobsen engineers equipped the new AR522 with the SureTrac parallel-cross-series traction system, the same system that's on Jacobsen's new LF510 and LF550/570 fairway mowers. The SureTrac system automatically transfers power where needed to provide superior performance on hills. The AR522 also features an advanced weight transfer system that allows for balancing of the machine's weight between the traction unit and decks for optimal traction and ground following in varying terrains.    The AR522 also is equipped with Jacobsen's TrimTek decks that feature a downdraft blade for mulching capabilities. The decks' three-tiered opening distributes clippings evenly for an attractive after-cut appearance. The TrimTek deck also gives users the ability to mulch or discharge, depending on their needs.    "Even though golfers don't want to play out of the rough, they still expect them to look good," said David Withers, President of Jacobsen. "The new AR522 helps give our customers better-looking roughs, especially in their contoured and hilly areas."   The AR522 contour rotary mower will be available in July. 
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