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When a series of spring showers dumped 8 inches of rain around the city in mid-April, including 3 inches in a 24-hour period, crews at some of the courses relied on the power of teamwork to alleviate flooding. Others waited for engineering and design features to move water off the fairways. And still others, reminded of last summer's lack of rainfall that left courses throughout the Midwest parched, were thankful the back of that drought appeared to officially be broken.
"This spring was unlike any other I've gone through in recent times. It was cool, wet and constantly raining," said Matt Kregel, superintendent at The Club at Strawberry Creek in Kenosha, Wis., about one hour north of Chicago. "It was constantly raining and we couldn't get out to do much of anything, or not do it well, I should say."
Nearly 3 inches of rain fell on an already soaked Chicago area on April 17-18, leaving many courses under water, including many of the facilities operated by Billy Casper Golf.
The Vienna, Va.-based management company manages more than 20 courses throughout Illinois, including a combined 16 for the Chicago Park District and Cook County Forest Preserve. High water is nothing new at the Chicago Park District facilities that hug the shores of Lake Michigan, or the Forest Preserve facilities located in flood plains near the Des Plaines River. And the superintendents there don't wait for the water to rise before springing into action.
"Our superintendents are used to this, so they don't sit around and wait for it, they prepare for this a couple of days in advance," said Bryan Stromme, regional director of agronomy for Billy Casper Golf.
"We own a lot of pumps. But when we get rain like that we still rent them. Our superintendents are calling two days ahead of time, because if you wait you'll never get one."
The Des Plaines River features a series of locks designed to control high water in Chicago's western suburbs. Once locks open sending water downstream, the pumps go into action to clear water from the golf courses.
Billy Casper Golf also manages the Bridges of Poplar Creek Country Club, a real estate golf course in Hoffman Estates. A recent restoration project there keeps in-play areas on the golf course drier during times of excess rain while also helping to maximize flood control of Poplar Creek, which runs through the property.
Completed in accord with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and other local and state agencies, the restoration included raising fairways to help keep the golf course dry while also expanding the water-holding capacity of catch basins on the property. That allows the golf course to retain large amounts of water for longer periods, then releasing the water back into the creek in manageable levels to prevent flooding in the surrounding neighborhoods.
Sopped ground has been a concern at Strawberry Creek in Wisconsin as well. Cold, wet weather that included snow late into the spring left turf soaked and brown well past historic green-up time, and April's constant deluge resulted in parts of four holes under water in mid-month.
"We had all this moisture, the soil temperatures were cold, there was no sunlight. We were dormant for the longest time," Kregel said. "We were playing the waiting game for a while.
"I know the calendar says May 1, but it's more like March 1."
Kregel can't do much to change the temperature, but he is able to manage water movement off the course thanks to features installed during course construction in 2004-05.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, state department of natural resources and civil engineers designed a three-phase flood control system at Strawberry Creek. That system includes several water-retention areas on the course that capture vast amounts of water during rain events to prevent flooding of nearby residential neighborhoods. A controlled-release system that includes drainage pipes of varying sizes automatically removes water from those areas as water levels in the creek that runs through the property subside. During phase 3, which was realized in April, the system automatically pulls huge amounts of water off the course after water levels in the stream have gone down and stabilized.
That means fairways that are flooded one day, often are cleared the next, leaving nothing behind but a thin layer of silt, Kregel said.
"We were flooded one day, and the next day it was gone," Kregel said. "We're lucky. Everything that backs up onto the golf course is released pretty quickly."
Sam MacKenzie, CGCS at Olympia Fields Country Club also counts himself lucky this spring.
This time last year, MacKenzie and just about every other superintendent in the Chicago area was on the brink of one of the worst droughts the Midwest has ever seen.
A little excess water when temperatures are still cool is a minor setback compared to no water and triple-digit heat, he said.
"Since February, we are at or above normal rainfall levels, and April has been double the normal amount," MacKenzie said. "That's been a good thing here. It's broken the back of the drought.
"Excessive rain is more of a positive than a negative in light of how dry we've been."
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Through his career researching turfgrasses that help turf managers reduce inputs, Engelke also has developed a passion for sustainability.
"Water shortages and salinity are things that we are facing in our industry that are going to be absolutely devastating," Engelke said during a presentation the Turf and Ornamental Communicators Association annual meeting in Portland, Ore.
"We're starting to see it, and we're going to see a whole lot more of it."
Two years ago, Engelke relocated from Dallas to Oregon. Although parts of the state's western corridor receive 60 inches or more of rain per year, rainfall in the Portland area is 8 inches below the historic average, according to the National Weather Service. And some areas of the state, Engelke said, rainfall is off by as much as 14 inches.
"We're in the middle of the rainy season, and we're 14 inches off ourselves, and the snow pack is way off," Engelke said.
"We're going to find ourselves in a drought that the Midwest had last year. And we're not so sure that the Midwest is not going to have that drought again."
Such conditions, Engelke said, are why it is more important than ever to select turfgrass varieties that are best adapted for a specific environment.
In other words, if shade is an issue, choose turf that is bred for shade tolerance. If drought and water restrictions are a concern, choose a variety developed for drought tolerance.
When considering factors such as temperature, moisture and light exposure, Engelke said it is equally important to weigh the extremes of these factors and the duration of these extremes, many of which are affected by shifting climate patterns.
Engelke noted that early in his career the fad in Texas was to install creeping bentgrass putting greens. During the past several years, most of those surfaces have been replaced by one of several warm-season grasses. And that demarcation line is moving farther northward.
"Being green isn't a St. Patrick's Day event," Engelke said. "It's something that is very, very important."
More than 5,000 turfgrass varieties have been developed since the Plant Variety Protection Act was enacted on Dec. 24, 1970 to protect crop species, including turfgrass as intellectual property. With so many varieties bred for specific conditions, Engelke recommends that turf managers examine the most recent NTEP trial results for turfgrass varieties for geographic and environmental adaptability.
"There are a lot of grasses out there that are marketed with a lot of BS," Engelke said.
"BBS is what I support, and BBS is backed by science.' And that's what we want, to make sure we're not promoting varieties based on BS. We want to make sure we have good science behind them."
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Healthy Turf, Healthy Tomorrow is a two-part educational initiative that combines field and classroom instruction all centering around a plant health curriculum designed to provide practical knowledge superintendents can implement on their golf courses.
Attendees will receive instruction on a wide range of topics related to plant health, including how to measure plant health and its benefits, available treatments and preventive products, and issues such as nutrient, water and pest management.
The first phase of the program will include field instruction scheduled for Sept. 25-27 at the Bayer Training and Development Center in Clayton, N.C., followed by two days of classroom training set for March 3-5 at GCSAA headquarters in Lawrence, Kan.
GCSAA Class A and superintendent members who are enrolled in the Bayer Accolades program can apply for one of the 12 slots through June 5 by visiting the Plant Health Academy Web page. Applicants must complete an application and respond to two short-answer essay questions, which will be evaluated by a selection committee of GCSAA and Bayer representatives.
For more information, visit www.backedbybayer.com.
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"The biggest thing is going to be the mapping system and tracking geographic-specific pest problems..." -- John Kaminski
"The biggest thing is going to be the mapping system and tracking geographic-specific pest problems," he said. "That will allow us to crowd source and harness the power of the end user. "We will be able to give them what they want and where they want it." Developed privately by Kaminski, the app (which is not associated with Penn State) is available for the iPhone and Android markets. A version for iPad is due out later this year. It is intended for professional turfgrass managers, such as golf course superintendents, sports field managers, landscape professionals as well as homeowners. "So many people have answers to these problems," Kaminski said. "You don't have to be a university professor to know these answers. Our power is in crowd sourcing our end users."
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George, who was superintendent at the course in Hutchinson, Kan., since 1991, died April 27. He was 57.
A native of Pittsburg, Kan., George developed a reputation for practicing sustainable golf course management long before it became a catch phrase. Prairie Dunes was as much a wildlife-friendly habitat as it was a destination for scratch golfers.
During his time at Prairie Dunes, George was the host superintendent of at least three national championships, including the 1995 U.S. Senior Amateur, '02 Women's Open and the 2006 U.S. Senior Open. He also was a mentor and teacher to dozens of aspiring golf course superintendents.
A skilled golfer, he was being considered for induction into the Kansas Golf Association Hall of Fame at the time of his death.
For all of his accomplishments on the course, George also was a giving member of Grace Bible Church and his community, including serving as a volunteer for the Boys and Girls Club, Toys for Tots annual Christmas toy drive and Big Brothers and Big Sisters.
Survivors include wife Debbie, sons David (Birdie) and Chance and six siblings.
Donations in lieu of flowers can be made to the Stan George Children's Education Fund, in care of Elliott Mortuary, 1219 North Main, Hutchinson, KS 67501.
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Developed in conjunction with the Wake Forest University Schools of Business, the program supplements superintendents' management skills with a curriculum that includes financial management, personnel management, effective communications and negotiating skills delivered in an interactive series of seminars and workshops conducted by members of Wake's MBA faculty. The Syngenta Business Institute is scheduled for Dec. 6-9 at Graylyn International Conference Center on the Wake Forest campus in Winston-Salem, N.C. To apply, superintendents must complete an application that includes an essay on why they believe they should be selected to attend. Syngenta will select 25 attendees from its pool of applicants to attend the event. All expenses, including airfare, hotel and meals will be covered by Syngenta. Application deadline is Aug. 20. Click here for more information or to apply.
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Shaffer, director of golf course operations at Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pa., was one of many superintendents and other representatives from throughout the golf industry to travel to Capitol Hill on April 16 for National Golf Day. The sixth annual event that includes representatives from the GCSAA, PGA of America, USGA, National Golf Course Owners Association, Club Managers Association and the World Golf Foundation, gives golf stakeholders a forum in which they can discuss with legislators and their staffs issues concerning the game and its future. That laundry list of topics included educating legislators and others on Capitol Hill about the economic benefits of golf as well as promoting the environmental stewardship efforts and sustainable management practices of golf course superintendents. "At first, I didn't want to go, but then I thought 'how selfish of me,' " Shaffer said. "My job is to communicate the premise that the golf course superintendent is responsible for the success of golf." Shaffer recalled firing back to one lawmaker who asked him to define sustainability. "I told him to pick up the phone and call a guy who has $400,000 to run a golf course," Shaffer said. "He'll tell you all about it, because he has nothing and still makes it all happen." Many people, including some in Washington, have shaped their opinions about the relationship between golf course management and environmental sustainability by what they read and hear in the mainstream media. But those perceptions are slowly changing, at least inside the halls and offices of the Capitol, said Darren Davis, CGCS at Olde Florida Golf Club in Naples, who was in Washington for his second National Golf Day. "From last year to this year, it's improving," Davis said. "Many of them are beginning to get it that we are a business, and they're not lumping us as an elitist activity. "We don't want special treatment. We just want to be treated like any other industry." Changing the way some view the golf industry has required a constant drum beat of the game's economic data, including 2 million golf-related jobs and a total economic impact of $176 billion annually, according to We Are Golf. GCSAA president Pat Finlen, CGCS at The Olympic Club in San Francisco, was in Washington for his fourth visit on National Golf Day. During this year's visit he met with, among others, staffers' from the office of Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Cal.), who in the past has spoken unfavorably of golf courses and use of pesticides and water.
"I can't say all (on Capitol Hill) are getting it, but some are," Finlen said. "We're making a lot of headway in helping them understand golf is a business." As a business, the golf industry has needs, and National Golf Day also gives the We Are Golf contingent an opportunity to lobby for other needs. Shaffer said he and other superintendents in Washington lobbied for relief funding on behalf of East Coast golf courses affected by Hurricane Sandy. Davis noted how certain tax-relief measures now in place for golf courses likely are a direct result of regular attendance by GCSAA members and others on National Golf Day. GCSAA members also lobbied for a special use exemption for methyl bromide and for changes to pending legislation that would require a state-by-state interpretation of the need to file paperwork when applying pesticides in proximity to water bodies. Like everything in Washington, decisions on legislation and exemptions come slowly, but you can't get what you don't ask for, Davis said. "The world is run by people who show up," Davis said. Representatives and senators and their staffs are bombarded by people all day who are asking for something. When they go home, they have to defend their position on things relating to golf. They need answers, and we are there for that. We want to be a resource for them in answering questions, and before National Golf Day, they didn't have that. Before, we were talking about it to each other, but that's preaching to the choir. "Now, I preach that if we want to keep our jobs in an industry that I love we have to talk about its benefits. We have to go forward with a unified voice and mission, because undoubtedly there is strength in numbers."
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"I am very confident in our security measures and protocols," said USGA spokesman Joe Goode. "Some of them I cannot discuss, because then our security protocols no longer would be secure." When spectators arrive at Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pa. For this year's U.S. Open scheduled for June 13-16 they can expect to be subjected to strict security measures that are the result of a template the USGA uses to ensure a safe environment at all of its many national championships. Typically, the USGA works with local, state and federal law-enforcement agencies on safety protocols. In the case of this year's U.S. Open, that list includes the Haverford Township Police Dept., Pennsylvania State Police, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Homeland Security, Goode said. "The safety and security of spectators, 200,000 of them expected over the course of the week, the players and their families, the 5,000 volunteers that come out and help stage the event on our behalf, and our staff we take that very seriously." Large, walk-through magnetrometers, the same devices that scan passengers at airport security checkpoints, will await U.S. Open patrons at Merion's main entrance, and handheld wands will be used at secondary entrances around the perimeter of the property, Goode said. Items forbidden on the Merion grounds during tournament week will include cell phones, smart phones, personal data assistants, mp3 players, tablets, backpacks, coolers and large bags. Still, the ease with which something like the Boston bombings - in which three people were killed and 176 others were wounded - can be carried out is a reminder that safety protocols for large-scale events must be continually examined and modified to ensure a reasonable amount of safety. "In our planning we do take into account many contingencies, including the type of threat and the type of incident that unfortunately occurred in Boston," Goode said. "It's always prudent to continuously review these plans to determine if additional measures are necessary, and we're doing that right now. We do that because we have to consider that we a major championship is being conducted in the outdoors in a largely open environment. "In light of the events at the Boston Marathon we are reviewing our security measures and partnerships with those state, local and federal authorities. And we'd be remiss if we didn't." Matt Shaffer, director of golf course operations at Merion said tournament director Hank Thompson and his staff have been busy since long before the Boston Marathon ensuring a safe and secure venue for the Open. "I'm sure what's happened in Boston doesn't give them any extra level of comfort, but the security already is unbelievable," Shaffer said. "Fifty-seven days out (before the Open) and everyone who is working out here is wearing credentials, the property is fenced off in advance, and every law-enforcement agency is in here. If you're not wearing credentials, you get checked and you have to put it on." One of the first areas of concern for USGA officials, Shaffer said, was the maintenance facility, namely the fertilizer storage area. Shaffer's crew moved into their new 26,000-square-foot facility in late 2010. It includes a separate storage unit with locked, explosion-proof cabinets specifically for fertilizer. "We've explained to them that the types of fertilizers we have constitute minimal volatility," Shaffer said. "And, by then our inventory will be low just because we need the space for other things for the Open. The maintenance facility also is fenced off from the rest of the golf course for the tournament and armed police will guard two entrances to the building during the Open, Shaffer said. "This site is already secure," he said. "This is truly a secure compound." Interns also live in housing units in the maintenance facility and an overnight custodian offers an additional layer of security. Lefty Fleck, who cleans the maintenance facility from 8 p.m. to 4 a.m. daily is not your average clean-up crew. A former gunnery sergeant and boxer in the U.S. Marines during the Vietnam War, Fleck also serves as, according to Shaff, a sort of a den mother to Merion's interns. "If my mother was like that, I'd have been scared to death of her," Shaffer said. "If I'd known when we built the place that we were going to hire Lefty, we could've save money on gates, because I dare anyone to come in here overnight when he's here."
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If that's the norm, Kevin Bauer at Prairie Bluff Golf Course near Chicago is the exception. There was a time when the Lockport Township Park District, where Bauer is the equipment manager, spent tens of thousands of dollars on outside repair work. Today, that budget line item has been reduced to almost nothing, not because of cutbacks, but because of Bauer who oversees equipment maintenance for the park district and all its disparate parts, including Prairie Bluff Golf Course, 40 square miles of parkland and athletic fields, and a park police department. Although golf course equipment managers might have a reputation for being underappreciated, that is not the case for Bauer, last year's recipient of the TurfNet Technician of the Year Award, presented by Toro. Upon learning that Bauer had been named the winner of the Golden Wrench Award, parks director Sue Micklevitz threw an awards luncheon that was attended by the entire park district staff, many of who took to the microphone to express their gratitude to their head mechanic. If your equipment manager is as valuable to your operation as Bauer is to his, then give your mechanic his due and nominate him (or her) for this year's Golden Wrench Award. The winner receives not only the Golden Wrench, but also a weeklong training session at Toro University at the company's headquarters in Bloomington, Minn., making your highly skilled equipment manager an even more valuable employee. Criteria on which nominees are judged include: crisis management, effective budgeting, environmental awareness, helping to further and promote 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. Three finalists and a winner will be chosen from a panel of judges that include the sitting Tech of the Year winner; Peter McCormick, Jon Kiger, John Reitman and Randy Wilson of TurfNet; Richard McGuinness of Horry-Georgetown University; John Piersol of Florida Gateway College; and former TurfNet contributor and inaugural Golden Wrench winner Eric Kulaas. Click here to nominate your technician (or someone else's) in 500 words or less. Please provide specific examples of his or her achievements. The nomination deadline is May 1. Previous winners include 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.
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That's because The Pines Course, one of two 18-hole layouts at this 50-year-old facility, has just emerged from a nine-month total renovation by Greg Norman Design. Opening-day festivities drew 300 participants, some of them regular patrons who were part of a committee that worked closely with city officials on the $4 million redo.
It's the first municipal venture by the Australian-born designer whose worldwide business empire is based in nearby Jupiter. It's also a move by Norman's design firm that reflects the new, more modest, more budget-conscious realities of the national and international golf market. The investment took some courage from Pompano Beach, a city of 100,000 located midway between Miami and West Palm Beach. Residents have had access to affordable municipal golf since 1960, when the design team of Bruce Devlin and Robert von Hagge built the Pines and Palms courses on a flat, 305-acre tract adjoining Pompano Beach Airpark. For years, the airfields chief claim to fame was that it was home to the Goodyear Blimp. Now it'll be known as the airport that adjoins a smartly crafted Greg Norman design.
Work on the Pines included a partial rerouting of the first few holes, new drainage, significant tree work and removal of the invasive Brazilian pepper plant that seems to be creeping over the South Florida landscape like kudzu in the Southeast or Japanese knotweed in the Northeast. The corridors were nudged wider; bunkers were rebuilt and shifted to add strategy; greens and surrounds were rebuilt from scratch; ponds cleaned up and a new irrigation system put in; and 1960s-style moundingwas removed, with the fill used to shape out chipping areas and build new tee platforms.
Planning work began two years ago, with construction starting in May 2012. Main builder Quality Grassing worked closely with Normans project manager, Chris Campbell, and his design associate, Tad Burnett. At the opening ceremony last month, Norman likened the job to turning a pigs ear into a silk purse. Creating a course that's playable for everyone, he said, was a marked turnaround from the 1990's, when builders, developers and architects worried less about costs, difficulty or sustainability.
In every way possible for Pompano Beach, its new municipal Pines Course is a return to sound basics of the game.
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At least 18 superintendents are scheduled to represent the GCSAA when the We Are Golf coalition meets with members of Congress on Capitol Hill. Superintendents scheduled to make the trip include members of the GCSAA Government Relations Committee: Charles Wolsborn; Don Naumann; Luke Cella, CGCS; Margo Campbell Szabo; Peter Grass, CGCS; Rafael Barajas, CGCS; Robert Nielsen, CGCS; Scott Sewell, CGCS; Scott Hines, CGCS, Travis Moore; and Zachary Bauer. Also scheduled to attend are president Pat Finlen, CGCS, and board members John O'Keefe, CGCS, John Fulling Jr., CGCS, Keith Ihms, CGCS, and Darren Davis. Other superintendents scheduled to attend are Matt Shaffer of Merion Golf Club and Bob Farren, CGCS at Pinehurst Resort. Also represented on the trip will be members of the National Golf Course Owners Association, Club Managers Association of America, PGA of America, PGA Tour and The World Golf Foundation.
The purpose of the trip is to share information and new data about golf's diverse businesses, employees, tax revenue creation, tourism and charitable benefits, and environmental leadership, according to the GCSAA. Part of the daylong series of events will include members of the group sharing with lawmakers stories of what golf means to them. The members of We Are Golf also will present Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) and Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-N.C.) the inaugural Lawmaker of the Year award. Some of the highlights and data industry representatives plan to cover can be found on the We Are Golf Web site. Those who work in the golf business but cannot attend still can make their voice heard by visiting twitter.wearegolf.org and using #iamgolf to share why to them golf is more than a game. For example, Davis, superintendent at Olde Florida Golf Club in Naples, Fla., tweeted "Golf courses increase green space & benefit(s) the environment, making golf more than just a game," and Rep. Joe Baca (D-Calif.) tweeted "Golf has $15.1 billion econ(omic) impact & creates 160K+ jobs in California alone."
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With the active ingredient amicarbazone, Xonerate is a 70 percent water dispersible granular formulation labeled for control of annual bluegrass in cool- and warm-season grasses. The new EPA label says Xonerate can be applied twice at the 2 ounce rate in spring at 10- to 21-day intervals, or at 1 ounce every seven days for as many as four applications. The label also notes that Kentucky bluegrass should be established for at least 12 months before Xonerate is applied. Xonerate is approved for use in 47 states with the exceptions being California, New York and Washington. For more information, read the 2(ee) recommendation.
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