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From the TurfNet NewsDesk

  • John Reitman
    The U.S. Supreme Court on June 21 refused to hear Bayer's appeal to halt thousands of lawsuits claiming its Roundup herbicide is responsible for causing cancer. The decision upholds a $25 million award filed by a California man who claimed Roundup and its active ingredient glyphosate caused his non-Hodgkins lymphoma.
    The ruling also complicates Bayer's plans to stem the 30,000 outstanding claims that glyphosate causes cancer. Bayer, which acquired Monsanto and its popular glyphosate-based weedkiller in 2018, set aside $15 billion to settle current and future cases. So far, the company has settled approximately 107,000 cases, with about 30,000 still outstanding.
    Claims against Monsanto and now Bayer stem from a 2015 ruling by the World Health Organization that glyphosate is likely carcinogenic, a claim the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has rejected.
    A favorable ruling by the Supreme Court likely would have ended the threat of future litigation against Bayer.
    The ruling was the second blow in less than a week to Bayer and its attempts to cancel thousands of claims.
    In a separate ruling, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on June 17 rejected the EPA's claims that glyphosate does not cause cancer, that the EPA failed to adequately considered the risks of using glyphosate, which could force another review by regulators.
    Bayer announced last year that it would discontinue sales of Roundup in the consumer marketplace by next year, when it will be replaced by products with a different active ingredient. Roundup will remain available in the professional segment.
  • For nearly two decades, Green Start Academy has helped prepare assistant superintendents for the next stage of their careers.
    The 17th annual class is scheduled for Dec. 12-14 at Pinehurst Resort. Hosted by John Deere, Bayer and Rain Bird, Green Start Academy is a career-development program covers budgeting, resume writing, networking and more.
    Green Start Academy will bring 50 assistant superintendents from throughout North America to Pinehurst for this educational and networking experience. From the lectures and round table discussions with the top leaders in the golf industry to best practice exchanges, Green Start provides assistants with knowledge and tips to help with their professional growth.
    Since 2006, the goal of this program has been to help assistant superintendents build a strong foundation for their careers as well as to support the future of golf courses and the entire golf industry by offering growth through networking, professional development courses and interactive peer groups.
    Each year’s program features educational and mentoring sessions from some of the most respected superintendents and leaders across the industry. The Academy is a chance to forge connections and skills that can last a lifetime.
    The application deadline is Aug. 1.
  • Not all heroes wear capes.
    Throughout his career as a superintendent, Rick Tegtmeier has ordered enough gasoline and diesel to last through the next golf season. Locking in a season's worth of fuel at a locked-in price protects the golf course from potential shortages and price volatility.
    There likely have been many years that his decision to buy fuel at a locked in price has gone unnoticed. This is not one of those years, as Tegtmeier's decision to buy a season's worth of fuel will help keep the budget in line this year at Des Moines Golf and Country Club in Iowa.
    During the winter offseason, Tegtmeier contracted 7,500 gallons of gasoline at $3.25 per gallon and 9,000 gallons of diesel at $2.90.
    "I did this back in December and January. I look like a hero right now," Tegtmeier said. "But come budget time next year, this is going to kill us."
    The average cost of a gallon of regular gasoline on June 16 was $5.01 per gallon, according to the American Automobile Association. That's an increase of 63 percent from a year ago. Diesel is even higher at $5.76, an increase of 80 percent from a year ago when the average price was $2.58 a gallon. Given those numbers, it is no surprise that 60 percent of Americans say pain at the pump is affecting their summer travel plans, according to a recent Washington Post poll.
    At Winged Foot in Mamaroneck, New York, Stephen Rabideau is paying rack rate for fuel - $4.95 for gasoline and $5.27 for diesel. The added cost has done nothing to curb the enthusiasm of golfers.
    "For us the expectations are the same on the course," Rabideau said. "So it's going to cost more."
    Al Choiniere at Rocky Ridge in Vermont is in a similar situation, with delivery surcharges on fuel deliveries and just about anything that arrives by truck.
    "Gas last fill up was $5.19, and diesel was $6.29. They charge for delivery now too," he said. 
    "I am paying a surcharge per pallet delivered based on the price of diesel."
    The rising cost of fuel does not discriminate between private clubs and daily fee operations.
    Steven Scott had been managing Persimmon Hills Golf Course in Sharon, Tennessee for almost 10 years when he and his wife Tracy bought it two years ago.
    They reaped the benefits of Covid-induced golf that resulted in record play of 518 million rounds nationwide last year.
    This year, he is paying $5.60 per gallon for gasoline and $5.20 diesel. The increase in the cost of fuel comes right off the bottom line. 
    "Right now we are still eating the extra costs of fuel and parts," Scott said. "Any plans for equipment have been put on hold as we've seen more problems with availability than we have with cost.
    "And with a significant amount of our play coming from seniors on fixed incomes, we have not increased our pricing as significantly as some other courses have."
  • Nothing lasts forever.
    Throughout 2021, golfers played a record 518 million rounds. This year is not shaping up to be a repeat performance.
    According to Golf Datatech’s monthly report, rounds played were down 13 percent through April, compared to the same period last year. Year-over-year rounds played were down in 38 states, with the biggest losers being Minnesota (down 65 percent) and Wisconsin (52 percent). In the few states where rounds played were up, only Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont, which Golf Datatech groups together as one locale, showed a significant increase at 29 percent.  
    Jim Koppenhaver’s Pellucid Corp., which tracks all manner of data related to participation, says the inventory of golf playable hours - a function of golf-friendly hours throughout the day - is down 11 percent so far this year.
    "May was one of those sneaky bad outcomes," Pellucid principal Jim Koppenhaver wrote in his monthly newsletter. "There weren’t any major, headline-grabbing weather events impacting large sections of the country, but we just got ding’d day-by-day in enough geography to make a significant difference." 
    So, is today the day the golf world hoped would never come, or is it a temporary bump in the road caused by external factors, like weather? 
    A total of 21.3 million people played 518 million rounds last year, which was a 5 percent increase over 2020 and represented nearly a 20 percent increase over the pre-pandemic golf economy. The 518 million rounds played in 2021 matches the industry high previously set in 2000.
    Those gains were remarkable, considering that in two years of a global health crisis, the golf industry gained back all of the 85 million rounds played that it took two decades to lose.
    Koppenhaver’s weather model separates the country into 45 geographic regions. Golf Playable Hours in May were down in 35 zones, neutral in six and up in only four.
    The results for April were similar to those in March when year-over-year rounds played were down by 7.5 percent.
    "The April scenario mirrors March’s results and falls into the typically-unsupported industry assertion of 'it was the weather,' " Koppenhaver wrote. "But, this month, it actually was."
    Nothing lasts forever. Or does it?
  • Leasha Schwab, Cathy Harbin, Laurie Bland, Stephanie Schwenke of Syngenta, Kayla Kip, Ellen Davis, Beth Guertal, Ph.D., and Jan Bel Jan (left to right) at the third annual Ladies Leading Turf event at the 2020 Golf Industry Show. Photo by John Reitman Anyone who has met Beth Guertal, sat in on one of her presentations at a regional or national conference or watched any of her captivating webcasts knows her passion for the turf business has been driven by a desire to help others. Whether it is sharing her decades of experience in fields such as soil health and fertilizer efficacy, or promoting careers in turf to other women, Guertal has devoted more than 30 years to the industry she loves.
    After nearly 30 years as a professor and research scientist at Auburn University, Guertal retired from her post on June 1 to start a new position with Kansas State University. Guertal was named program director for the Center of Excellence on Mitigation, Adaptation, and Resilience to Climate-Change in Haiti, a multi-university effort led by KSU's Sustainable Intensification Innovation Lab. Guertal is responsible for managing the center's day-to-day operations and serving as a leader in the national education, research and outreach community.
    "It's the chance to do significant international work," Guertal said. "Turfgrass will still be involved, because in some places it is an excellent way for people to get training and move into significantly better work at resorts."
    The Center is funded through a five-year, $12 million grant from the U.S. government focused on agriculture-led economic growth in Haiti. The Center of Excellence will work closely with a consortium of six universities in Haiti including Quisqueya University, the lead partner university, and Faculté d'Agronomie et de Médecine Vétérinaire in Port-au-Prince; Campus Henry Christophe de Limonade and North Christian University in Cap Haitien; and American University of the Caribbean and University Notre Dame in Les Cayes.
    The goals of the Center are: increasing institutional and human capacity and social capital to better meet the demands of the agricultural economy and workforce needs; developing revenue-generating services to provide to the region; and establishing technology parks to showcase high-potential Climate Smart Agriculture technologies and strategies to sustainably intensify smallholder production systems.
    The program's head, Guertal will be based in the U.S. in her garage office in Alabama, but the work takes her to Haiti and eventually other locations around the globe to improve conditions for people in the Caribbean country that shares an island with the Dominican Republic.
    "It will be a lot of travel, working with projects around the world," she said.
    "We will all be developing BS and MS degrees in various areas of agricultural science. And then also developing research and technology parks in the country."
    Geurtal says after nearly 30 years in the turf industry, she will conduct some work in that field in her new job as it relates to efforts in Haiti and will continue to dabble in the U.S. professional turf industry.
    That is a relief to many of her colleagues.
    "Dr. Guertal has been my go to person for many years when it comes to questions on fertility and turf management," said Leah Brilman, Ph.D., director of turf products and technical services for DLF Pickseed and Seed Research of Oregon. "She has also studied carbon sequestration in relation to turfgrass management. She is instrumental in looking at claims for soil additives scientifically. Dr. Guertal is also excellent in explaining the soil systems in an approachable way making it easier for users to make good decisions."

    Beth Guertal, Ph.D., (left) spent nearly 30 years at Auburn before accepting a post at Kansas State to improve conditions for the people of Haiti. Photo via Twitter Guertal's published research includes titles such as Decomposition, and carbon and nitrogen release from turfgrass, Carbon dioxide flux from bermudagrass turf as affected by nitrogen rate, Soil management, fertilization, and irrigation and Cost effectiveness of erosion control covers during vegetation establishment under simulated rainfall.
    Throughout her career, Guertal has been a regular speaker at chapter and national GCSAA events as well as at Sports Field Management Association (formerly the STMA) conferences. She also has mastered the art of engaging audiences through distance learning and because of that she has been a regular presenter of TurfNet webinars.
    As important as her work in research and education has been, Guertal has played an equally critical role in promoting the role of women in turf long before it became an industry trend.
    "Beth, what a great person. Fondly known to me as Dr. Sugar, she has been a great mentor to myself and so many other people in our industry," said Sally Jones, general manager and superintendent at Benton Golf Club in Minnesota. "Beth is no nonsense, so you know you're getting her honest opinion. And when needed, she kindly states what needs to be said and moves on.   Beth has a kind spirit that is welcoming and cheerful which has made her so approachable as a mentor and friend.  
    "She stands out as a predominant figure in our Women in Turf clan, which she has so rightly earned. Her tenure in our industry has made her a highly respected individual. She will be missed in her position at Auburn,  but she has let us know that we haven't seen the last of her."
    Guertal has been a regular fixture at the Syngenta's Ladies Leading Turf program and Bayer's Women in Golf conference in 2019 and was on the volunteer crew at the 2021 U.S. Open at Olympic in San Francisco. But the efforts to promote the role of women in the field started long before.
    "Our original Women in Turf started with the few women in the professional side having a lunch or dinner during the Crop Science meetings to which we invited women graduate students," Brilman said. "We have become more organized and before the pandemic had a quite large group. Last year we had a meeting at Crop Science, in which women came and went from (other meetings) with a total of 25 to 30 women. We now have Women in Turf in the SFMA and GCSAA meeting, also. Women are welcome at all levels and we try to be available for questions."
    While some of Guertal's work as it relates to Haiti will include some work in turf, she will still be an occasional fixture in the U.S. professional industry.
    "I don't think I could ever fully leave the supportive and wonderful folks in turfgrass," she said. 
    Said Jones: "She's a high-quality educator. When attending her seminars, you almost always walk away with something new. And she has the best way to hold your interest in the topic at hand."
  • Research at the University of Florida established plant growth in soil from the moon taken from three separate missions. Photo by the University of Florida When Alan Shepard struck the longest chip shot ever hit while walking on the Moon more than 50 years ago, little did he know at the time that with a little atmospheric oxygen and some water he could have been hitting off lush turf despite being more than 200,000 miles from the nearest golf course.
    Scientists at the University of Florida have grown plant life in soil from the Moon. The results of their published research showed that plants can sprout and grow in lunar soil.
    The researchers were able to establish several arabadopsis plants from seed in test tubes in just a few teaspoons full of soil, 
    The study, led by researchers Rob Ferl and Anna-Lisa Paul, is the first step toward one day growing plants for food and oxygen on the Moon, or during space missions. The study utilized soil brought back to earth from 1969 to '72 during the Apollo 11, 12 and 17 missions.
    Arabidopsis is widely used in the plant sciences because its genetic code has been fully mapped. They said growing arabidopsis in the lunar soil allowed the researchers more insight into how the soil affected the plants, down to the level of gene expression.
    "We wanted to do this experiment because, for years, we were asking this question: Would plants grow in lunar soil?" Ferl said. "The answer, it turns out, is yes."
    The research helped establish that the soil from the Moon does not hold any lethal pathogens, and might eventually lead to more knowledge about soil properties on this planet and how to grow healthier plants.
    The next phase of research will seek to examine whether plants can grow in space in soil from the Moon during the upcoming Artemis program. The inaugural Artemis space shot, an unmanned orbit of the moon, is due to launch June 19.
    Researchers are anxious to learn whether the introduction of water will change the soil properties of moon dirt.
    "The Moon is a very, very dry place," said Stephen Elardo, Ph.D., assistant professor of geology at Florida. "How will minerals in the lunar soil respond to having a plant grown in them, with the added water and nutrients? Will adding water make the mineralogy more hospitable to plants?"
  • Representatives from SiteOne Landscape Supply were on hand earlier this year in Detroit to work with children from Selina Johnson's Hollywood Golf Institute. Photos by SiteOne It might be easy to be intimidated when you grow up singing in the same church choir that gave rise to a Motown legend, but Selina Johnson has never been one to back down from a challenge.
    A member of the New Bethel Baptist Church where Aretha Franklin's father C.L. Franklin was pastor for more than 30 years, Johnson has led a life in which she has mingled with the rich and  been humbled by decades of service introducing children of Detroit to golf.
    For the past 50 years Johnson, 71, has brought golf and its many character-building benefits to more than 4,000 kids in Detroit through her Hollywood Golf Institute. Since 2021, she has incorporated golf course architecture and other facets of the game to teach kids the STEM skills needed to succeed in life.
    "Many people don't like children on golf courses until they already know how to play golf," Johnson said. "I take them when they can't play. I speak up for these children, and we develop good, productive citizens."
    This year, SiteOne Landscape Supply is partnering with Johnson to bring in experts from other areas of the golf industry to help her students learn the relationship between STEM skills, golf and life.
    "Detroit metropolitan area schools don't offer golf course or agriculture science programs like they did years ago," said Dawn Hicks, Detroit area business manager at SiteOne. "So after speaking with Selina and hearing her vision for the project, we jumped at the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of the students of Hollywood Golf and influence the green industry with this STEM project."
    Earlier this year, SiteOne organized sessions with its various business categories to talk with the students. They studied irrigation practices and the technology in smart controllers, spoke with the agronomics team to learn about turf seed and fertilizing practices and how to build and manage a golf course. 
    "They were so excited to learn about all the different roles in golf," Johnson said. "We owe so much to a corporation that has that kind of vision. The kids asked so many good questions. I was blown out of the water."
    The inspiration for Johnson's journey comes from her family. A natural athlete who excelled in track and just about anything else she tried, including golf eventually, Johnson is the product of a close, tight-knit family that has supported every endeavor she has undertaken. 
    Her father worked two jobs to support the family, her mother coached kids from the neighborhood in many sports and her grandmothers were local business owners. Her siblings all excelled in the arts, one sister was a concert pianist and the other on violin, and a brother who played drums. A natural athlete, she excelled in many sports growing up on Detroit's north side. 
    Johnson has a lifetime of stories to tell, but one in particular sticks with her today as an example of how important it is to reach out to others in need.
    As a child, Johnson helped out at her grandmother Sommora Turner's soul food restaurant in Detroit where she sat customers who came through the door. Johnson recalls a man who ate supper there every evening, but never was given a bill for his meal. When she asked her grandmother about it, Johnson learned the man's wife worked in the restaurant, and the price of a free meal meant the man's wife did not have to miss work to prepare supper for him at home. She didn't have to clock out and lose money, and Turner did not lose a valuable employee during the dinner rush.
    "She told me that some things in life you can live with and some you can't. She could live with that," Johnson said. "I am a product of 20 people in my community.
    "It was an enjoyable time in Detroit. Regardless of what you see now, back then it was people who wanted to make the playing field level."
    To use a track analogy, Johnson took the baton from her family to speak for children in the community without a voice.
    Since she began her Hollywood Golf Institute, Johnson has not only taught children how to play golf, she has taken them around the country to participate in tournaments from California to Florida. In 1995, she was able to get enough tickets to take 47 of her students to The Masters.
    "When the kids see it, and see the players that close," Johnson said, "it changes you."
    Johnson is the first African American woman to receive the Card Walker Award for outstanding contributions to junior golf. She also was in the inaugural class of the International Afro-American Sports Hall of Fame and was also inducted into the African American Golfers' Hall of Fame.

    One of the students from the Hollywood Golf Institute works on building a model of a golf course. By teaching her students about golf course architecture, a task that includes designing miniature models of individual holes from tee to green, Johnson is able to teach her students not only about hole design, but how to play the game from a tactical standpoint and how to set up the next shot. Students must convert yardage down to inches and feet, a practice that helps them polish their math skills and also puts each hole into a context that makes more sense to them.
    "We teach them about counting. Are these trees going to be trouble?" she said. "Why do you play a hole the way you play it? When it rains, where does it drain? We talk about evaporation and what happens to the water. And we talk about the different things that live on a golf course."
    This summer, Johnson plans to bring her students to a course renovation site somewhere in Michigan so they can learn more about agronomics and course design from superintendents, irrigation specialists and architects.
    "They're so excited to see the dirt being moved around, they don't know what to do," she said.
    Johnson's success and that of her students did not occur by chance. Throughout her career teaching children, Johnson has enlisted help from professional golfers like Charlie Sifford, Lee Elder, Calvin Peete (pictured above with Johnson) and Jim Thorpe. She sang with Aretha Franklin and knows Muhammad Ali.
    She recalls a day long ago when a young Tiger Woods attended a clinic at Detroit's Rackham Park Golf Course, and how overwhelmed clinic organizers were that day. 
    "Tiger has been the best thing to come along in golf," she said. "When he came to Detroit, 8,000 kids came out. He did more in 1 minute to convince kids to play golf than I did in all those years of hard work I put in."
    Johnson's Hollywood Institute is a play off a nickname she earned when she worked for airport police at the Detroit-Wayne Airport. In those days, she moonlighted singing at funerals, retirement parties, wherever she was needed.
    "I was always so busy singing, they called me Officer Hollywood," she said. "I'd never had a nickname before, but that one stuck."
    After bringing the game to thousands of children in her hometown, Johnson is nowhere close to being finished. That's just how people of her generation are in her community.
    When kids couldn't make it to the golf course, she'd give lessons in their yards. When Covid threatened to shut down her work, she took her instruction online.
    "I had such a rich upbringing, and it made me a better person," she said. "I've had the opportunity to teach golf and elevate, educate and expose them to travel. When you love what you do, it's easy. I don't look at it as wear and tear on myself, because I'm so busy moving forward. I never knew I was going to do this. I just did it."
  • Mississippi State assistant professor Hongxu Dong, Ph.D., says two new hybrid Bermudagrasses developed in Mississippi are the first of their kind not bred from Tifgreen. Photo by Dominique Belcher via Mississippi State University Who has not received feedback from golfers asking for a truer putting surface that is more receptive to approach shots?
    Everyone can now put their hands down.
    Plant breeders at Mississippi State University are developing two hybrid Bermudagrasses that they say will hold approach shots and give golfers a better line to the hole. Scientists at the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station say the new cultivars, currently known as MSB-264 and MSB-285, are the first hybrid Bermudagrasses that are not related to Tifgreen.
    Both cultivars exhibit a more upright leaf orientation than most other Bermudagrasses bred for use on putting greens. And both are propagated vegetatively and are sterile triploid genotypes, meaning that they do not produce seeds.
    "These two grasses are adding novel genetic diversity to the Bermuda grass cultivars, especially to the ones used on putting greens," said Hongxu Dong, Ph.D., assistant professor at Mississippi State.
    "This has the potential to allow truer putting and to hold golf shots better than existing ultra-dwarf Bermudagrass cultivars."
    Other characteristics of both varieties include improved leaf texture, shoot density, genetic color and offseason color retention and rapid spring green-up.
    MSB-264 and MSB-285 were bred from a different genetic background compared with other Bermudagrass that are related to Tifgreen. These variants are full siblings derived from a cross of two parent cultivars, Dong said.
    The breeding process is a long one, and it can take a decade or more of testing before a cultivar is available commercially.
    "Because the process is so long, and because you have to accumulate so much data to patent and market a grass, we have 110 to 120 grasses being evaluated for athletic fields, golf courses and home lawns," Dong said. "The breeding program is a numbers game. The more varieties you are testing, the better the chances of having some that are good enough to enter the trials and then go into production and commercialization."
    Recently retired MSU turfgrass breeder Wayne Philley led the MAFES development. Both grasses are available for licensing.
  • When Belleair Country Club reopens in the fall after a Straka-Fry restoration, it will be as if Florida's oldest golf course took a step back in time.
    Donald Ross completed all 36 holes at Belleair in the Tampa Bay area, making it the oldest course in a state not always associated with classic era architecture. 
    "A lot of places claim to be designed by Ross, but he never visited the site. He spent a lot of time here," said Jason Straka of the Columbus, Ohio-based golf course architecture firm. 
    "They've had the greens and bunkers rebuilt every few years; the last time was in 2007. The West Course still has the bulk of the routing intact since Ross built it."
    Straka has many of the notes Ross penned when he designed Belleair and when he was brought back to Florida in 1924 to tweak his work.
    "You should see his notes," Straka said. "It wanted this to be a hard golf course."
    For Straka, the challenge has been retaining Ross's vision while also keeping the course relevant thanks to changes in maintenance practices and ball and club technology that can take the bite out of older, shorter golf courses. The East Course at Belleair measures just 6,200 yards from the back tees, while the West is stretched to a modest 6,500 yards. 
    Accomplished golfers can blow right past fairway bunkers that once were strategically placed, and maintenance practices of old meant an abundance of pinnable locations on all 36 greens.

    Designed by Donald Ross, Belleair Country Club is Florida's oldest golf course. Photo by Belleair Country Club Straka has pulled back tees where he can, tightened up some fairways and moved bunkers. Many of the bunkers at Belleair were much more severe than they are today, and many have been restored to their former hazardous selves.
    "We have these debates all the time: What period are we restoring it to? Thirty years ago? One hundred years ago?" Straka said. "We are restoring this to what it looked like in 1924. 
    "Every bunker was deeper and steeper than, and you're hesitant to do that. Then I thought, they were playing with hickory clubs and gutta percha balls then, so I think we can do it."
    Much of Straka's work takes place outside the playing area. He also is restoring naturalized areas with several wild grasses to help cut back on water use. He is planting broomsedge, salt cordgrass, dune sunflower, railroad vine and one of Ross's favorites, wiregrass.
    Among the challenges in getting the course ready for its anticipated November reopening has been supply chain issues with hardware, including pipe for irrigation, and a labor shortage in the course construction industry.
    Straka is having gravel for greens construction brought in from as far away as Ohio, and if he does not get to the Port of Tampa Bay fast enough to offload it, someone else might have claimed it first. USGA greens specs require having gravel lab tested. Recently, he lost more than 1,000 tons of gravel while waiting for lab results and someone else bought it out from underneath him. 
    "It's not just golf," he said. "Some of it is being lost to road construction."
    Labor shortages, created in part by a hot restoration economy, have shapers in high demand. Straka has had to fend off advances from other projects trying to recruit people working on the Belleair project.
    "Just the other day, we had a bunker shaper who got three calls in one day to leave in the middle of the job," Straka said. "People tell them they'll pay more than whatever they're making now if they just leave and come to them.
    "There are dozens of projects just in Florida. No one has the irrigation material. We're all getting spoon fed with a little here, a little there to keep things inching along. I've never seen construction this busy; not even in the '90s or early 2000s. I've never seen anything like it."
  • Despite billions in settlements alleging that Bayer's Roundup herbicide is the cause of thousands of cases of non-Hodgkins lymphoma, a scientific group in Europe agrees with the U.S. EPA that the active ingredient in the world's most popular weedkiller is not a carcinogen.
    The controversial herbicide ingredient glyphosate does not cause cancer in humans, according to a scientific opinion published by the European Chemicals Agency.
    The agency's Committee for Risk Assessment says "the available scientific evidence did not meet the criteria to classify glyphosate for specific target organ toxicity, or as a carcinogenic, mutagenic or reprotoxic substance."
    ECHA has been denouncing claims that glyphosate causes cancer since the Roundup saga began five years ago.
    The ECHA said glyphosate can cause serious eye damage and is toxic to aquatic life.
    The committee will publish its report in August.
    ECHA's opinion will affect the EU's decision to ban or reauthorize the herbicide for use, with the European Commission expected to make a recommendation by as early as July 2023.
    Shortly after Bayer announced plans to acquire Monsanto in 2016, the company was hit with a wave of lawsuits from litigants who say they contracted non-Hodgkins lymphoma from repeated exposure to glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup. Since then, the company has settled nearly 100,000 cases for about $11 billion. The company also has set aside an additional $4.5 billion for future settlements.
    The company has argued it should not be responsible for paying out any additional claims, and last August asked the U.S. Supreme Court to weigh in on the matter. The Supreme Court has yet to hear the case.
  • Editor's note: This is a reprint of a story that ran in May on TurfNet.
    Imagine feeling alone in a room among thousands of other people. Everyone in the room has the same skill set and does pretty much the same thing, nonetheless a barrier segregates those on one side of the room from the other. For many of the women who have chosen greenkeeping as a career, that was an all too familiar feeling for far too long.
    For the past several years, a lot of work has taken place to knock down those barriers. A few more bricks will fall next month when a group of 30 volunteers, all women, descend on the Southern Pines, North Carolina to help David Fruchte and his team prepare for this year's U.S. Women's Open, scheduled for June 2-5 at Pine Needles Resort.
    Jennifer Torres, superintendent at Westlake Golf and Country Club in Jackson Township, New Jersey, will be among those volunteering at Pine Needles. 
    "Having been in the industry for nearly 20 years, many of those years I felt like I was alone, as many of us have felt," Torres said. "You don't typically see women in turf."
    Women account for less than 2 percent of the GCSAA's total membership, but a brighter light has been shone on their contributions to the turf industry since the 2018 Golf Industry Show in San Antonio with the advent of the Syngenta-backed Ladies Leading Turf initiative.
    That light was never shined brighter than it did a year ago when an impromptu effort by superintendent Troy Flanagan and Syngenta's Kimberly Gard to include women in the 2021 Women's Open at the Olympic Club in San Francisco ballooned into a media spectacle that became as big of a story as the golf tournament.
    "I thought it would be a good idea to have as many women as possible on the volunteer crew for the Women's Open," Olympic director of golf maintenance Troy Flanagan told TurfNet after the 2021 tournament. "What I wasn't prepared for was the impact it would have."
    This year will be the fourth Women's Open held at Pine Needles, which for a time was owned by late LPGA legend Peggy Kirk Bell. In his 30th year at Pine Needles, Fruchte has been superintendent for the previous three Open Championship (1996, 2001, 2007). The field of volunteers coming to help him will include 15 who worked the tournament last year, and 15 newcomers.

    A volunteer at last year's U.S. Women's Open syringes a green at the Olympic Club in San Francisco. Photo by the Olympic Club via Twitter "Some are new, some participated last year," Fruchte said. "We wanted to give as many people as possible a chance to be part of this experience."
    Sally Jones, GM and superintendent at Benson Golf Club in Minnesota, got so much out of last year's Open volunteer experience that she is going to North Carolina this year for more.
    "Any time I am able to get the women together," Jones said, "it builds my self esteem more, and it gives me a sense of wanting to do better professionally."
    After years of feeling like she was on an island, Torres credits a mentor for convincing her to get more involved at an industry level. Since then, she has been steadily immersing herself in networking opportunities and events that highlight the work of other women in the industry. As part of that, she is eagerly anticipating her first Open experience.
    "Early in my career, I wasn't one to get involved with my local chapter and get out and meet people," Torres said. "I would attend some meetings, but often would be the only female in the room. Then a mentor, Cece Peabody, who was our executive director for the GCSANJ at the time, encouraged me to take on a position as a grassroots ambassador for GCSAA. From that conversation, I realized we women needed to be more visible in the industry.
    "After attending the 2018 GIS in San Antonio and finally seeing a room filled with others like me, did I no longer feel alone. We made connections and bonds that will last a lifetime. Now that we have become more visible, I also feel more included with the other 16,000 members. It's nice to attend events and have the guys come over and talk to you and they know who we are. They don't ask who we are with anymore, as if to imply we must be the wife of another superintendent. Over the past few years I have seen a change in a positive way. Diversity and inclusion doesn't  seem like a far off dream, but a reality that is happening right before our eyes. Events like the 2022 U.S. Women's Open at Pine Needle will once again help spotlight that movement and help us encourage others like us to join the turf industry family."
    Renee Geyer, superintendent at Canterwood Golf and Country Club in Gig Harbor, Washington, has been an active participant in many of the events promoting women in the turf industry during the past several years, but this year's Open will be her first, and she believes helping provide conditions worthy of a USGA event will help solidify the place of women in this business.
    "There also is a sense of camaraderie and belonging that one feels while working with other female turf professionals," Geyer said. "There are so few of us, and when we can get together to all work toward a common goal it provides validation and confirmation that we did choose the right career path and that we are not alone."
  • Superintendent Jason Hayes is using a metal detector to help tell the story of Cavalier Golf and Yacht Club in Virginia Beach. Among his finds so far have been old spark plugs, pieces of vintage maintenance equipment and several spent shotgun shells. Photos courtesy of Jason Hayes Jason Hayes is no archaeologist, but his findings nonetheless are helping tell the story of Cavalier Golf and Yacht Club in Virginia Beach.
    In his 20th season at Cavalier, Hayes was named head superintendent last year when longtime GCS Mark Hill retired in 2021 after more than 40 years on the job.
    Throughout his time at Cavalier, a 1928 Charles Banks design, Hayes has held a keen interest in the club's history. 
    During the offseason, he took a metal detector onto a small area of the golf course and found a trove of disparate pieces of equipment, some of which predates construction of the golf course.
    Among his findings were old sickle bar blades, spent shotgun shells and spark plugs from a 1920s era Ford tractor. Given the supply chain issues that continue to delay parts and equipment deliveries at golf courses throughout the country, Hayes joked that future work with the metal detector might lead to more useful discoveries.
    "That's just the tip of the iceberg," Hayes said. "I haven't found any old coins yet, but maybe I'll find a buried tractor."
    Cavalier's self-appointed historian, Hayes has been heading up efforts to unearth more facts about the club's past. Aerial photography from the 1930s reveals a small building near the 10th hole. Subsequent photography shows that structure, which Hayes believes was the original maintenance facility, was gone by the late 1950s. Hayes figured that was as good a place as any to start searching for insight into the club's past.
    "I found horse-drawn plow blades, gears, bar blades, all from the '20s," he said. "I'm pretty sure it is from the construction of the golf course."

    Among the non-metallic finds at Cavalier Golf and Yacht Club have been scores of vintage golf balls. Joe Andrew, Cavalier's general manager, has placed a renewed emphasis on Cavalier's history, and Hayes, who already appreciates history, was only too happy to step forward.
    A Yale University graduate, Banks was an English teacher before he met Seth Raynor. He ducked school after teaching for 15 years and took up golf course architecture with Raynor and Charles Blair Macdonald. When Raynor died in 1926, Banks completed some of Raynor's unfinished work. Cavalier was one of his first original designs.
    Banks was commissioned by Richard Teller Crane II, the first U.S. diplomat to Czechoslovakia and heir to the Crane plumbing fixtures fortune, to build a private golf course on farmland in Virginia Beach in 1926. The golf course was acquired by the adjacent Cavalier Hotel when Crane died in 1938 during a hunting trip. Since then, the club has been the site of many professional high level amateur events. Doug Ford won the last of three PGA Tour events played there in 1953, '54 and '55. According to the club, Walter Hagen was an honorary chairman and the club's touring pro in the '50s. As the country braced for an attack on the East Coast from Germany during World War II, the club's 15th fairway was the site of an anti-aircraft battery during the early 1940s.
    The design of the club's Bermuda-style clubhouse has been a mystery, at least it was until a study of the club's past revealed that the building is a replica of home on the island of Bermuda once owned by Crane's cousin. The building's interior was designed by Dorothy Draper, who also designed the the Greenbrier Resort clubhouse in West Virginia, Hayes said.
    "Studying the club's history has been like peeling an onion," Hayes said. "Every time I peel some back, it reveals a lot more information."
    What is underground outside on the golf course is as telling as the club's infrastructure.
    Besides discarded pieces of maintenance equipment, among Hayes' findings during his initial work with a metal detector were several spent shotgun shells. 
    Cavalier's resort and club has a history of trap shooting, however, the clubhouse is a long way from the old maintenance facility where Hayes uncovered the shells. Scouring old editions of the Virginian-Pilot newspaper might hold some clues.
    "I found some articles from the '30s that said crows were a major problem here. They were such a problem they were taking balls off the fairways," Hayes said, as a crow called out in the background from a nearby tree. "I don't know, maybe they were shooting crows. I know they were still a problem when I started here 20 years ago."
    Hayes has taken the role of club historian to an extreme. When combing over his findings, he listens to music that would have been popular when the club was founded a century ago. He already is awaiting the next offseason so he can expand his search over a wider area. 
    "I love my job. Other than the Army, this is all I've ever done," he said. "You think about how busy your job is, then you find something on the golf course and you think about the demands on us today and what they had to go through in the '30s just to keep crabgrass out. It opens your mind to what it was like then."
  • Cobb County Sheriff's deputies investigate the scene on the 10th green at Pinetree Country Club in Kennesaw, Georgia, after the bodies of three people, including club pro Gene Siller, were found on July 3, 2021. Remember the bizarre story of a triple homicide that occurred nearly a year ago at a golf course just north of Atlanta?
    Almost 11 months after Pinetree Country Club pro Gene Siller, 46, and two others were found dead at the golf course in Kennesaw, Georgia, a Cobb County grand jury finally indicted three suspects in connection with the incident.
    Bryan Rhoden, Justin Pruitt and Taylor Cameron were named in the 18-count indictment in the shooting deaths of Siller, Paul Pierson and Henry Valdez last July 3.
    Siller was found dead near the No. 10 green at Pinetree, when he responded to calls about a pickup truck on the golf course. Police later found Pierson and Valdez slain in the bed of a Dodge pickup. 
    Investigators say Rhoden and Pruitt abducted Pierson, 76, of Topeka, Kansas, and Valdez, 46, of Anaheim, California, in Jonesboro, Georgia, bound them with duct tape and zip ties then drove them to the golf course 40 miles away before shooting them.  Valdez and Pierson had no apparent connection to the club, and sheriff's officials say Siller, who was called to investigate when a truck appeared on the golf course, simply was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

    A makeshift memorial on the 10th green at Pinetree Country Club in Kennesaw, Georgia, where three people, including the club pro, were slain last July. Rhoden is charged with malice murder, felony murder, kidnapping with bodily injury, aggravated assault, possession of a firearm during commission of a felony and tampering with evidence. Police say he hid a gun at the golf course that he used to murder the three men. Pruitt has been charged with felony murder and kidnapping with bodily injury, while Taylor is charged with criminal attempt to commit tampering with evidence after she drove to the crime scene to pick up the gun, according to the sheriff’s office.
    Rhoden was arrested last July 8. Pruitt has been in jail in Columbia, South Carolina, since last September on charges of trafficking cocaine.
    Club members told sheriff’s investigators that they saw the truck near the 10th green, then heard shouting followed by several gunshots as Siller fell to the ground and one of the suspects disappeared into nearby woods.
    Rhoden has a history of violent crime, according to police. He was arrested in 2016 and charged with assault, attempted murder and possessing a firearm on campus when he was involved in a drug deal gone bad at Georgia State University, where he was a student at the time, police said.
    Pinetree, a Chick Adams design, opened in 1962. Georgia native Larry Nelson was an assistant pro there before embarking on a Hall of Fame PGA Tour career.
  • Researchers at Oklahoma State University have developed two new Bermudagrasses, including one scientists say will be the best-available winter option for use on golf course putting greens.
    OKC1876 and OKC3920 are crosses between common Bermudagrass and African Bermudagrass and will be commercially available within two to four years. Once available, they will represent ninth and 10th turf bermudagrass varieties to be released for commercial use by Oklahoma State turfgrass breeders since 1991.
    According to Oklahoma State turf breeder Yanqi Wu, Ph.D., the two new varieties have unique genetic identities due to being crossbred from two different types of Bermudagrass families.
    With dark green color, high turf density and fine texture, OKC1876 exhibits high visual quality, improved drought and wear tolerance, excellent fall color, reduced seedhead production and widespread adaptability.
    Turfgrass quality under drought stress data from the National Turfgrass Evaluation Program shows that OKC1876 was comparable to TifTuf, researchers say.
    "It is recommended for use on golf courses, lawns and other areas where high quality turfgrass is needed and good management can be practiced in the southern states," Wu said.
    OKC3920, developed for use on putting greens, shows best-in-class freeze tolerance, and it demonstrates high turfgrass quality comparable to ultradwarf cultivars.
    The cultivar also shows good establishment characteristics, fine texture, early spring green up, dark green color and ball roll distance similar to that of an ultradwarf Bermudagrass. OKC3920 was tested at 19 locations in 15 states.
    Because they have three sets of chromosomes instead of two or four sets, OKC3920 and OKC1876 reproduce vegetatively, or asexually. In the turfgrass industry, that's a good thing.
    "Sod producers can grow Bermudagrass quickly and at relatively low cost, but they can grow OKC3920 even faster due to its reproductive capabilities," Wu said.
    OKC3920 has improved cold hardiness and disease and pest resistance compared to top varieties. Its genetic color and leaf texture were comparable to TifEagle, Tifdwarf and Mini Verde. Turf density is comparable to many ultradwarf Bermudas.
    "This grass is a scientific breakthrough because in the industry right now, concerning putting green Bermudagrasses, we only have ultradwarf types, and ultradwarfs do not have cold hardiness. OKC3920 has proven resistant to winterkill," Wu said. "That is why this grass stands out so strongly. Winter hardiness has traditionally been a signature of our OSU turfgrass development program."
    Traditionally, Oklahoma State Bermudagrass releases have shown improved cold hardiness with each new variety. However, the focus of breeding behind OKC1876 was for improved drought resistance and fall color retention.
    Other researchers involved in the development of these new turfgrass varieties include Dennis Martin, Justin Quetone Moss, Charles Fontanier and Nathan Walker.
  • Anyone who has doubted the effectiveness of government advocacy need only look to California and the industry's defense of public golf for validation.
    A measure that threatened the future of municipal golf in the country's most populous state died, at least for the remainder of the year, on May 19 when Assembly Bill 1910 was held in the California Assembly Appropriations Committee Suspense File, where it was held in committee  and was not brought up for a vote. Advocacy for public golf by the Southern California Golf Association and the USGA are in part responsible for the failure of the proposed legislation.
    AB 1910, known by advocates of the game as the Public Golf Endangerment Act, passed through the Assembly's Local Government Committee and was referred to the Appropriations Committee, pending changes, on April 27. The Appropriations Committee sent the proposed legislation to the Suspense File, where it is subject to further review by the committee. The committee did not vote on the proposed legislation, meaning it is finished at least for the rest of 2022.
    "Bills have to get a successful floor vote in their committee of origin by next Friday to move on to the Senate," said Craig Kessler, director of government affairs for the Southern California Golf Association. "Since there are no more Suspense hearings in Appropriations before next Friday, it gets held up and dies for 2022. (Suspense File) is where bad bills go to die."
    The bill proposed providing public relief in the way of developer subsidies and grants to local agencies to redevelop California's municipal golf courses into low-incoming housing and green space. To be eligible for public assistance in converting a golf course, a project must meet several criteria under AB 1910 in its current form. At least 25 percent of all new dwelling units must be affordable to, and occupied by, lower-income households; at least 15 percent of the development must be publicly accessible open space (a golf course is not considered public space under AB 1910); no more than one-third of the square footage of the development, excluding the portion reserved for open space, is dedicated to nonresidential uses, such as parking.
    Assembly Bill 1910 was first introduced in 2021 as AB 672 by assembly member Cristina Garcia of Bell Gardens in Los Angeles County. It appeared dead in January after it passed through two California Assembly committee hearings on Jan. 12, but failed Jan. 20 to get the necessary support in the Appropriations Committee.

    Roosevelt Golf Course is one of the many municipal golf courses run by the City of Los Angeles. It was brought up again to the Housing and Community Development committee on March 23, where it passed by a 6-2 vote. An early April vote by the Local Government Committee was postponed by the bill's author when it did not have the support necessary to get through the committee. It passed with a 5-2 vote in the Local Government Committee on April 27.
    The SCGA sees the death of the proposed legislation as a win for the future of the game. There are 960 golf courses in California, about 20 percent of which are publicly owned.
    "There are a lot of positive attributes to public golf," Kessler said.
    "If you don't have anywhere to do those things, then how do you do it? What happens to that pipeline of growth in the game?"
    Garcia, the bill’s author, is running for the U.S. House of Representatives in November, so this might be the last gasp for such a bill for quite a while.
    "I'm not sure how much of an appetite any of her successors will have for this," Kessler said.
    "No one in California wants to be on against housing. The lack of housing in California is real, and it is a crushing problem. But this was a bad bill."
    The SCGA and USGA both ran PR campaigns advocating for the benefits of public golf and calling for golfers to lobby their local representatives.
    "The SCGA and the whole alphabet soup of golf's leadership organizations may have made solid public policy arguments to counter the bill," the SCGA said in a news release, "but without the support of rank-and-file golfers, those arguments would have carried far less weight."
    The battle, even for public golf, is fighting against perception.
    "The industry, instead of focusing on municipal golf, which is the meat and potatoes we all grew up on, instead we focus on Augusta," Kessler said. "We love Augusta, but that doesn't define golf. We've let that define golf, and that leads people to think it's elite and aloof, when it is the opposite.
    "I think what finally happened is legislators in California found out that golf is not the soft target they thought it was."
  • Mob experts have speculated on the identify of a body found May 1 in a barrel in the receding waters of Lake Mead. Photo by ABC News What happens in Vegas might stay in Vegas, but what (or who) is buried at the bottom of Lake Mead might come back to haunt you.
    According to a story in the Daily Mail, two mafia experts who have authored books on organized crime in Las Vegas, believe they know the identification of the person found in a barrel in the receding waters of Lake Mead. Clad in what police say is 1970s fashion from Kmart, the unidentified person was shot in the head, stuffed in a barrel and sent to what once was the bottom of Lake Mead more than 40 years ago. Boaters on the lake found the body in the rusted and decomposing barrel on May 1. It was the first of two such discoveries in the shrinking lake.
    Granted, there is a slim golf connection to the Lake Mead story. The Colorado River that created the lake nearly a century ago, is a water source for many desert golf courses hundreds of miles away. We figured a follow-up was warranted since the original story has been read more than 600 times.
    According to Geoff Schumacher, vice president of a Las Vegas-based mob museum and author of Sun, Sin & Suburbia: The History of Modern Las Vegas, and Jeff Burbank, author of Las Vegas Babylon: True Tales of Glitter, Glamour and Greed, the man in the barrel probably is Jay Vandermark, William Crespo or Johnny Pappas, all of whom had ties to organized crime in Las Vegas. All three men were associated with Argent Corp., which owned several hotel and casino operations in Las Vegas as a front for the mob.
    Vandermark ran the slot machine operation for the mafia at the old Stardust Resort and Casino. He fled the city in 1976 after Nevada Game Control Board raided the Stardust and uncovered a skimming ring Vandermark ran in the casino that netted $7 million for the mob. It is believed that he was murdered by the mob after it was discovered he kept an additional $3 million in ill-gotten gains for himself.
    Crespo was arrested at the Las Vegas airport in 1982 while trying to smuggle $400,000 in cocaine into the country. He eventually became a government informant to avoid a prison sentence, and disappeared in 1983 after his testimony before a grand jury led to the indictments of 10 people associated with the Vegas mafia. His timeline, however, makes it unlikely that he is the person who was in the barrel, the authors said.

    Mafia historians say the murder of a victim found in a barrel in Lake Mead fits the M.O. of former Vegas mobster Tony Spilotro (center in handcuffs). Photo by Las Vegas Review-Journal The most likely candidate sentenced by the mob to sleep with the fishes was Pappas. He managed the Echo Bay Resort on Lake Mead, which was financed by Argent through the mob-controlled Teamsters Central States Pension fund.
    Schumacher and Burbank also say the gangland-style hit that included a .22 caliber slug to the head fits a pattern that was the M.O. of Tony Spilotro, who ran the mob in Vegas for the Chicago Outfit. Spilotro, who himself was murdered by the Chicago mob in 1986, was the real-life inspiration for Joe Pesci's role of Nicky Santoro in "Casino."
    Authorities believe the barrel was dumped between the mid-1970s to early '80s in what then was more than 100 feet of water, hundreds of yards from shore. Lake levels have dropped nearly 200 feet since then and are expected to drop by an additional 30-plus feet in the next two years. It was the first of two such discoveries, the second coming May 7, when visitors to the Lake Mead National Recreation Area found human skeletal remains. Las Vegas Police and the Clark County Coroner are investigating both incidents and have yet to positively ID either find.
    Police also believe there will be more reminders of the ties between Las Vegas and the mob as lake levels continue to drop.
    "It's going to be a very difficult case," Las Vegas Metro police homicide Lt. Ray Spencer told KLAS-TV in Las Vegas. "I would say there is a very good chance as the water level drops that we are going to find additional human remains."
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