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From the TurfNet NewsDesk

  • John Reitman
    Everyone knew attendance would be down at this year's GCSAA Conference and Trade Show. The question "How much would it be down?"
    Now we know.
    A total of about 6,500 people attended this year's show in San Diego. That figure is down 45 percent from the last two live shows, 2020 in Orlando (12,000) and 2019 in San Diego (11,900). 
    Understandably, there were fewer vendors on hand this year, with more than 300 exhibitors showing their wares this year, which is down significantly from 2019 in San Diego (510) and 2020 in Orlando (500-plus), according to GCSAA data.
    Education is the big draw at the GCSAA show, and this year, 3,700 seminar seats were filled. That number is down from the past two live shows where about 5,400 seats were sold both years.
    For those who were unable to attend this year's in-person show, the GCSAA is holding a two-day virtual education event scheduled for Feb. 23-24.
    Next year's show is scheduled for Feb. 4-9 in Orlando.
  • Crews install flooring for a concert given by the performer formerly known as Kanye West. Photos by Scott Lupold As the sports field manager at one of the nation's most iconic stadiums, Scott Lupold is no stranger to big events, but he is in the middle of an experience few have faced before.
    Lupold, in his fifth season as the turf manager at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, is fresh off hosting a concert and car race and is now on the clock as he and his team shift their focus to installing a new field in advance of the next big sporting event. Think of it as going from no grass to a member-guest in five days.
    Adjacent to the University of Southern California and steps away from downtown Los Angeles, the 100-year-old LA Coliseum has a peerless history. The first Super Bowl was held there in 1967, and it is where the Miami Dolphins capped the only undefeated season in NFL history in Super Bowl VII in 1973.
    The stadium has been the home of USC football since it opened in 1923, and the LA Rams, Chargers and Raiders also played home games there. The NFL's Pro Bowl was played there from 1950 to 1971, and the Dodgers played there for three years after moving west from Brooklyn in 1958, including the 1959 World Series. A burning torch atop the iconic peristyle plaza and Olympic rings on the facade serve as a reminder that the stadium was the site of the 1932 games.
    When one team or another is not playing there, the stadium is a popular concert venue and many movies and commercials were shot there.
    Lupold, however, has never had an experience like the one that recently took place at the stadium in recent weeks.
    The grass at the Coliseum, which by the way was built for less than $1 million in 1923, has been undercover for more than eight weeks. Immediately after a concert by the artist formerly known as Kanye on Dec. 9, NASCAR moved in to begin preparations for this year's Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum, an exhibition race that helped kick off the stock car racing season. Although the race, formerly held in Daytona Beach, and its unique format helped NASCAR reach out to new audiences, it represented unique challenges for Lupold.

    Work begins transforming the LA Coliseum field into a racetrack. After NASCAR, which spent more than $1 million to build a temporary asphalt track it already has begun to remove, clears out of the Coliseum by Feb. 19, Lupold will begin regrassing the field with with 85,000 square feet of Tahoma 31 Bermudagrass through West Coast Turf's Palm Desert facility.
    "The grass is toast," said Lupold. "The concert and the race were scheduled around the idea of this being resodded. That gave NASCAR a head start on getting everything ready."
    Once NASCAR packs up and leaves by Feb. 19, Lupold will have five days to till and laser grade the surface, roll out sod and get ready for the stadium's newest client, the LA Giltinis professional rugby team that is scheduled to practice at the Coliseum on Feb. 25 and host a game the following day.
    When that team hits the field, they will be playing on a new turf cultivar that will make its debut at the Coliseum.
    After experimenting with several varieties of Bermudagrass in recent years, such as Bandera, Tifway 419 and TifSport, Lupold settled this year on Tahoma 31 after testing it last season on USC's nearby practice field.
    "What I was impressed with were the number of individual plants," Lupold said. "So many other varieties push stolons, this pushes leaf more than stolons. It likes to leaf and stay vertical."
    That makes it much easier to manage, and it also will help improve playability during the upcoming USC season under new head coach Lincoln Riley. 

    Asphalt goes down on what used to be a football field. "I run grooming reels on it and verticut some, and it never gets out of control," he said. 
    "Because there are so many more plants, when players cut and take out turf, we won't lose as much turf because it is not all connected."
    Long before he could think about resodding, Lupold was more concerned about what was going on under the surface as crews came on site to get the Coliseum for a concert and then a car race.
    Truckloads of dirt were brought as a base beneath the floor installed for the concert. Afterward, the dirt was left and NASCAR trucked in even more, raising the surface of the field a minimum of a foot-and-a-half and up to 4 feet in the banked turns and on top of that installed an asphalt track. Layers of plastic, a fibrous cover and plywood between the dirt and areas of artificial turf along the sidelines and warning track to prevent the synthetic surface from being contaminated by unwanted organic matter.
    "They'd just dump it, dump it, dump it, dump it, push it around and go get more," Lupold said. 
    "My concerns were contamination, and protecting the irrigation system and the drainage tiles under the weight of all that dirt and all the cars. It was a lot of dirt."
    When Lupold gets the field back from NASCAR on Feb. 19, he and his team will remove the existing surface matter the old-fashioned way - with sod cutters - and eventually will roll out Tahoma sod grown to 1.25 inches. Where the mowing height goes from there - other than down - is unclear for now thanks to a schedule that includes football, rugby, international soccer games and probably a few more events that are not yet on the schedule. There also is a concert on the books for September that will require once again removing the old field and installing a new one.
    "That's the million-dollar question. We don't know yet," Lupold said. "There is a ton of leaf blade at three-eighths. I'd like to live between three-eighths and seven-sixteenths. That is in our wheelhouse, but by the end of football season, you're in survival mode and you go where the grass takes you.
    "It's always busy here, and there is not much down time to cultivate the field into the ideal playing surface. We are looking for more of a maintenance than we are selling out to a playing surface."
    For now, anyway.
  • Our late friend Jerry Coldiron, CGCS, once described golf course management as an "often lonely and sometimes cruel business." Superintendents are challenged every day to be at the top of their game and often have few places or people to turn to for support when things go south. As we all know, it's not a matter of if one will lose grass, it's a matter of when. As we also know, it's more often NOT about grass.
    The TurfNet Forum has a long history of being a private, safe harbor for those seeking help, guidance or just a sympathetic ear when encountering the pitfalls of turf management or simply the potholes in the road of life. Some of those challenges — including job loss and depression — made it into the pages of our newsletter back in the day for exposure to a broader audience.
    Recognition of mental health and physical wellness have emerged from the shadows on many fronts in the golf turf industry, led in part by our own Paul MacCormack's Mindful Superintendent blog and conference presentations. Kyle Callahan at the Thornblade Club in South Carolina has organized a weight loss challenge through Twitter and a recent private Zoom call on mental health among turf managers.
    TurfNet will continue to lead the charge with our new Me Maintenance series. We have a lineup of superintendents and other industry folks who have agreed to share their struggles and solutions for managing alcoholism and substance abuse, depression, anxiety, weight control, dietary, mental health care, therapy and medication, job loss and personal grief from the loss of loved ones (including our dogs)... and how any or all of these intersect with the pressures of the profession.
    The series will be hosted by Peter McCormick, founder of TurfNet. "I have hung my own challenges — including being fired twice and life-long struggles with depression and alcohol — out there over the years and have more stories to tell," he said. "It is heartening to see people willing to step forward and discuss their own personal situations for the benefit of others who may be experiencing the same. We will kick it off next week with a superintendent who has successfully hit the personal wellness reset button after experiencing the depths of alcohol and substance abuse."
    Presenting sponsor of Me Maintenance is Ocean Organics.
  • With three PGA Tour events in three weeks, the Super Bowl and the former Golf Industry Show, who knew one of the most exciting things to happen in California in a month would be an exhibition car race? And who knew it could provide a learning moment for other sports, including golf?
    In searching for a way to infuse interest and energy into a sport where both have been on the wane, NASCAR did not just tiptoe down the steps into the shallow end of the pool when it held a stock car race inside the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on Feb. 6, it did a cannonball off the high dive that ended with a glorious splash.
    The Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum, which showcased NASCAR drivers navigating 150 laps around a short quarter-mile track stuffed into a football stadium and leaned on live entertainment during a mid-race break, was a daring and aggressive attempt to gain traction by introducing the sport to new and under-represented audiences - namely minorities and those under 30. 
    Although this is no endorsement of concerts at PGA Tour events, cramming a race into a football stadium with live entertainment illustrates an attempt by the sport to expand its customer base by infusing its core business with something new and different. It is a lesson some sports, including golf, have learned from in one way or another. And if the numbers are any indication, it could be a valuable lesson.
    Since enjoying record popularity in 2005, NASCAR's appeal has been on a steady slide followed by an upward tick in 2021.
    Sound familiar?
    The LA Coliseum is not the first NASCAR facility to bring an event like a concert to the track. 
    Declining attendance during the past 17 years resulted in reactions like lowering seating capacity, a practice NASCAR called “right-sizing.” On an individual track level, some facilities implemented a value-added experience, such as a pre-race concert, and those are the tracks that saw better attendance through bleak times.
    That was the case at the Coliseum.
    The Busch Light Clash is an exhibition race that historically has been held at Daytona International Speedway where it preceded the season-opening Daytona 500. It was moved this year to the Coliseum in LA in an attempt to drive interest in the nation's second-largest metropolitan area.
    NASCAR officials were so sure their experiment would be a success they were willing to spend more than $1 million on building an asphalt track for one race only to begin tearing it out the day after the event.

    About 50,000 people attended a NASCAR exhibition race at the Los Angeles Coliseum that included a mid-race break and concert. Photo provided by Scott Lupold Attendance was about 50,000 and 4.3 million more watched the race from home. That is way up from last year's event at Daytona that drew 20,000 in attendance and  Those statistics dwarf last year's numbers that included 20,000 in-person viewers and 1.7 watching on TV.
    The publication Autoweek called the event "spectacular," and retired driver Tony Stewart, who was in the broadcast booth said "NASCAR didn't just open the door, they kicked it down. This is how you promote an event."
    The event illustrates an attempt by an entire sport to expand its customer base by combining entertainment with its core business. 
    Although concerts do not necessarily have a place in golf - other than the night before The Masters - the game's stakeholders have to be concerned about adding value for the 21 million who plunk down their hard-earned money to carry the industry.
    Owners and operators, at daily fee operations, have tried a variety of things to attract new blood to the course with varying degrees of success, such as social events, loose restrictions on music and attire, fringe activities such as FootGolf and alternatives to 18- or 9-hole rounds.
    Another such example has been the advent of golf entertainment facilities like Topgolf. Such facilities are gaining in popularity because they offer a unique experience that includes much more than just golf. A decade ago, there were 10 Topgolf facilities nationwide. Today, more than 25 million people per year patronize 68 Topgolf locations open nationwide with eight more on the way. The question has been whether participation at such facilities translate into play on the golf course. We might learn the answer to that soon enough with a new facility set to open soon in Los Angeles that is part of a complex that includes the Lakes Course at El Segundo, a municipal layout in Los Angeles County.
    From 2005 to 2019, rounds played dropped from 518 million to 432 million, and the number of people playing the game dropped by 10 million since 2002. 
    During the past two years, the golf business has been successful at regaining some of the players and all of the rounds it lost during a decade-and-a-half of industry decline. More than 20 million golfers played a record 518 million rounds in 2021. Since Covid, about 900,000 newcomers took up the game in 2020.
    That growth has been attributed mostly to people seeking an outlet for recreation in a post-pandemic economy. Although there are plenty of newcomers to the game, baby boomers are still playing most of the rounds. With that in mind, operators must continue to find ways through added value to appeal to new audiences and retain those who come through the door for the first time or risk squandering all those new players and increased play , because as NASCAR has shown, sometimes the main event alone is not enough.
  • With cases of the Omicron variant on the decline and Covid fatigue on the rise, officials in California are set to let the state's indoor mask mandate expire for vaccinated individuals on Feb. 15, just days after large international events, such as the Super Bowl - and the GCSAA Conference and Show.
    Currently, California requires masks for everyone regardless of vaccination status in all indoor spaces, such as bars, restaurants, retail outlets and convention centers through Feb. 15. State officials had the option to extend these protocols or cancel them, and announced Feb. 7 they plan to let those rules expire as scheduled.
    According to the California Department of Public Health, new Covid cases are down by 40 percent since mid-January. That news still is not enough to get everyone off the Covid hook.
    After Feb. 15, unvaccinated people still must be masked indoors, including large events like the GCSAA show, and everyone - regardless of vaccination status - will have to wear masks in areas such as hospitals and nursing homes and on public transportation. A total of 6 million children across the state also still will be required to wear masks in schools.
    Although the state is easing its restrictions, local health officials may continue to impose more severe restrictions.
  • The Reader's Digest version of golf the past two years has been one of more players and more rounds played for an industry that desperately needed both. The part of the story that has yet to be written is how many of these new players are in it for the long term.
    The annual State of the Industry report presented each year by Jim Koppenhaver and Stuart Lindsay during the PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando revealed that two years of Pollyannaism in golf that was, in part, sparked by a global health crisis, has revealed a few things. Among those revelations are that a lot of people have entered golf in the past two years prompting an all-time high in rounds played, Baby Boomers continue to prop up the game and owners and operators better learn how to convince those newcomers into playing more golf, so they can replace older golfers who cycle out of the game.
    "Fifty-five percent of golf is played by people over 55. That's been true for, I'd say, forever, however we've only been tracking it for 20 years," said Lindsay, of Edgehill Golf Advisors.
    "The adage is those between 22 and 40 (years of age) play 12 rounds a year; those between 40 and 60 play 18 rounds a year and those over 60, they're playing 35 rounds a year. This has been true since I came into the industry in the late '80s, so that hasn't changed. The one that has changed is we had a lot more senior golfers in the Baby Boomer generation than we have coming behind them, so we better make sure we retain these younger golfers and make every effort to keep them in the game, because we've got a hole to fill."
    A total of 518 million rounds were played last year, according to the report, which is a 5 percent increase over the 493 million rounds played in 2020. In two years of Covid golf, rounds played are up by 19 percent since 2019. The 518 million rounds played in 2021 matches the industry high previously set in 2000.
    "As Stuart said, it took us 19 years to lose 85 million rounds, and we regained all of them in two years," said Koppenhaver of Pellucid Corp.
    In the first year of Covid, 900,000 new golfers, including 400,000 women, entered the game in 2020 (the last year data available), bringing the total number of players up to 21.3 million. That number represents the highest number of players in the game since 22 million golfers played 451 million rounds in 2014. The all-time high for rounds played in a year was 29.8 million in 2002. Picking up nearly a million players in 2020 was more good news for the industry.

    "We gained more than 800,000 golfers. We're usually shedding 400,000 to 500,000 golfers a year," Koppenhaver said.
    "We have more golfers playing at a higher frequency. That's the daily-double.  Now, we have to convince them to stay."
    According to Koppenhaver, the perfect supply-demand equilibrium is 35,000 rounds for each of the country's 13,000 or so golf courses. With 518 million rounds played last year, that equates to nearly 40,000 rounds per 18-hole equivalent.
    "It's saying we are 14 percent under supplied," Koppenhaver said. "Think about that; if we took that math to its not-logical conclusion, it says we can afford another 1,000 golf courses in the United States. We're not going to do that."
    Every year since 2006, more golf courses have closed than opened, and 2021 was no different. According to Koppenhaver, just 21 golf courses in 18-hole equivalents were built last year, while 93 closed for a net loss of 72. 
    From 2006 through 2020, 624 courses opened and 2,162 closed for a net loss of 1,538.
    Rather than worry about supply, which still must contract, the presenters said a survey of golf facilities reveals what operators should spend their time on - retaining customers.
    "It says, if they play only three to four rounds a year, they leave," Koppenhaver said. "If we can get them up to five rounds a year, our chance of retaining them goes up exponentially. We are building some stuff into a survey to find what the magic number is that we have to get people to so that we increase their odds of sticking."
  • TurfNet has launched two new recognition programs to honor worthy individuals within the turf maintenance field.
    Rising Stars of Turf will recognize movers and shakers on the upswing of their careers in turf maintenance or allied fields. Early-career superintendents, assistants, equipment technicians, interns, students, sports turf managers and even salespeople are eligible for consideration. There are no specific criteria for selection and no formal nomination or application process, although suggestions for consideration can be emailed to John Reitman or posted on Twitter using @TurfNet with the hashtag #RisingStarsofTurf.
    Presenting sponsors for Rising Stars of Turf are EarthWorks and DryJect.
    All Stars of Turf will recognize established superintendents, equipment technicians, career assistants, salespeople, architects, consultants or educators who have distinguished themselves over a period of years in areas such as innovation, creativity, mentoring and staff development, communication, course construction/projects, budget management, community service or otherwise contributing to the good of the industry and/or their communities.
    As with Rising Stars, suggestions for consideration as an All Star of Turf can be emailed to John Reitman or posted on Twitter using @TurfNet with the hashtag #AllStarsofTurf.
    The All Stars of Turf program is presented by Foley Company and Air2G2 by Foley.
    Sponsors of both programs will help identify suitable candidates and select winners.
    Recipients will be announced monthly and featured on TurfNet.com and social media.
    "In years past as we evaluated nominations for our Superintendent of the Year and Technician of the Year awards, we would invariably comment on the number of worthy individuals and the difficulty of selecting just one," said Peter McCormick, founder of TurfNet. "These new programs will enable us to recognize a greater number and wider variety of people who are either just ramping up their careers or have contributed in their own way to the betterment of our industry over a matter of years. These awards will be loosely structured, sometimes spontaneous and always fun... much in the manner in which we have operated TurfNet over the years."
    The Superintendent of the Year and Technician of the Year awards were retired last year after 20-year runs.
  • Chances are, there probably will never be another person in this business quite like Frank Dobie.
    Dobie, who retired in 2020 after more than a half-century - in the same job - recently was named the recipient of the 2021 USGA Green Section Award. For 60 years, the award has been given annually to those who exemplify outstanding contribution and dedication to the game of golf through their work with turfgrass, meaning the award, which was first given in 1961, was in its infancy when Dobie accepted his most recent job at Sharon Golf Club near Akron, Ohio. The 81-year-old Dobie will be honored in June at this year’s U.S. Open at The Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts.
    A 1958 graduate of the Penn State two-year turfgrass program, Dobie was general manager and superintendent Sharon for an almost-unbelievable 56 years that stands as a testament not only to Dobie, but also to the club. His tenure there began in 1964. For a little perspective, that was the same year the Beatles first toured America, the same year the Warren Commission completed its investigation into the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the same year heavyweight boxer Cassius Clay (who later changed his name to Muhammed Ali) won the heavyweight title when he defeated Sonny Liston and it was the same year the Mustang first rolled off the Ford assembly line in Dearborn, Michigan.
    Dobie was ahead of his time in many ways, including career longevity and developing ways to make the job easier for himself and his colleagues through his many innovations.
    In 1967, Dobie developed the first bunker liner system designed to eliminate contamination from the surrounding soil. All the bunkers at Sharon were installed with this system and no bunker sand has ever been replaced due to contamination. Even after his retirement, Dobie is willing to share his bunker construction method with anyone who is interested.
    Dobie always maintained his connection to Penn State and was instrumental in forming the Penn State Turfgrass Alumni Association in the 1960s, and since 1989 he has been president of the Musser Foundation, which supports doctoral students in turfgrass science.
    Throughout his career that spanned parts of seven decades, Dobie had plenty of opportunities to move on from Sharon. He was even invited to interview at Augusta National and declined. In the end, the workplace culture fostered by the late Jerry O’Neil, the former General Tire executive and longtime Sharon GC president, was a perfect fit for Dobie. 
    "The key to my longevity at Sharon was that I showed respect to the members at all times, and Jerry O'Neil demanded that they respect me. It's why I loved my job," Dobie told TurfNet last August. "I think the fact that I loved going to work every day had a lot to do with my health."
  • Last year's U.S. Women's Open shined a bright line on many women working in the turf industry and their greenkeeping skills. Now, the focus has shifted to keeping that positive momentum moving forward for women already working in the business as well as those who one day might be.
    For someone who claims he is not an ideas person, Troy Flanagan has been known to come up with a pretty good plan now and again. After all, you do not get to be director of agronomy at a historic place like the Olympic Club without having a trick or two up your sleeve.
    When Flanagan recruited a team of female superintendents and assistants to volunteer at last year's U.S. Women's Open in San Francisco, he had no idea what a long-lasting impact it might have. Of all the initiatives designed to push the role of women in turf, a group of 30 on the crew at the Olympic Club for a week at such a high-profile event might have given the movement its greatest visibility. 
    "It's not like you see my name all over the place doing all these innovative things. I just work hard at the club to produce a good golf course," said Flanagan, who last year was named the recipient of the Northern California GCSA chapter's 2021 Superintendent of the Year Award (pictured at right). "I just thought it would be cool to have a lot of women working at the Women's Open. That was my only thought at the time. I just had the idea, but those women were the real stars of the week. 
    "What was amazing to me was how important this was for the group, to get together and hang out and talk, and grow their friendship. I didn't know that was something that already didn't happen all the time. I learned how difficult it is for them to get noticed.
    The camaraderie between the volunteer crew and Flanagan and his team was well chronicled during the tournament and in the days and weeks that followed. And despite Flanagan's best attempts to deflect praise and responsibility for the Open experience, those who were on the ground at Olympic for the week are quick to give him credit.
    "Troy will forever hold a special place in our hearts," said Sally Jones, general manager and superintendent at Benson Golf Club in Minnesota, and a Women's Open volunteer. "He is an extraordinary man who I am very fortunate to know."
    Although Flanagan says his sole intent was to provide a unique experience for his volunteers, it turns out it was just as meaningful to him as it was to them. 
    "I'm not someone who gets teary too often, but I was a wreck often that week. It moved me," he said. "I have two flags on my wall that I paid a lot of money to have framed. One was from the USGA Four Ball at Olympic when I started here in 2014. The other, the women gave me one last year that they bought from the merchandise tent and they all signed it. I look at that every day."
    The $64,000 question now is "what's next?" so that any traction gained during the Open is not lost.
    More than a half-year later, the goal for many of those involved is to build off that momentum for themselves, their peers and those who might follow in their footsteps.

    All photos provided by the Olympic Club. "For the event itself, it was neat to have women helping to prepare a golf course at the highest level for other women playing at the highest level. That's a tribute to all women," said Kimberly Gard, a California-based territory manager for Syngenta who played a key role in organizing the volunteer experience at the Olympic Club. "Going forward, networking also is important. In this business, it is about who you know and word of mouth."
    There is, however, a fine line to walk with such a volunteer experience to ensure the focus remains on the golf course throughout the week.
    "We already have a volunteer list for Pine Needles. It is impactful to get everyone together," Gard said. "We also have to be sensitive to the fact that it is their event, it is the USGA's event. We don't want to impose ourselves and assume everyone wants to do the same thing, because putting on a tournament already is really hard."
     Open week was an opportunity for all involved. For those who came from all corners of North America to volunteer, it was a chance to meet other women seeking to grow their network and simply prove they belong. For Flanagan, who was raised on a Wisconsin dairy farm, it was an opportunity for him and his team to view the profession from a different perspective.
    "I learned some things, like what it's like for the women in our industry," Flanagan said. "They wanted to show what they can do. They feel like they have something to prove. It's too bad that is the starting point for women, if they're even able to get in the door for an interview.
    "My mom worked her ass off every day at the family farm. Why would I think a woman can't pull a 100-foot hose?"
    The mission now is to continue to spread that message that when it comes to producing conditions worthy of a USGA championship, women are capable of doing anything men can do. Plans already are in the works to have a contingent to volunteer at this year's Women's Open at Pine Needles in North Carolina and again at Pebble Beach in 2023.
    The 2021 Women's Open was not a one-off type of event for A.J. Hill, an assistant at Mountain Lake, a 1917 Seth Raynor gem in Lake Wales, Florida. It is a piece in a puzzle to build her own network, learn from colleagues, share her experiences and know-how with other women in the industry and set an example for others who might never have considered turf maintenance as a career option.
    Hill also was on hand for the 2020 event at the Champions Club in Houston, and hopes she is chosen for this year's Open at Pine Needles in North Carolina. A second-generation greenkeeper, she worked last year's Open at Olympic with her father, David, a 35-year industry veteran and the superintendent at Lily Lake Golf Club in Frostproof, Florida. 

    "If other women see us doing things that men are doing, then they think, 'hey, I can do that,' " said A.J. Hill, who also is a two-time volunteer at the PGA Tour's Arnold Palmer Invitational in Orlando. 
    "It's good to communicate with other women in this business, get their feedback and build your network. A lot of this business is about who you know, but also what you can learn from others. We are colleagues, and we share experiences, tricks and hacks to help others.
    "Moving forward, if other women see us doing things that men are doing, then they think, 'hey, I can do that.' "
    Networking opportunities are great, and there is nothing like proving your skills under fire, but somewhere along the way for almost every woman breaking into the business there will be a male counterpart who provided an opportunity or served as a mentor, making men a critical audience at networking and social events.
    "I'll do anything to keep this going," Flanagan said. "I'm not someone who has great ideas, but I'll do anything to keep this message going.
    "We need to get more men seeing other men talking about this issue. If we don't keep pushing, the naysayers will not take you seriously."
  • Bruce Clarke (left) with his former doctoral student James Hempfling, has retired from Rutgers University. Photo credit: Steve Boyle/Courtesy of U.S. Golf Association Anthracnose probably just breathed a sigh of relief.
    Bruce Clarke, Ph.D., who has been the leading voice in anthracnose research and control since he joined the Rutgers University faculty in 1982, recently announced his retirement.
    Clarke, extension specialist in turfgrass pathology in the Department of Plant Biology, retired on January 1. Since Clarke started at Rutgers as an undergraduate in 1973, the school in New Brunswick, New Jersey has been the epicenter of his entire academic and professional career. He earned a bachelor's degree in forest management in 1977 and a doctorate in plant pathology in 1982, after which time he joined the faculty as an assistant extension specialist.
    A leading authority in turgrass pathology, Clarke authored or co-authored 90 refereed journal articles, more than 200 industry publications and secured more than $20 million in grants and contracts to support his research and extension programs. He also edited four books, including the second, third and (soon-to-be released) fourth edition of the Compendium of Turfgrass Diseases. Clarke’s research and extension work focused on the identification and control of turfgrass diseases - most notably anthracnose, summer patch, dollar spot, and gray leaf spot - and best management practices designed to help turf managers reduce fungicide use.
    He has presented his research to audiences in 50 states and more than 20 countries.
    Clarke served as the chair of the Department of Plant Pathology at Rutgers from 1999 to 2001 and again from 2011 to 2014, and also was vice chair of the department from 2001 to 2011. He was president of the Northeastern Division of the American Phytopathological Society from 1999 to 2000, a member of the Board of Directors of the International Turfgrass Society from 2001 to 2009 and ITS president from 2013 to 2017.
    Awards and honors include: elected Fellow of the American Society of Agronomy (2004) and the Crop Science Society of America (2006); USGA Green Section Award (2016); CSSA Grau Turfgrass Science Award (2016); GCSAA Col. John Morley Distinguished Service Award (2014); New Jersey Turfgrass Association Hall of Fame (1996).
    He will continue to serve on the graduate committees of several former students, raising funds for the Center for Turfgrass Science and teaching in the Rutgers Professional Golf Turf Management School’s Two-Year Certificate Program.
  • After being held in a virtual format last year, the Texas A&M Turfgrass Short Course returns this year as an in-person event.
    Scheduled for Feb. 28-March 3 at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center in Dallas, the four-day event is built specifically for turfgrass professionals who want to grow their knowledge of turfgrass systems and how to manage them.
    The course moves in progression from site preparation and turf selection to establishment and management. 
    The curriculum is approved for 5 GCSAA credits, and topics to be presented by industry experts: Principles of Soil Science; Soil and Water Testing; Introductory Turfgrass Physiology; Turfgrass Identification and Selection; Turfgrass Planting and Establishment; Turfgrass Nutrient Management; Fertilizer Calculations and Calibrations; Water Quality Management; Turfgrass Cultivation Practices; Integrated Pest Management; Weed Management for Turf and Herbicide Resistance; Insect Identification and Management; Disease Identification and Management; Field Scouting and Diagnostic Sampling; Sprayer Calculations and Calibrations for Fertilizer and Pesticide Applications.
    The event also will include tours of local turfgrass facilities, including PGA Frisco and FC Dallas.
    Cost for the program is $600 per person. Breakfast, lunch and snacks are included.
  • Assembly Bill 672, which took aim at public golf courses in California, is dead - for now. Proposed legislation that would pave the way to convert publicly owned golf courses in California to low-income housing units died in committee Thursday, Jan. 20, just a few days after passing its first test in the state assembly.
    Known as the Public Golf Endangerment Act, Assembly Bill 672 passed through two California Assembly hearings on Jan. 12, but failed Jan. 20 to get the necessary support in the Appropriations Committee.
    Authored by Cristina Garcia, the bill was amended twice in the first two weeks of January before being presented to the Committee on Housing and Community Development, which voted 6-2 in favor of the measure, and the Committee on Local Government, where it passed with a 5-2 vote and one abstention. 
    The bill proposes providing public relief in the way of developer subsidies to redevelop California's municipal golf courses into low-incoming housing and green space. According to the Southern California Golf Association, municipal golf courses comprise 22 percent of the state's supply and host 45 percent of all play throughout California. 
    Click here to read the full text of the proposed bill.
    According to the Southern California Golf Association, AB 672, as a two-year bill, had to pass its House of Assembly before the end of January, which is not possible after being held up in the Appropriations Committee. Garcia can choose to refile the proposal. The deadline for filing 2022 bills in the California Assembly is Feb. 18.
    The news met with some stiff opposition from within the golf industry in California and others in California, as many took to social media to voice their disagreement with the proposed legislation.
  • The line of people who have spoken more often than Bruce Williams on the subject of career development for golf course superintendents is a pretty short one. He has helped superintendents prepare for job interviews and he has assisted clubs in the search to fill vacancies. So, you listen when Williams, a second-generation superintendent with nearly 50 years of industry experience, says every challenge facing greenkeepers today is a veiled opportunity.
    "I would have in capital letters on my resume PROBLEM SOLVER," said Williams, pictured at right. "When people are hiring you, they want to know how you can solve their problems. They want to know how you can make their golf course better. They want to know how you can do better with less. Problem solvers get the jobs."
    Make no mistake, Williams, who works today as a consultant, headhunter and international business manager for Brandt, knows full well the challenges facing superintendents today are many: wage and labor issues, increasing demands from golfers on course conditioning with a shrinking pool of resources, job security, rising costs of goods and resources just to name a few.
    "The greatest skill of successful superintendents is they are problem-solvers," said Williams. "When I say that, I mean they find a way to make things work. They find a way to get things done. And this is no different with the pandemic. Because of my tenure in the business and my family's heritage in the business, I would say this: This business has been through World War II, this business has been through recessions and economic downturns and other things that have created the need to think outside of the box. The people who are successful do not throw their arms up in the air and say 'What am I going to do? How am I going to survive this?' They find a way to get it done."
    Although the Covid era has revealed cracks in the labor market across several industries, including golf, the struggle to find enough help is not necessarily anything new, and finding enough help has been a challenge for a long time. Williams recalls a similar situation in the 1970s when he worked for Frank Dobie at Sharon Golf Club in Ohio.
    The club pieced together a crew, the club employed people from other vocations looking for additional part-time hours, such as farmers and school bus drivers.

    Bruce Williams says the golf industry could benefit from a training program that helps hourly employees move up through the golf organization. File photo by John Reitman "Our best employees were farmers. We knew we could not get them during harvest or planting, and we knew they were not available during deer hunting season," Williams said. "We also had a lot of women on the crew, and some were school bus drivers. None of these people were interested in 40 hours, but they all wanted 20.
    "When I grew up working on a golf course, you were up at 4:30 in the morning, worked until 2:30 in the afternoon, and your boss didn't have any problem with you working overtime, and you worked seven days a week. And if you didn't want that job, there was someone else who did. If you were late to work, it meant you were fired. While I am not a fan of people being late, you don't have the luxury of firing people for that today.
    "With something specific like Covid, people are having a hard time finding people to work on their golf courses, so it's time to get creative." 
    For example, not all jobs have to be done - or even started - before the first group goes off in the morning. Staggered start times by staff that include completing some jobs later in the day, can help expand the talent pool and reduce the number of manhours associated with some tasks.
    The other side of the labor shortage is that interns, recent turf school graduates and aspiring assistants can be choosy when deciding which positions to accept, and that is not a bad thing.
    "Students can make $15 or $20 an hour, and they can get housing. And now, people have five or six offers to pick from," he said. "One man's challenge presents opportunities for others."
    Williams believes among the factors influencing the labor issues in the turf business is the lack of upward mobility for hourly employees. 
    "We lack, in the golf industry, a qualified training program. We lack a system to move people up through the ranks," he said. "If you show up for work and they tell you 'Eddie is going to teach you how to rake bunkers,' that is like sending your kid to school and having them taught by another kid. That is a superintendent's job. Then if they put you on a weed eater for 10 years, and there is nothing else for you, the word gets out on you. We have to develop plans and programs to move people up through the system. We haven't had that. We need to look at entry level employees as mid-level, so they can advance their skills and compensation. People want more out of a job today than they did 30 years ago."
  • The ever-changing Union League of Philadelphia will host its first career-development program for superintendents, assistants and mechanics Jan. 18-19. Photo by Scott Bordner via Twitter Since its inception during the early days of the Civil War, The Union League of Philadelphia has been all about improving the lives of others.
    More than 150 years later, Union League director of agronomy Scott Bordner is upholding that tradition by implementing a career-development program that will help provide turf-specific education to dozens of superintendents, assistants and mechanics in what is called Union League University.
    "We're just doing it to add something extra for their education," Bordner said. "We have 40 Union League employees that will be here for the event. We can't pay to send them somewhere else. We can't put them on a plane and put them in a hotel, so we're going to bring the conference to us."
    The event is scheduled for Jan. 18-19 at The Lodge at Union League Liberty Hill in Lafayette Hill, Pennsylvania. The Union League, a downtown Philadelphia social club founded in 1862 on the principles of Abraham Lincoln, bought the former Ace Club complete with a hotel last year. 
    "Once we had a hotel available and conference space, I decided we have to utilize this," Bordner said. "That's when we decided to have something educational for assistants and mechanics, because that is where our industry is lacking most."
    Topics to be addressed will include sprayer calibration and nozzle selection, effects of abiotic stress, roundtable discussion on irrigation system issues, staying current in a changing industry, financial management, interviewing tips, mower reel set-up and lessons learned in 2021. Vendors who are helping sponsor the program that runs attendees $150 for two days of education, plus room and board in the Liberty Hill hotel including Genesis Turfgrass, Turf Equipment and Supply Co., Pocono Turf, Turf Disease Solutions, Noble Turf and Finch Turf.
    The Union League has undergone a great deal of growth since it got into the golf business in 2014 with the purchase of what is now Union League Golf Club Torresdale and since Bordner arrived there in 2019 after a successful run at Chicago Golf Club. Founded in 1862 as a patriotic society that upholds the principles of Lincoln and the Union, the club has hosted U.S. presidents, foreign heads of state, business leaders and entertainers from around the world.
    The club now owns three golf facilities, including Liberty Hill and Union League National Golf Club, the former 27-hole Sand Barrens Golf Club in Swainton, New Jersey that is set to reopen this year after a Fry-Straka renovation. Bordner oversees conditions at all three properties as director of agronomy.
    Union League superintendents Pat Haughey (Union League National), Andrew Dooley (Union League Torresdale) and John Canavan, the longtime superintendent at Liberty Hill, will help with the upcoming ULU program as will equipment manager Mike Elliott, who Bordner hired from Pine Valley to oversee equipment maintenance at all three courses. 
    Bordner, who plans to continue ULU in the future, said he carefully handpicked invitees to avoid having a room filled with people who already know each other. He will do the same for future events, and with good reason.
    "I'm trying to bring in people who don't know each other," he said. "When they know each other, they get into their own cliques and they don't get out of them. I want to force the networking end of it, too."
    Bordner also has worked with consultant Tyler Bloom to establish an apprenticeship program throughout the Union League operation. 
    Bordner, Haughey and Dooley worked together at Merion under Matt Shaffer, and Bloom interned there early in his career.
    "He has helped us with hiring people and setting up a training program," Bordner said. "He is helping us give young people a career in turf or mechanics."
    When Bloom had a chance to help Bordner develop his team at the Union League he jumped at the opportunity.
    "The first time I walked into the Union League, I said to myself 'I don't belong here,' but if I ever had a chance to be associated with it, I would do anything," Bloom said. "Now, to be associated with Scott, those guys are as close to being my turf brothers as you could find.
    "What they do as a company is aligned with everything I am doing. They are all about professional development. They are doing everything I try to emulate in my business, and that is important to me. To go there and talk to young people and launch them into their careers, that's not work, that's fun. And it's fun to work with people who share that philosophy and want to share that information."
  • In the wake of a successful year culminating with a strong education conference and trade show, the Carolinas GCSA is donating more than $150,000 to research projects at Clemson and North Carolina State universities.
    The 1,800-member chapter awarded $165,000 grants to three projects using money raised in the Rounds 4 Research annual online auction of golf rounds.
    To date, the Carolinas GCSA has donated more than $565,000 to research projects at both universities.
    The first of two projects being funded at Clemson focuses on the rising incidence of off-types in ultradwarf putting greens. Different turf types within putting produce different responses to ball traffic, and respond differently to maintenance practices. Researchers at Clemson hope to discover ways to help superintendents better manage these mutations without negatively affecting the predominant turf type.
    The second project at Clemson delves into a potential relationship between mini-ring and nematodes. The research could lead to more effective and economical management strategies for both problems for superintendents.
    At North Carolina State, researchers are embarking on a three-year study to understand the effectiveness of inputs. Researchers want to learn how soil properties that affect organisms as well as previous applications influence pesticide efficacy. Research in cropping systems has shown that repeated use of certain products can lead to pesticide resistance. This project will be one of the first to explore that phenomenon in a golf setting.
    This year's Rounds 4 Research auction, which includes thousands of rounds up for bid at various golf facilities nationwide, runs April 25-May 1.
  • The good news continues to pour in at Inverness Club.
    Four months removed from staging a successful Solheim Cup in the midst of a global health crisis, the 1919 Donald Ross design in Toledo, Ohio, will be the host site of the 2027 U.S. Women’s Open, the USGA announced. The news comes on the heels of the news that the purse for the Women’s Open will increase from $5 million in 2021 to $10 million this year and eventually to $12 million.
    The increase in prize money is thanks to the addition of ProMedica, a Toledo-based healthcare system, as the tournament’s presenting sponsor beginning this year at Pine Needles in Southern Pines, North Carolina.
    It has been a whirlwind of activity at Inverness since superintendent John Zimmers arrived there in 2017. Since then, the course has undergone a restoration by architect Andrew Green that was completed in 2018, and was the site of the U.S. Junior Amateur in 2019 and the LPGA Drive On Championship in 2020 before hosting the Solheim Cup last year.
    Other future sites of the Women’s Open are Pebble Beach (2023); Lancaster Country Club, Lancaster, Pennsylvania (2024); Erin Hills, Erin, Wisconsin (2025); and Riviera Country Club, Pacific Palisades, California (2026).
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