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From the TurfNet NewsDesk

  • John Reitman
    Portland Golf Club was designed in 1914 by George Turnbull. Portland GC photo Portland Golf Club, established in 1914 and host to numerous major championships and the 1947 Ryder Cup, has completed the first phase of renovation. Led by architect Dan Hixson, an Oregon native and resident of Portland, the project evolved incrementally over the past decade and targeted playing areas on all 18 holes. 
    The project began a decade ago with the removal of  75 trees throughout the course, including more than 20 around the 13th green alone, opening it to more sunlight and air flow. Hixson continued overseeing a tree-maintenance program while submitting a master plan for overall course improvements. Work started eight months ago and was completed in November. 
    The goal of the project was to preserve the integrity of the golf course and its history while also making it relevant for today's game.
    "Our focus is to enhance the member experience, striving to be better from the moment a member sets foot on the golf course," said John Vranizan, President, Board of Directors, Portland Golf Club. "Working closely with Dan, the construction, and agronomy teams, we meticulously upgraded every hole on the golf course."
    The plan's main focus was the bunkering, improving drainage while making them both more strategic and aesthetically appealing. Many of the 63 bunkers on the course had been rendered irrelevant thanks to changes in ball and stick technology. To that end, the overall number of bunkers on the course has been reduced from 63 to 51, with many moved for strategic purposes. All have been rebuilt with Better Billy Bunker II system and filled with sand from Best Sand.
    Hixson cited bunker shaper Tony Russell as having a great impact on the contouring and visual appeal of these hazards.
    A total of 12 of 18 greens were enlarged to reclaim their original specs that had been lost to encroachment from surrounds over the years. 
    "On many, we expanded at the corners, often in conjunction with the bunker work we were doing," Hixson said "We've even gotten down on the ground and used our hands to get the new turf to lay perfectly so it looked like it's always been there. We like to say this course was 'hand-made.'"
    Substantial work also was done on many of Portland's tee boxes that stretch the 1914 classic to 7,100 yards. Many were re-graded and re-grassed, and new forward tees were added to several holes throughout the property bringing the course down to 4,800 yards and aligning it with player-development programs such as the USGA's Tee It Forward initiative.
    Designed in 1914 by architect George Turnbull, Portland has a proud history. The course was the site of the 1946 PGA Championship, 1947 Ryder Cup Matches, the 1955 Western Open and on eight occasions was the host of the Portland Open Invitational. It has been largely untouched since a 1964 renovation led by Robert Trent Jones Sr.
    Members want the course back on the championship circuit and believe the restoration is the first step in doing so.
    The course remained open during the process, and members were able to follow the progress on a daily basis. Communication and coordination with members throughout the project was important to the project's success said Jason Dorn, Portland's director of agronomy.
    The project is not finished. An new irrigation system, including installation of all new heads, will begin in the spring and should be completed by fall.
  • As a career law-enforcement officer, Tony Parton is no stranger to helping people in a jam. He also is experienced at saving golf courses in distress.
    Parton, who retired after a career as a corrections officer in a federal prison, bought the shuttered Alpine Bay Golf Course in 2017 and has restored the Robert Trent Jones Sr. design in rural Alpine, Alabama to its former greatness.
    The course where Parton and his friends had played for years, closed in 2014 after years of financial distress. Two years after the course had closed, Parton began tending it, pulling weeds and mowing grass, in an attempt to reclaim the layout one green at a time.
    Fifty years ago, the course was to be part of a 36-hole golf resort, but funding ran out and construction was limited to a single RTJ-designed 18-hole layout. Unlike the more famous string of courses throughout Alabama that bears the RTJ name, Alpine Bay has never been well known, or popular with those outside the local community. And unlike its more famous cousins, the course has struggled financially for years.
    By 2014, Alpine Bay was one of more than 2,000 golf courses that have closed since 2006. 
    Rather than go the way of so many other tracks that have been redeveloped as commercial or residential real estate, or mixed-use space, Alpine has bucked the trend and is one of those rare examples of golf courses that closed only to reopen years later under new ownership.
    By 2017, three years after the course had closed, Alpine Bay was up for sale for a modest $144,000. 
    Soon, Parton was able to put together financing and bought the course, and a group of investors helped provide barely enough funding to run the operation. Parton and the team he built were able to get the course playable within a half-year.
    Today, the course has more than 100 members, according to Golfweek, who play about 15,000 rounds a year there.
  • Lakes GC superintendent Mike Bindl and his new dog. WISN-TV Every golf course needs a good dog.
    Superintendent Mike Bindl of Lakes Golf Club found his next dog in a pretty unlikely place - in the aftermath of a Nov. 16 plane crash on the golf course in Pewaukee, Wisconsin.
    A plane carrying three people and 53 shelter-bound dogs crash landed recently on a fairway at Lakes Golf Club. When Bindl and his crew arrived at the scene they found that all three people and all of the dogs survived the landing, including a shivering puppy that the superintendent immediately took under his care.
    "I'm glad we were there to help," Bindl told local media in Wisconsin.
    “I could see she was shaking. I don't know if it was because of the plane crash. I mean, it was cold. We're in the middle of a snowstorm."

    All three passengers and 53 dogs survived a plane crash on a Wisconsin golf course. WISN-TV The dogs were headed to the Humane Animal Welfare Society of Waukesha County, which regularly coordinates these dog flights from southern states, with dozens of dogs that may be euthanized otherwise. The flight that crashed was headed to Waukesha’s airport when it went down.
    "It's all about giving a second chance at life to these amazing pets," the shelter's Jennifer Smieja told local media. "And, maybe for these plane crash-surviving pups, one might say it’s a third chance at life."
    The shelter held a an appreciation lunch for everyone, including Bindl and his crew, who helped in the wake of the crash. In the days since the crash, the shelter has been inundated with interest in the dogs.
    "We have had people walk in and say 'where are the plane crash dogs?' " Smieja said. "They're seeking them out. And in truth, they do have kind of a neat origin story."
    Only a few of the plane crash-surviving dogs remain to be adopted.
    The cause of the plane crash remains under investigation by the FAA.
  • Danny Allen, right, winner of the Carolinas GCSA the Distinguished Service Award, with brother Randy, who won the same award in 2006. More than 1,300 seminar seats were filled at this year's Carolinas Golf Course Superintendents Association's annual Conference and Trade Show. The final tally of 1,356 participants in education seminars at the conference held Nov. 14-16 in Myrtle Beach, was just 10 seats shy of the all-time high set in 2019.
    Although the event remains strong, association officials admit there is evidence that the future of in-person events is changing, and associations that host them must seek ways to remain relevant to their audience.
    "Across the board, the message was very positive leaving the beach," Carolinas GCSA executive director Tim Kreger said. "But times are definitely changing, and in different ways for different elements of the industry. We must continually find ways to address those changes."
    The number of exhibiting companies this year of 186, was down six from last year and 28 below the record of 214 set in 2018. Kreger said some of that decline was due to in part to industry consolidation and the fact that several distributors granted exhibit space to allied companies, where previously those companies purchased stand-alone space. Another factor he cites was inflation which had caused a spike in the cost of exhibiting, although booth pricing was unchanged from 2021.  
    "And there is no doubt the traditional trade show model has been squeezed by the Internet and the array of electronic communication options available today," Kreger said. "If a customer wants to know what a company has to offer, they can find out in seconds no matter where they are. But our show remains popular and viable because of the human element. There is nowhere else in the southeast where companies can get the opportunity to get face-to-face with so many customers and potential clients. And our members show they appreciate that by turning up year after year."
    All that said, Kreger is optimistic about the show's future. 
    "Maybe it's just me getting older, but it seemed like there were more young faces on the trade show floor this year," he said. "For a generation that is supposed to be addicted to doing everything virtually, I think that is a great sign for them and the future of the show."
    Nearly 1,000 people - excluding vendors – attended the first Carolinas Night celebration held in conjunction with the trade show. The move to bring the annual celebration onto the trade show floor aimed to increase both the number of people and the time they spent at the trade show.
    "Overall, folks on the trade show floor seemed very excited and happy with the changes," Kreger said. "And that includes superintendents and exhibitors. People were certainly positive, and I even had one exhibitor ask who they needed to thank for the idea."
    In one of the highlights of the week, Danny Allen, from Aero Short Course in Myrtle Beach received the Distinguished Service Award. The award caps an almost 50-year career including nearly 40 at Camden Country Club in Camden, South Carolina, a term as association president and two separate stints on the board of directors. The award was presented by his brother, Randy, himself a past-president and Distinguished Service Award winner.
    Other highlights from this year's Conference and Show include:
    > Chuck Connolly, from Smithfields Country Club in Easley, South Carolina became the association's 49th president. Connolly becomes director of golf maintenance at Savannah Lakes Village in McCormick, South Carolina next month;
    > Matt Smith, from Wilmington Golf Course in Wilmington, North Carolina was elected to the board of directors;
    > Riley Boyette, from Carolina Country Club in Raleigh, North Carolina won his fourth Carolinas GCSA golf championship, presented by Toro and Smith Turf and Irrigation, as one of nearly 340 golfers who teed it up across three courses;
    > Charles Davis, from Inland Greens in Wilmington, North Carolina won the $3,000 grand prize in the 27-Hole Challenge, with more than $10,000 in cash and prizes, presented by John Deere Golf, Greenville Turf and Tractor and Revels Turf and Tractor;
    > Horry Georgetown Technical College won the Student Turf Bowl presented by Precision Laboratories, completing a hat-trick of wins that started in 2019. There was no conference in 2020 because of the pandemic;
    > Past-president Adam Charles, from The Preserve at Verdae in Greenville, South Carolina won his fourth sporting clay championship, presented by Bayer and Carolina Fresh Farms;
    > Erin Miller, from TPC Piper Glen in Charlotte, North Carolina became the first woman to win the Turf Equipment Technician of the Year Award presented by Turf Equipment Technician's Association of the Carolinas.
  • Scott Les Chander has a lot to be thankful for this holiday season. His outlook is a reminder to take nothing for granted.
    TurfNet thought it would be interesting to learn what people are thankful for, so we asked several people to share their thoughts.
    Les Chander, superintendent at Terrace Park Country Club in Milford, Ohio, did not hesitate to share a story about his family and the support he received from his employer that gave him the time he needed to deal with the situation.
    "This year I am thankful for time and support. Earlier this year my father suffered a heart attack the Thursday before our scheduled Spring aerification. He lives alone in upstate New York and had just undergone hip surgery. A close friend was staying with him to aid in his recovery and thankfully he was able to recognize that my Dad's pain was not the typical hip recovery pain. He rushed him to the closest hospital where they were able to stabilize my father as he waited for a bed in Syracuse to open up. He had time and thankfully support from a close friend.  
    I flew out the next morning after running through a test run of our aerification practices. My brother and I were hopeful that he'd have a quick stint put in and would be back in action as my dad was a very healthy person. A weekend turn around at worst. Boy was I wrong. 
    After tests we found out that it was way worse than we wanted it to be. The fact that he was still alive was a miracle. He had almost 100% blockage in his arteries and his mitral valve was leaking. He would need open heart surgery and the success rate wasn't exactly great. 
    Thankfully I had the support from my club and our team. I was told not to worry about PTO, however long I needed to take would be covered. I had support, they gave me time with my dad. Our team knocked aerification out of the park, in my absence. I had support from a top notch team.
    Thankfully my dad made it through the surgery and has recovered. While many things are different, he is able to continue living the life he wants in the place he wants to be. As we sit here packing for our trip to visit him for thanksgiving, I am grateful that my family has this time to enjoy being together. It's been a wild ride and I couldn't have done it without the support of our team, my club, and my amazing family."
    Bruce Williams
    Brandt Consolidated
    "I have so many things to be thankful for but I will select a few that stand out.
    Growing up in a family that owned a golf course (my grandfather), I guess I was destined to make greenkeeping my career. 
    I am thankful that I had a father who set a good example for me to follow in being a good superintendent and taking on various leadership positions.
    Most of my friends are in our industry, and I am thankful for their help and support throughout the years.
    I am thankful to have mentored 164 young men and women that became superintendents and succeeded in our industry!"
    Rick Brandenburg
    North Carolina State University
    "I am thankful for a second chance. 
    I am thankful that I survived a serious bout with malaria and the septic shock my body experienced from the treatment for the disease. I am thankful that following weeks in an ICU, I could return to a normal life. 
    I am thankful that 5 1/2 years after this event I can reflect on that time and the appreciation I have developed for the sunrise each morning and how life can change in the blink of an eye. 
    I am most thankful that as a result of this life-and-death experience, I have become intentional on a daily basis to be a better person than I was the day before. I am very grateful for that reality check and the motivation to be better. Every day."
    Brad Klein
    Golf industry journalist
    "I am thankful for being able to make a living at a game that has been a lifelong fascination. I fell in love with golf and the feel of a golf course at the age of 12 and have never lost that initial sense of magic.
    I am thankful for professionals on the maintenance side of golf who are uncommonly collegial, supportive of my efforts to communicate their craft, and ceaselessly patient in explaining to me their technical expertise.
    I am also thankful that superintendents continue to evolve and refine their practices and the extent to which they have, as a whole, embraced environmental balance and sustainability." 
    Matthew Woodcock
    Old Erie Golf Course
    "Thanksgiving usually is the end of the year for us. I am certainly thankful for the community that we have built our business in. 
    Our customers continue to show us that they are part of our "family". I am also thankful for this industry and the number of people I have in my rolodex that would answer my questions and even show up within 30 minutes to help with aerification. We truly work in the greatest industry." 
    Alan FitzGerald
    LedgeRock Golf Club
    "This might be the toughest assignment I've been given….. especially with the don't use the typical family and work.
    I've had a long think and spent my entire time on yard work yesterday pondering it. Am I that ungrateful for stuff?
    The one I kept circling back too is my staff and how they've stuck through it through Covid, and still are there every day to support me even through this hot summer."
  • Andrew Miller did not know he was on his way to a job interview six years ago when he was called upon to consult for a Virginia high school that promoted careers in agriculture. If he had, he probably would have dressed better.
    On the recommendation of his father, John Miller, then a middle school principal, Miller thought he was simply being asked to offer advice on how to transition the horticulture program at  Brentsville District High School in Nokesville, Virginia from an ag-based curriculum to one that promotes careers in turf. He never knew, based on his recommendations, that he also would be called upon to head up the new program he had just advocated for.
    "After the conversation, they asked me to wait in the hall," Miller said. "Then they told me I had an interview. I called my dad and asked 'what did you get me into?'
    "I was wearing shorts with fertilizer stains on them, my hair was long and I had a beard."
    After making apologies for his appearance, Miller thought enough about the job to give it consideration. Six years later, hundreds of students have gone through the program that transitioned from ag to turf. And many of those former students have gone on to study turf management in college and are working as golf course superintendents and sports field managers.
    A graduate of Virginia Tech, Miller worked professionally for the New York Mets and Pittsburgh Pirates Major League Baseball clubs as well the NFL's Pittsburgh Steelers. Leaving that career behind for a teaching gig required some serious thought - and a teaching certificate.
    That was hardly a deterrent compared with the perceived benefits of being an ambassador of the industry to so many aspiring future turf managers.

    Andrew Miller has introduced turfgrass management as a potential career to hundreds of high school students. The students at Brentsville are tasked with helping maintain 30 acres of Bemudagrass athletic fields and next year will get to take part in a renovation of the school's stadium field.
    "To see them master those skills at a young age is very rewarding," Miller said. "I don't see it as leaving the industry, because I still have 30 acres of sports fields I have to manage."
    Recently, Miller brought his class to the Virginia Tech turfgrass field day, and next year will observe a renovation project at Robert Trent Jones Golf Club in Gainesville, Virginia. His students have presented at the Sports Field Management Association Conference, restored a field for an XFL team and worked the Little League Softball World Series.
    "We are teaching kids how to manage turf and giving them an opportunity to pursue this as a career," Miller said. "And I still get to do things I love, like get on a mower and make fun patterns."
    Although agriculture affects everyone compared with a specialized industry like turfgrass, Brentsville administrators were focused on changing the curriculum as the area around the school changed.
    "The demographics have changed," Miller said. "It's now more suburban where once it was ag-based. We want to get these kids in position to be successful,, and we have 25 golf courses within a five-mile radius of campus."
    Two years ago, Miller feared for the future - and present - state of the program when kids were sent home for distance learning during the Covid pandemic.
    Miller brought guest speakers online to help keep the students interested and engaged.
    He leaned on professional turf managers to take part in distance education. During that time,  the Turfgrass Tiger social media channel was born as Miller called upon professional turf managers from Leicester City Soccer Club, Wimbledon and others to take part in a podcast series that now boasts more than 100 recordings.
    "It is rewarding to get buy-in from the kids and see them create something that is played on by athletes," Miller said. 
    "We are bringing awareness to the kids and our community and player safety."
  • Sampling for nematodes at a South Florida golf course. University of Florida photo Turfgrass is a $14.3 billion business in Florida, covering 3.9 million acres statewide. Much of that acreage also is susceptible to damage from pests, such as nematodes and fungal diseases. One university researcher is focused on making it more economical for turf managers to control such pests.
    "Sting and root-knot nematodes are major pests of turfgrass in the southern United States," said Abolfazl Hajihassani, a University of Florida scientist at the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, in a UF news release. "The problem lies in that the combination of pests and diseases affect the growth and quality of the turfgrass. Management tools rely mainly on a limited number of expensive chemical fumigants and nematicides."
    Hajihassani (right), an assistant professor at UF/IFAS Fort Lauderdale Research and Education Center is the principal investigator on a $471,201 grant awarded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Institute of Food and Agriculture.
    During the next three years, Hajihassani will lead a team of UF/IFAS and USDA scientists in an effort to develop cost-effective methods for managing these pests and diseases. They believe the research will benefit the turfgrass industry in Florida, Georgia and other parts of the South.
    "Our aim is to provide economic relief to growers, homeowners, parks and recreation turf managers, golf course superintendents, commercial industries and promote economic and environmental sustainability in the turfgrass industry," Hajihassani said.
    Healthy lawns reduce soil erosion, filter stormwater runoff, cool the air and reduce glare and noise. They also effectively filter and trap sediment and pollutants that potentially contaminate surface waters and groundwater.
    Nematodes are microscopic roundworms that live in the soil. While most soil nematodes are beneficial because they feed on bacteria, fungi or other microscopic soil organisms resulting in improved soil health, others feed on plant tissues, destroying lawns by feeding on or inside of roots.
    Damaging the roots reduces the ability of the grass to obtain water and nutrients of the soil. Symptoms to watch out for include yellowing, wilting, browning, thinning producing patches of turfgrass and even death.
    For the study, the team will conduct monthly samplings from five locations located throughout the southern tier of Florida. Four of the sites are golf courses where nematodes are prevalent to monitor population changes of these pests. The fifth location is the turfgrass testing field at UF/IFAS FLREC.
    "The idea is to determine when nematodes are at the highest population near the top surface of the soil so that the nematodes can be better exposed to nematicides which in turn result in reduced population and turf damage," said Hajihassani.
    Seeking biological solutions to suppress the population of nematodes and fungal disease is another objective of the research.
    Finally, the team will evaluate the economic profitability of the developed practices and implement Extension and outreach activities.
    "We are trying," Hajihassani said, "to detect fungal and bacterial secondary metabolites with the ability to control root-knot and sting nematodes and fungal diseases of turf."
  • A golf course closing and eventually being redeveloped for other purposes is hardly news. After all, more than 2,100 courses have closed in the past 16 years.
    The stalled repurposing of a shuttered classic-era golf course due to arsenicals found in the soil and groundwater is a different matter. 
    That is the story of the historic Great Southern Golf Club, a 1908 Donald Ross design in Gulfport, Mississippi. 
    After more than a decade of troubled times, Great Southern was purchased at auction in May 2021 by Arbor Sites LLC, a real estate development company in Tallahassee, Florida. Strapped by debt, the course closed a year later in May 2022.

    Great Southern Golf Club in Gulfport, Mississippi, had a once-proud past. Arbor Sites bought Great Southern with designs on building 400 homes on the 129-acre site, so its eventual closure was no surprise. What stopped those plans from going forward was a bit more unexpected.
    While the project sat untouched, nearby residents concerned about potential contamination on the former (and now overgrown) golf course contacted the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality. 
    Their concerns centered around what was described as historic use of pesticides on the golf course, their build up over time in the soil and the potential health risks when the site is disrupted during construction.
    According to reports, the department notified Arbor Sites, requiring it to conduct testing of water and soil samples. Results from SEMS Inc., an environmental consulting firm in Baton Rouge, showed higher-than-recommended levels of arsenic, dieldrin and chlordane.
    MSMA is an organic arsenical herbicide that has been banned for many uses, but is still available for use on turf. Chlordane was a pesticide used for insect control that was banned in 1983 due in part to its resistance to degradation. Dieldrin, developed in the 1940s as a safer alternative to DDT, was banned by the EPA for use in turf in 1974.
    Within steps of the Gulf of Mexico, Great Southern Club was the oldest golf course in Mississippi when it closed earlier this year. The club had a once-proud past. A hotel on the property was a playground for the rich and famous before being destroyed by a hurricane in 1947.
    President Woodrow Wilson played golf there, as did Walter Hagen, Gene Sarazen and Ben Hogan. Sam Snead beat Byron Nelson there in a playoff in the 1945 Gulfport Open. 
    The club's struggles started in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina slammed ashore. The storm destroyed the clubhouse, brought down more than 400 trees on the property and overwhelmed the golf course. 
    It was another eight years before a new clubhouse reopened and the course was restored. It was sold at auction and eventually closed after incurring a great deal of debt in the years since Katrina.
    Since soil and water on the property have been tested, the MDEQ has ordered more testing and could require remediation of the soil and water before the land is redeveloped. Remediation efforts could include soil and waste treatment, water treatment and use of permeable reactive barriers to sequester the materials.
    This is a developing story.
  • "Currently, the future of Oakland Hills is focused on a long-term vision of its employees as we look for motivated leaders and builders. Individuals with a passion for golf, agronomy, business management and golf course architecture should explore the opportunity to be an Assistant Superintendent at Oakland Hills. The position emphasizes a team atmosphere with Assistant Superintendents being involved in all facets of our agronomy program including fertilizer/chemical application, cutting edge water management, irrigation diagnostics and repair, course set up, and management of a team.
    "No educational requirements needed, solely the desire to become a Golf Course Superintendent. Oakland Hills will help you achieve all your educational requirements and goals . . .  Golf course experience is a plus but more importantly we are looking for passionate teammates that are motivated and want to be leaders."
    - Oakland Hills CC job listing on TurfNet

    When it comes to hiring staff at Oakland Hills Country Club, Phil Cuffare (below) says the focus has to be on career development for the applicant. A recent employment listing for assistant superintendent at Oakland Hills Country Club is so attractive, that if it does not work, there may be no hope for anyone to attract talent.
    Oakland Hills is one of those places on a short list of clubs that anytime there is a job opening, a well-time advertisement or simply word of mouth should be enough to result in a flood of applicants. It turns out, however, that list is so short, no one is really on it any longer.
    That was when Oakland Hills Director of Agronomy Phil Cuffare called upon his legacy as a mentor and mentee to change the way he searches for help.
    "It used to be, you would get 25 applicants and weed out the ones who don't work hard rather than engage them and see what makes them tick," Cuffare said.
    "My eyes opened when I took the job at Oakland Hills in 2018. Kids who applied weren't interested in hard work. Oakland Hills wasn't a good enough sell anymore. They weren't moved by Ben Hogan winning a major championship here. I don't think any of them even knew who Ben Hogan was."
    Cuffare's recent help-wanted ad for assistant superintendent reflects his approach to hiring that puts the needs, development and growth of the applicant first. 
    The job does not require experience or a college degree. What it does require is a desire to learn, work and grow. Rather than emphasize an applicant's previous experience, Cuffare instead focused on their work ethic and desire to learn as well as his background in mentoring.
    Instead of requiring a college degree, the job promises a commitment to help applicants "achieve educational requirements and goals."
    "Golf course experience is a plus but more importantly we are looking for passionate teammates that are motivated and want to be leaders."
    Where Cuffare's approach really strays from the norm is after the interview.
    For most, interviews are followed by a "don't call us, we'll call you" approach on the part of the employer. Not so at Oakland Hills.
    "We don't hire talent, we hire people," Cuffare said. "If, after the interview and you see what we're about, if you're interested then call me. If you like what you see and you think you can be successful, then let's take that next step."
    Cuffare, who came to Oakland Hills in 2018, learned the meaning of mentoring under superintendents such as Jeff Corcoran and Jared Viarengo.
    "They were my motivation to be the best I can be," Cuffare said. "Now, I look for different ways to motivate people."
    At age 45, Cuffare admits to being old school, but acknowledges that approach isn't good enough when trying to attract talent nowadays.
    "It used to be at a place like Oakland Hills, it was all about championships, and that motivated employees," he said.
    "The industry has changed. You have to take a new approach. You have to develop more of the business side than the farming side. We have to get creative in what we can offer. When I started, it was all about championships, but now it's about learning about leasing packages and renovations and restorations. You have to develop a different skill set than just growing grass and hosting tournaments."
    His approach makes sense. Gen Y and Z have a well-chronicled difference of opinion of what a career should be compared with their Baby Boomer and Gen X colleagues. They have spent their lives watching their parents get burned out, chewed up and spit out by employers and have read countless articles of superintendents being pushed aside at age 50 for a younger and cheaper alternative.
    "I don't mind 14-hour days, or rain, snow or mud. Kids today are not turned on to that, and definitely not by 14-hour days," he said. "We had to step back and see what we were doing wrong. It's not just golf, it's a generational thing." 
    The $64,000 question is whether this approach works.
    "We have a great staff. I think five of my former employees have gotten jobs as superintendents in the last four years," Cuffare said. "That's the ultimate compliment.
    "When we hire someone, we don't want to choose you, we want you to choose us."
  • Heritage Landscape Supply Group has recently acquired WinField United's Professional Products Group.
    WinField's Professional Product Group is a distributor providing technical expertise, solutions, and service to the golf, sports turf, lawn care, ornamental, pest control, aquatics and vegetative management markets. The company operates 16 distribution locations in a dozen states. 
    Among the labels in the WinField portfolio included products from Syngenta, BASF, Bayer, Nufarm and PBI Gordon to name a few.
    During the next several months, WinField PPG will become Heritage Professional Products Group. The new iteration will continue to be led by the current WinField team.
    WinField United is a subsidiary of Land O'Lakes, a member-owned agricultural cooperative based in Minneapolis.
    "The PPG business has grown into an industry leader providing superior service, products, technology and insights to their customers," said Andy Braunshausen, vice president of WinField United Seed and Crop Protection. "Our hope for the sale is to provide WinField United with additional resources to invest in growth within our core sectors, while pairing PPG with a great partner that will prioritize the business for growth in their portfolio."
    Heritage, of McKinney, Texas, operates a network of independent distributors to serve its customers. The company, which operates 30 local brands in 32 states, is a subsidiary of SRS Distribution, a privately held wholesale distributor.
    "Heritage has grown organically and expanded its platform offering in turf and ornamental products over the last several years," said Matt McDermott, president of Heritage. "The opportunity to join forces with the entire PPG team greatly enhances our market position and adds a strong talent base of the industry's best sales professionals and operators. We are excited to add more than 170 hard- working professionals from PPG to our growing family as we cross the 200-location mark and continue building our legacy in the green industry."
  • An expanded outdoor demo area is a big hit with attendees. Equip Exposition photo Turns out it does not take a rotation through three warm-weather locations to stage a successful turf-centered trade show. Even in a post-pandemic, inflationary world in which labor and disposable income both are in short supply, an education conference and trade show still can thrive in a city where in October it can be 80 one day and snowing the next.
    This year's Equip Exposition, the show formerly known as GIE+Expo, set a new event record Oct. 18-21, with 25,000 attendees and 1,000 exhibitors, participating. The show is produced by the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute and held annually in Louisville, Kentucky. Attendees to the show for the landscape industry came from all 50 states and 49 countries. The state boasts of being within a day's drive of 70 percent of the U.S. population, which is a plus considering the cost and headache currently associated with post-pandemic air travel.
    Along with Hardscape North America, which co-locates with the Equip Expo, the show took up 675,000 square feet inside the Kentucky Exposition Center. A larger Outdoor Demo Yard brought the size of the space from 22 to 30 acres. All available booth space was sold out in September.
    Even a fire in a prototype mower could not keep people away.
    The show has been held annually in Louisville since 2007, and this year's event marks the first-ever sellout. Other shows have not be able to claim record attendance in more than a decade - 2008 in Orlando, to be exact. In fact, attendance was off by about half at this year's GCSAA Conference and Show in San Diego, where Covid protocols were still in place, even if they were not enforced, raising the question of whether the turf industry still had a desire for a national conference and show.
    The answer to that question is clear, at least as far as the Equip Exposition is concerned.
  • The cost of diesel fuel is way up, and supplies are at historic lows, according to experts in the energy industry. During the best of times, managing a golf course is a job wrought with challenges. Superintendents have to deal with golfers demanding conditions that are harder and harder to produce. During the past two years, the job has become increasingly more difficult. More golfers and fewer workers than ever before and supply chain issues that make it difficult to get parts and equipment in a timely manner.
    Just when you thought the job couldn't become any more difficult, there is another potential hurdle on the horizon.
    Experts in the energy industry agree that there is a supply shortage of diesel fuel, and that everyone, including those who buy diesel directly and those who purchase products transported by trucking, should expect to feel the pain until the U.S. economy slows, righting the ship between supply and demand.
    According to Mansfield Energy, a fuel supplier with 11 offices across North America, the volume of diesel stored in facilities across the East Coast is down by 50 percent. The company says average daily storage in the eastern U.S. runs at about 50 million barrels per day, but now is at 25 million.
    Truckers across the country report making stops at multiple service stations to find enough fuel to fill their tanks, while farmers say they are spending double in fuel costs to plant and harvest, while hoping weather cooperates enough to produce a profit at year's end.
    Mansfield said in a news release that tight supplies will cause already-high diesel prices to climb even higher. On Monday, the average cost of diesel fuel was $5.31 per gallon, which is 61 percent higher than the average price of $3.29 a year ago, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, a federal agency that "collects, analyzes, and disseminates independent and impartial energy information to promote sound policymaking, efficient markets, and public understanding of energy and its interaction with the economy and the environment."
    Ed Hirs, who teaches energy economics at the University of Houston, has said that the daily five-year average is so low that if production were to stop today, the U.S. would have a 25-day supply of diesel.
    According to Forbes, the U.S. distillate supply, that includes diesel, jet fuel and heating oil, is at its lowest level since 2008. The demand for diesel typically spikes in spring during the planting season for the ag market, with a surplus heading into winter. However, the supply for distillates in October were at a 40-year low, which is why the cost of diesel is so high, according to the EIA.
    Reuters reported that the nationwide stock of distillates on Oct. 21 was 106 million barrels, the lowest since EIA began tracking data in 1982.
    Contributing to tight supply lines is the fact that several unprofitable refineries have closed, according to Forbes. The main factor, however, in the supply and price of diesel, the publication said, is the cutoff of Russian petroleum imports. The U.S. was importing almost 700,000 barrels of petroleum and petroleum products per day from Russia, which has stopped with the conflict in Ukraine. Most of those imports, Forbes said, were finished products that boosted distillate supplies here.
    Reuters predicts spikes in the price of diesel and ongoing shortages of supply until a slowdown in the U.S. economy, which the British news agency says is necessary to boost supply and reduce price.
  • Some of the more famous antitrust lawsuits in U.S. history include parties such as Standard Oil Co. of New Jersey, the Chicago Board of Trade, AT&T, Microsoft and . . .  Augusta National Golf Club.
    For months, the PGA Tour has been the subject of antitrust talks over its rules governing player participation in competing tours, particularly as they relate to the Saudi-back LIV Golf tour. Recently, the USGA and Augusta National have been named in the U.S. Department of Justice antitrust investigation. 
    According to a report by the Wall Street Journal, the DOJ launched an antitrust investigation into the PGA Tour in July over allegations it would not allow former Tour players who defected to the Saudi-backed tour to compete. Players agents have received inquiries from the DOJ about the PGA Tour's bylaws about participating in competing tours.
    A lawsuit filed by several former Tour players who left for the LIV tour, Augusta National aligned with the PGA Tour and indicated earlier this year that it might ban LIV tour players from the Masters, including former champions.
    The litigants, who include Phil Mickelson and Bryson DeChambeau, say in the suit that "the links between the PGA Tour and Augusta National run deep. The actions by Augusta National indicate that the PGA Tour has used these channels to pressure Augusta National to do its bidding. For example, in February, 2022 Augusta National representatives threatened to disinvite players from The Masters if they joined LIV Golf."
    The USGA, which also has aligned with the PGA Tour's side, has confirmed it, too, has been named in the investigation and intends to comply with all DOJ requests. Attorneys for Augusta National have been mum on the subject.
  • After new owners bought Auburn Valley Golf Course in December, the property has yet to reopen. Just a matter of months ago, it appeared troubled Auburn Valley Golf Course near Sacramento might yet have a bright future.
    Six months after its owners declared bankruptcy in June 2021, a group from Oakland bought the 60-year-old property in December with promises of continuing to operate it as a golf course.
    The better part of a year later, the course has yet to reopen, the new owners have yet to weigh in on whether it will and a clubhouse phone number that once rang endlessly has been disconnected. Just like that, the course nestled in California’s wine country appears destined for a place atop the heap of closed golf courses that have piled up during the past 16 years.
    Auburn Valley was built in 1960 on 175 acres that was once a dairy farm.
    Since then, it has had a troubled existence. It has gone through two bankruptcies as well as a foreclosure.
    The previous owners, the Par 5 Property Investments group, claimed bankruptcy last June, citing $6.5 million in debt and $3.84 million in assets and about $6.5 million in liabilities. The new owners, Auburn Sierra Golf Club LLC in Oakland, closed the sale on the property that included a clubhouse, an events center and a bar and restaurant for $2.9 million.
    It is unclear what the owners’ intentions are with the property, but it is not currently zoned for residential or commercial redevelopment, according to the Sacramento Business Journal. 
    According to the National Golf Foundation about 50 golf courses have closed so far this year. About 2,100 golf courses (18-hole equivalents) have closed since 2006.
  • Some decisions are as old as time: Coke or Pepsi, salty or sweet, hot dog or hamburger and pull a core or don't pull a core. 
    Disrupting the soil to relieve compaction and introduce oxygen to produce a better playing surface is as common in golf as placing a ball on a tee. But the decision to pull a core in the process or not is as varied as Titleist vs. Callaway. 
    Studies by some of the greatest minds in turf academia support both schools of thought, and researchers on either side of the debate are convinced the other side is wrong.
    Although superintendents might choose one side of the fence or the other based initially on peer-reviewed research, they ultimately settle on hollow or solid tines based on one thing - if it works for them.
    At Mountain Lake, a Seth Raynor design in Lake Wales, Florida, Tony Nysse says the pressures of a year-round golf season are too great to support a core-free cultural program.
    "We pull cores here multiple times a year," Nysse said. "I am not of the school that enough topdressing and enough solid tining can keep up with 12 months of growth in Florida. I have seen many examples where clubs have tried right after a renovation and end up having to core several years later to get the greens back to performing to the expectations of their membership. We put down hundreds of inputs over the course of a year, so we also have to take the time to remove the spoils (thatch) of those efforts."
    Nearly 3,000 miles away in San Francisco, Brian Nettz, CGCS, also sees golfers year-round at the Presidio Golf Club. Like Nysse, he opts for pulling cores to keep up with the rigors of a 12-month growing season.
    "Definitely core," said Nettz. "Gotta bring up that microbe-rich subsoil, or what's the point?"
    As a regional superintendent for U.S. Navy golf courses in California, Austin Daniells once agreed with the pull-a-core argument, and he still does — to a degree. He core aerifies fairways, but when it comes to managing putting surfaces, he's all about solid tining.
    "If we're talking about greens, I have shifted over the last seven, eight years to only doing a solid tine aerification throughout the year," Daniells said. "Typically, we do a spring and fall larger tine aerification and a number of needle tine applications throughout the rest of the year. If I had the equipment, I would also deep tine greens a few times per year."
    His shift in cultural practice philosophy is two-fold.
    "I made the shift due to research," he said. "I have read, as well as through my own experiences and other input from superintendents in the area. I keep a very close eye on our nitrogen inputs as well as use some other products that help with the breakdown of organic matter which has helped to limit our organic matter accumulation."
    Daniells oversees a host of daily fee, military courses in Southern California that see a lot of play, especially during the past two years, and his greens are standing up to the pressure.
    "I felt like we were getting the same amount of sand into the holes with the solid tine versus the core aerification," Daniells said. "And the healing time was a little shorter."

    Since its inception in 2005, the Boeing Classic, a PGA Champions Tour event, has been played at The Club at Snoqualmie Ridge in suburban Seattle is the site of The Boeing Classic. Little does defending champion Miguel Angel Jimenez, or any of the others pros who play there, realize that superintendent Ryan Gordon manages championship conditions, literally, without pulling a core.
    "We have not pulled a core on our greens since 2013," Gordon said via email.
    He says solid tining is less disruptive, which also promotes faster healing, but it also requires less labor and produces results good enough for the world's best players.
    "Our organic matter levels on greens have remained in the 1.2-1.9 percent range since we began this practice," he said. "I consider anything under 3% to be ideal. That tells me that any thatch production is getting diluted sufficiently. Greens are firm, drain well and play fantastic.  We also see much faster recovery and a higher amount of sand incorporation with this method vs. if we pulled a core. Not to mention, it is much less labor intensive and easier on equipment when solid-tining."
    Gordon acknowledges that coring can be effective at helping manage fairy ring, which, he said, is a common practice at some Seattle-area courses, but the benefits are not enough to convince to go back to pre-2013.
    "I have heard that some guys that deal with fairy ring, or root-borne diseases find that they have better turf health through the season when they pull a core," he said. "The theory is that by mixing the soils via coring, you are keeping the soil ecosystem in balance which allows for root-based disease pressure to be minimized.  
    "We deal with fairy ring on our fairways here and there, but I have found that it hasn't impacted turf health enough for me to want to switch back to the headache of coring."
    With many superintendents firmly entrenched on one side or the other on the pull-a-core debate, one greenkeeper is rethinking his strategy, not based on scientific research but rather unscientific results on the golf course he manages.
    Ryan Cummings at Elcona Golf Club in Bristol, Indiana, pulls cores on collars and tees, but has not extracted a plug from putting surfaces in six years.
    That might soon change.
    "I have not pulled a core on greens or fairways since 2016," Cummings said. "And even though I know all the research points to it not really mattering from a compaction standpoint, anecdotally I am seeing some slower percolation rates by - again, my possibly incorrect opinion - forcing that organic matter down and to the sides of the channel over time. My testing shows a slight uptick in organic matter, which could support my hypothesis.
    "Next year, I will be pulling cores on fairways in the fall given what I believe is happening on my property, while solid tining in the spring to get the course in better condition sooner for play. I have not decided on greens yet besides using a three-quarter-inch Viper tine in June and July that pulls a core, but is quite simple to verticut and clean up."
    Then there are some who alternate between coring and solid tining for a variety of reasons, including the time of year.
    Iowa does not have the world's longest golf season, so making sure the golf course is ready by opening day is important for Rick Tegtmeier, CGCS at Des Moines Golf and Country Club. While solid or needle tining can result in faster recovery in the spring, pulling a core in the fall can help set the course up for the next season while also leading to some level of consistency beneath the surface.
    "We do not pull a core in the spring; we do in the fall," Tegtmeier said. "We don't in the spring because of disruption to play (and) healing. We do in the fall . . . because of the high salt. It aids in the flushing process. We also have greens that (are at) varying stages in years. Coring allows us to get the same medium in those greens."
  • The Michigan State University Turf School Short Course is scheduled for Dec. 12-15 in East Lansing. The upcoming Michigan State University Turf School Short Course is structured to provide a baseline of information for novice turfgrass managers, or serve as a refresher for seasoned professionals.
    Scheduled for Dec. 12-15 in East Lansing, the MSU Turf School is a four-day program that teaches the basics of turfgrass science as well as the practical techniques of managing turfgrass. 
    The school will be taught by MSU turfgrass faculty and staff and will cover a wide range of turfgrass management topics, including basic soils and soil management, turfgrass species identification, selection and physiology, turf establishment and renovation, fertilization, proper pesticide use and environmental stewardship. 
    A significant portion of the school is dedicated to weed, insect and disease identification and management. The pest management section is delivered in lecture and laboratory settings with hands-on learning emphasized. 
    The program is an excellent opportunity for one-on-one interaction between participants and the MSU turfgrass faculty, including Joe Vargas, Trey Rogers, Kevin Frank, Thom Nikolai, Emily Merewitz-Holm, David Gilstrap and Nancy Dykema.
    The MSU Turf School is perfect for those looking to add to their turf knowledge - the school starts with the turf basics and expands from there throughout the week. Past attendees include golf course employees without formal training, lawn care company employees, turfgrass equipment technicians, industry sales representatives and school employees responsible for grounds and athletic fields.
    Topics that are covered include turfgrass species and cultivars including a hands-on identification lab, establishment and renovation, nutrition and fertilizers, weed, insect, and disease management including hands-on identification labs, turfgrass soils, cultivation and compaction.
    This year's school will be held Dec. 12-15 at the Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center on the Michigan State University campus. The school begins at 8 a.m. on Monday and concludes at 5 p.m. on Thursday. Lodging arrangements can be made with the Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center online at www.kelloggcenter.com, or by calling 800-875-5090. Reference the group code 2212MSUTUR to get the block room rate of $123 per night for single or double occupancy.
    Cost for the program is $700 and includes all class materials and lunch daily at the MSU Brody Complex. Registration is limited to 100 people. 
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