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From the TurfNet NewsDesk

  • John Reitman
    Time is winding down for those who hope to secure a spot in the 2024 UMass Winter Turf School.
    Scheduled for Jan. 2-March 1, the 2024 program will be conducted in a remote, virtual format for the fourth consecutive year. Deadline to apply is Nov. 1.
    Since 1927, the UMass Winter Turf School has been providing an alternative to traditional education that has pumped professional turf managers into positions all around the world.

    Assembled in a compressed certificate program, the 2024 Winter Turf School will cover all the concepts essential to maintaining high quality turf, with emphasis on environmental stewardship and fiscal responsibility. This comprehensive short course includes more than 110 hours of instruction taught by UMass extension specialists and faculty as well as guest instructors and is ideal for experienced or aspiring golf course superintendents, sports field managers, as well as parks and rec and LCO professionals.
    The 2024 course period will be nine weeks built around a 4.5-hour block on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays throughout the duration of the program, with scheduled class time from 1-3 p.m. and 3:30-5:30 p.m. Successful applicants will receive a detailed schedule before classes begin.
    Specific topics that will be covered are:
    > Fundamentals of Turf Management
    > Soil Science and Management
    > Turf Pathology
    > Turf Entomology
    > Weed Management
    > Advanced Topics in Turf
    > Irrigation and Equipment Management
    > Arboriculture
    Benefits of the virtual format include saving on registration costs, travel expenses and time; and opens the program to those who otherwise could not attend.
    A Certificate of Completion will be awarded to those who complete the program. Pesticide recertification contact hours will be offered for those from Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont, and continuing education credits will be available.
  • Pinehurst Resort will be the site of several USGA events during the next 25 years. Pinehurst Resort photo With a long history of national championships to its credit, Pinehurst Resort will be the host site of six more events during the next 25 years.
    These events are the 2027 U.S. Women's Amateur, 2032 U.S. Junior Amateur and U.S. Girls' Junior, 2038 U.S. Amateur, 2044 U.S. Women's Amateur and a future U.S. Adaptive Open. The 2027 and 2044 U.S. Women's Amateurs and 2038 U.S. Amateur will be held on Pinehurst No. 2, with the remaining championship's courses to be determined at a later date.
    "Bringing more championships to a venue like Pinehurst is a testament to the USGA's commitment to our long term partnership with the Resort and our promise of expanding the presence of our organization in the area," John Bodenhamer, USGA chief championships officer, said in a news release. "Pinehurst's rich golfing heritage and commitment to excellence make it the perfect setting for all of the USGA's world-class events. Their commitment to our Open championships is incredible, and now we are able to shine a light on the amateur game here as well."
    This decision reaffirms the USGA's commitment to staging national championships at Pinehurst while also bringing its other premier championships to North Carolina with more frequency. The inclusion of the U.S. Junior Amateur and U.S. Girls' Junior will mark the first time these championships will be contested at Pinehurst. The resort has hosted one U.S. Women's Amateur in 1989 and the U.S. Amateur will be played at Pinehurst for a fourth time when it returns in 2038. 
    In addition to the championships announced on Tuesday,  Pinehurst No. 2 also will be the site of the U.S. Open in 2024, 2029, 2035, 2041 and 2047, as well as the U.S. Women's Open in 2029 for another historic year of back-to-back U.S. Open and U.S. Women's Open Championships like the USGA staged at Pinehurst in 2014.
    "We are honored and thrilled to welcome these USGA championships to our historic venue in the years to come and today continues to help us achieve our goal of hosting a variety of premier championships," said Bob Dedman Jr. in the news release, speaking on behalf of the Dedman family, which owns Pinehurst Resort. "This continued partnership with the USGA reflects our shared dedication to the game of golf and the bright future we envision together. Pinehurst's legacy in golf combined with the USGA's commitment to innovation ensures that our collaboration will continue to create memorable championship moments for years to come at all levels of the game."
    North Carolina has hosted 37 USGA championships while Pinehurst Resort has hosted 12 USGA championships, including the U.S. Open in 1999, 2005 and 2014; the U.S. Amateur in 1962, 2008 and 2019; the U.S. Senior Open in 1994; and the U.S. Women's Open in 2014. Other USGA events contested at Pinehurst include the 2017 U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship, and the first two U.S. Adaptive Open championships in 2022 and 2023.
    The U.S. Adaptive Open is open to male and female professional and amateur players with a handicap index of 36.4 or less and an eligible impairment confirmed by a WR4GD Pass. The championship is a stroke play event contested over 54 holes utilizing multiple sets of tees.
  • For several years, the Greenkeeper mobile app has been helping superintendents determine the best time to apply plant growth regulators.
    Now, an add-on feature will help them ensure they apply product on where it is needed.
    Greenkeeper CIS allows users to map course boundaries, log pest applications, create prescription spray maps and add drone maps and application records. Users can turn data into application maps for GPS-guided sprayers allowing them to save time and money on product and water.
    "We needed some way to make data actionable," said Bill Kreuser, Ph.D., superintendent at Jim Ager Golf Course in Lincoln, Nebraska, and the founder of Greenkeeper and CIS. "It provides better control of GPS sprayers and irrigation systems. It allows you to pull in boundary files so you can customize where you want to spray.
    "It prevents some areas from not being treated, or over-applying. We now have a way of controlling that sprayer."
    Besides marking boundaries of fairways, tees, bunkers and greens, Greenkeeper CIS (short for Course Information System) allows users to mark off specific targets, including individual weeds, pests and other smaller problem areas for spot-specific application.

    Greenkeeper CIS helps superintendents dial in precise spray applications. Greenkeeper CIS photo "With CIS, you can see your location on the map and you can mark exactly where the pest is," Kreuser said. "You can write notes, and create custom spray applications for those spots for, say, for yellow nutsedge. We're really excited about the realm of precision turf management that this can bring to every turn manager. The reduction in spray volume can be huge. And this allows you to do this without complex software.
    "It will be a nice change to take a map of the course and identify where the problems are, share them and link that to the sprayer."
    Data can be stored locally or on Greenkeeper CIS.
    Kreuser had just recently finished collecting data for the CIS system when his sprayer was stolen from Ager Golf Course and crashed into a police vehicle in August.
    He related a real-world experience to demonstrate the savings that can be realized through the CIS program when he treated for Pythium root rot on four greens at Ager.

    Superintendents can create prescription maps to treat specific areas on the golf course. Greenkeeper CIS photo "I drew where we wanted to treat. It was six spots on four greens," Kreuser said. "Instead of treating all 50,000 square feet, we treated 6,000 square feet and still eliminated the problem."
    To date, Kreuser has worked with multiple companies, including Deere and Frost to upload maps into spray units.
    "They realize clients are begging for a tool to control their sprayer," he said. 
    "This is a hub that brings all that data together and overlays them so the turf manager can make a decision."
    Kreuser founded Greenkeeper in 2017 along with Doug Soldat, Ph.D., of the University of Wisconsin. Kreuser insists that the latest CIS add-on is not the end of innovation under the Greenkeeper umbrella.
    Kreuser promises more changes by the end of the year.
    "I love the entrepreneurial side of this," he said. "This is all about when you need to do something, minimizing the quantity and making sure the timing is right."
  • Buffalo Turbine's KB23 has a 23 hp, fuel injected gasoline engine. For turf managers who need an easy-to-use, high-powered and affordable blower, Buffalo Turbine recently introduced the Cyclone KB23 tow-behind blower.
    The KB23 is incorporates many of the features from Buffalo's popular KB6 blower built around a 23 horsepower, fuel-injected gasoline engine with and a lower price point. The engine comes with a 3-year warranty and the unit includes a 10-year manufacturer's warranty.
    A wireless start/stop function means no choke is required before starting. 
    Other features of the KB23 easy-to-operate hitch, wireless throttle and nozzle control, heavy duty air cleanerauto nozzle positioning and a six-gallon fuel capacity like its KB6 cousin.
    The KB23 comes with a standard polymer nozzle with rectangular and round aluminum nozzles an available option.
  • A year-long restoration of the University of North Carolina's Finley Golf Club was finished this week, with the course opening for play on Wednesday.
    The restoration was the handiwork of Love Golf Design and Davis Love III, who played for the Tar Heels from 1982 to 1986, company president Mark Love, also a Carolina graduate and former Tar Heel golfer, and lead architect Scot Sherman. 
    The $13.5 million restoration includes a wall-to-wall regrassiing with Bermudagrass, lengthening of some holes and expanding the practice area to better suit the needs of the university's golf teams.
    The latest redesign effort is only the second makeover at UNC since the course was built in 1950, when Finley was built by architect George Cobb.
    The course had not been touched since a Tom Fazio renovation in 1999. As other courses throughout North Carolina converted to one of many varieties of ultradwarf Bermudagrass, Finley's greens remained creeping bentgrass. The university's golf team also was in need of a more expansive practice facility.

    The newly renovated University of North Carolina's Finley Golf Club recently reopened. UNC photo Greens were recontoured and regrassed with Tif-Eagle and are surrounded by Tahoma 31 collars. Tees, fairways and rough were grown-in with 419.
    About 16 acres from the 10th and 11th holes have been absorbed to expand the practice facility and provide the golf teams every lie, grass length, corridor and target imaginable. Consulting on the practice facility project was Darren May, desinger of the Michael Jordan-owned Grove 23 in Hobe Sound, Florida.
    The Finley course was built in 1950 by Cobb on land donated to the university by William Coker, a UNC professor and botanist. In 1982, when three holes were remade into intramural and athletic fields and three new ones built in the woods on campus.
    In 1999, Fazio was hired to re-design the course and build a new one. He used some of the original corridors and added drainage since the course was built in a low-lying area prone to flooding. 
    The project also included reversing the nines, with the old front nine now being the back, and vice-versa, because Love saw the par-4 ninth hole as an ideal finishing hole. And with the 10th and 11th holes being swallowed up by the practice facility, the par-3 12th hole is now hole No. 1.
    Losing Nos. 10 and 11 meant finding room for two new holes on the new front nine. The new holes are the 320-yard uphill par 4, and No. 6, an uphill par 3.
    The course held a grand opening on Oct. 18. Golf car traffic will be restrict to cart path only for eight months until the men's NCAA Regional Tournament in May.
  • As New York Gov. Kathy Hochul weighs whether to sign a bill that would ban neonicotinoids in the name of protecting pollinating insects, Tom Kaplun hopes to convince her staff of how important that class of chemistries is to the state's golf industry and how responsible superintendents are in using them.
    In June, the New York State Senate voted to pass Senate Bill S1856A.The proposed legislation would prohibit the sale of neonicotinoids as well as coated seeds used in agriculture.  Known as the Birds and Bees Protection Act, the bill is on Hochul's desk where it awaits her signature or veto.
    Kaplun is superintendent at North Hempstead Country Club in Port Washington, as well as vice president of the New York State Turfgrass Association and government affairs chair for the Long Island GCSA. He wants the governor to have all the facts before making a decision that could be detrimental to golf courses around the state.
    "I would tell her in turf we deal with the application of a product that goes down one time a year at the height of grub-laying season," said Kaplun. "And it goes down on a surface that is devoid of flowering plants that would attract bees."
    Neonicotinoids are commonly used in golf to control pests such as white grubs. Specifically, imidacloprid is a common tool of choice among superintendents in New York, Kaplun said.
    Previous versions of the Birds and Bees Protection Act were introduced as long ago as 2017. According to Kaplun, it gained support in Albany based on a 2020 report published by Cornell University that concluded that routine neonicotinoid use is detrimental to bee populations. He believes researchers with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, not elected officials in Albany, should decide the fate of neonicotinoids and other chemistries that are in question.
    "It is a collection of data to see if there is a cause and effect with bee loss associated with use of this product," Kaplun said. 
    "If something is deemed unsafe, why doesn't the state instead operate in a capacity to fund scientific studies to show that is the case? The Department of Environmental Conservation should make these decisions, not legislators."

    There are many contributors to bee colony loss besides pesticides, including parasitic varroa mites and habitat loss. Utah State University photo Neonicotinoids are not the only contributors to hive loss. Habitat loss and parasitic varroa mites also have dramatic effects on bee populations.
    Kaplun says he and his colleagues throughout the state have worked hard to develop best management practices that show by example their commitment to environmental stewardship while also providing the best possible playing conditions for their golfers.
    He is not necessarily looking for a veto of the birds and bees act, but at least an exemption for golf.
    "The goal of establishing best management practices is to be environmental stewards of the golf course grounds that we maintain," he said. "Those are our guiding principles. And we use science-based documents and research to safely manage these grounds under an integrated best management practices."
    If the governor signs the bill enacting it into law without any exemptions, the outcome could be detrimental for golf because superintendents would lose an effective tool, Kaplun says.
    "This legislation would make our jobs more difficult, and it will make golf more expensive," he said. "More than 70 percent of golf in New York is public, and the average greens fee is $40. This legislation is going to drive that price up, and drive some in golf out of business."
    Kaplun has spoken with members of Hochul's staff and the state's green industry is working with the Vandevort Group, an Albany-based lobbying firm to plead their case. The governor must decide either way by the end of the year.
    "We met with the governor's advisors, so she can make her best informed decision," he said. "At this point, we are looking for a veto or an amendment that allows for one application one time per season for golf.
    "We need to act on things that affect us, and this is one topic we felt we had to vigorously oppose."
  • The Clutch, a new family-friendly 12-hole track by Beau Welling Design, will open in late 2023 at South Seas resort on Capitva Island near Fort Myers, Florida. The project is part of the rebuilding process underway at South Seas since of Hurricane Ian devastated the Southwest Florida coast in 2022.
    The course was designed by Beau Welling along with design associate Chase Webb.
    Welling, whose projects include restoration work at Stanford University Golf Course, Atlanta Country Club and PGA Frisco and working with Tiger Woods at Bluejack National, designed The Clutch to help improve stormwater management for the north end of the resort. To that end, the course can withstand as much as 20 inches of rain in a compressed time.
    Each hole was designed with multiple routes of play, offering players a unique alternative to the standard 18-hole experience.

    The Clutch is a Beau Welling design on Captiva Island. South Seas resort photo "We are extremely proud of the course that we have created at South Seas and look forward to unveiling The Clutch," Welling said in a news release. "The site is spectacular, and we were able to create a strategic and challenging, yet playable golf course that complements the beautiful surroundings with unobstructed water views on every hole. Working with South Seas, we were also able to create a unique and relaxed golf experience that promotes friends and families coming together through the game of golf to enjoy the stunning setting."
    The name The Clutch refers to a sea turtle nest, a common site on Florida beaches, and pays homage to the island's diverse wildlife population.
    "We're thrilled to introduce our guests to this new golf experience," said Shawn Farrell, GM at South Seas. "Our goal is to offer more than just a game – it's about enjoying the popular sport in the most beautiful setting imaginable."
  • With a history that started in painting and marking sports fields, GPS-guided auto steer technology from Traqnology is soon coming to mowing finely manicured turf.
    Powered by any connected iPad, Traqnology's auto steer system works on any piece of equipment that is controlled with a steering wheel.
    The system progressed from sports turf painting and marking into other agronomic practices such as aerifcation, overseeding, fraze mowing, root pruning, applying sand topdressing and more, and soon will be available on all turf mowers controlled with a steering wheel. 
    Traqnology's GPS-guided technology allows users to map boundaries of any turf surface, including fairways, greens and athletic fields, as well as around irrigation heads, valve boxes, drainage inlets, trees and bunkers.
    Maps can be saved on the Traqnology cloud or downloaded locally, and on-screen object obstruction detection prevents unwanted collisions and maximizes safety for the operator and others.
  • It has been nearly two centuries since the Farmington River Canal was used as a navigable waterway.
    The canal that once connected Northampton, Massachusetts with New Haven, Connecticut, was long ago converted to a rail line and later a series of trails. The canal, at least the part that goes through Farmington, Connecticut, was full again recently, when the area was hammered with 8 inches of rain in late September.
    Among the areas affected was the Country Club of Farmington, a 100-year-old Devereaux Emmet design near Hartford that serves as a floodplain.
    "I thought it might flood once every nine or 10 years, but this is the fourth time this year," said Farmington superintendent Scott Ramsay, CGCS. "This is unprecedented.
    "There are 90 holes of golf in my area that are in a floodplain. We are the only country club. We are a pressure-relief area for farmers in the area downstream. The water rose so quickly, it overwhelmed the golf course. Hopefully, we were able to help protect buildings and farms downstream."
    When the Farmington River, which is controlled with a series of dams, backs up, two creeks that run through the course overrun their banks and flood parts of the golf course.
    A few days later, the creeks were back in their banks, but low-lying areas still were holding water on Oct. 3.
    "The river doesn't crest on the golf course," Ramsay said. "It's the creeks and tributaries that back up.
    "Most of the creeks were back in their banks yesterday, but low-lying areas are still full of water. Half the course is still closed."
    The lowest areas on the golf course include the No. 6 fairway and area around the practice facility.
    Emmett designed the course with flooding in mind. Greens and tees are elevated to where they mostly are out of harm's way. 
    Historic flooding and landforms such as ditches where the canal once was located have combined to help make Farmington a great golf course.

    The Country Club of Farmington in central Connecticut lies in the Farmington River floodplain. CC Farmington photo "This is a cool piece of property, and a phenomenal use of a floodplain," Ramsay said. "Where the Farmington River Canal was is just grassy knolls and swales now, but you can still see it.
    "We have excellent soils and excellent topography for golf. Excellent topography for golf once the water recedes."
    The course also has original bunkers that Ramsay and his team spend a lot of time rebuilding every time the course floods.
    Farmington is in the midst of a restoration led by architect Matt Dusenberry. For reference, Dusenberry is using Emmett's original 1921 plans as well as aerial photos from 1934 to restore the course to its original design and playability.
    "It's starting to look like a heathland golf course. It never was a parkland golf course, and it was never a links-style course."
    The project also includes tree removal, improving drainage and expanding greens contours to their original specs. 
    "We're getting the footprint back," Ramsay said. "We're going to wrap up this fall. Then I look forward to restoring the bunkers — and defending them from inclement weather."
    In the long term, Ramsay would like to move more of the golf course out of the flood zone, but that will include getting an OK from local and state officials since and likely will also mean converting at least an equal amount of acreage to floodplain use since handling floodwater is the course's purpose.
    "There are methods we could use to defend the golf course from the weather, like raising some fairways and diverting water elsewhere," Ramsey said. "It would be a big project, but I think we could raise fairways a quarter-acre here and there."
  • NGF names new president
    The National Golf Foundation named long-time employee Greg Nathan as its new president and chief operating officer. Nathan, who has worked at NGF since 2007, will take over for Joe Beditz. 
    Beditz has served as president and chief executive officer since 1989, and will continue to serve as CEO.
    Beditz, 71, first joined NGF in 1984 as the research director, and has groomed Nathan to take over the nonprofit think tank.

    NGF photo Central Turf, Corteva reach distribution deal
    Central Turf & Irrigation Supply, a distributor of irrigation and landscape supplies with dozens of outlets across North America, is now a distributor of Corteva Agriscience products.
    Corteva Agriscience, formed from a merging of Dow, DuPont and Pioneer, offers a portfolio of fungicides, herbicides, insecticides, and seed treatments that protect turf against weeds, disease and insects.
    Central Turf has more than 60 outlets in the U.S. and Canada.
    Ryan turf equipment rebranded as Bobcat
    Doosan Bobcat's Ryan turf renovation equipment will rebrand under the Bobcat name.
    Ryan equipment joined the Doosan Bobcat portfolio in 2020, following the acquisition of Bob-Cat Mowers and the Steiner and Ryan brands of grounds maintenance equipment from Schiller Grounds Care. 
    Ryan has produced turf renovation equipment for more than 75 years and has a product lineup including aerators, sod cutters, dethatchers, power rakes, overseeders and other specialty products.
  • The Turfgrass Information File includes more than 300,000 print and digital files, including scores of material from TurfNet dating back years. The Turfgrass Information File database is widely known as a repository of articles published on turfgrass management. The TGIF database was previously accessible only via paid subscription. Now, the Michigan State University Libraries' Turfgrass Information Center is making the Turfgrass Information File database publicly available. The database is a cooperative project of the Turfgrass Information Center and the USGA.
    The release of the publicly accessible TGIF database coincides with the 40-year anniversary of the partnership between the USGA and the MSU Libraries. The database initiative began in 1983, with the goal of providing those in the business of turfgrass management expedient access to contemporary literature and ultimately expanding to published and unpublished materials. The USGA provided the initial investment to fund this project, with the first record being entered into the TGIF database on Sept. 10, 1984. Today there are more than 300,000 documents on file.
    "The development of what would become the Turfgrass Information File was a specific goal of the USGA Green Section's original research committee, and the MSU Libraries has done an exceptional job advancing it," said Cole Thompson, USGA director of turfgrass and environmental research. "Today, TGIF has become the go-to database for people interested in turfgrass literature. I can't imagine life without it, which reinforces both its status and how visionary the original development effort was. Allowing public access of TGIF advances our original goals, and the USGA is appreciative to collaborate with MSU Libraries on the effort."
    The MSU faculty and staff are proud to play a role in helping bring such a wide range of information in an open-access format to those who need it, said Trey Rogers, Ph.D., professor at Michigan State. 
    "The TGIF database has been a tremendous resource for anyone in the turf industry, and certainly a source of pride for me and my colleagues during my 35 plus years on the MSU Turf faculty," Rogers said. "To watch this vision of Peter Cookingham and others take shape and become the quintessential source for all turf information has been both amazing and gratifying. Open access will only enhance the reputation of the TIC at MSU, and we could not be happier."
    The TGIF database indexes material from a wide variety of sources including government agencies, universities, professional organizations and private publishers. Materials include articles from peer-reviewed publications, technical reports and conference proceedings, trade and professional publications, local professional newsletters, popular magazines, monographs, academic works, fact sheets and brochures, images, software and web documents. The majority of the database uses English-language materials, but it does include non-English resources. As of August 2023, the database comprised 323,469 records, 67 percent of which link to the full text of the item, according to Elisabeth Mabie, head of the Turfgrass Information Center.
    "For turfgrass professionals who cannot regularly visit a research library, access to full-text turfgrass research and other pertinent turf literature can be a challenge," Mabie said. "However, these are often the individuals who utilize these materials the most. With two-thirds of TGIF database records linking to the full-text of the item, this means many thousands of records link directly to content, saving valuable time and effort that would otherwise be spent locating physical copies for personal use."
  • Cutler Robinson, CGCS
    As a superintendent, Cutler Robinson was all too familiar with trying to schedule fertilizer applications based on weather that had already occurred. He thought there had to be a better way. Then the idea hit him: Applications might be more effective leading to a healthier plant if he somehow could tap future forecasts as a basis for product applications.
    After three years of development, the result is Predict-N7, an app-driven platform from Roanoke, Virginia-based Predictive Agronomics that utilizes thousands of data points, including site-specific weather information to match nitrogen management with products offering the proper amount of phytohormones and metabolites.
    Robinson, who graduated from Virginia Tech's turfgrass management program and also earned a master's degree in plant physiology in Blacksburg, described Predict-N7 as a math-driven, science-driven and site-specific weather data-driven tool that combines future forecast data with specific input from the superintendent to produce unique management based on the probability of conditions that are likely to occur rather than those that have already happened.
    "It incorporates seven-day forecasts before they occur, not Growing Degree Days after they occur," Robinson said.
    "It doesn't tell superintendents what to do. They tell it what they want, and it makes recommendations."

    One of the first signs that Predict-N7 is working, according to Cutler Robinson, is finer leaf blade in the grass plant (right). Predictive Agronomics photo For example, relying on plant growth regulators to slow growth of putting green turf can increase reliance on nitrogen, Thompson said. 
    "Give the plant more N than it needs, there is more accumulation of organic matter, which is where disease is born," he said. "This model tells you the right amount of N for the right amount of growth between spraying intervals."
    In a testimonial on Robinson's web site, Mike Nowicki, director of agronomy at Victoria National Golf Club in Indiana said Predict-N7 has worked for him on different turf types and different soils.
    "I've used the Predict-N7 model on two different golf courses, one with A4 and USGA construction, the other with Triple 7 and California construction," Nowicki wrote. "In each case, the Predict-N7 has helped me provide elite putting surfaces that withstand high heat, humidity, and traffic at very fast putting speeds."
    Two years of Beta testing during R&D and real-world use by superintendents have shown, Robinson said, that Predict-N7 can result in aerifying less often because less organic matter is created at the surface level.
    Matthew Wharton, CGCS at Idle Hour Country Club in Lexington, Kentucky said he was just beginning to look at Predict-N7 for use at Carolina Golf Club in Charlotte when he changed jobs.
    "I too have been searching for a way to break the PGR addiction," Wharton said. "Before the season started, I uprooted and took the position in Kentucky, and immediately began the steps to put the model in place at my new facility. Unfortunately, I do not have the ability to compare results this year to years past as I would have, had I remained at my previous facility. But I do believe the model is working based on turf performance this season, and I am excited to see how things perform next season."

    Cutler Robinson says more precise nitrogen applications at the right time can help reduce accumulation of organic matter. Predictive Agronomics photo Developed with business partners Chris and Cindy Appel, Predict-N7 can be used to help manage bentgrass, Pos annual, and ultradwarf Bermudagrasses, including TifEagle, Champion and Mini Verde.
    Incorporating thousands of data points including weather and other inputs such as soil tests into the equation along with other data, such as the types of results a superintendent is trying to produce will not only help determine how much N to spray, it can also recommend other nutrients the plant needs at a specific time. It also means that multiple properties within close proximity of one another could have vastly different spray programs because of differences like soil make up, micro climates, turf type and more.
    "When you incorporate everything into the algorithm then add in what the superintendent sees on his golf course, you can have two golf courses a mile apart and they will have two different spray models," Robinson said. "You could even have two different models on the same golf course. Every property is going to have a different model," Robinson said.
    "What if we sprayed exactly what the plant needs every time the superintendent fills the spray tank? That's pretty exciting." 
    With 24 years as a superintendent under his belt, Robinson knows all about managing turf under difficult circumstances. His last stop before giving up being a superintendent to focus on Predict-N7 was at Bayville Golf Club in Virginia Beach, where he says he was the first superintendent to get A4 bentgrass in 1995.
    "This program is driven by science and data and what the superintendent sees on his golf course," Robinson said. "Not blanket calendar-driven treatment."
  • The Lake Wheeler Turfgrass Field Laboratory plays a key role in research and education at North Carolina State University. NCSU photo The Lake Wheeler Turfgrass Field Laboratory at North Carolina State University recently was the beneficiary of a gift from the estate of an alumnus.
    Steven Womble, right, was a 1971 NC State graduate who spent 40 years as a superintendent at various courses throughout North Carolina. Womble died in 2021. Womble was active in the Carolinas GCSA and the Turfgrass Council of North Carolina and was an avid supporter of the NC State turfgrass program. 
    There are numerous possibilities on how this gift will benefit the program, such as an equipment service center to maintain specialized equipment and provide students with hands-on learning.
    "This idea would have an ongoing impact in keeping with the spirit of Steve's gift," turfgrass professor and extension specialist Grady Miller said in a news release. "It's challenging to raise money for capital improvements and we've outgrown our current structure several fold. This would be a nice asset to add to an important university unit."
    By all accounts, Womble led a very eventful life. Aside from a long career in golf maintenance, which began in 1965 when he was still a high school student in Durham. He was the construction superintendent at Croasdaile Country Club in his hometown, was a medic in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War and played drums in a band. 
    He eventually retired from the business after a long career at Wildwood Green Golf Course in Raleigh. 
    Throughout his career, Womble was a lifelong NC State football fan and regularly attended Wolfpack games.
    Throughout his career, Womble was a member of the Carolinas Golf Course Superintendent Association, an engaged participant with the Turfgrass Council of North Carolina and a strong proponent of the university's turfgrass program. 

    The Lake Wheeler Turfgrass Field Laboratory encompasses 20 acres of research and breeding plots. NCSU photo When he encountered challenges on the golf course he sought the assistance of researchers at his alma mater.
    "Steve was a great alumnus and a big NC State fan," extension specialist Fred Yelverton said in a news release. "I remember walking the course at Wildwood Green with him several times. He was proud of our turf program and worked closely with us to improve his courses."
    For six years, Womble was superintendent at the six-hole par-three course at NC State's University Club.
    Chip Watson is the General Manager of the Lonnie Poole Golf Course and worked with Womble for over 15 years. 
    "Steve was the best I have ever seen at 'fact gathering' and studying a situation," said Chip Watson, general manager at NC State's Lonnie Poole Golf Course in the release. "He wanted to make sure he wasn't making a mistake! He took his job very seriously and was extremely dependable."
    The 20-acre turfgrass research center is located on NC State's 1,500-acre suburban field research complex and plays a key role in the university's research and extension efforts. It is funded mostly through turfgrass research and from vendor-supported projects. It is home to thousands of research plots and breeding nurseries.  
    "NC State's turfgrass program encompasses all facets: breeding, management, pest management, soil microbiology, irrigation and more. We are unique in the intersection of cool-season and warm-season turfgrasses. Few other programs can match the diversity of NC State. And it's all at work at the Lake Wheeler Road Field Lab."
  • A Georgia golf course superintendent is out of a job after his role in a murder-for-hire scheme more than a decade ago was uncovered.
    Until Sept. 26, Jim Watkins had been a contracted, non-employee superintendent of municipal Rincon Golf Course near Savannah. The city terminated his contract on Sept. 26 after a resident informed officials during a recent city council meeting of Watkins' role in trying to hire a hitman to murder his brother more than a decade ago in Florida.
    In a series of events that seems straight out of a Rockbottum CC script, Watkins was arrested in Fort Lauderdale in 2011 after making arrangements to have his brother murdered over a dispute over their parents' multi-million dollar estate, according to court records. 
    Instead of hiring a hitman, Watkins, now 72 according to court records, unknowingly made his deal with an undercover policeman, according to records. He was convicted in 2014, served a prison sentence and remains on probation until 2030.

    The City of Rincon, Georgia parted ways with a superintendent hired on a contract basis after the city became aware of his criminal past. Rincon GC photo When informed of Watkins' past, Rincon officials said the city does not routinely conduct background checks on contract workers. 
    "We have taken swift and immediate action to address the city's liability as soon as we were able to confirm the allegations regarding the background of Mr. Watkins," City Manager Jonathan Lynn said on the city's X (Twitter) account.
    The city is revisiting its policy on conducting background checks on contract workers. According to the City of Rincon X page: "The city is working to finalize their updated policy on background checks for anyone associated with the city."
    There are no federal laws that prevent hiring a candidate because of a criminal record, however, laws differ at the state level. 
    According to state law in Georgia, under 35-3-34(3)(b), "employers that obtain criminal history records and decide not to hire them must inform the applicants about the origin of the information, its contents, and how it affected the decision not to hire them."
  • Hexagon- and circular-shaped earthen mounds are visible at Mound Builders Country Club in Newark, Ohio. Mound Builders CC photo Time could be running out for a golf course that has operated for more than a century on the site of an ancient earthworks complex.
    Since 1910, Mound Builders Country Club, a Thomas Bendelow design in Newark, Ohio, has operated on the site of the ancient Octagon Earthworks, part of the Hopewell Earthworks complex on several locations throughout central and southern Ohio. 
    Unlike the other earthwork compounds in Ohio that are believed to be ancient tribal burial sites, the Octagon and Great Circle complex at Mound Builders was erected more than 2,000 years ago by the Hopewell tribe to align with the moon during certain lunar phases. It is thought to be the oldest manmade earthworks complex in the world.
    The land where the club is located is owned by the Ohio History Connection, a state-funded entity that leases the property to the club. The lease agreement was to run through 2078, but the Ohio Supreme Court voted 6-1 last year to clear the way for the OHC to end the lease early. OHC wants to acquire the property through eminent domain and make the Octagon complex accessible to the public, like the other mounds throughout Ohio.
    Steps to make the area around the Hexagon mound complex accessible to the public intensified this week after the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization decided to recognize the entire Hopewell earthworks, which includes eight total sites, to be included on the World Heritage List.
    UNESCO's World Heritage List is a collection of 1,200 locations around the world, including 25 in the United States, deemed to be of outstanding universal value that includes places like the Great Wall, the Grand Canyon, the Pyramids of Giza, Babylon, Pompeii and Jerusalem.
    A sticking point between the club and the OHC has been compensation for the club so it could relocate elsewhere. According to reports, the OHC has on more than one occasion offered the club between $1 million and $2 million as a buyout of sorts. Club administrators have been on record saying it would cost as much as $25 million for the club to relocate.
    According to reports, a jury will decide the amount of the buyout.
    The Hopewell earthworks, including the Octagon and Great Circle at Mound Builders CC, were nominated by the U.S. Department of the Interior for inclusion on the UNESCO list last year.
  • After trying hopelessly to provide consistently great putting conditions year over year, the owner of a nine-hole golf course in Florida finally threw in the towel.
    Ben Best, owner of Suncoast Golf Center, installed artificial turf on all nine greens and the practice green at the nine-holer in Sarasota that he has owned for eight years. Installation began last October and was completed in January.
    Although he says it is cheaper to maintain synthetic greens, Best, who also is Suncoast's superintendent, said cost was not the driving force behind the decision to convert to carpet.
    "The biggest reason was consistency," Best said. "I got tired of looking people in the eye and telling them 'Yes, I know the greens are not good right now.' I got tired of saying it."
    Suncoast opened in 1997. When Best bought it nine years ago, he said there was as much bare dirt on the putting surfaces as there was grass. 
    "I took it from a diamond in the rough and turned the greens into something that were as good as any in the area," Best said. 
    "To call it a diamond in the rough when I bought it is giving it more credit than it deserves. The greens were 50 percent dirt and the practice range was all sand. The golf balls had no dimples left. They were that old. They were not one type, one brand or even one color. They had everything out there."
    Each year since he bought the course, Best babied the greens throughout the year, but it never seemed to be enough. To replicate the same conditions he produced during the summer offseason, Best eventually turned to overseeding in the fall. That was great during the winter, but often caused problems throughout the late spring and summer.
    "These are just old pop-up greens where the (native) soil was pushed up and boom, there's a green," he said. "The overseed looked good in winter, but the transition killed the greens. We had black mold, the overseed wouldn't die, we had nematodes."
    Even after Best stopped overseeding, his challenges of replicating winter conditions throughout the summer continued.
    "For four years, the overseed would come back on its own every winter," he said. "We'd bring the greens back every year, and every year they'd die.
    "It was hard to get our greens where we wanted them to be, and it was impossible to keep them there."

    Suncoast Golf Center has artificial turf on all of its greens. Suncoast Golf Center photo Best hired a nearby superintendent to consult on a best course of action, before finally settling on synthetic greens.
    "We were aerifying a green a week, verticutting," Best said.
    "I was spending $9,000 every month just on maintaining greens. That's a lot of money. I looked at digging them up and putting in USGA greens. Artificial turf costs less. It's not cheap either, and there is still maintenance involved, but I don't have to worry about consistency."
    Through his 40-year career in construction, Best already had installed many synthetic backyard putting greens, so the concept was one with which he already was familiar.
    He hired golf course builder Justin Carlton, who also has experience in synthetic turf installation including construction of an artificial turf putting green at Old Palm in Palm Beach Gardens, to do the shaping.
    The carpet is stretched and tucked and tacked so it holds contours like real grass. Unlike athletic fields that are packed with crumb rubber, Suncoast's greens are dressed with real sand.
    The trueness that superintendents achieve with natural grass is not there with the synthetic surface, but the consistency is.
    "There is some bounce and it plays like a new green that is only 25 percent broken in," Best said. "If you hit the ball with some spin, you can really do some things. If you hit it low, it's going to take off the back of the green.
    "My advice to people is hit it high and you'll be fine."
    And what do Suncoast's customers think, most like it, but Best knows that with synthetic turf, just like natural grass, you can't please all the people all the time.
    "Ninety percent love it. They love the consistency," Best said. "They know that today it will play the same as it did yesterday, and tomorrow it will play the same as it did today."
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