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From the TurfNet NewsDesk


  • John Reitman
    Mike Leach celebrates with his team after a win over Texas A&M this year. Leach died Tuesday at age 61. Mississippi State University Athletics photo By his own admission, Mike Leach hated golf. He called it "boring," and said it is for people "who do not swear effectively enough, or need practice at it."
    Given that, he added: "So, I mean there are those that need golf, and I don't think that I do."
    Regardless of how Leach felt about golf, there is much that we, including golfers and non-golfers alike, can learn from him. The head football coach at Mississippi State, Leach died Tuesday morning at age 61 from, according to his family, complications related to a heart condition.
    Leach was a revolutionary coach, however, he will be remembered for his eccentric and comedic personality off the field, not for wins and losses on it.
    Leach was a one-of-a-kind personality. He was not consumed by his trade, nor did he let it define him. The architect of the Air Raid offense, Leach revolutionized college football and forever changed its trajectory. But he never liked to talk about X's and O's or his own contributions to the game. Press conferences or encounters with sideline reporters were more likely to end in discussions about history, politics, pirates or Apaches than they were post patterns or flea flickers.
    When he was introduced as the offensive coordinator at Oklahoma in 1999, rather than discuss his offensive philosophy with the media, university administration and fans during the news conference, he went on for several minutes about one of his favorite topics - Geronimo.
    When one of his Washington State teams was on a bus headed to the stadium for a date with USC, tension and stress worked its way through the bus among players and assistant coaches. Leach was seated at the front of the bus wearing headphones and working on something with pen and paper. When an assistant asked what he was working on, Leach removed the headphones and told the coach that he was listening to Spanish language lessons on Rosetta Stone.
    Leach enjoyed a great deal of success as a coach. In his 21 years as head coach at Texas Tech, Washington State and Mississippi State, he guided 19 team to bowl game appearances.
    An eccentric and curious lifelong learner, Leach's interests extended far beyond the football field. He was a lawyer by trade, and his interests were much greater than just football and he wore those interests and his personality on his sleeve for all to see. 
    That irreverence coupled with what by all accounts appeared to be a genuine caring for others arguably made Leach the most beloved personality in the history of college football. His quick wit and dry humor endeared him to many, including coaches and fans from other schools like no one else college football had ever seen.
    When it was announced Monday that he had been transported from Starkville, Mississippi to the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson because of a medical emergency, his health and hope for a recovery dominated social media and sports talk TV and radio for two days, and only intensified upon news of his death.
    No other coach would have commanded such attention for accomplishments on the field, much less for his personality off it, because no other coach is so widely accepted outside his own team's fanbase.
    Within hours of the news that Leach had died, the SEC Network aired a two-hour special dedicated to his memory. The show was packed with commentary from college administrators and coaches and media personalities expressing how Leach impacted them.
    This for a man whose head coaching resume included stops at Texas Tech, Washington State and Mississippi State, all respectable jobs, but they're not career destinations like Texas, USC or Alabama.
    He was passed over for other jobs, including Tennessee, and the inability to land what would be considered a top-tier position left him bitter and feeling incomplete.
    The reality is he did not need a job like Tennessee to leave a lasting mark on college football, or more importantly, on others. In fact, he made his impression on countless people across the globe because of the type of person he was, not for any of his success at plying his trade.
    Everyone can learn from that.
  • The recipients of the TurfNet Jerry Coldiron Positivity Awards for 2022 are Bill Blackburn of College Grove, Tennessee, and Dave Wilber of Littleton, Colorado.
    The Jerry Coldiron Positivity Awards are given annually to recognize individuals within the golf turf industry who live lives of joy, caring, sharing and compassion for others… or who have experienced personal hardship due to illness, natural events or job loss… or who do something special for the natural world. They are presented in memory of Jerry Coldiron, CGCS, a career golf course superintendent, salesperson, TurfNet member and friend to many who passed away suddenly in 2017 at age 60.

    Bill Blackburn, Lightning Bug Golf Course, College Grove, TN
    Bill Blackburn spent most of his long career in golf turf "peddling iron" for Smith Turf & Irrigation (STI) and before that the Toro Company and Olathe Manufacturing. He retired three years ago from his position as "General Manager for Tennessee Business" for STI, but it is not for that which he is being honored as one of the 2022 Jerry Coldiron Positivity Awards.
    18 years ago Bill had the idea to build a "little 5-hole golf course" and a fishing pond on his in-laws' farm outside Nashville and encourage kids to come out and learn the game of golf. The Lightning Bug Golf Course, as his young daughter Ann Catherine named it at the time, grew to 9 holes and began attracting not only kids but adults new to the game as well. Every September they hosted a tournament to raise funds for the Jesse Frank Jr. Golf Scholarship Fund (named after Bill's late father-in-law) to send worthy children to the Tennessee PGA Jr. Golf Academy at Golf House Tennessee. With a cost of about $700 per child, the early goal was to send two or three interested kids to golf camp. Fast forward 18 years and the annual event has raised in the vicinity of $225,000 and sent 250 kids to golf camp. The rest of the story:
    Dave Wilber, turf consultant, Littleton, Colorado
    Well known within the golf turf industry, Dave Wilber is a former golf course superintendent, world-traveling turf consultant, writer, podcaster, social media maven, bass player and — most recently — part-time school bus driver. 
    Surprisingly enough, it is for his outreach and extension of the bus driver role that we are recognizing him with a Jerry Award. Faced with Covid-reduced travel and income along with skyrocketing health insurance costs, Dave found a solution in the local Littleton school district. Working part-time driving a school bus would get him full-time health insurance. He soon encountered both challenges and opportunities with the "kids on the bus".
    Dave has chronicled on Twitter some of his humanitarian efforts with the kids  and did a recent podcast with our friends at Earthworks to explain in more detail. Justin Woodland (superintendent at The Barn Golf Club in Ogden, Utah, and owner of Airgronomics, LLC) recently set up a GoFundMe page — The Giving Bus Driver — to help Dave continue to make an impact in his community. The EW podcast and the GoFundMe campaign brought more attention to Dave's work with the kids, and led to his recognition with a 2022 Jerry Award.
    Susan Coldiron, Jerry's wife, said: "On behalf of our family, we would like to congratulate the winners of the “Jerry Coldiron Positivity Award” this year, Bill Blackburn and Dave Wilber. Jerry will always be remembered for his ability to spread cheer and provide optimism and encouragement to everyone, even during the most difficult of times. Bill and Dave are both very deserving winners and exemplify the positive outlook and values that make this award such a special recognition in Jerry’s honor. We would also like to thank TurfNet for helping us to continue Jerry’s legacy of “paying it forward.”
    Previous recipients of the awards are:
    2021
    Michael and Jenna Breuer and family of Bandon, Oregon, Paul and Kristie Hurst of GreensPro, St. Louis, Missouri Jack Percival of Chipstead Golf Club, England. 2020 - on hiatus due to Covid
    2019
    Tenia Workman, executive director of the Georgia GCSA the late Tom Morris, CGCS, career superintendent in Vermont 2018
    Marcos "Mike" Morales of the Buccaneer Golf Club in St. Croix, US Virgin Islands John and Peggy Colo, Jupiter Hills Golf Club, Tequesta, Florida Adam and Erin Engle, Lake Shore Yacht and Golf Club, Cicero, NY John and Nick Paquette, Indian Hills Country Club, Northport, NY Both Dave Wilber and Bill Blackburn will receive a cash stipend from TurfNet and the Coldiron family to spend as they please.
  • If there has been one positive come out of the pandemic era, it has been the acknowledgment that a lot of people are suffering from mental health issues. It does not mean we all are crazy, but with more to do and less time and resources in which to do it all, it stands to reason that people of all backgrounds are dealing with a lot of stress that is affecting their mental health.
    The British and International Golf Greenkeepers Association is doing something about the challenges associated with mental health and has launched a campaign to combat the rise of mental health struggles in the golf green industry.

    BIGGA has pledged to create 100 mental health first aiders during 2023, who will receive training that will give them the skills to support golf greenkeepers and other clubhouse staff through any difficulties they may be experiencing.
    Poor mental health is one of the biggest challenges facing society today. According to BIGGA, 75% of deaths among men age 50 and under are attributed to suicide, making it the most common cause of death in that age bracket. The greenkeeping industry itself has been rocked by several tragic losses in recent years and in 2021 BIGGA launched a survey that revealed 80% of greenkeepers were concerned about the mental health of a colleague.
    Working environments and money concerns are major causes of stress and mental health problems and BIGGA is working alongside golf's governing bodies to improve governance and working practices at golf clubs. Stronger, more positive and respectful working environments should help relieve some of the undue pressures placed upon staff at present.
    To further support those working in the golf industry, BIGGA has launched its campaign to train 100 mental health first aiders across the United Kingdom. The training course provides the first aiders with knowledge to help them recognize signs that a colleague or friend may be experiencing difficulties and empowers them to direct others towards available help.
    The cost of the course is being met by BIGGA with support from The R&A, and participants will receive a certificate from Mental Health England. In addition, participants will receive three years' ongoing training and support from Mental Health England.
    The opportunity to get involved is open to BIGGA members, including greenkeepers and trade representatives who spend much of their time on the road, visiting greenkeeping teams.
    The first course will be held in February at Edgbaston Golf Club and further events will be hosted around the country, helping to build a national network of mental health first aiders.
    The campaign is being led by BIGGA's Steve Dudley-Brown, himself a former greenkeeper and course manager with 25 years' experience in the industry.
    "During my career as a greenkeeper, I experienced several of my colleagues having mental health difficulties,” Dudley-Brown. "It's a scary situation knowing that you have someone in front of you and they are upset and afraid. You want to try and support them the best you can. This training course will give people the ability to understand a little more about what the person is going through and point them in the right direction for help.”
  • In a greenkeeping career that spanned parts of five decades, Bill Anderson saw a lot of changes.
    A graduate of Michigan State University, Anderson began working at Carmel Country Club in Charlotte, North Carolina as an assistant in 1973. By 1975, he was head superintendent, a job he viewed as a short-term stopover on his career path. He retired from Carmel 40 years later in 2013.
    During that time, he saw demand for conditions escalate from hairy to fast and furious. He saw budgets and staff size increase and the job of superintendent transition from greenkeeper to management professional.
    Anderson died Dec. 4 in Charlotte.
    Anderson played a key role in the development of Carmel. The club's original 18 holes opened in 1950. A new nine-hole course, now known as the North Course, was launched in 1967 and expanded to 18 holes in 1998.
    Upon the news of Anderson's death, the Carolinas Golf Association described him on social media as "a true southern gentleman and extremely knowledgeable about golf and the turf industry."
    He is remembered by many as a mentor and leader who helped others in their own career development pursuits.
    "I had the chance to work for Bill," Scott Mauldin, CGCS at Bayville Golf Club in Virginia, said on social media. "(H)e sure created the vision for professionalism and commodity for me as a turf student. He will surely be missed."
    Anderson was a leader locally among superintendents in North and South Carolina. He was a former president and two-term board member of the Carolinas GCSA, was the 2008 recipient of the chapter's Distinguished Service Award and was a past president and vice president of the North South Turfgrass Association.
  • Many golf courses in the North Carolina Sandhills region, including Pine Needles Golf Resort, were knocked offline when vandals recently shot up two electrical transformers. Pine Needles Golf Resort photo Like any self-respecting Purdue graduate, Dave Fruchte spent Saturday evening watching the Boilermakers football team play Michigan in the Big 10 championship game.
    Before the game, ultimately won by second-ranked Michigan, was over, electricity at Fruchte's home went out.
    "It just went out, it didn't even flicker," said Fruchte, who oversees Southern Pines, Mid Pines and Pine Needles in Southern Pines, North Carolina. "It was probably a good thing that I didn't get to see the end of the game."
    As many as 45,000 people in the North Carolina Sandhills area haven't seen much of anything since Saturday when police say some shot up two electrical transformers owned by Duke Energy.
    The outage has affected not only 10s of thousands of residential customers, but several golf courses in the area, including those managed by Fruchte as well as the multi-course Pinehurst complex.
    Duke Energy has restored power to about 10 percent of its customers in the area, but says it probably will be at least Thursday before the rest of its affected customers are brought back online.
    Fruchte and wife Ann have moved into a hotel to ride out the outage. He said a couple of small generators at the golf course help provide some power to the clubhouse and keep the fuel pump running for mowers and other equipment, but golfers hoping to find a golf car - and there have been a few - are out of luck.
    A tournament scheduled for Tuesday has been canceled and police continue to search for those responsible. According to Moore County Sheriff Ronnie Fields, multiple gunshots took down two Duke Energy substations Saturday night.
    Cold temperatures have Bermudagrass on area golf courses headed into dormancy, which has been a blessing, Fruchte said. 
    "We had a hard freeze, so the grass is dormant," he said. "We had some rain today and we're supposed to get more tomorrow, so I think we'll be fine."
  • Sandhills Community College will be offering a 12-month Greenkeeper Apprenticeship Program. USGA photo
    The USGA and Sandhills Community College in Pinehurst are partnering to create the USGA Greenkeeper Apprenticeship Program (GAP). The 12-month program through ApprenticeshipNC is designed for anyone interested in a career in golf course maintenance or who wants to work on a course and improve their skills.
    GAP is a collaboration with local golf course superintendents and aims to recruit, train and educate the next generation of golf course maintenance professionals, while removing barriers to entry into the profession and providing participants with a living wage.
    In-person instruction is scheduled to begin in January and is combined with on-the-job training at golf courses in the Pinehurst area, including Pinehurst Resort, Pine Needles Lodge & Golf Club, Forest Creek Golf Club and the Country Club of North Carolina.
    "The USGA has long had a close working relationship with our friends in the industry who own, operate and maintain the greens that every golfer plays on," Matt Pringle, Ph.D., executive director of the USGA Green Section, said in a news release. "This pilot program is an opportunity to do our part to strengthen the golf workforce in our new home community and foster an even stronger golf economy in North Carolina."
    Qualified applicants receive free lessons through a regional partnership with the USGA, ApprenticeshipNC and regional golf institutions. Participating golf courses in the Pinehurst area hire all students at a minimum wage of $15 per hour at the beginning of the program with a commitment to increase their hourly wage to a minimum of $17 per hour upon completion of the program.
    "Attracting and retaining a skilled workforce is an ongoing challenge for the golf course industry," Bob Farren, CGCS, director of golf course maintenance at Pinehurst Resort & Country Club, said in the release. "This apprenticeship program is able to meet this challenge by creating career paths for its graduates who will be trained in the latest golf course maintenance technologies and best practices."
    Among the USGA educators who will be teaching the inaugural courses is USGA agronomist Jordan Booth, Ph.D.; Chris Hartwiger, director of the USGA's Golf Course Advisory Service; and the USGA's Cole Thompson, Ph.D., director of turf and environmental research for the USGA.
    Students advance their knowledge through college courses based on their work schedules. Courses include soil science, water management, lawn science and pest control. GAP participants gain expertise in using the ever-evolving tools of their trade, from maintaining automatic irrigation systems and autonomous mowers to GPS-guided robotics that manage energy, water, labor and nutrients more efficiently — the top four maintenance costs for most courses .
    "Sandhills Community College is committed to meeting the workforce needs of our community. The golf industry is an important part," said Sandhills president John Dempsey, Ph.D. "This unique partnership with SCC, USGA and local golf courses demonstrates how partnerships are able to address the challenges faced by our local employers and provide a pipeline of skilled workers who then have increased earning potential."
    In addition to the qualifications earned at Sandhills Community College, trainees receive a Journey Worker Card through the North Carolina and United States Departments of Labor, giving anyone the essential tools for a successful career in golf course maintenance.
    Registration is now open at sandhills.edu. The second cohort of GAP students will begin in June 2023.
    GAP, a pilot program with a curriculum developed by the USGA, is the USGA's latest effort to help golf courses provide golfers with the best playing conditions while managing resources more efficiently, advancing science and agronomic skills, and providing hands-on advisory services to manage costs . These efforts are led by the USGA Green Section, a division of the organization dedicated solely to golf course sustainability.
  • 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."
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