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From the TurfNet NewsDesk

  • John Reitman
    The man who was indicted for the 2021 murder of a Georgia golf professional and two others in a drug-deal-gone-wrong has pleaded guilty to avoid the death penalty.
    On Feb. 2, Bryan Rhoden (below right) was sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole after pleading guilty to multiple counts of murder and kidnapping in the deaths of Pinetree Country Club golf pro Gene Siller, 46 (above right), Henry Valdez, 46, and Paul Pierson, 76, at the Kennesaw, Georgia golf course in July 2021.
    Siller was found dead near Pinetree's No. 10 green at Pinetree, when he responded to calls about a pickup truck on the golf course. Police later found Valdez, a drug supplier, and Pierson, his associate, slain in the bed of a Dodge pickup that had been abandoned on the property. 
    Investigators say that during a drug deal on July 2, 2021, Rhoden abducted Valdez, of Anaheim, California, and Pierson, of Topeka, Kansas, in Jonesboro, Georgia, bound them with duct tape and zip ties then drove them to the golf course 40 miles away before shooting them in the bed of the pickup. In his plea Rhoden told investigators he intended to sink the pickup in a pond on the golf course. Siller, who was walking down the 10th fairway to investigate the incident, simply was in the wrong place at the wrong time, investigators said.
    "Detectives have learned that Mr. Siller happened upon a crime in progress involving the unknown suspect and the two deceased males who were found in the pickup truck," according to a 2021 police report. "It does not appear Siller was in any way targeted, but rather was killed because he witnessed an active crime taking place."
      Rhoden initially pleaded not guilty to the charges in December 2022.  Last July, Cobb County District Attorney Flynn Broady said he would seek the death penalty. 

    Cobb County Sheriff's deputies investigate the scene on the 10th green at Pinetree Country Club in Kennesaw, Georgia, after the bodies of three people, including club pro Gene Siller, were found on July 3, 2021. Rhoden was arrested the day of the incident on unrelated DUI charges. At the time he was not a suspect in the incident at Pinetree, and was released July 6. Two days later, he was arrested in South Carolina on charges of trafficking cocaine. That investigation eventually linked Rhoden to the events at Pinetree.
    Rhoden has a history of violent crime, according to police. He was arrested in 2016 and charged with assault, attempted murder and possessing a firearm on campus when he was involved in a drug deal gone bad at Georgia State University, where he was a student at the time, police said.
    Pinetree, a Chick Adams design, opened in 1962. Georgia native Larry Nelson was an assistant pro there before embarking on a Hall of Fame PGA Tour career.
  • Good or bad, records are made to be broken.
    In the golf business, many of the records that have been broken in the past 20 years were record lows, not record highs. Record low rounds played, record number of course closings, record low number of people playing golf. 
    However, in the past few years, some of the benchmarks that have been eclipsed have been on the high end of the scale. 
    On the heels of Covid, nearly a million people entered the game and a record 518 million rounds were played in 2021.
    There is more good news this year, according to Jim Koppenhaver of Pellucid Corp. and Stuart Lindsay of Edgehill Golf Advisors in their annual State of the Golf Industry report delivered Jan. 25 during the PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando.
    The golfer base increased by 4 percent in 2023, from 21.9 million players to 22.8 million. That's a net increase of 2.3 million people since 2019, and is the highest number of golfers in the game since 26 million in 2010. 
    Rounds played reached a record high of 520 million, eclipsing the previous record of 518 million rounds set in 2000 and 2021, and revenue nationwide increased by 7 percent.
    The number of men in the game increased by 800,000 (nearly 5 percent) to 16.8 million, while the number of women increased by about 100,000 (1.9 percent) to 6 million, according to the report. 
    For years, Baby Boomers carried the game on their collective backs, a statistic that is changing rapidly as many in that generation age out.
    The good news is that younger players are picking up the game. The bad news is Gen Xers are not.
    The number of Boomers in the game increased 4.8 percent to 4.9 million players. Those aged 35-54 increased by an eye-popping 8.4 percent to 6.6 million and 18-34s increased by 3.1 percent to 5.5 million. Generation X, or those aged 55-64, however, decreased by 3 percent to 3.7 million players.

    The number of golfers in the game and rounds played were way up last year. File photo by John Reitman "We haven't done a very good job of attracting the generation behind us," Koppenhaver said. "So part of our challenge as an industry is we're starting to age out.
    "We have a big gap in that next generation behind us that didn't take up golf like I did at (age) 24."
    The most-cited barriers to taking up the game and continuing with it have, historically, been time, cost and difficulty. None of which seem to be holding people back now, and Koppenhaver is not sure why.
    "We haven't solved any of the three issues that people said kept them from playing golf," Koppenhaver said. "It still takes four-and-a-half hours to play. It costs more to play today, but we have some cover because everything costs even more than golf. And despite all the equipment we see on the (PGA show) floor and everything else that is supposed to make my game better, I still suck."
    When the number of course closures outpaced openings in 2006, it represented an anomaly that had not occurred since the end of World War II. Since then, a net loss of courses each year has been the rule rather than the exception as closures have outnumbered openings for each of the past nine years - a necessary evil to bring the market toward equilibrium, which is an industry average of about 35,000 rounds per 18-hole equivalent, according to Koppenhaver and Lindsay.
    Equilibrium was reached several years ago, with the average rounds per EHE hovering between 38,000 and 40,000 each of the past four years.
    Last year, a total of 78 courses closed nationwide, with just 26 openings for a net loss of 52. Since 2006, there has been a net loss of 1,436 18-hole equivalents for a total golf supply of 12,783 courses, according to the report.
    With courses, on average, operating above equilibrium, the industry today could tolerate a net gain of another 2,000 EHE's (which is not going to happen) or losing 73 million rounds. Both give the industry, on the whole, with a good cushion.
    Public-access courses led the way, representing 92 percent of all closures. Although closings are trending down, about 80 properties sold last year. That number has hovered between 80 and 110 for the past four years. About 36 percent of those sales were of private clubs, and another 31 percent were considered "premium public" properties.
    That trend, Koppenhaver said, can be attributed to investors seeing little to no return on daily access value properties.
    Another trend that emerged in 2023 is the return of real estate golf that include properties like the Greg Norman-designed Shell Bay course in Miami.
    "There is a place for real estate golf," Koppenhaver said. "But not at the level we were doing it in '05."
  • You too can now have the industry's first smart device designed to test multiple metrics on putting green conditions.
    After bursting onto the scene in the golf industry a year ago, the USGA's GS3 "smart ball" is now available for purchase. 
    Eight years in development, the rechargeable GS3 is outfitted with sensors, accelerometers and gyroscopes that collect more than 15,000 data points to provide agronomic benchmarks that superintendents and researchers can use to make agronomic decisions and predict putting surface performance. The rechargeable smart ball that is the same size and weight as a standard golf ball calculates green speed, firmness, smoothness and trueness.
    Used in conjunction with the Deacon app, the GS3 provides immediate data on key surface performance metrics that superintendents can use to facilitate change more effectively on their course.
    Since announcing the product last year, the USGA has focused on quality testing and data validation. The GS3 was used at USGA championships throughout 2022 and 2023 and has been in use in real world conditions by some university researchers and at select golf courses, including Atlanta Athletic Club, Bel-Air Country Club, Longboat Key Club, Merion Golf Club and Pinehurst Resort.
    Priced at $2,750, the GS3 Starter Kit includes the GS3 ball and charger, a Deacon subscription, Stimpmeter, drop fixture, an enkamat and capture tray, clipping yield volume bucket and USGA agronomic support.
  • The turf-breeding program at the University of Georgia has released its latest vegetative seashore paspalum variety that is bred for enhanced resistance to many biotic and abiotic stressors.
    The result of 16 years of R&D, SeaBreeze was developed at Georgia's Griffin facility and can be used on golf courses on greens, tees and fairways. It is the fifth paspalum variety developed by UGA turf breeders and the third under Paul Raymer, Ph.D., professor of crop and soil science at the university's Institute of Plant Breeding, Genetics and Genomics.
    SeaBreeze was bred for improved vigor, drought and shade tolerance, color, turf quality, leaf texture and density, tensile strength and resistance to dollar spot.

    SeaBreeze paspalum was developed by University of Georgia professor and plant breeder Paul Raymer, Ph.D. UGA photo SeaBreeze produces improved quality turf under a range of mowing heights, and can be used on golf courses, athletic fields and lawns. It was tested under the experimental name of UGP 73 and has been evaluated in the National Turfgrass Evaluation Program at eight locations from 2016 to 2020. It also was the subject of a USDA Specialty Crops Research Grant to develop improved drought and salinity tolerant warm-season grasses where it was tested at six sites from 2011 to 2013 and in advanced trials at another six locations in 2016-19.
    "SeaBreeze is by far the best paspalum we've developed. It combines vigor and performance with beauty and toughness," Raymer said. "This grass establishes readily and grows-in rapidly. I think sod producers are going to love it because it cycles quickly and It's fun to grow."
    SeaBreeze is licensed for distribution to two Florida sod growers — Creekside Growers in Arcadia and Sun Turf in Fort Pierce.
  • For the past several years, the TurfNet University "Jump start" webinar series has been presented with the hopes of giving career advice to accomplished superintendents as well as aspiring turf professionals.
    Joshua Ziemba (shown at right) had no idea that sitting in on one of those webinars three years ago would actually be the catalyst that would launch his career in golf turf. But that is what happened when Ziemba sat in on "Jump start your career in 2021" presented by Anthony Williams.
    At that time, both were working in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Ziemba, a Florida native, was a greenkeeper at Cowboys Golf Club in Grapevine, Texas, and Williams was director of agronomy at what then was known as the Four Seasons Las Colinas.
    Ziemba had no formal turf education or training and was soaking up as much knowledge as could access.
    At the webinar's conclusion, Williams promised to mail a copy of his book "Noble Habits" to anyone who reached out by email. Ziemba, who had lived in Texas only for about six months at the time, asked if he could stop by the Four Seasons, now The Nelson Golf & Sports Club, and pick up the book in person.
    What followed was an eventual job offer from Williams. Since then, Ziemba has been on the career fast track. Today, he is the superintendent of the Nelson's member course at Nelson for director of agronomy Landon Lindsay.
    "I came across TurfNet and the GCSAA, and really dove into webinars trying to learn as much as I could," Ziemba said. "I had watched the recorded version of Jump start in 2020, then watched it live in 2021. It seemed like (the Four Seasons) was hitting on all cylinders, and it seemed like a place I would want to work."
    After spending an afternoon with Williams touring the operation and discussing the latter's philosophy, Ziemba was sold.
    "We talked about turf, life in general, and he asked for my resume. That was in January 2021," Ziemba said. "In May 2021, I came on board."
    Williams was equally impressed by his soon-to-be protegé.

    Joshua Ziemba, right, on the course with The Nelson Golf & Sports Club Director of Agronomy Landon Lindsay (left) and former colleague Cortland Winkle. Photo courtesy of Joshua Ziemba "No one else before or since has taken such impressive initiative," said Williams, now a regional agronomist for Invited Clubs. "He was working on a public local golf course and wanted to find a job at a private club.
    "Josh sold me on his potential, and he certainly was a self starter that stood out from the crowd. I saw a win-win, I knew he would be great for the property and our team, and the property would be great for Josh."
    Ziemba, 32, grew up in Stuart, Florida on the state's southeast coast about 30 minutes north of West Palm Beach, where he was a horticulturist with a landscape background.
    He worked as an estate gardener on Jupiter Island, a posh gated barrier island community south of Stuart, before he and his wife, Devin, moved to Fort Worth in 2020. After Ziemba hooked on as a greenkeeper at Cowboys Golf Club, Dean Miller, the VP of agronomy at Arcis Golf which manages the property, suggested the new Texas transplant should go to turf school.
    "We had to be at work at Cowboys at 3 a.m.," Ziemba said. "I'd come home, study for my turf certificate from UC Riverside online at night from 7 to 11 p.m., get up at 2 a.m., go to work, come home and repeat all over again. I didn't get a lot of sleep for a long time."
    The hard work paid off for Ziemba.
    "Initially I was hired as a greenkeeper-1 in May 2021, then in May 2022 I was promoted to assistant in training," Ziemba said. "In May 2023 I was made first assistant and just in December I was promoted to superintendent of the member course."
    For Ziemba, among the most important lessons he learned from the Jump start series were goal setting and taking pen to paper to write them down.
    "I liked how there was so much structure to setting goals," he said. "I already had some pretty lofty goals that included being an assistant in three years and a superintendent in five. Those were well beyond what I thought was possible, but I knew that is what I wanted to do.
    "I wrote down my goals and made an organizational chart. That was what was going to get me to those goals."
    Although he left the Nelson before Ziemba was able to realize his goal of being a superintendent, Williams was not surprised by the outcome.
    "When I left Las Colinas, I was hopeful that I had filled the benches with the future leaders of the club and that they were ready to step up," Williams said. "I did not get to promote Josh into his first superintendent job, but Landon Lindsay did, and Landon and I worked together for nearly seven years. And during that time Landon moved from assistant to superintendent to assistant director of agronomy and upon my departure took the reins as director of agronomy at the Nelson. They say it takes a village to raise a golf course superintendent. I am proud that those young men who impacted me so much have continued to meet their goals and will certainly leave their mark on the industry for a long, long time."
    And it all started with a webinar.
    "Three years ago, I was on the outside looking in," Ziemba said. "Now, we get to tell this story. That's pretty cool."
  • A host of improvements are designed to make Toro's GeoLink Precision Spray system more efficient and user friendly. Toro photo Toro has made improvements to its GeoLink Precision Spray system that are intended to improve efficiency and ease of use.
    Updates include a larger display, enhanced cellular connectivity and improved auto-steering technology.
    Since 2015, the GeoLink Precision Spray system has been helping turf managers save by using GPS technology to deliver product where it is needed and minimize overapplication. The GeoLink Precision Spray system also tracks the sprayer’s precise location for repeatable mapping. If an operator covers previously sprayed ground, the sprayer automatically turns individual nozzles on and off to avoid overapplication, helping golf course superintendents save product and money. 
    New cellular technology automatically connects to the best signal on the property, regardless of carrier. The display is 40 percent larger than those on previous models and includes day and night mode for better visibility in direct sunlight. The GeoLink Autosteer feature keeps the sprayer on course to maximize efficiency, and the ExcelaRate control system, which is standard on the Multi Pro 5800 series, lets operators save the two most-used flow rates for repeat use.
    Improved valves deliver even more precise nozzle control. The system also can now track twice as many satellites for improved efficiency and positioning, and also has a fallback feature if real-time kinematic positioning is temporarily lost.
  • The USGA has funded 15 new research projects to advance turfgrass science this year through its Mike Davis Program for Advancing Golf Course Management. This brings the total of ongoing Davis Program-funded projects to more than 60.
    With this latest round of projects, which are taking place at the University of Florida, Kanasas State, New Mexico State, North Carolina State, Rutgers, Texas A&M and Washington State, the USGA has funded more than $50 million in turfgrass research ventures since 1983. 
    The USGA's long-term goal to support research includes a $30 million pledge to reduce water use announced in April 2023. To that end, more than half of active Davis Grants are focused on projects intended to drive water use efficiency and conservation while also maximizing playing conditions. These projects include optimizing irrigation techniques, improving drought resistance and converting out-of-play areas to conserve water and habitat. 

    The USGA has funded more than $50 million in turfgrass research projects since 1983. USGA photo Other notable projects receiving funding this year include a pilot effort at Texas A&M and Tennessee to analyze Google course review data to better understand what improves, and detracts from, the golfer experience.
    The USGA says the Davis Program research projects have contributed to a 29 percent decrease in water use in the past 20 years.
    Additionally, the USGA-says its overall investment in course sustainability saves the turf industry nearly $2 billion per year, including:
    > $201 million from advancing irrigation with efficiencies in turfgrass water use
    > $529 million from advancing irrigation scheduling with soil-moisture meters
    > $469 million from advancing naturalized rough.
    Click here for a list of current USGA-supported research projects.
  • We are excited to announce that GCSAA Class A superintendent Adam Garr (@CourseCares) is joining the TurfNet content team as a blogger, producer and video host.
    Adam burst upon the social media scene with a series of blogs and GoPro videos highlighting golf course maintenance practices while he was the superintendent at Plum Hollow Country Club in Michigan. Adam jumped over to the supply side of the industry in 2015, serving for seven years as a territory manager for Syngenta Professional Solutions.
    Returning to his literary roots and his BA in English from Michigan-Dearborn, Adam left his career in sales to pursue his dream of becoming a writer and producing original content for the turf industry. He has spent the last year back on a golf course assisting with a new golf course construction, and now is eager to spread his wings. His business, Garr Productions LLC, specializes in creating high-quality, educational and innovative video content for the benefit of golf course superintendents everywhere.
    At TurfNet, Adam plans to combine his unique industry perspective with his passion for storytelling, history, and life lessons to create thought-provoking content designed to challenge and inspire. In many ways his outlook on life and the turf industry blend seamlessly with the core values of TurfNet. His first video series will be Trailing Thoughts, which combines video "hikes" through various National Parks with narration from his life experience within turf and without.
    Adam lives in Novi, Michigan with his wife Michelle and their blended family of five children.
  • Artificial Intelligence is rapidly creeping into almost every corner of the economy. Many industries lacking sufficient labor could benefit from machines that eventually can do the jobs of people. That certainly would be good news to many, including in the golf industry.
    There also are concerns with AI, and that the prospect of increased efficiency and the allure of bloated bottom lines in free market economies could result in decision makers siding with profit over people..
    In recent months, AI has been the target of Hollywood celebrities and recording artists claiming their work has been pirated without consent, and we've seen it in driverless cars. Just how AI will affect global employment markets and economies is not yet clear, but what is known is that machines that can do the jobs of people is a technology that is growing rapidly and will only move ahead faster
    According to a report by Goldman Sachs, AI could eventually shift as many as 300 million jobs to automation. Conversely, AI continues to create jobs, particularly in the tech sector.
    Golf turf maintenance is a business that in recent years has struggled to attract and retain staff and can potentially benefit immensely from AI. To that end, robotic mowers are slowly making their way into the market after first bursting onto the scene at the GCSAA conference in 2009 in New Orleans.
    Although robotic mowers on greens have been, to say the least, slow to catch on, they are making inroads more rapidly in other capacities, including out-of-play and common areas. And they are showing up at classic-era golf courses, like East Lake in Atlanta, and the Meadow Club near San Francisco. 
    The growing popularity of robotic mowers was readily evident at last year's Equipment Exposition in Louisville, Kentucky, where numerous manufacturers displayed their wares. There promises to be several robotic mower manufacturers, including Kress, Husqvarna, Toro and many others, exhibiting at the upcoming GCSAA conference in Phoenix.
    Longtime superintendent-turned consultant Matt Shaffer recently said he believes the labor situation in golf is at a near-catastrophic level and as such says AI could make deep inroads in golf in the next several years.
    The labor model constructed over the past several decades now is sustainable, he says.
    "Golf has gotten too specialized. When I first came up, most places didn't have all these assistants,” Shaffer said. "Now, everyone has two assistants, a spray tech, an irrigation tech and two mechanics. 
    "This has to change. The reality is this has to go robotic. There's no doubt about it.”
    There are other areas where savings can be realized, and some of that already is occurring.
    Frank Rossi, Ph.D., professor at Cornell University, believes AI will have more of an influence on how turf professionals work rather than replace them.
    "Long range, ultimately because of technology there might be some aspects of the job that require less labor,” Rossi said. "My gut is that won't be more than one-third of the workforce.”
    Those numbers lag just a bit behind economists' estimates that predict AI will affect as much as 40 percent of the overall global workforce by 2030.
    Among the areas where Rossi believes AI can best serve golf is in irrigation and helping turf managers develop spray programs.
    "Irrigation technology is likely the first place to start,” Rossi said. "That is at least as far as superintendents will let technology calculate their water needs.”
    There already are programs available, like Greenkeeper and Syngenta's ChatGTP, to help turf managers develop spray programs. 
    Such platforms will only increase in performance and efficiency over time as technology improves and more data are collected from more users.
    "It's all about interpreting what the machine puts out,” Rossi said. "I am seeing some research now that because more people are putting dumb (expletive) on the Internet, AI is getting dumber, not smarter.”
    As advancements continue over time, so will adoption of AI technology by superintendents.
    "We need a generational shift to occur,” says Rossi. "There are too many people too uncomfortable with how technology has become part of their day-to-day lives. Once digital natives, those who grew up on this stuff, come into leadership positions, you'll see that it will happen really quickly.”
  • Velocity PM is registered for control of Poa annua, Poa trivialis and many broadleaf weeds.
    Golf course superintendents will get a chance to take their first look at the newest tool from Nufarm to manage Poa annua at the upcoming GCSAA Conference and Trade Show in Phoenix.
    With the active ingredient bispyribac sodium, Velocity PM is a Poa transition tool for both postemergence control and seedhead suppression to support a transition program that is speedy, gradual or anywhere in between.
    Velocity PM has also been shown to substantially suppress the development and severity of dollar spot for up to several weeks following application.
    Velocity PM is registered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for selective management of Poa annua, Poa trivialis and a host of broadleaf weeds in creeping bentgrass, perennial ryegrass, tall fescue, dormant Bermudagrass and dormant Bermudagrass overseeded with perennial ryegrass on golf courses, sod farms and athletic fields.
    It also is labeled for use to control of common chickweed, sticky chickweed, white clover, large clover, hop clover, dandelion, henbit, lawn burweed, parsley-piert, plantain, broadleaf plantain, buckhorn plantain, swinecress, yellow nutsedge and yellow woodsorrel.
  • The Blitz stand-on blower (above) comes in two models with 26hp and 40hp gasoline powered engines. Among the blower's features is a high-performance suspension system (below right). For those who want maximum speed and efficiency when clearing leaves, sticks, clippings and more, Buffalo Turbine recently launched the Blitz stand-on debris blower. It is the industry's first stand-on blower, the company says.
    Key to the efficiency of the Blitz is the power of the integrated turbine blower. The Blitz is offered in two models: The Blitz BT-SB26 is outfitted with a 26hp EFI gas engine and the Blitz BT-SB40 is powered by a 40hp EFI gas engine.
    According to Buffalo Turbine, the Blitz stand-on models are 20% faster than the company's tow-behind units.
    Speed and operator comfort were the prime factors behind design of the Blitz, which has 360-degree rotation, nozzle control at speed and zero turn capabilities.
    The Blitz also is built with high-performance independent suspension, contoured lean pad and adjustable shock stand platform to help reduce operator fatigue. High strength LED headlamps allow for pre-dawn and evening convenience.
    The Blitz, which weighs in at 800 pounds, measures 95 inches in length and 48 inches with a height of 50 inches. 
  • Scott Bordner is on a mission to solve the labor crisis facing the golf industry, even if it takes being a little misleading to get help from his colleagues.
    The director of agronomy at the Union League of Philadelphia, Bordner (at right) is one of several involved in the Super Scratch Foundation. That is the non-profit organization that teams superintendents with top amateurs in high-profile amateur golf tournaments to raise money to fund scholarships for aspiring turf students. Much of the funding so far has come directly from clubs in the Philadelphia area and has benefitted students at Delaware Valley, Penn State and Rutgers. 
    Bordner and others want to take the program nationwide to help wannabe superintendents and golf courses on a wider scale. But expanding the reach of the Super Scratch Foundation requires buy-in from superintendents, club members and vendors far outside southeastern Pennsylvania.
    In an attempt to reach out, Bordner recently sent an email to nearly 80 colleagues under the heading "Job Openings." However, the contents of the email included an attachment about the work of the Super Scratch Foundation and a plea for input on how to expand the program.
    "I had to say it was about labor. That way, I knew everyone would open it," Bordner said. "If I'd said Super Scratch, nobody would have opened it."
    He received immediate input from a few recipients, but not as many as he had hoped to.
    "About 10 to 15 responded right away. I have pages of information," Bordner said. "I'm going to resend it to everyone who didn't open it."
    On that short list of 10 or so was Matt Shaffer. Now a consultant, Shaffer spent parts of five decades managing turf on some of the country's best golf courses including 15 years at Merion Golf Club near Philadelphia.
    Although he no longer is a boots-on-the-ground superintendent, Shaffer remains connected to the industry and is eager to help.
    "This could become catastrophic if nobody comes into this space," Shaffer said. "I've told guys, 'you better get ready to manage three or four clubs in the future.'
    "A.I. eventually will be able to do a lot of the jobs on a golf course. The obvious place where it will be beneficial is mowing. When that happens, one sharp superintendent will be able to manage three or four clubs. That's where golf is going."

    The purpose of the Super Scratch Foundation is to provide scholarship assistance for turf students, like this group from Rutgers. Rutgers University photo Bordner's goal is to get as many of his colleagues as possible to approach their clubs about helping fund the foundation, and not just for the future of their own facility, but for the overall health of the game.
    "Reaching a private club is one thing. But what about that high school kid working on a muni course who has no idea what the Super Scratch Foundation is?" Bordner said. "How do we get to that kid and support him and help him pay for college?
    "We need our voice to be louder."
    He is hoping there are enough superintendents and interested club members out there who know people with a louder megaphone and who can help spread the word of the foundation and its goals.
    Shaffer (right) has accumulated many such contacts throughout his career.
    "I forwarded that email to all sorts of different people," Shaffer said. "I keep telling (non-superintendents) if you don't have anyone taking care of the golf course this is all going to go down the tubes. What's going to happen if there is no one to take care of the golf course? It's in everyone's best interest to help. Scott's doing the heavy lifting. I'm just opening doors."
    Bordner is in the right position to take on the challenge, says Shaffer.
    "Scott is in a prestigious job, and a job like that gives you a lot of leverage," Shaffer said.
    It also means you have to do what you can to promote the profession, Shaffer said. Besides helping spearhead the Super Scratch effort, Bordner is scheduled to teach a couple of environmental science workshops this year at Plymouth Whitemarsh High School in Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania.
    "When it comes to promoting the industry, Scott's doing that," Shaffer said.
    "I always told my guys if you get a job like that and don't do anything to help the industry, don't say you know me, because I'll disown you."
  • Rounds played were up 3 percent through the first 11 months of 2023. By the looks of things, 2023 will have been another banner year for golf when Jim Koppenhaver and Stuart Lindsay give their annual State of the Industry report on Jan. 25 from the PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando.
    Rounds played for the year were up 3.6 percent through the first 11 months of 2023 according to the November edition of the Golf Datatech Monthly Rounds Played Report. That figure includes a 4 percent increase in play on daily fee facilities. Rounds played in November were up 8 percent compared with the same month in 2022.
    For the month, rounds were up by 2 percent or more in 37 states. Play was down in Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont. Play was roughly flat in both Alabama and Illinois.
    The biggest gains for the year, according to Golf Datatech, have been in New Mexico, where play was up 18 percent through the first 11 months of 2023, Delaware and Maryland (up 11 percent) and Ohio, where play was up 10 percent through November, despite the dip in play for the month.
    According to the annual report by Koppenhaver of Pellucid Corp. and Lindsay of Edgehill Golf Advisors, rounds played were up by 14 percent in 2020 and 5 percent in 2021. Although rounds were down slightly in 2022 (about 2 percent), they were up 2 percent vs. the weather while also gaining more than 300,000 additional players.
    Along with that growth has been a downward trend in the age of those taking up the game - a good sign for long-term growth. According to Koppenhaver and Lindsay, 80 percent of new golfers entering the game since Covid are under age 45 and half are under 35, with the average age of a new golfer being 36. The median age of female golfers, who comprise a little more than a quarter of all players, is down from 48 in 2015 to 37.
    According to Koppenhaver's Pellucid Corp. golf playable hours, a function of the number of hours in a day in which golf can be played, accounting for daylight hours and conditions such as temperature, wind and precipitation, was up by 42 percent in December. How that affected year-end data will be revealed on Jan. 25.
  • The latest offering from FuelPro Trailers can help tackle the largest of jobs. FuelPro photo For turfgrass managers who need to refuel vehicles on the fly, FuelPro Trailers introduced its FuelPro 990 trailer.
    The 990 is DOT compliant, and with a 900-gallon capacity, along with storage for tools, it allows users to refuel and service equipment on site more efficiently.
    Based in Upper Sandusky, Ohio, FuelPro is a division of NJF Manufacturing and has been a manufacturer of fuel trailers of varying sizes since 2011.
    The 990’s chassis is constructed from 6-inch, C channel steel. The tank is made from 7-gauge steel that is double welded to maximize durability.
    Each tank is built with internal fuel surge baffles and cross bracing for safety in transport and comes with a five-year warranty. Each also is built using two torsion axles with easy-to-lube hubs, electric drum brakes.
    Other safety and functional features of the tank include a fuel shutoff valve, lockable vented fill cap, tank pressure relief vent and an at-a-glance fuel gauge. A self-priming pump rated up to 25 gallons per minute is standard and runs on a deep cycle 12-volt marine battery. Fuel delivery system includes a 1-inch hose with auto-trip nozzle. That hose is available in lengths of 18, 30 or 50 feet and comes with an auto-retracting reel.
  • The decision of Suncoast Golf Center's owner to convert all nine greens to artificial turf was the most-read story on TurfNet in 2023. Suncoast Golf Center photo A new year brings renewed hope for better times ahead. It also is a time to reflect on the happenings of the previous 12 months.
    The past year brought significant change to the golf industry. Such changes include technological advancements designed to make turf management easier and more efficient. The year also was marked by sustained popularity of the game in the wake of the Covid pandemic.
    Much of what has occurred in the past year has been chronicled on TurfNet, which has listed the top 10 most read stories of 2023. Click on the headlines to read more.
    No. 10: Troon acquires Invited Clubs' third-party management business
    Troon, the world's largest golf course management company, expanded its book to more than 750 courses when it acquired  Applied Golf, which managed 13 courses in Florida, New Jersey and New York, and 18 contracts of managed courses from Invited Clubs (formerly Club Corp).
    No. 9: Owners find unique solution for struggling golf course
    The owners of a troubled executive course on Long Island that closed in 2020 threw caution to the wind when they converted the property to a nine-hole daily fee with a luxury apartment complex for senior citizens. The innovative plan by the owners gave what is now known as Heritage Spy Ring Golf Club an immediate and much-needed infusion of revenue.
    No. 8: Flooding comes with the territory at historic Country Club of Farmington
    When Scott Ramsay, CGCS, took the reins at the Country Club of Farmington in Connecticut, he figured the golf course, which lies in a flood plain where the Farmington River Canal once was located, might flood every eight to 10 years. The course in fact flooded four times in 2023, the last when the area took on 8 inches of rain in a few days in September.

    The Country Club of Farmington in central Connecticut lies in the Farmington River floodplain. CC Farmington photo No. 7: After 20-plus years in Kansas, Gourlay is moving on to Boise's Hillcrest
    The name Gourlay has been synonymous with Colbert Hills in Manhattan, Kansas for 25 years. As 2023 wound down, Matthew Gourlay, CGCS,who began working at the course in his teens when his father was superintendent there, announced he was leaving Colbert Hills for Hillcrest Country Club in Boise.
    No. 6: Ancient earthworks site could gobble up Ohio golf course
    Mound Builders Country Club in Ohio was built nearly a century ago on the site of an ancient Indian earthworks site that was erected 2,000 years ago as a lunar clock. The state supreme court decided the owner of the property - the Ohio History Connection - could cancel the club's lease on the property, potentially clearing the way for the OHC to open the site for public use.
    No. 5: Police chase comes to an end when suspect wrecks stolen spray rig
    In August, police were in pursuit of a Lincoln, Nebraska man for violating his parole when he crashed his vehicle.
    Rather than give up, the man stole a maintenance vehicle towing a spray rig from Jim Ager Golf course where Bill Kreuser is superintendent.
    The chase ended when the suspect crashed the rig into a police vehicle.
    No. 4: Sketchy past comes back to haunt superintendent
    Jim Watkins, who was working as superintendent at Rincon Municipal Golf Course near Savannah, Georgia, found himself out of a job after it was discovered that he had attempted to hire a hitman in 2011 to murder his brother over a dispute about their late parents' estate. Instead, the would-be killer was an undercover police officer.
    No. 3: USGA smart ball measures putting surface metrics
    Last February the USGA launched its smart ball, the GS3, that monitors turf and soil conditions.
    The by-product of seven years of research and development, the GS3 is outfitted with sensors, accelerometers and gyroscopes that collect more than 15,000 data points that provide superintendents with metrics on things such as green speed, surface firmness and smoothness.
    The GS3 is available from the USGA for $2,750 and includes one year's free subscription to the Deacon platform. Customers who renew the Deacon subscription will receive a new GS3 every three years.
    No. 2: Golf course owner-operator killed in accident
    On April 20, Adam Schloer died in an undisclosed accident while working at his Heritage Creek Golf Club in Bucks County, Pennsylvania near Philadelphia. After the accident, his brother established a gofundme account to help Schloer's family. To date, more than $43,000 has been raised.

    A gofundme account has been established to benefit Adam Schloer's wife and daughter. No. 1: Florida golf course owner/superintendent opts for consistency of artificial turf greens
    When Ben Best bought the nine-hole Suncoast Golf Center in Sarasota, Florida in 2014, there was almost as much bare soil as there was turf on the greens. In all those years, Best, also the superintendent at Suncoast, was never able to duplicate the same conditions during the tourist season that he produced in summer, leading him to eventually convert all nine greens to synthetic turf for the sake of consistency.
  • CommonGround Golf Course in Aurora, Colorado. Mitchell Savage, CGCS at CommonGround Golf Course in Aurora, Colorado, has been named the recipient of the GCSAA's 2024 Excellence in Government Affairs Award. 
    Savage, at right, is recognized for his advocacy efforts on several issues in Colorado in conjunction with the Rocky Mountain GCSA, Colorado Golf Association, Colorado Section of the PGA and Mile-High Chapter of the Club Management Association of America.
    The Excellence in Government Affairs Award is presented annually to a chapter, superintendent or coalition for outstanding advocacy or compliance efforts in government affairs. Savage will receive the award Feb. 1 during the Government Affairs Session at the  GCSAA Conference and Trade Show in Phoenix.
    Savage served on the Rocky Mountain GCSA board and previously led its government affairs committee. Today, he still works closely with the Colorado Golf Coalition and has played a key role in the drive to maintain uniform state-wide pesticide regulations in Colorado.
    The award recognizes Savage's proactive approach in advocating for state control of pesticide regulations and for being an influential voice in the Colorado golf industry. Having testified numerous times before state legislative committees in Denver, he always shows up fully prepared with a succinct message and several examples that support his efforts on behalf of the Colorado golf industry.
    "I am incredibly honored that my peers from Rocky Mountain GCSA thought that my efforts on behalf of our association and coalition were worthy of a nomination for this award," Savage, said in a news release. "Winning this award reaffirms that the work we are doing in the state of Colorado with our golf coalition is making a difference and hopefully serving as a model for others to follow in advocacy efforts around the country."
    A 2019 winner of GCSAA's Grassroots Ambassador Leadership Award, Savage is paired with Sen. John Hickenlooper (D-Colorado) as part of the Grassroots Ambassador Program. In his work as a Grassroots Ambassador.
    He remains active on behalf of the golf industry in issues regarding regulations affecting pesticide use and availability.
    "Our profession is doing some amazing things with advocacy, and I am excited and honored to be a part of the industry-wide efforts," Savage said. "There will never be too many people on the team, and there is always a need for more individuals to answer the bell and stand up and advocate for the golf course management profession."
    Previous Excellence in Government Affairs Award winners:
    2023 - Kenneth Benoit Jr., CGCS
    2022 - Cactus and Pine GCSA
    2021 - California Alliance for Golf
    2020 - Peter J. Gorman
    2019 - Robert Nielsen, CGCS
    2018 - Jack MacKenzie, CGCS
    2017 - Rory Van Poucke
    2016 - Hi-Lo Desert GCSA
    2015 - Florida GCSA
    2014 - Anthony L. Williams, CGCS
    2013 - Connecticut Association of Golf Course Superintendents
    2012 - Jay Nalls
    2011 - P.J. McGuire, CGCS
    2010 - Carolinas GCSA, Michael Crawford, CGCS (Advocacy); Richard Gagnon (Compliance)
    2009 - Tim Hiers, CGCS, The Old Collier Golf Club, Naples, Fla.
    2008 - Michael Maffei, CGCS, Morefar Golf Course, Brewster, N.Y.; Peter McDonough, GCSAA Class A superintendent, The Keswick (Va.) Club; Richard Staughton, CGCS, Towne Lake Hills Golf Club, Woodstock, Ga. (Advocacy)
    2007 - Douglas C. Lowe, CGCS, at Greensboro Country Club in Greensboro, N.C., Georgia GCSA
    2006 - Michael A. Stachowski, superintendent at the Golf Course of Concordia in Cranbury, N.J. (Advocacy); Patrick Blum, superintendent at Colonial Acres Golf Course in Glenmont, N.Y. (Compliance)
    2005 - Craig A. Hoffman, superintendent at The Rock Golf Course on Drummond Island, Mich.; Stephen A. Kealy, CGCS at Glendale Country Club in Bellevue, Wash.; Kenneth N. Lallier, CGCS at The Quechee Club in Hartford, Vt. (Advocacy); Sean A. Kjemhus, golf course superintendent at Stewart Creek Golf and Country Club in Canmore, Alberta (Compliance)
    2004 - Mark Esoda, CGCS at Atlanta (Ga.) Country Club; Jim Husting, CGCS at Woodbridge (Calif.) Golf and Country Club (Advocacy); Francis J. “Bud” O’Neill III, CGCS, formerly of Wild Quail Golf and Country Club in Wyoming, Del.; Peter Pierson, recently retired superintendent from Pequabuck Golf Club in Cromwell, Conn. (Compliance)
    2002-2003 - Dean Graves, superintendent at Chevy Chase (Md.) Club (Advocacy); Joe McCleary, CGCS at Saddle Rock Golf Course in Aurora, Colo. (Compliance)
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