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From the TurfNet NewsDesk


  • John Reitman
    From left, Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw have designed some of the country's most highly regarded golf courses. The renowned golf course design tandem of Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore have been named the recipients of the American Society of Golf Course Architects 2021 Donald Ross Award. The award has been given annually since 1976 "to those making a significant contribution to the game of golf and the profession of golf course architecture." 
    A 19-time winner on the PGA Tour, Crenshaw is a two-time Master's champion (1984, 1995) and captained the winning U.S. Ryder Cup team in 1999. Coore learned the ropes of golf course design under Pete and Alice Dye. The two have been designing courses together since 1985.
    Coore and Crenshaw have teamed to design such highly acclaimed layouts such as Sand Hills Golf Club in Nebraska, Sheep Ranch Golf Course in Oregon, Cabot Cliffs in Nova Scotia, Kapalua Plantation Course in Hawaii, Streamsong Resort Red in Florida and Friar’s Head in New York. They also restored Pinehurst No. 2 prior to the U.S. Women's Open and U.S. Open both were played there in 2014.
    They will receive the award in October at the ASGCA annual meeting in Cleveland.
    Click here for a complete list of past winners.
  • After a virtual event in 2020 thanks to the pandemic, the Carolinas GCSA Conference and Trade Show will be an in-person event again this year.
    Scheduled for Nov. 15-17, the event will take place at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center. Seminar and attendee registration will open after Labor Day.
    "We are so glad to be back on track," said Carolinas GCSA president, Brian Stiehler, CGCS at Highlands Country Club in Highlands, North Carolina.
    This year's conference will feature education seminars on the Monday morning. This gives attendees the chance to take as many as four seminars, with education also on Monday afternoon, as well as Tuesday morning and afternoon. General education sessions will take place on Wednesday with the trade show open on Tuesday and Wednesday.
    The Carolinas GCSA will continue to monitor the pandemic and be ready to adapt as necessary, Carolinas GCSA executive director, Tim Kreger said.
    "But given the current trajectory, we expect to offer the kind of Conference and Show that has made this event the largest regional event of its kind for superintendents in the country," he said.
    When the pandemic forced the cancellation of last year’s in-person event, the Carolinas GCSA answered with an event known as Conference Comes to You that included a month of online education for turf managers from 35 regional chapters.
    "I wouldn’t be surprised," Kreger said, "if this show challenges attendance records."
  • A former Champions Tour site, city-owned Kearney Hill Golf Links in Lexington, Kentucky, has a long history of hosting high-profile events. Photos by John Reitman When talking about the country's most popular golf destinations, Kentucky rarely, if ever, comes up in the conversation.
    Kent Dornbrock, superintendent of one of the state's top municipal courses, would like to see that change.
    "We're not there yet," said Dornbrock, superintendent at Kearney Hill Golf Links in Lexington. "But we have a lot of good superintendents in this state doing some good work."
    Dornbrock has been doing some good work at Kearney Hill for nearly a decade, and his predecessors did the same for another 25 years since Pete and P.B. Dye built the course in 1989.
    A former PGA Champions Tour site, Kearney Hill in 2018 was the site of the Girls Junior PGA Championship, a nationwide championship for golfers 18 and under. In July, Kearney will host the same event for boys, while the girls will be playing 50 miles away at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville.
    "What does that say? It says come play golf in Kentucky," Dornbrock said. "It says come play in Lexington. We're ready for you."
    Despite its municipal status, Kearney Hill has been one of Lexington's golf hotspots since it was carved out of the rolling central Kentucky landscape 32 years ago. Ranked No. 3 in Kentucky on Golfweek's "Best Public Courses You Can Play" list, Kearney Hill was home to the PGA Champions Tour Bank One Classic from 1990-97, the USGA Men's Public Links Championship in 1997 and the Women's Public Links Championship in 2007. Tour pro Jim Dent held the course record - 62 - for nine years.
    Kearney Hill, like most places, has had plenty of golfers but not enough workers during the pandemic.
    At least 100 golfers per day on weekdays and 300 on Saturdays and Sundays are playing Kearney Hill. Until recently, Dornbrock's crew has been operating at about 50 percent of normal.
    "We get a lot of tournaments. We have a page-and-a-half of events on the books this year," Dornbrock said.
    "We're just trying to keep our head above water. We're finally getting workers back, but it has been hard during the pandemic. It has been easier for people to stay home and make more money. We finally have some college kids coming in, but we just couldn't get people out here."
    A labor shortage has meant cutting back on detail work - at least until Dornbrock's staff is back up to full capacity.
    "Little things were not getting done, things like edging bunkers, raking bunkers and cutting back on how much we mowed the short grass," he said. "We want to mow the greens six days a week, but we can't. We've had to cut back on everything we do by 10 to 20 percent of what we normally would do."
    Dornbrock recently hired an irrigation tech, filling a void that has been open for two years. His new hire is transferring in from another department within the city's maintenance operation and has no golf experience.
    "We can teach that," Dornbrock said. "Just having him will allow me to do superintendent duties again, like walking greens and fairways every morning, so I can be on top of all those issues. In short, it's going to help me be a superintendent again, so then I don't have to be an irrigation tech."
    With some of the country's best junior golfers due at Kearney Hill in July, , more help could not have come at a better time.
    "A little more intense maintenance, more PGR use - we're working on getting this place into shape," he said. "My philosophy is to have this course in the best shape possible every day, and we do a very good job of that. Now, with more staff, we will be very good by mid-June. By July, we will be great.
    "We're going to produce and maintain a great golf course, not just for the boys, but for our public golfers, because we need them to continue to come back."
  • CLICK HERE TO NOMINATE YOUR TECH

    Robert Smith of Merion Golf Club (above) won Technician of the Year in 2015. Tony Nunes (below) of Chicago Golf Club, won the award in 2017. The past year has been a challenge for just about everyone in the golf industry. This time a year ago, many courses were closed, and no one was quite sure when they would be reopened and what things would look like then. 
    By the time things reopened, many places had sent workers home and golfers began to descend on shorthanded golf courses in record numbers, resulting in added pressure and stress to superintendents and their teams, including equipment managers. 
    With more golfers on the course and shorter windows to conduct daily maintenance, technicians were asked to do more and more, often with fewer and fewer resources. 
    If you have an equipment manager who has gone above and beyond the call of duty during the past year - and there must be a lot of deserving candidates since the implementation of Covid protocols - nominate him or her for the TurfNet 2021 Technician of the Year Award, sponsored by John Deere. The winner will receive the Golden Wrench Award along with their choice of a spot in a Deere training session in North Carolina or a chance to assist with equipment maintenance at next year’s Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. Either will result in an equipment manager who is better trained and more motivated and will make your property better.
    CLICK HERE to submit a nomination.
    Nominees are considered by our panel of judges on the following criteria: crisis management; effective budgeting; environmental awareness; helping to further and promote the careers of colleagues and employees; interpersonal communications; inventory management and cost control; overall condition and dependability of rolling stock; shop safety; and work ethic.
    Deadline to submit a nomination is June 1.
    Previous winners include (2020) Evan Meldahl, Bayou Oaks at City Park, New Orleans, LA; (2019) Dan Dommer, Ozaukee Country Club, Mequon, WI; (2018) Terry Libbert, Old Marsh Golf Club, Palm Beach Gardens, FL; (2017) Tony Nunes, Chicago Golf Club, Wheaton, IL; (2016) Kris Bryan, Pikewood National Golf Club, Morgantown, WV; (2015) Robert Smith, Merion Golf Club, Ardmore, PA; (2014) Lee Medeiros, Timber Creek and Sierra Pines Golf Courses, Roseville, CA; (2013) Brian Sjögren, Corral de Tierra Country Club, Corral de Tierra, CA; (2012) Kevin Bauer, Prairie Bluff Golf Club, Crest Hill, IL; (2011) Jim Kilgallon, The Connecticut Golf Club, Easton, CT; (2010) Herb Berg, Oakmont (PA) Country Club; (2009) Doug Johnson, TPC at Las Colinas, Irving, TX; (2007) Jim Stuart, Stone Mountain (GA) Golf Club; (2006) Fred Peck, Fox Hollow and The Homestead, Lakewood, CO; (2005) Jesus Olivas, Heritage Highlands at Dove Mountain, Marana, AZ; (2004) Henry Heinz, Kalamazoo (MI) Country Club; (2003) Eric Kulaas, Marriott Vinoy Renaissance Resort, Sarasota, FL.
  • Assembly Bill 672 targets publicly owned golf courses in California, such as Balboa Park in San Diego (above), for conversion to high-density housing and open space. The bill died in committee last month, but many expect it to resurface in January. Public golf is under attack in California. Although municipal golf has weathered the latest offensive in a battle waged by the state's legislature, it appears this struggle is only beginning.
    A bill introduced by a member of the California assembly that targets municipal golf courses as potential sites for low-income housing units and open space died in committee in April. However, the bill likely will be reintroduced in January as a two-year bill and, despite the most recent outcome, is representative of how many in California (and elsewhere) feel about golf's place on publicly owned land.
    AB 672 was introduced in February by Cristina Garcia, who represents California's 58th district in Los Angeles County, and had been referred to the Assembly's Housing and Community Development Committee and Local Government Committee, but did not meet the April 30 deadline to pass through both and is dead for the rest of this year. It is expected to be reintroduced in January, said Craig Kessler, government affairs director of the Southern California Golf Association in a recent podcast.
    "It will come back alive on January 1 as is, or amended. This issue won't go away," Kessler said.
    "The thinking that underlies it, it is a wake-up call to the golf industry. We have certain problems that are related to our use of the land that we need to pay closer attention to."
    About 22 percent of California's approximately 1,100 golf courses are publicly owned, Kessler said. The bill, if passed, would remove zoning protection afforded to all of the state's publicly owned golf courses by the California Park Preservations Act and California Environmental Quality Act as well as local zoning entitlements and would "require a city, county, or city and county to rezone, by the date the 6th regional housing needs assessment cycle applicable to the city, county, or city and county ends, certain sites used as a golf course to also allow for residential and open-space use in accordance with specified requirements." 
    Currently in California, golf courses, along with other public recreational amenities such as parks, playgrounds, swimming pools and athletic fields, are afforded the above zoning protections. AB 672 only targets publicly owned golf courses to be repurposed for housing and open space.
    The bill targets any course that meets any of the following criteria: is located in a park-poor area; is owned by a city, county or city and county and is funded by moneys from the city, county or city and county; or is located in a high-density area.
    According to Kessler, at least 40 percent of all golf played in California is played on publicly owned golf courses. Those facilities are also home to other initiatives designed to grow the game, such as First Tee, Youth on Course, regional junior events and high school tournaments.
     
    "All of those kinds of things that the golf industry has invested so much time, so much resources in in long-term growing the game, the game would lose those sites potentially," he said.
    "What is more insidious, among all those recreational activities available in California, all of those things would continue to be protected, but not golf. I don't think golf would object to giving up a little bit if everyone had to give a little bit in order to solve what is a genuine problem in this state - housing. But to be the only one that gives is discriminator and is almost evidence of the anti-golf animus that is out there."
    The California Alliance for Golf, a non-profit advocacy group for the state's golf industry, currently employs a lobbyist, but is hoping to become better organized to help the industry in such legal battles.
    "It (AB 672) will be around next year as it is a two-year bill. It will surface in some form next January," said Alliance president Jim Ferrin. "We currently are trying to create a stronger coalition, especially one that's funded at the legislative and legal level so that such legislation can be stopped."
    Between now and next year, Kessler is urging proponents of public golf to contact their state legislators in Sacramento and make sure their voices are heard.
    "Golf became complacent, because it thought its value was self-evident," Kessler said. "It is time for golfers to make that case and make it long and loud. And this would be a good moment to do that.
    "(AB 672) is a clumsy bill, but a lot of things that are law today began as clumsy bills because they reflected thinking or ideas. Keep in mind, if golf takes from that death (of 672) on Friday and somehow takes a victory lap, it will have drawn the wrong less. If golf takes from this that we had enough in our arsenal to deflect a poorly aimed shot in what promises to be a very long battle, and we've been given a little breathing space to come up with some longer-term strategies to deal with the thinking that underlies AB 672 and begin to address it, golf will have learned the right lesson."
  • George Nickolaou, above and below right, came to the U.S. in 1951 and after owning a series of restaurants built his own golf course in the 1970s that, according to his son, boasts some of the best playing conditions in the Battle Creek, Michigan area. No question about it; Oakland Hills Golf Course in Michigan has a riveting history that is a shining example of the American Dream.
    Not the Oakland Hills in suburban Detroit that was designed 100 years ago by Donald Ross and has been the site of several major championships, including six U.S. Opens, three PGA Championships and a Ryder Cup. This Oakland Hills is 120 miles away in Battle Creek. Although not quite as famous as its upper crust namesake, the Battle Creek version of Oakland Hills is just as important to the game's history as well as its future, and its story is equally compelling.
    Oakland Hills was founded 50 years ago by George Nickolaou, an ethnic Macedonian immigrant from Greece who, like something out of a Horatio Alger novel, came to America in 1951 with little more than the clothes on his back and became a prosperous businessman. 
    "He came to this country penniless," said Nickolaou's son, also named George. "He became a multi-millionaire by working hard and listening to people smarter than him."
    A successful restaurateur, the elder Nickolaou built a daily fee golf course that became immensely popular with the Battle Creek community because of its superb playing conditions and fair price. It is the kind of place where most people first take up the game and where the unwashed masses play it.
    Nickolaou died in 2017 at the age of 86, but his legacy lives on thanks to his son, who now owns the course that still plays an important role in the growth of the game at a grassroots level. 
    After arriving in the U.S. during the Korean War, the older Nickolaou established a series of eateries, first a drive-through, then an Italian restaurant and finally a club that became a local Battle Creek hotspot for drinking and dancing. He knew nothing about golf until patrons of his restaurant invited him to play at their club. He was so smitten with the game, he took a few lessons and soon became a nearly scratch player. 
    In the 1970s, there already were about a half-dozen golf courses - a mix of public and private - operating in the Battle Creek area. A true renassaince man, Nickolaou was a man of many talents. A successful restaurant owner, he also taught lessons at an Arthur Murray dance studio. When it came to operaing a golf course, Nickolaou thought he could do as well or better than others in the Battle Creek area, and he bought 200 acres of farmland to prove it. 
    With no knowledge of how to build a golf course or maintain one, Nickolaou read everything he could get his hands on with plans to build a course that anyone could play. 
    "He was tired of the long hours of the restaurant business and thought he would like to be outside," Nickolaou said. "There were two ways of looking at it - he could build a Nicklaus or Palmer course and charge a lot, or he could build something challenging that people would enjoy visiting and playing rather than crossing it off a bucket list."
    Rather than invest in a Nicklaus design, he saved his money and went with an original Nickolaou, building the original nine holes in 1973 and adding the second nine four years later. His son, now 65, was a sophomore in high school then and helped his father with all the dirty work. Much of their work was done overnight after the family restaurant closed.

    "He was looking for an architect to design a golf course," Nickolaou said. "When I found out what that cost, he learned to do it himself. If the course was too difficult or too expensive, who is going to sustain that?
    "He rented the equipment - a front end loader and bulldozer. He read books on design and soil structure. He was a scratch golfer with a green thumb and a wallet. I was a boy scout who could read a topographic map. This course does not have the right to be as good as it is."
    The older Nickolaou developed his own soil mix when building putting greens, and his son insists that the composite still holds the key to Oakland Hills' playing conditions. Just like KFC's 11 herbs and spices, the mix remains a closely guarded secret. All he will share is "it was atypical for golf courses in the 1970s."
    "Only three people know how we did it," Nickolaou said. "If I told you, the secret's out, so I still won't tell anyone."
    Nearly a half-century later, Nickolaou subjectively says his father's dream still has the best greens in the area. 
    "We're still here and doing well in a challenging market, because he built something with legs that has endured through good times and bad. He made it straightforward and easy to maintain. This course is all about the grass, the bunkers and the trees," Nickolaou said. "He started with nine holes and never cut corners. When he had enough money he built the second nine. His reach never exceeded his grasp. He never went for the unattainable. They don't make them like him anymore."
  • Yale finally has its man.
    Jeffrey Austin, who spent seven years as superintendent at Quail Hollow Country Club in Painesville, Ohio, including the last four as director of agronomy, has been named the new superintendent at Yale Golf Club in New Haven, Connecticut. A former assistant at Augusta National for four years where he helped prep for the Masters, Austin succeeds Scott Ramsay, who left more than a year ago after 17 years at Yale for the Country Club of Farmington.
    "I am honored to accept the superintendent position at the Yale Golf Course," Austin said in a Yale University news release. "To become the next steward of such a historically important course like the one at Yale is exactly what I have worked for throughout my career. The lessons that I have learned will ensure that I provide the best available conditions on a daily basis to our golfers. I am looking forward to joining (general manager) Peter (Palacios) and the entire Bulldog family."
    At Augusta, Austin trained interns and oversaw the pesticide application program.
     
    "Jeff spent his formative years within our industry working as a core member of my team," Augusta's Brad Owen said in a news release from Yale. "While here, he demonstrated agility in his ability to listen and learn, strengthen his understanding and application of agronomy practices and a passion for our sport and the cathedrals on which it is played. We are proud to call Jeff an Augusta National alumni and look forward to seeing him every year when he returns as our invited guest to assist us with our tournament."
    Yale Golf Club reopened on April 13 after being closed almost exclusively since the end of the 2019 season. Before the course could open in 2020, the Yale campus, including the golf course, was shuttered last March due to the pandemic. All employees across all sectors of campus operations were sent home. According to Vicky Chun, the athletic director at Yale since July 2018, what she described as a "skeletal crew" was permitted to stay on and work a minimal number of hours to maintain the golf course.
    A $400,000 drainage-improvement project had recently been completed when Ramsay left. With the course closed for most of a year-and-a-half, whoever replaced Ramsay would have his work cut out for him.
    Austin earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Dayton and is a graduate of Penn State's two-year turfgrass program.
    "We already knew what we needed," Yale Golf Course general manager Peter Palacios told the Yale News. "We needed to find someone who not only had the economic [knowledge] but also was able to be someone we can put in front of our distinguished alumni or administration or those individuals who are supporters of the Yale Golf Course when the time comes to really talk about how we're going to maintain the golf course."
    A 1926 C.B. MacDonald classic that is ranked as the No. 1 campus golf course in the Golfweek's Best list, Yale opened for the season April 13.
  • Ascernity fungicide from Syngenta has been approved by the Department of Environmental Quality for use in California.
    Launched in July 2020, Ascernity combines the advanced SDHI Solatenol technology (benzovindiflupyr) with a DMI (difenoconazole), the proven cooling DMI, to bring broad-spectrum disease control into focus. It is labeled for control of anthracnose, large patch, gray leaf spot and more in warm- and cool-season turf. Syngenta launched this dual-action fungicide in the United States in 2020.
    Ascernity offers long-lasting control as the cornerstone of the GreenTrust 365 Large Patch Assurance Program and is safe to use on turf with no heat restrictions even in the summer when disease pressure is high.
    For resistance management and broad-spectrum disease control, the Syngenta technical services team has developed agronomic programs that strategically rotate Ascernity with other trusted products. To find recommendations for incorporating Ascernity into an existing agronomic program, visit GreenCastOnline.com/Programs.
    “We saw amazing results with Ascernity in our trials in Northern California,” said Jim Baird, Ph.D., turfgrass specialist, University of California, Riverside. “Ascernity was not only combative against anthracnose and rapid blight, but also restored overall turf health. We saw perfect turf in those plots surrounded by disease in the untreated areas.”
    To help superintendents in California and across the country learn about Ascernity, Syngenta is launching the #Time4Ascernity Video Challenge. To qualify, participants must watch two of six videos at GreenCastOnline.com/AscernityChallenge from April 26 to May 26, 2021. Each video will feature customers and/or leading industry researchers discussing their experiences using Ascernity to control key turf diseases. Upon completion of an entry form, participants will be entered for a chance to win one of 50 randomly awarded KOOZIE Kamp hammocks. 
  • Once synonymous with a 1929 gangland shooting in the back of a north side Chicago garage, the St. Valentine's Day Massacre has taken on new meaning for golf course superintendents in Texas.
    It is entirely likely that before last winter there were many in the turf business in Houston for whom desiccation was such a rarity that it was relegated to urban legend status, a myth, an illusion. That changed in mid-February, when a weeklong cold snap left a trail of damage that many Texans had not seen in quite a while.
    According to local legend, it has been more than 30 years since winter damage this bad has been part of the conversation in Houston. In fact, the last time serious winter damage was an issue in this part of Texas, Kevin Cooper, who has been superintendent at Lochinvar Golf Club in Houston for the past 13 years, was a sophomore in high school in his native Flemingsburg, Kentucky.
    "I have had members tell me that no one here has seen anything like this since at least 1989," Cooper said. "This is going down as a record-setting event no one has seen in a long time."
    Leading up to Valentine's Day, the forecast throughout Texas called for conditions unfriendly to Bermudagrass. Temperatures flirted with the freezing mark for a week or more, depending on location, including two days in single digits in Houston and as much as minus-5 degrees Fahrenheit farther north in Dallas. On Feb. 15, the high at George Bush Airport in Houston was 25 degrees, the lowest daily high in February in Houston since 1969, according to the National Weather Service. Despite by-the-book efforts of superintendents statewide to protect putting surfaces, the result has been winter damage and desiccation from Abilene to Zavalla and everywhere in between. More than two months later, many golf courses are still playing catch up while simultaneously dealing with record amounts of play.
    "Some courses fared better than others. From my standpoint, I'm fortunate I have a very understanding ownership and understanding membership," said Eric Bauer, superintendent at Bluejack National, an hour north of Houston. "My choice is to let the grass do what it needs to do to recover on its own. There is some winter injury out there, but the plant is healthy, so let it recover when the weather is favorable. We still had below-average temperatures for most of March and it started the same way in April. We're still waiting for that hot, humid weather. It just hasn't arrived yet. We don't expect to be out of this until the end of May. I feel bad for my guys. They work so hard to put out a great product, but ultimately you realize that Mother Nature is in control of everything. She definitely won."
    Bringing back stressed turf while hundreds of golfers day trample it daily has been a challenge.
    "We're being patient and smart. We're not pushing green speeds, and we're not being overly aggressive with our cultural practices," Bauer said. "We're just trying to put out a good product, but golf is booming. Play has been unbelievable, and that makes it that much more stressful. When there is a lot of play and you're trying to recover, it's stressful."
    In the Dallas area, Anthony Williams manages bentgrass greens at the TPC Four Seasons, so, overall, he has fared better than others growing Bermudagrass, but he was not immune to damage from the storm. 
    Like Bauer, Williams is bringing back 36 holes at the Four Seasons amid record play. Signage around the property (pictured at the top of this page) urges golfers to exercise some patience while he and he team work toward recovery.
    "We've had the pandemic, closures, craziness and all of this for a whole year," Williams said. "Then there is a sense of optimism and you can't wait for spring, then we have this unparalleled winter storm. On top of that, we have had record rounds in March, and April looks like it is going to be the same."
    Damage to turf has been minimal at the Four Seasons. All repair work is being completed in house, a decision made in part due to a shortage of sod and available contractors.
    "We have some damage on north-facing slopes and knobs that were exposed to a north wind that came through," Williams said. "The sod supply is overtaxed, and fuel prices have gone up. If you put those two things together, not only was it the perfect winter storm, it was the perfect financial storm, as well."

    The mid-February weather forecast shows a wild swing of temperatures on tap for Houston. In the days leading up to this year's winter anomaly, superintendents throughout the state dusted off their rarely used checklist for winter prep that included watering the greens and applying wetting agents to keep moisture in the plant and a light feeding before covering them. Both Bauer and Cooper said the process felt eerily similar to preparing for a hurricane.
    Superintendents faced weather-related issues at the golf course and at home. When the weather finally arrived, much of the Houston area lost power for several days. Rolling blackouts became part of the local vernacular as utility providers tried to give everyone at least some electricity, but often that meant going days without power. Burst pipes in homes and businesses - including golf course maintenance shops and clubhouses - made a bad situation worse.
    "I think a lot of people in Texas are now in agreement that they'd rather have a hurricane than a blizzard," Cooper said.
    At Lochnivar, only about 15 minutes north of downtown Houston, much of the damage was confined to ornamental flower beds. Losses in ornamental beds totalled more than $100,000, but finding replacement plants - mostly wax myrtle and bottlebrush - has been difficult.
    "The hardest part is finding plant material," Cooper said. "It's all shipping out of California and Florida."
    In Irving, Texas near Dallas, snow arrived on Valentine's Day, which was a Sunday. By Tuesday and Wednesday, temperatures overnight were below zero.
    "We had nine days of killing weather. That's unheard of," Williams said. "It had been a mild winter up to that point. In my four years in Texas, we'd never had a bad winter, so I thought we were due.
    "On Wednesday, it was minus-2 degrees and the wind chill was minus-18 in Dallas. Eleven days later, it was 80 degrees. I don't know how a plant can be that resilient. Superintendents were busy for days beforehand getting ready, and thank goodness they did, or it would have been much worse."
    Like Cooper, Williams lost a lot of ornamentals. 
    "I've removed about 3,000 shrubs and trees, and probably have at least that much more to go," Williams said. 
    When the resort's horticulturist went to find replacement plants, the scene was surreal, according to Williams.
    "There was an hour-long wait at the wholesaler, and there was an armed policeman at the gate," he said. "You could only buy so much because there was such a limited supply. We have to be creative. If you can grow areas back in, that is ideal, because there is not enough sod."
    There was more damage unrelated to turf. Shifting soils resulted in the collapse of some retaining walls and partial tunnel failure.
    "Temperatures were up and down so erratically and there was so much moisture," Williams said. "It was epic soil movement."
    At Bluejack, affected areas included approaches and fronts. Even under covers, the club's TifEagle greens received some damage. Although it might be another 30 years before such damage occurs again in Texas, Bauer said there were some lessons to learn this year, including multiple cover layers, or covers used in tandem with other materials.
    "It is deflating to pull off the covers and feel good about everything you did to prepare and still seeing winter injury occur," Bauer said.
    "We have some of the newer zoysias around greens, which is supposed to be more cold tolerant. When you see damage on zoysia, what chance did that Bermuda have?"
    When the covers came off, Bauer knew he would need more time to get the course back on the road to recovery before opening it for play.
    "When we took the covers off, I really wanted to aerify and get some oxygen in there," he said. I asked for an extra day to solid tine, and they gave me that (pictured at right). The frustration is what more could we have done? We prepared and we planned and we did all the right things that needed to be done to avoid catastrophe. When things don't work out that way, you wear it on your sleeve. We'll get things back to where we want them, but it won't happen overnight."
    Williams, who also is a certified arborist, agreed - golfers will have to be patient to see the conditions they are accustomed to throughout Texas.
    "We're going to get through this.  Everyone has to have some faith and hang in there," he said. 
    "It was really strange to see live oaks with leaves on them and snow. Then there was a massive leaf drop. I picked up more leaves from Valentine's Day to mid-March than I did all of last year. I still have some concerns about that. If we have a hot, dry summer, casualties (among trees) won't be known for four or five months. It might really be a two-year process to find out what has to be replaced."
  • Now this is what you call grassroots activism.
    Tom Kaplun, superintendent at North Hempstead Country Club in Port Washington, New York, recently penned a letter in opposition to proposed legislation that would, if it becomes law, ban the use of neonicotinoids statewide.
    Senate Bill 699-A, for now titled The Birds and Bees Protection Act, was co-sponsored by state senators Brad Hoylman, Alessandra Biaggi, Leroy Comrie, Andrew Gounardes and Pete Harckham.

    Tom Kaplun Currently in committee, according to the New York State Senate, SB 699-A would ban the use of any products containing the active ingredients clothianidin, imidacloprid, thiamethoxam, dinotefuran or acetamiprid by July 2023. Clothianidin, dinotefuran and imidacloprid are common insecticides used on golf courses to control pests including white grubs and mole crickets.
    The proposed legislation seeks to protect pollinating insects and birds by prohibiting the sale of seeds coated with these chemistries as well as the sale and application of such products on turf, sod or ornamentals. In his letter, Kaplun informed Hoylman that these products are critical tools in the superintendent’s arsenal to control destructive pests, and that greenkeepers have worked hard to develop BMPs in an effort to be responsible pesticide applicators.
    Wrote Kaplun: "These BMPs and the (Department of Environmental Conservation) should govern our usage in turf. One well timed application of imidacloprid in conjunction with BMPs has proven to have no adverse effects on pollinator populations. Why have legislators not acknowledged the work done in the scientific community related to BMPs and integrated pest management? I find it so incredibly deflating that despite the countless efforts golf courses make to demonstrate their environmental stewardship and best management practice efforts legislators continue to fail to acknowledge the vital role they play in New York's communities and economy."
    Kaplun, the government affairs chair for the Long Island GCSA, concludes by suggesting that legislators work with turf managers in their shared quest for environmental sustainability. "As turf managers, we continue to invest and evolve in how we can maintain some of the greatest golf courses in the world while being at the forefront of environmental stewardship. As we balance this task and acknowledge that we must evolve we ask lawmakers to work with us on this task and leave chemical bans in the hands of the Department of Environmental Conservation upon complete, known scientific research."
  • CLICK HERE TO NOMINATE YOUR TECH

    Jamie Worsham (center) of Beard Equipment, a Baton Rouge John Deere distributor, and Ryan McCavitt (right), director of golf course operations at Bayou Oaks at City Park, congratulate 2020 Golden Wrench winner Evan Meldahl. The past year has been a challenge for just about everyone in the golf industry. This time a year ago, many courses were closed, and no one was quite sure when they would be reopened and what things would look like then. 
    By the time things reopened, many places had sent workers home and golfers began to descend on shorthanded golf courses in record numbers, resulting in added pressure and stress to superintendents and their teams, including equipment managers. 
    With more golfers on the course and shorter windows to conduct daily maintenance, technicians were asked to do more and more, often with fewer and fewer resources. 
    If you have an equipment manager who has gone above and beyond the call of duty during the past year - and there must be a lot of deserving candidates since the implementation of Covid protocols - nominate him or her for the TurfNet 2021 Technician of the Year Award, sponsored by John Deere. The winner will receive the Golden Wrench Award along with their choice of a spot in a Deere training session in North Carolina or a chance to assist with equipment maintenance at next year’s Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. Either will result in an equipment manager who is better trained and more motivated and will make your property better.
    CLICK HERE to submit a nomination.
    Nominees are considered by our panel of judges on the following criteria: crisis management; effective budgeting; environmental awareness; helping to further and promote the careers of colleagues and employees; interpersonal communications; inventory management and cost control; overall condition and dependability of rolling stock; shop safety; and work ethic.
    Deadline to submit a nomination is June 1.
    Previous winners include (2020) Evan Meldahl, Bayou Oaks at City Park, New Orleans, LA; (2019) Dan Dommer, Ozaukee Country Club, Mequon, WI; (2018) Terry Libbert, Old Marsh Golf Club, Palm Beach Gardens, FL; (2017) Tony Nunes, Chicago Golf Club, Wheaton, IL; (2016) Kris Bryan, Pikewood National Golf Club, Morgantown, WV; (2015) Robert Smith, Merion Golf Club, Ardmore, PA; (2014) Lee Medeiros, Timber Creek and Sierra Pines Golf Courses, Roseville, CA; (2013) Brian Sjögren, Corral de Tierra Country Club, Corral de Tierra, CA; (2012) Kevin Bauer, Prairie Bluff Golf Club, Crest Hill, IL; (2011) Jim Kilgallon, The Connecticut Golf Club, Easton, CT; (2010) Herb Berg, Oakmont (PA) Country Club; (2009) Doug Johnson, TPC at Las Colinas, Irving, TX; (2007) Jim Stuart, Stone Mountain (GA) Golf Club; (2006) Fred Peck, Fox Hollow and The Homestead, Lakewood, CO; (2005) Jesus Olivas, Heritage Highlands at Dove Mountain, Marana, AZ; (2004) Henry Heinz, Kalamazoo (MI) Country Club; (2003) Eric Kulaas, Marriott Vinoy Renaissance Resort, Sarasota, FL.
  • Since the pandemic limited other activities, every day is like a Saturday at The Club at Ruby Hill in Pleasanton, California. As just about everyone eagerly anticipates a post-Covid world, the pandemic has brought a lot of changes to golf, many of which will disappear when the threat of infection dissipates. Some other changes to the game likely are here to stay.
    As implements that golfers love, but superintendents despise, like rakes, emerge from storage, the obvious change that everyone hopes will remain is the renewed popularity of the game.
    Rounds played last year were up by 14 percent compared with the year before. Although it will not be until early 2022 when this year's numbers are available, golf still is enjoying a renaissance.
    That is certainly the case at The Club at Ruby Hill in Pleasanton, California, 20 miles east of San Francisco Bay in Alameda County.
    "We're still seeing 200 rounds a day every day," said Steve Agin, director of golf course maintenance at The Club at Ruby Hill in Pleasanton, California. "We never used to see that, maybe on a weekend. "The busiest day of the year used to be the day after Thanksgiving. Now, it can be any Wednesday. We now surpass that on most days."
    Thirty miles away, on the other side of the bay at Sharon Heights Golf and Country Club in Menlo Park, the story is a similar one, but as some restrictions ease in the country's most Covid-restrictive state, some people finally are beginning to find other things to do with their free time and disposable income.
    "We've had a huge increase in demand for tee times over the last year," said superintendent Josh Lewis. "We were completely closed for a total of six weeks when everything initially locked down, but the club has been under some form of restriction every day for the last year. We closed the second week of March (in 2020) and opened back up May 5. 
     
    "Demand on the golf course has been about the same as last year until very recently. As more people have gotten vaccinated and restrictions have started to lift we've started to see some of the pressure lift as people have other options for things to do."
    A year ago, superintendents everywhere were celebrating the wholesale removal of rakes and ball washers from the golf course.
    They are re-emerging around the country at the insistence of golfers who do not know how to use one and rarely utilize the other.
    At Ruby Hill, club management developed a tee-to-green plan of what is coming back and what is not so they have a consistent message to present to members.
    "Do I think I am going to get (Covid) from a bunker rake? No, but I don't want to be the only guy who says we are taking cup noodles out, bringing rakes back out. Now, we have a consensus on that among management," Agin said. 
    "I don't know why we would ever put ball washers out again. Maybe on the first and 10th holes, but not on all 18. They were hardly ever used before."
    On the other side of the country, one of the things most affected at Fairview Country Club in Greenwich, Connecticut, since the onset of the pandemic is the club's long-standing caddie program.

    At Fairview Country Club in Connecticut, golfers have been concerned about how Covid protocols might affect the club's popular caddie program. Few places can match Fairview's historic caddie program that has been in place for 114 years and includes a pair of U.S. Open winners.
    Caddies were allowed back on the golf course last June, but were not permitted to carry clubs. That eventually changed, but members now have to request a caddie when making a tee time. The purpose, said Fairview superintendent Jim Pavonetti, is to avoid caddies congregating in groups while waiting for loops. 
    "A hot topic so far this year, the members are concerned about the caddie program. The members here love the caddie program," Pavonetti said. "You can only limit their ability to work for so long before they find other work. It's a sensitive topic right now.
    One-time Fairview caddie Johnny Farrell won the 1928 U.S. Open at Olympia Fields, and Tony Manero, also a looper at the Connecticut club, won the tournament in 1936 at Baltusrol.
    "There is a lot of history here," Pavonetti said. "And the caddie program is near and dear to a lot of our members."
    With protocols in place to help ensure the safety of members and employees, one thing that is here to stay in many places is a philosophy of safety. Gone are the days of being sick and going to work and toughing it out.
    "I think everybody is going to naturally approach things differently. I can pretty much guarantee that the days of coming to work feeling sick and 'sucking it up' are over," Lewis said. "Keeping our people safe has always been a top priority, but I think keeping our people healthy is just as high on the list now."
  • A private equity firm in Beverly Hills is betting nearly $1.7 billion that the recent boom in golf that has occurred since the onset of the pandemic will continue.
    Platinum Equity LLC has reached an agreement with Ingersoll Rand to buy the Club Car line of golf cars and utility vehicles for $1.68 billion. 
    Club Car was founded in 1958 in Augusta. Ingersoll Rand, which manufactures compression systems and lifting and handling tools and devices, acquired the brand in 1995. Reuters reported the sale is part of an effort by Ingersoll Rand to cut almost $4 billion in debt. 
    The golf car industry is a buyer’s market. 
    According to IBISWorld, which provides global market research on several markets, the golf car industry is a $1.2 billion per year market. That market, which according to IBISWorld shrunk by 6 percent in 2020, is expected to grow by 1.4 percent this year.
    Platinum Equity was founded in 1995 and has assets of more than $25 billion. The Beverly Hills firm specializes in mergers, acquisitions and operations of technology companies in diverse industries.  Ingersoll Rand reported revenue of $1.5 billion in 2021 and income of $152 million. The company reported sales of $246 million in its golf car and utility vehicle segment, which represented an increase of 9 percent over 2019.
    Platinum Equity will continue to provide innovations such as Club Car’s Visage fleet-management system, while also seeking new opportunities to grow the Club Car brand. Club Car president Mark Wagner will continue to lead the company under its new ownership. 
    Subject to regulatory approval, the all-cash transaction is expected to close in the third quarter of the year.
  • Carter Rockwell, assistant superintendent at The Presidio Golf Course in San Francisco. The weekend baseball league he has played in for the past 10 years plays several games each year at San Quentin prison. Photo courtesy of Brian Nettz Prison seems like an odd place to go to derive a sense of self-satisfaction and purpose. But for Carter Rockwell, San Quentin has been that place - about a half-dozen times.
    To be clear, the 32-year-old Rockwell is not and has never been an inmate at San Quentin, a California state maximum security prison in Marin County. The assistant to superintendent Brian Nettz at The Presidio Golf Club in San Francisco, Rockwell has visited San Quentin several times as part of an adult baseball league that gets together a few times a year to face the inmates in a ballgame.
    "Satisfaction, that is the main joy of going in there," Rockwell said. "I love playing baseball, but when I think of playing at San Quentin, it's not playing baseball that I remember; it's talking to the guys on the prison team, hearing their story. I don't meet too many people who have been in a penitentiary very often, so I had created this perception of what they were going to be like. When you get in there, they are normal people, and a lot are very regretful for the decisions they have made, and they're just trying to get back on the right path. Playing baseball against us gives them a little taste of normal society, and that means way more to me than whatever I do on the baseball field."
    A San Francisco native, Rockwell was a standout baseball player locally at Lowell High School. Since he graduated from high school, he has been active in an adult baseball league called Mission Baseball. With a pool of hundreds of players from middle school to age 60-plus who float in and out of the league based on their availability and interest, the group gets together on Sunday afternoons for pick-up games at public parks throughout the city.
    "It's a casual group and everyone just wants to play a good game. There is no one screaming at you about balls and strikes. It's a good group, and we all know each other," he said.
    "There is one person who spearheads it for us and gets us a place to play each week. He sends the email out on Thursdays, and invariably about 20 to 30 people show up, and there might be someone who hasn't played in 10 years who just shows up. We've added people to the group who see us playing in the park and just want to know what it's all about. There is a group of guys in their 50s and 60s who have been doing this for 25 years. We now have kids of players playing with us, so it is a generational thing."
    A few times a year, a more focused email goes out to Mission Baseball's best players.
    The nine players on that list will drive the 30 minutes north on the 101 on a Saturday morning to the infamous San Quentin, which houses nearly 3,800 inmates on 432 acres on San Francisco Bay. 
    Prison baseball is part of San Quentin's outreach program designed to rehabilitate inmates before releasing them back into society. Activities like competitive baseball and basketball are a reward for those who have logged a great deal of time on good behavior. According to the prison, the program works. San Quentin officials say 98 percent of the inmates who play baseball and are later paroled are never incarcerated again.
    The program is currently on Covid-induced hiatus, but Rockwell said he cannot wait to go back once they are permitted.
    "The prisoners are so gracious and appreciative of us coming in and playing," Rockwell said. "On top of playing, they get to interact with people from the outside. A lot of the guys I've played against have gotten out. You can tell they are trying to normalize themselves."
    Players change into their gear in the parking because the only things they are allowed to bring in are uniforms, bats, balls, gloves and the ID. Don't forget your ID.
    Check-in takes about an hour.
    The players pass through a series of checkpoints, each requiring ID and a signature. 
    Passing through the first checkpoint, players are immediately on edge. 
    "The first thing the guards tell you is 'we don't negotiate for hostages,' " Rockwell said. 
    Finally, at the last checkpoint their hands are stamped with invisible ink.
    "Once you get the stamp, the joke is 'don't wash your hands in there,' but it's kind of true," he said. "That is your ticket out!"
    Once players leave the last holding cell and the gate closes behind them "at that point, you're in San Quentin," Rockwell said.
    "By then, you might as well be another prisoner," he said. "Prisoners are everywhere all over the yard doing what you think prisoners do - push ups with their shirts off, running laps around the field. They're not with any guards and neither are you. Once you walk into the prison yard, you are on your own. That was surreal to me."
    Rockwell said his nerves calmed considerably since his first visit on the yard at San Quentin.
    "I remember going into the prison the first time and being more nervous than I've ever been," Rockwell said. "I'd played competitive sports all my life, but nothing added up to this. 
    "It's a long process. You have to get there by 7 o'clock to be on the field by 8 a.m. The guards are intimidating, going through checkpoints is intimidating. The building is intimidating. It's old and huge and not inviting. But it's not supposed to be."

    Carter Rockwell played in games like this one at San Quentin prison on several occasions. Photo by USA Today The team's chaperone for the trip is the manager of the prison team, a member of the community who volunteers his time. But the Mission Baseball group never meets him until after he has had a chance to convene with his own team first.
    "Prisoners can come up and just start talking to you, they are everywhere, it's very intimidating," Rockwell said. "The prisoners who aren't playing baseball, they don't take as kindly to you because there is nothing in it for them."
    As players from both sides take the field, the prison walls almost seem to disappear.
    "Once you step foot on the ball field and talk to the prisoners you are playing, all they are are baseball players at that point," Rockwell said. "Baseball is the great equalizer."
    Players on the prison team manage the field as best they can without benefit of 
    seed, chemicals and water. They rake the infield dirt and paint the lines, but the outfield is weedy and rock hard and it's a ground-rule double if a batter hits a ball into a native American sweat lodge in right field that is in the form of a teepee. Suffice to say, the field will never be confused with AT&T Park, home of the San Francisco Giants. 
    Although the games are for fun, the prison teams are highly competitive.
    "It's fun, good-spirited interaction," Rockwell said. "Everybody on the prisoners' team is stoked just because they get to play baseball. It's the one thing many of them have in prison, so they are in a good mood. On top of that, they want to beat you. For them, it is a sense of pride. They've already been stripped of all their pride. They really want to beat you, and there is a lot of shit-talking. But it's good-natured shit-talking. They want to win that game way more than I've ever wanted to win a game."
    Competitive indeed. Rockwell's record at San Quentin is a humble 2-4. Still, he looks forward to returning in a post-Covid world and doing what he can to help a few inmates get closer to their freedom. 
    "I think us going in, and them interacting with us gives them a chance to test their social skills with others," Rockwell said. "That makes it worth it, when you get a chance to talk to them and hear their stories. It's crazy to talk to someone who has killed someone, and they really regret what they did. I can't imagine putting myself in their shoes."
    Although he likes the feeling he gets from providing some normalcy for San Quentin's baseball team, he always breathes a sigh of relief when he leaves.
    "When the game is over, the teams line up and shake hands," he said. "We mull around with the prisoners and talk with them about whatever. A lot of them thank us for coming to play. 
    "When we're going out, you remember you have been sweating and sliding in the dirt and you look at your hands and think: That's just invisible ink. I hope that's still there!"
  • Four years after what many called the state's worst drought in modern history, California appears to be headed into another dry spell.
    Snowpack in the Sierra Nevada, which provides 30 percent of the state's freshwater supply each year, was down by an overall average of 41 percent, and reservoirs statewide are at just 50 percent of their holding capacity, according to the California Department of Water Resources.
    Snowpack and rainfall levels vary across the state. At Phillips Station, snowpack recently was measured at 83 percent of the historic average, but was much lower at other stations. Overall, snowpack in the Sierras statewide was at just 59 percent of average.
    Snowpack in the Northern and Central Sierra was at 70 percent of average on April 1, but rainfall is below 50 percent of average, making this year the third driest year on record. Snow water equivalents, a measure of how much water is contained in the snowpack, was 53 percent and 54 percent in the northern and central Sierra, respectively, but only 31 percent in the range's southern tier.
    California's State Water Project is a complex system of 700 miles of canals, aqueducts and pipelines that delivers water from 22 reservoirs across to 25 million users from San Francisco to Los Angeles and accounts for 70 percent of the state's freshwater supply. The severity of California's water issues is illustrated by Lake Oroville, the state's largest reservoir. Located on the Feather River 80 miles north of Sacramento, Lake Oroville is at just 53 percent of its overall holding capacity.
    The San Francisco Chronicle recently ran a series of before-and-after images taken in 2017 and again in 2021 to illustrate the severity of the situation.
    "There is no doubt California is in a critically dry year," Karla Nemeth, Department of Water Resources director, said in a news release.
    By February 17, water officials in Marin County north of San Francisco had seen enough to officially declare the early stages of a drought. The Marin County Water District has since asked users to voluntarily conserve water.
    "Last year was the second-driest year in 90 years, which has critically impacted our reservoir levels," Marin Water Board President Cynthia Koehler said in a released statement. "While we hope for more rain in the coming weeks, it's important that we reach out to the community now before we get to drier weather in the summer. Water use efficiency is our most cost-effective source of supply, and we have a terrific conservation team at Marin Water and a range of programs and incentives to support consumers in conserving water, not just this year but for the long term."
    California's last drought from 2011 to 2017 was described as the state's most severe on record.
    That event resulted in mandated water-use reductions of 25 percent by then-Gov. Jerry Brown. Meeting those restrictions was a complex matter for many golf course superintendents who already had cut water use before the mandates were implemented. The order by the governor required users to cut from their current use, which for many superintendents ended up being much more than 25 percent.
  • Katy Wilson and Dave Wilson in the 2020 TurfNet TV production of 'Katy returns to Rockbottum. This year's NCAA men's basketball tournament has been filled with feel-good stories, like Gonzaga attempting to put the finishing touches on college basketball's first undefeated season since 1976, and UCLA completing an improbable run to the Final Four as an 11 seed.
    But the real surprise of March Madness has been the onscreen appearance of Katy Wilson, a veteran of the early days of TurfNet TV, who has appeared during the tournament in a run of commercials promoting Experian. Now 28, Katy is the real-life niece of Randy Wilson, and is a lifelong performer who appeared in several early Rockbottum Country Club videos as Tiffany, her uncle's on-screen daughter. 
    "She's been acting and doing theater since she was like 3," Randy said. "She's just so good, she made all of us better."
    Even with a natural stage presence, Katy's crackerjack performances on TurfNet TV might not have been enough to salvage the onscreen persona of Buddy, Randy and Momma, but at least one person on that set graduated beyond the gratuitous violence, chicanery and otherwise sophomoric hijinks that is inspired by Monty Python and Carol Burnett.
    "Those were so much fun," Katy said. "I haven't watched those in years.
    "That was the first time I'd been on a set. I didn't have a sense that it was any different than acting on stage. It was just doing it without an audience."

    A still from the Experian commercial running during the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament. A polished theater performer and vocalist since childhood, Katy is an up-and-coming entertainer who has appeared in stage productions from coast to coast. Given Katy's recent success on the small screen during March Madness, we thought it might be fun to catch up with her and see what she has been up to since her debut on TurfNet TV a decade ago.
    After graduating from Furman University with a bachelor's in vocal performance in 2015, Katy moved to New York to pursue a career in theater. 
    "I thought I would be working in opera and musical theater. I thought I was going to go to New York and be the next Kristin Chenoweth," she said. 
    "I had focused so much on singing that I had forgotten about acting. It has been a joy to refocus on that."
    She worked in traveling productions along the East Coast and was cast in the role of Shelby in an on-stage production of Steel Magnolias in Oregon when the pandemic shut down theaters everywhere. That led her to move in with her parents in North Carolina before eventually relocating to her native Atlanta to take advantage of a thriving television and film industry. Among the television series and big screen movies filmed in the Atlanta area, which has developed the reputation of somewhat of a hot, humid southern version of Hollywood, include The Walking Dead and several editions of The Hunger Games series of movies.
    "We had shows that weekend, and more and more people gradually stopped coming to the theater," she said. "That Monday, they came in to tell us that evening was going to be our last show.
    "With theater on hold, I decided to pursue more TV and film work. I had heard great things about Atlanta, and so many things are filmed there. Plus, my tiny apartment in New York City with so many roommates was not the best place to be during a lockdown. Since October, I've had 65 auditions. It's definitely booming here, it's such an exciting thing."
    The product of a golf family, Katy never developed a love for the game. Her father, Mike, who now is in the sod business in North Carolina, was a superintendent, her grandfather was a superintendent and noted golf instructor, and then there is Randy, a former superintendent who also dabbled in golf course design.
    "I did some golf camps when I was younger," she said. "But, I was very focused on acting, theater and performing."
    She remembers performing in a stage production of The Little Princess, how seriously she took the role and how upset she became when the rest of the 6-year-old girls in the show did not share her zeal for professionalism.

    Click the image above to watch 'GCS Stress Relief.' "The director asked the girls to pretend to be prim and proper and not wave to our audience or to our parents," she said. "As soon as we went out, all the girls waved. 'What are you doing? We're no longer pretending. We're supposed to be prim and proper British girls!' "
    Katy's best friend, cousin Dave Wilson, Randy's son, said she has had that same sense of professionalism as long as he can remember.
    "When I'm in videos with my dad, I always pictured myself as the 'real' actor," said Dave, who plays Bodell, as well as many other characters on TurfNet TV. "When Katy shows up, it's intimidating. Buddy is all over the place, and you might have to feed him his lines 30 times, but Katy is a pro. 
    "I'm going to go out on a ledge and say I played a large role in her acting career," he added laughing. "She took what I gave her and ran with it."
    Although acting is a form of pretending, it is not a world of make-believe for Katy. Instead, she sees it as a way to tell a story. When she made a return appearance to Rockbottum a little more than a year ago, she brought the same professionalism that has served her in New York and Atlanta to the set for TurfNet TV.
    "In 'Katy Returns to Rockbottum' she is so slick," Randy said. "She knew everybody's jobs and everybody's lines. When I'm on camera, it's hard to direct. She just took over and started directing when I was on camera."
    Said Katy: "We know what we do is not perceived as work, but me and my actor friends are very aware that this is work. We want it to look natural for the viewer. For our work to be successful, the viewer has to be moved by the story in some way.
    "I like telling stories, and there are infinite possibilities for stories. That is when I have the most fun and joy in life is when I am working with other actors and telling stories."

    Katy and Randy reveal the best job in golf. Moviegoers and patrons of the theater might believe that acting comes naturally to performers, but it is instead the result of fine-tuned choreography designed to make scenes as realistic as possible while also ensuring the safety of cast, crew and audience.
    She points to a scene in Steel Magnolias where Shelby suffers a diabetic episode while seated in the chair in a hair salon.
    "The diabetic episode with the juice is choreographed like a dance move," she said. "You have to be in control of your movements so you don't hurt the other actors. And in that scene, when I would fling the juice, I had to make sure I didn't get it on anyone in the audience. You count moments and beats to make sure you are in control. We used a fight coordinator to choreograph that scene and we rehearsed it slowly.
    "It's easy to go 100 percent into it emotionally. If you do that eight times a week, you're probably not going to survive it. It's all about an economical way of giving the audience a realistic portrayal of what is happening, while keeping actors safe on the other end."
    Her most recent work, the Experian commercial, was shot last summer with each of the actors recorded remotely because of the pandemic.
    While pursuing her goals in entertainment, she also works as the director of marketing for Cinema Life, an Atlanta-based producer of film festivals. She is in charge of all marketing and social media promotion. That job not only allows her to pay the bills, it also gives her an avenue to network within her chosen career field.
    "That is a huge challenge, the freelance lifestyle of acting. You always have to have additional jobs," she said. "You try to work day jobs while also auditioning and pursuing acting, so it is a real time constraint. Some days, you work all day then go home and have to work on a script.
    "In New York City, I was a nanny, a babysitter, dog-walker, historical tour guide on Wall Street, an usher for shows, did social media, was a personal assistant, anything you can think, of. The good thing with Cinema Life is it is remote. I can take it with me on the set. I do their marketing, social media, program their film festivals and help judge and pick films that make it into the festival. It is in my world and lets me network in my industry, and I'm very thankful for that."
    Her long-term goal is to play dramatic roles that portray strong women and tell the stories of their accomplishments and contributions to society.
    "We are in this golden age of television with streaming services. There is so much opportunity and possibility. And there are so many services filming in Atlanta," she said. "I like historical drama and period pieces; anything that serves the world by telling a story of people we don't usually get to see. 
    "I am naturally interested in story-telling. I'm always looking for opportunities and love being involved in something that I feel is important and special, and when I have the opportunity to get paid to do what I love doing, it is a great day."
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