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From the TurfNet NewsDesk

  • John Reitman
    Prince might be gone, but the golf business is partying like it's 1999.
    OK, that might be stretching things just a bit, but so far, 2021 looks awfully similar to 2020 when the game began to enjoy a covid-induced resurgence. 
    "It's crazy," said Chris Reverie, superintendent at Allentown Municipal Golf Course in Pennsylvania. "I've never seen play like this. A colleague told me it reminds him of golf back in the 1990s."
    Increased popularity of a game that had been on a slow and steady decline for most of the past two decades is one good thing that has come out of the pandemic. It also has resulted in some superintendents changing the way they do some things so they can stay ahead of the game - literally.
    As the owner of his own management company, Steven Scott has been the superintendent of Persimmon Hills Golf Course in Sharon, Tennessee (shown at right) since 2012. He bought the course last year, and since then 18-hole rounds played there have increased by 40 percent. 
    Scott mows and rolls five days a week. Before last year, he could start early in the morning on No. 9, because it is the closest hole to the maintenance shop, and work his way around the course without much interference. Now, he drives straight to No. 1 first thing in the morning so he can stay ahead of play.
    "I have to be out at least 30 minutes before the shop opens, or they're going to catch up to me pretty quickly," Scott said. "When you're mowing greens, you don't want to get stopped. That makes for a headache all day."
    At least Scott is able to mow right now. That is more than Reverie could say in the first few days after Allentown opened.
    The course opened Sunday, and has been packed with up to 265 players every day. It also had frost delays every morning, meaning Reverie and his spartan team of four have not been unable to mow since the day before opening day. 
    "Other than changing cups, moving tees and picking up trash, there has been no time to mow or roll," Reverie said. "Fortunately, we had a couple of nice days right before we opened, so we were able to get out and cut and get things cleaned up."
    Even after the frost delays are a thing of the past, Reverie and his team will have their work cut out for them. Tee times will eventually back up to 6:30 a.m., meaning he and his crew might have to hit the course around 3-3:30 a.m. He also hasn't ruled out having someone come in to mow late in the day after the last group tees off.
    "I usually start spraying at 3 a.m. Once we're out of this cold stretch, we'll be out there early every day," he said. 
    "I am trying to come up with a schedule that works for everyone."
    In the few days Allentown has been open, it has been so busy that there is up to a 40-minute wait for an open tee on the practice range. Half of the facility's anticipated revenue for the year already is on the books thanks to 15 leagues that play there through the season, and the pro shop has had to adjust its open tee time policy so everyone who wants to play has a chance to do so.
    "We are taking tee times only seven days in advance, and we're seeing people log in (to the course web site) at 12:04 in the morning on Saturdays to make tee times for the next weekend," Reverie said. "I know 20 or 30 regulars who haven't been able to get a tee time yet. Some have asked me, 'Hey Chris, is there anything you can do for me?' I can't do anything for them."
    Play has been so heavy at Allentown (at right) that the city is considering expanding the parking lot.
    "Let me just say I've seen some interesting parking the last couple of days," Reverie said. "We're just trying to figure out what will work. I've never seen anything like this.
    "We're seeing a whole new dynamic as far as the golfers themselves. It's not just seniors or retirees or young kids. We're picking up people in their late 20s and early 30s. There are a lot more of them out on the course and especially on the driving range. I used to be able to go out there and I knew everybody. Now, I know maybe four or five people. I'm seeing a lot of new club sets."
    There are so many newcomers to the game that Reverie adopted a tree management plan during the winter just to help promote pace of play.
    "I took out some trees to open up more shots," he said. "The third hole, a par 5, had a choke point. We took some trees out of there, and play through there is much faster now."
    Persimmon Hills in rural Sharon, Tennessee is 130 miles from Memphis and 150 from Nashville. Right now, it seems like the center of the golf universe for Scott.
    Membership sales are up more than 400 percent, which in rural Tennessee equates to about 37 people. Still, in relative terms that is a lot for a course with an owner operator and a handful of part-time retirees and high school kids that keep everything moving. The course owns 36 carts and wait times for a ride have been up to an hour on weekends.
    "It is not just people playing more golf. We are seeing substantially more people than ever before. It's absolutely unreal," Scott said. "This is a small town, so I'm pretty much familiar with our regular golfers. If I don't know their names, I know their faces. Right now, we are busy with people I've never seen before. We're getting people from Kentucky, from all over. And we're getting a lot of locals who have never played before until last year."
    The $64,000 question, of course, is how long does it last. The answer is anyone's guess.
    "We are seeing the benefit of no travel baseball, soccer or basketball where people are pulled in 100 different directions," Scott said. "Now that things are starting back up, how many will stick with golf? How many are going to watch their grandkids play travel sports in Nashville or Memphis, and how many are going to continue to play golf with their regular group? We definitely have to make hay while the sun is shining."
  • The past year has been, to say the least, uh, interesting at Yale Golf Course.
    The No. 1 campus golf course in the Golfweek's Best list, Yale will open for the season April 13, after some offseason improvement projects. There are a lot of if's, and's and but's in that reopening.
    Through June 27, the 1926 C.B. MacDonald classic in New Haven is open only to Connecticut residents with an active Yale Golf Course account.
    There's more.
    Everyone must maintain social distancing of at least six feet at all times throughout the property, including parking lots and playing areas. Respect of social distancing applies not only to fellow golfers but also to golf course staff. Anyone not following social distancing policies will be asked to leave, according to a release by Yale GC general manager Peter Palacios Jr.
    All golfers must have a facial covering in their possession at all times, but facial coverings are not required while playing golf. They are required while on the property (checking in for tee time, in the parking lot, etc.), while driving and riding in a cart with another passenger and they must cover the nose and mouth at all times.
    Although the course will open, the clubhouse, pro shop, driving range and snack bar will not.
    Yale Golf Course only has been open for a few months in the past year-and-a-half. After closing at the end of the season in 2019, it did not reopen again until Sept. 28, 2020. Trouble started long before that. 
    Between the time when the course closed in November 2019 and the Covid outbreak more than a year ago, Yale lost longtime superintendent Scott Ramsay, CGCS, who left for The Country Club of Farmington in Connecticut, as well as general manager Peter Pulaski.
    The Yale campus was shuttered in mid-March, including the golf course, which the university traditionally treats as part of the overall university infrastructure rather than a standalone golf entity. 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.
    Palacios still has not hired a superintendent to replace Ramsay, who left Yale last March.
  • Years after settlers opened the western frontier traveling on covered wagons, the emerald ash borer has been staging its own version of manifest destiny for the better part of the past two decades.
    The invasive pest that climbed aboard a Chinese cargo ship before making its way into the port of Detroit in 2002 has since been found in at least 35 U.S. states and five provinces in Canada, and leaving a swath of dead ash trees in their wake.
    Its population and its range have expanded due to a lack of natural predators. Growing to only a half-inch in length, EAB is still a heavyweight when it comes to damaging ash trees. According to EAB.org, a joint educational effort that includes multiple universities and government agencies, EAB has wiped out hundreds of millions of trees across North America, and its range is predicted to swell unchecked until it reaches everywhere across the continent where ash trees grow.
    The EAB network now hosts a series of webinars to educate viewers on the pest. 
    Ash trees in EAB's native Asia have built up some immunity to the pest over time, while host trees in the U.S. have not.
    "Several of us around the country have evaluated host susceptibility to EAB since we first detected it in 2002. We've used a variety of experimental designs to evaluate host susceptibility," said Nate Siegert, entomologist at U.S. Department of Agriculture's Forest Service, in a webinar hosted by the Natural Resources Conservation Service.
    "What we consistently find across these studies is that North American species of ash are more susceptible than Asian species of ash due to co-evolution of the host and the insect pest. European species tend to be intermediate in terms of susceptibility."
    Click here for more resources on EAB.
    Adult females, which grow to about a half-inch in length, create a hole in the bark into which they deposit their eggs. After hatching, the larvae feed on and chew galleries (pictured above right) through the tissue beneath the bark layer where the tree's vascular system is found. EAB kills ash trees by disrupting the uptake of water and nutrients through the trunk and into the upper reaches of the tree. In the spring, new adults chew through the bark and emerge leaving behind a D-shaped exit hole before flying into the canopy to ingest ash leaves and the reproductive process begins all over again.
    Symptoms of infestation include thinning of the canopy and sprouts growing from holes in the trunk that were created by the pests, along with voracious woodpeckers that have developed quite a taste for EAB. According to scientists, canopies of mature ash trees typically die off within two years of infestation and the trees are dead within five years. All native North American ash species are susceptible to EAB.
    To date, EAB is found in Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia and West Virginia, as well as Manitoba, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Ontario and Quebec in Canada.
    EAB.org is a joint effort of Michigan State, Purdue and Ohio State universities; the Michigan and Ohio departments of agriculture; the Michigan, Indiana and Ohio departments of natural resources; the USDA Forest Service; the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS); and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.
  • It is doubtful that anyone has seen more of Ohio during the past three decades than Joe Rimelspach.
    An extension agent and program specialist in Ohio State's turf pathology department, Rimelspach has criss-crossed the state hundreds of times during his 39-year career in Columbus, helping golf course superintendents, sports field managers, lawn care operators, homeowners and arborists diagnose countless plant diseases and help them on the road to recovery.
    That all comes to an end this month when Rimelspach, 70, will officially retire.
    "I've never not gone to work before," Rimelspach said as he was cleaning out the only office he has occupied at Ohio State. "It's going to be different. I'm having a hard time getting my head around this."
    For much of his tenure at Ohio State, Rimelspach has been one-half of Ohio State's 1-2-punch turf pathology team that also includes Todd Hicks. The traveling roadshow of "Joe and Todd" has been almost inseparable both professionally and personally for the past 20 years. Together, they have taught at Ohio Turfgrass Foundation events and annual field days and they have criss-crossed the state giving talks to professional associations, making site visits and building immeasurable good will from Akron to Zanesville and everywhere in between. They have produced a series of educational videos that prove chemistry in the turf business is not only about spray products, but also about how well two people can work together.
    "Our personalities are so different, but they complement each other," Rimelspach said of his two-decade history of working alongside Hicks. "Most people don't have jobs like ours. We play off each other's strengths. He makes me laugh, I make him laugh. That improves the quality of life in the workplace."
    Often, their workplace was in a car driving to one corner of the state or another, in a lab diagnosing a pathogen or teaching at a field day at the OTF research facility in Columbus.
    "Joe is the go-to guy at The Ohio State University for disease," said Tim Glorioso, superintendent at Toledo Country Club and a past president of the Ohio Turfgrass Foundation. "He is always available for help and loves to educate everyone on disease identification and management. Whenever we needed a speaker for a Northwest Ohio GCSA event, Joe always made time for us superintendents.
    "The Joe and Todd pathology show at OTF just won't be the same without both of them doing presentations and their online turf tips. Joe will be missed."
    A native of Fremont in north-central Ohio, Rimelspach grew up eyeing a career in farming. After a few years of working his uncle's farm, he left for a job on the crew at Fremont Country Club. That was in 1967.
    "That job was a blast," Rimelspach said. "I enjoyed the people and being outside."

    After a year of night school through Bowling Green State University, he went on to Ohio State for a career in turf, but eventually changed majors to landscape horticulture because he enjoyed working with shrubs and trees. His career included 19 years at Chemlawn, where he trained technicians and established a pathology lab before finally joining the turf pathology program at Ohio State under pathologist Phil Larsen, beginning a career that lasted 29 years, including the past 20 alongside Hicks. Together their work has included instruction, extension work, field research and operating a pathology lab. 
    "Everybody likes Joe. He has a lot of information," Hicks said. "And you can't find a person who has a bad thing to say about him.
    "The key to his success has been his attitude. People rely on you to make things right, and maybe even save their job. A great lesson I learned from Joe is it's not always what you tell, but how you tell them. It goes beach to him being that nice guy. He never met a stranger."
    That became evident about a decade ago when Hicks and Rimelspach attended a friend's funeral. When they arrived, the viewing room was so crowded, Rimelspach wandered about the funeral home and ducked into another person's viewing. There he talked to and consoled the family of the deceased.
    "He was talking to those people trying to make them feel better," Hicks said. "That's Joe."
    His position at Ohio State originally was partially funded by OTF.
    "I am guessing, but he must have done 40 talks a year, and they all were current and useful," said Todd Voss, superintendent at Double Eagle Club in Galena, Ohio, and a past president of OTF.
    "He would do as many talks as we wanted and would take whatever time slot we gave him and it was amazing, the room was always full.
    "In today's university world, Joe will be impossible to replace."
    Retirement is something Rimelspach has been pondering for some time. Covid got in the way last year and led him to delay his announcement several times. It was not until about a month ago that he finally decided the time was right, with a little urging from wife, July.
    "She asked me 'how long are you going to work, anyway?' " he said. "I have to admit, working at home during Covid has been a transition. Judy has made it known that she hates me taking over the dining room table as an office."
    Although Rimelspach will no longer be on the OSU payroll, he will remain on Hicks' speed dial.
    "There will be times I will have to reach out to my old friend and see if he can help me out," Hicks said. 
    "You normally don't have this kind of relationship with someone you work with. He's family. He's my mentor and father figure."

    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.
  • A study under way at multiple Midwestern universities will one day provide turfgrass managers with a tool that can help them identify the threat of winterkill and give them time to take action before damage sets in. At least that is what scientists are hoping for.
    Researchers at Michigan State and the University of Minnesota are using subsurface sensors planted at several golf courses in both states to measure soil moisture and temperature at three depths as well as oxygen and carbon dioxide levels just below the surface to learn how that data might one day help predict the threat of winterkill. Data measured by the sensors is transmitted to the user through a cellular connection.
    The sensors, which were developed at the University of Minnesota were installed at 10 courses in that state, six in Michigan and one in Norway, said Kevin Frank, Ph.D., of Michigan State.
    "The hope is that we can develop a model that will tell people in real time that they might have an issue," Frank said. 'We believe it is anoxia underneath ice cover that causes winterkill. It might be soil moisture and temperature and a combination with freeze-and-thaw cycles."
    The study is part of a larger multi-university research project under the U.S. Department of Agriculture Specialty Crop Research Initiative, but in two previous tries it has yet to be approved by the USDA for funding. The cost of the sensors, at least those in the ground on golf courses in Michigan, was funded by the Michigan Turfgrass Foundation.
    "Hopefully, the third time is the charm," Frank said. "Our challenge has always been winterkill is unpredictable. Seven years ago, there was mass turf death in this area. It might be another seven years before we see anything like that again. It might be 20 years, or we might never have that kind of death again."
    Placing the sensors in different locations that include Detroit, Grand Rapids, Gaylord and Petoskey areas in Michigan, increase the chances of encountering some adverse conditions.
    "I know this is going to sound awful, but placing them in different locations gives us a better opportunity to see some death," Frank said. "Hopefully, we'll be able to pinpoint data on gasses, or temperature or moisture levels. It will be helpful to show that the research is working before getting funding."
    The sensors were installed last autumn. The research is still in its early stages.
    "The first year, we're just trying to find if they work and do they give a continuous data stream," Frank said. "Half were working here, the others are a mystery until I get them in my hands and see if they recorded data. 
    "After several years of doing this, we want to find if there are there specific thresholds of temperatures, gasses, moisture, and in real time can it tell superintendents that they have an issue and there might be something they can do about it. That is the goal."
  • For the past several years, Matthew Woodcock saw Old Erie Golf Course as a place where everyone in his family, adults and children alike, could have fun and feel welcome. Now that he owns it, he plans to keep it that way, and not just for his family, but everyone else's, too.
    Woodcock, 31, and wife Jill bought Old Erie, a nine-hole mom-and-pop operation in Durhamville, New York, on March 1. Built in 1968, Old Erie will not show up on anyone's top 100 list and it does not have bocce courts. It does have a Thursday night cornhole league that plays on a vacant area behind the clubhouse, and the jeans-wearing crowd that is the facility's bread and butter think the playing conditions here are plenty good.
    If the game is going to build on its renewed popularity of 2020, continue to grow and attract new players, it has to be, more than anything else, fun, and the atmosphere customers find at their local course has to be inviting.
    "We're not going to be the best course in the area, but one thing we can do is provide a great atmosphere where everyone feels welcome, where they don't have to worry about wearing a collared shirt," Woodcock said. "That's not who we are.
    "We want to provide a fun atmosphere where people can come and not be judged about what they are wearing, or about their game. That's who we are."
    Woodcock, his wife and their family spent many a day at Old Erie long before they bought it. They had become so at-home at Old Erie that when David Niemann and John Stewart, who bought the course in 2012, considered retirement, they asked Woodcock on several occasions if he was interested in buying it.
    "We all hung out here all summer," Woodcock said. "The owners really cultivated a family atmosphere here.
    "They saw we were invested in the property, and he wanted someone who was going to continue to run it the way he did. I guess they saw that in us."
    As owner-operator, Woodcock also is the course superintendent. He has no turf degree, and his experience includes four years of golf course maintenance at Old Erie and before that, Turning Stone, a multi-course resort in nearby Verona that was a PGA Tour stop for a brief time.
    He ended up in the turf business only because he was looking for a job after he lost his position in the payroll processing sales industry. 
    "I am not a salesman," he said. "I should have been fired. When someone said 'no' I'd just leave and tell them 'have a nice day."
    It was wife Jill who saw a help-wanted ad for seasonal maintenance work on the crew at Turning Stone.
    "I fell in love with it," he said. "I fell in love with the work: mowing, weed-eating, being outside all day. I loved it.
    "I have an associate's degree in science. I applied to the turf program at Penn State, but I had to put those plans on hold - because I bought a golf course."
    The day after closing on the golf course, Woodcock delivered a presentation to the Penn State Turf Club in a virtual conference.

    Running Old Erie Golf Course is a family affair for Matthew Woodcock and son Ezra, 6, who also is shown below. "I told them that I felt funny talking to them because they knew more than I did," he said. "I talked to them about how hard work and luck make people successful. You need both, because hard work doesn't always get you there. Sometimes you need a little luck. That's where I'm at."
    The nondescript but family friendly course opened in 1968. Conditions and expectations are 180 degrees at the opposite end of the spectrum from those at Turning Stone, which was home to the Turning Stone Resort Championship from 2007 to 2010.
    "Our tolerance for disease pressure at this golf course is pretty high," Woodcock said. 
    "If there is disease on a tee, we probably have to live with it. We focus on the greens. People come here and pay $20 to play nine holes. They don't care if there is disease in the fairways. I learned that from the owner, and that was a culture shock coming from Turning Stone. We have to live with flaws, because we can't afford to fix them, and our clientele does not demand that we fix them. They come here to have fun."
    The decision to buy a golf course - during a pandemic - was not one the Woodcocks entered into lightly. Matthew's parents, David and Susie, and Jill's mother, Michelle Vance, helped with the down payment, making the purchase of a golf course a true family affair.
    At least 11 family members help with everything from accounting and marketing to tending bar and managing special events to working in the clubhouse and assisting with course maintenance.
    "The previous owners really promoted a family atmosphere. When they had tournaments, everyone would stay after and have dinner together," said Woodcock's dad, David, an MRI technician during the week and now part-time golf course employee on weekends. "Sometimes they'd have live music. It's just been a lot of fun. When they talked to Matthew about buying it, it just seemed right for them to take it over and for us to help him.
    "I travel a lot for work, but I'm home on weekends and I'll help out when I can. I was always there anyway."
    The course has about 100 members. Woodcock says he'd like to grow that number to about 150 or so, but not much more.
    "We can't support 250 or 300 members," he said. "If people come out here on a Saturday and it's packed wall to wall, we'll lose members anyway."
    There are no illusions of getting rich off Old Erie. Woodcock is renovating a house on the property that he and Jill and their four children eventually will occupy. That will help them with expenses.
    "He knows he's not going to get rich doing this, running this kind of golf course," David Woodcock said. "We figured if you make a decent living, have fun and all are OK and we can make a go of this, I think that is the way to do it.
    "It's never going to be Augusta, but the fairways and greens are always very good."
    The experience also is a legacy the Woodcocks can pass down to their four children.
    "We want to do outreach with our local charities to make our local area better," Woodcock said.  "I grew up a mile from here. I'm super proud of this area. I am fully invested in it, and I want to make it an area our kids can be proud of, as well."
  • The USGA will invest nearly $2 million into turf research grants this year through the Green Section Turfgrass and Environmental Research program.
    The annual investment in the program, which this year totals $1.8 million into 70-plus grants, is part of the USGA's contined effort to support the sustainability of golf, which, the USGA says, saves the industry an estimated $1.8 billion annually.
    During the Green Section's 100-year history, which was marked last year, the USGA has invested more than $46 million in research aimed at improving the golfer experience and reducing inputs. The program represents the largest private turfgrass and environmental research effort in the game's history.
    The 2021 grant recipients – including 16 new projects – will receive an average of $25,000 in funding this year. Projects include an innovative multi-year effort with the University of Minnesota to improve irrigation efficiency, while ongoing support to the University of Nebraska will advance the development of new cultivars of buffalograss that require fewer inputs. 
    Another grant of $25,000 will be invested in a collaborative effort between North Carolina State University, Purdue University and the University of Georgia-Tifton to develop new cultivars of zoysiagrass with improved heat, drought and traffic tolerance.
    Since the founding of the Green Section in 1920, the USGA has led the effort to enhance golf course sustainability through the development and support of research that produces a healthier environment and improved playing conditions.
    Led by Cole Thompson, Ph.D., the research program is one way in which the USGA brings to life its mission to champion and advance the game. Universities and research companies submit grant applications that are reviewed by 17 scientists on the TERP committee. In addition to the TERP, the USGA invests in research that benefits other areas of course sustainability and golfer experience.
    Through the program's emphasis on sustainable turfgrass management and environmental protection, combined with research and educational efforts, the USGA has improved the efficiency of key areas of golf course management. These areas include advances in putting green construction methods, the use of naturalized rough, precision irrigation strategies and best application practices for fertilizers and pesticides, all of which have been adopted at about half the country's golf courses.
    Overall, these efforts have resulted in an industry-wide reduction in water use of about 19 percent from 2005-2013, a 37 percent decrease in fertilizer use from 2006-2014, and the development of more than 30 turfgrass cultivars that use fewer inputs.
    Click here to view complete summaries of current research projects. Summaries from research conducted in 2020 will be updated next month.
  • 2020 TurfNet Technician of the Year Evan Meldahl of Bayou Oaks at City Park in New Orleans. CLICK HERE TO NOMINATE YOUR TECH
    As far as city-owned municipal golf courses go, Bayou Oaks at City Park in New Orleans is about as nice as it gets. A Rees Jones design, the golf course is the centerpiece of an effort to fund an urban renewal project for a vulnerable part of the city that struggled to get back on its feet in the years following Hurricane Katrina, which crippled the city in 2005.
    Providing great playing conditions is about more than just meeting the needs of local residents and tourists who play the course. There is a deeper goal. Much deeper.
    Revenue generated by the golf operation helps fund a variety of projects on that city’s east side that directly impact the residents, such as low-income housing, a school and an emergency clinic.
    Keeping equipment in top shape so superintendent Ryan McCavitt and his team can give golfers the conditions they demand and so they continue to come back and spend their money, thus funding these various initiatives, is the responsibility of equipment manager Evan Meldahl. Without the golf course to help fund them, many of these programs struggle to survive - if they survive at all. Talk about going above and beyond.
    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.
  • As a captain in the U.S. Army, Matt Pope knows all too well the importance of motivating a team. Success depends on everyone working toward a common goal. That experience inspiring and leading others in difficult situations is what makes building a post-military career in a John Deere production facility, with hundreds of other people, such a good match.
    As he transitions out of the Army, Pope is interning at John Deere's Turf Care manufacturing facility in Fuquay-Varina, North Carolina as part of the U.S. Department of Defense Skills Bridge program through John Deere's Career Skills Program.
    "In the Army, you're leading teams and creating buy-in, values and protecting lives," said Pope (at right). "Hard work and dedication drive our soldiers. At Deere, it's the same thing: We're dedicated to hard work and values and delivering products to our customers."
    A native of Rocky Mount, North Carolina, Pope, 26, is a graduate of the United States Military Academy in West Point, New York. He is transitioning out of the Army after five years to achieve a little more work-life balance with his wife of two years, Katherine. Deere's CDP allows him to do just that.
    Deere's Career Skills Program, which was started 11 months ago, partners with the DoD SkillBridge program to allow transitioning service members the opportunity to match their leadership and technical skills with Deere's needs. The SkillBridge program thus allows servicemen and women to begin their transition by working with  during the last five months of their military commitment by interning at one of Deere's many production facilities or dealerships.
    Since April, Deere has placed 74 interns transitioning out of the service, including 59 at dealerships and 15 in the company's production facilities.
    "We, at John Deere, are passionate about finding a way to give back to those who have served our nation," said David Ottavianelli, labor relations director at John Deere and himself a USMA graduate. "We understand that the transition for many service members can be difficult, and we can play a key role and make an impact through programs like this."
    Capt. Pope was stationed at Fort Bragg in North Carolina, and in 2019-20 was deployed to Afghanistan as part of Operation Freedom Sentinel. His experience as an officer in an overseas theater of operations left him imminently qualified to lead a production floor in a Deere manufacturing facility.
    "My desire is to work with teams," Pope said. "When I found John Deere, that is what attracted me to them.
    "How to lead a team in a manufacturing facility, that's what I wanted to learn, take my skills from the Army and bridge that gap."
    Although the program helps Deere fill a need, the program goes much deeper than that. Transitioning out of the service can be a challenge for many, "and we feel this program helps make that transition easier for the service members," according to Ottavianelli. "Our internal skills program is designed to match veteran's technical and leadership skills to open positions."
    William Duquette (at right) retired a year ago after 23 years in the Army. As a first sergeant working as a Brigade Maintenance Supervisor, also at Fort Bragg, Duquette, 41, was in charge of as many as 200 technicians who serviced more than 2,000 wheeled vehicles operating in at least 10 countries.
    Last April, he began a SkillBridge internship at Deere's Quality Equipment facility in Dunn, North Carolina. By July, Deere hired him full time as a service technician for the company's large agricultural equipment. 
    A chance like the one provided by Deere was the right opportunity at the right time for Duquette and his wife Leah.
    "When I retired, she told me she didn't want to move," Duquette said. "We had moved enough. This was perfect."
    There are a lot of differences in vehicle repair work for the Army and at Deere. In the Army, vehicle repair for Duquette and his team consisted mostly of parts replacement. Full scale repairs were sent off to what Duquette called an "upper echelon" unit. 
    "Here, we do it all ourselves," Duquette said. 
    Although there is a learning curve moving from wheeled military vehicles to combines, tractors and bailers, there are soft skills that the military teaches that any industry would welcome.
    "The discipline," Duquette said. "You have to be at work on time, and you need self-motivation for that. If you don't have that skill, you're not going to make it."
  • In the waning hours of the 2018 Golf Industry Show in San Antonio, Chris Claypool of Jacklin Seed couldn't wait to talk to TurfNet about shortages in the seed industry. Little did we know at the time that it appeared he might be trying to solve those shortages all by himself.
    Claypool, the former general manager of Jacklin Seed Co., is facing charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and money laundering against the company's former owner, J.R. Simplot Co., according to the U.S. Justice Department. If convicted, Claypool faces up to 70 years in prison and fines of more than $15 million.
    The U.S. Attorney's Office in Oregon says Jacklin Seed contracted with independent growers for the production of proprietary grass seed varieties and fulfilled orders from a distribution facility in Albany, Oregon. But much of what Jacklin delivered, under Claypool's direction, was not what customers ordered, according to federal documents.
    Claypool, 52, (at right) oversaw the company's product sales to domestic and international distributors.
    U.S. attorney officials said Claypool's alleged schemes include packaging seed varieties with false and misleading labels, embezzling more than $12 million while posing as a foreign sales partner and conspiring with a travel agency in Spokane, Washington, to inflate costs of his international travel.
    Throughout the duration of Claypool's elaborate matrix of deception, Jacklin Seed was a division of JR Simplot Co. Jacklin was acquired by Barenbrug in October 2020.
    The U.S. Attorney's Office says Claypool and other Jacklin employees, upon recognizing shortages of some lower yield turfgrass varieties, began a process of substituting different varieties of seeds and hiding the substitutions from customers with falsified labels and invoices, all to avoid paying premiums to growers that would adversely affect the company's profits and their own careers. This practice of deception began in early 2015 and continued at least until 2019, according to the justice department.
    At the 2018 GIS, Claypool told TurfNet that because of all the turfgrass varieties on the market today, customers were not too choosy about what they bought - or at least what he shipped.
    "There are so many choices now. It's almost confusing to the end user," Claypool told TurfNet from the tradeshow floor in San Antonio. "There are some elite Kentucky bluegrass varieties, but those elite varieties don't have prolific seed yield.
    "People don't ask much for a specific variety. They just want seed."
    Whether that is true, the U.S. Attorney says whatever is in the bag must match what is on the label. Throughout the duration of this dastardly seed plot, Jacklin invoiced customers for $1.1 million in seed it did not deliver, the U.S. Attorney's office wrote.

    The turf seed market once was dominated by a few varieties and price was about all that mattered. As turf management has evolved with lower heights of cut leading to more and more stress issues, the market has become overrun with an increasing number of varieties as turf breeders seek to develop grasses with improved resistance to various biotic and abiotic stress factors. Factors like price and high yield that once were attractive, have taken a back seat to increased resistance and other traits that might be more costly up front, but can help users save money in the long run.
    As a result of low yield, more acres are taken out of turf production and transitioned into agricultural crops with higher profit.
    Bilking customers for product they never received is only the tip of Claypool's intricate and elaborate scheme.
    Claypool's elaborate plot of deception grew faster and more vigorously than the grass he was awaiting to produce seed. According to the justice department, under Claypool's urging, an accomplice created a limited liability corporation to act as an independent seed broker. Claypool is charged with funnelling Jacklin sales through the newly created LLC, charging mark ups and taking kickbacks. Over the course of eight months from December 2018-August 2019, Claypool generated more than $369,000 in fraudulent commissions.
    As the GM of a seed company that did a great deal of international business, Claypool traveled extensively overseas. According to the justice department, he generated another $500,000 in kickbacks from a travel agent who inflated the costs of Jacklin-paid international travel.
    The coup de grace of Claypool's elaborate plan of deception and fraud was, according to the U.S. Attorney's office, when he funneled $12 million in rebates and commissions to entities established to appear as foreign sales partners but in reality were front organizations for Claypool and his co-consipirators. Those funds were distributed to accounts in Hong Kong to real estate investments in Hawaii that Claypool himself controlled and eventually sold, sending the money ultimately, as part of a money-laundering scheme, to investment accounts in Washington.
    This case is being investigated by IRS Criminal Investigation and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Office of Inspector General. It is being prosecuted by Ryan W. Bounds, Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Oregon.
  • Think of influential people in the turf business, and the name Ed Etchells is not exactly a household word - even among golf course superintendents. But there are plenty who believe no conversation about the giants of turf is complete without mentioning his name.
    A native of Philadelphia and a 1964 graduate of Rutgers' turfgrass management program, Etchells was the first superintendent at Nicklaus's Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio. He later oversaw agronomic programs at Nicklaus-designed courses worldwide for 29 years before spinning off his own turfgrass consulting business in 2001 in Tequesta, Florida.
    Credited with jumpstarting the careers of dozens of golf course superintendents, Etchells died Feb. 13 in Lake Worth, Florida, after being diagnosed with Covid-19. He was 78.
    Those who worked with him during the past six decades remember him as a great agronomist and a no-nonsense manager.
    "He developed a lot of cultural practices that today are common," said Mike McBride, the former Muirfield Village GC superintendent and co-developer of the Brandt iHammer line of turf nutrient products. "He taught me cultural practices to maintain turf, but he also taught me how to deal with personalities, which is probably more important. 
    "If you asked Ed questions, you got really good answers, but you had to know when to ask him questions - and when not to. He was a very intense, very detail-oriented guy."
    Jim Sprankle has a long history on Nicklaus-designed courses, including the Loxahatchee Club in Jupiter, Florida, where he has been superintendent since 2007. He recalls when Etchells hired him as superintendent at Cabo Del Sol, a Nicklaus design in Mexico.
    "Ed told me 'This is a big job, don't **** it up. Don't make me look bad,' " Sprankle said. "Every day in the back of my mind I thought 'Don't screw it up.' 
    "He was stern and direct. That's the way he was - business was business. But outside the office, he was a good friend and would do anything for you."
    When Nicklaus was building Muirfield in 1972, it was with a PGA Tour event in mind. And he wanted a golf course superintendent who could push the turf and coax out of it the conditions that both Nicklaus and his fellow pros would demand for an annual tour stop. Nicklaus saw the conditions he was looking for at Brookside Golf and Country Club in nearby Worthington, where Etchells was superintendent.
    "He was one of the original guys, who said we can stress a green and get speed out of it," Nicklaus told TurfNet.
    After six years as superintendent at Nicklaus's home course, Etchells turned over the reins at Muirfield to his assistant, Charlie Hutson. 
    But Etchells did not move on, he moved up, as vice president of Golfturf, the agronomic division of Nicklaus's Golden Bear International. In that role, he consulted on or developed agronomic programs for all Nicklaus-designed courses around the world. That made him the person to know for anyone aspiring to be a greenkeeper on a Nicklaus course. In 2001, he struck out on his own, migrating Golfturf into his Tequesta-based Greens Management consulting firm.
    Jon Scott is one of those agronomists who credits Etchells with launching his career. 
    Over a 27-year period, Scott, principal of his own Traverse City, Michigan-based consulting firm, worked two stints with Nicklaus sandwiched around a nine-year career as vice president of agronomy for the PGA Tour. He began his career as a superintendent at various locations, including Grand Traverse Resort in Michigan, and Valhalla in Louisville, Kentucky, both Nicklaus designs. 
    "My goal was to become a superintendent at a Jack Nicklaus golf course," Scott said. "I remember someone telling me 'if you want to do that, you have to know Ed Etchells. He taught me the business side of golf course consulting, and he taught me more about relationships than I knew anyone could. 
    "He gave me the opportunity to advance myself, and that is what I needed at the time. My career with Jack led to a career with the PGA Tour and it ended with Jack. And it is all because of Ed. I can't say enough about how he influenced my career."

    Ed Etchells (far right) with (from left) Ivor Young, Jim Gerring, Pandel Savic, Jack Nicklaus and Bob Hoag playing the first round of golf at Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio, in 1973. Photo courtesy of Muirfield Village Golf Club Etchells' reputation as a mentor was a reflection of his personnel management skills and his abilities as an agronomist. He turned to foliar fertilizer programs and light frequent applications of sand topdressing and lower amounts of fertilizer in granular form when few if any other superintendents were, says McBride. Because of his pioneering ways, Etchells was called in to consult when Augusta National converted from Bermudagrass to creeping bentgrass putting greens before the 1981 Masters.
    "He developed techniques with green quality, green speed, green firmness and green resilience," McBride said. "Ed had to figure out how to do that stuff. You don't realize how much work there is to do to get a golf course to the expectations of Jack Nicklaus."
    Etchells was able to meet or exceed Nicklaus' expectations - most of the time. However, Nicklaus himself pointed to the 1979 Memorial Tournament as an exception. Damp and gloomy weather dominated the tournament, and those conditions were expected to last through Sunday's final round. When the weather broke, the combination of sun and wind, and Etchells' handiwork, left Muirfield's greens more like trying to hold a putt in a bathtub.
    "I remember one year, I gave Ed hell because he got the greens too fast at Muirfield Village," Nicklaus said. "I think it was '79. He had the greens cut, triple cut them at one-sixty-fourth of an inch or maybe it was three-sixty-fourths. It was really tight, and we ended up getting a lot of wind that was not forecast, and sunshine, and on the golf course, the greens got over 17 (on the Stimpmeter). Watson won the tournament. I think I shot 79 the last round - and moved up.
    "That was Ed. He liked to take things to the edge. Not always to the edge does it work. He was a very creative and innovative guy in golf course maintenance, and he did a good job."
    Sprankle first met Etchells when he was hired as superintendent at Damai Indah Golf and Country Club, a Nicklaus design in Indonesia. They remained lifelong friends.
    "I was 25 and green as green can be," Sprankle said. "I'd heard rumors of Ed Etchells, and that he was all this and that. I wondered 'Who is this guy? He sounds like someone I don't want to mess with.'
    "I was cocky, but we hit it off. He was my agronomist. He came in once a month, and we'd walk the golf course and go to dinner and it was 'see you next month.' He took to me, and I accepted him as my mentor, and we hit it off as friends."
    A great mentor and friend, Etchells also had a hard side that made him and those around him successful.
    "He was direct and stern, and that rubbed some people the wrong way," Sprankle said. "He was a good friend and would do anything for you, but business was business."
    Said Scott: "He was the right person at the right time for me to make the jump from a good superintendent into agronomy consulting that launched my second career. My career with Jack led to a career with the PGA Tour and ended with Jack, and it's all because of Ed. He helped me understand what it took to be successful."
    Survivors include son Edward, Jr., (Kimberly) and grandsons Michael and Christopher.
    Due to the Covid pandemic, the family is planning a future memorial service to celebrate and honor his life.
    "I just talked to him on his birthday," McBride said. "He was a mentor obviously, but he was a great friend, and we stayed in contact. I will miss the guy."
  • The turf business enjoys the reputation of being a small group of players where everybody pretty much knows everybody else. That tight-knit is about to get a little cozier with today's news that the part of Bayer's portfolio that includes its turf and ornamental business is officially up for sale.
    The company announced today its intent to divest the professional arm of its Environmental Science business, a division of Bayer Crop Science. In an industry where the agri-chemical side is dominated by a few companies, the chances are pretty good the eventual buyer will already be intimately aware of the golf turf business and the needs of superintendents.
    The decision to divest Bayer Environmental Science includes its professional turf and ornamental business, but does not include the segment's agricultural  or commercial units, which are among its most profitable divisions. In fact, the company's Crop Science division plans to focus heavily on growing its presence in the agriculture industry. To help drive growth in the division's most important commercial region, Bayer named Jacqueline Applegate, Ph.D., currently head of Environmental Science's vegetable seeds business, to lead the Crop Science North America region effective March 1.
    In addition, Bayer appointed Gilles Galliou, currently head of commercial operations for Bayer Vegetable Seeds Americas, to lead the Environmental Science business through the planned divestment. The global Environmental Science business will move from Germany and be headquartered in Cary, North Carolina, effective June 1.
    A spokesperson for Bayer said the sale is not related to the company's ongoing efforts to settle thousands of lawsuits each blaming glyphosate, the active ingredient in Bayer's Roundup herbicide, for causing cancer.
    Bayer acquired Monsanto, the maker of Roundup, in 2018. Shortly after the acquisition, Bayer began answering charges filed by litigants that Roundup was responsible for causing their non-Hodgkins lymphoma. 
    The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released studies indicating that Roundup was safe if used according to label instructions. The courts, however, sided with those who cited World Health Organization data and a document known as the Zhang paper that merely state glyphosate could be a carcinogen. Since then, the world's most popular weed killer has been the target of countless lawsuits, and Bayer has agreed to settle thousands of them for $11 billion.
    Bayer Environmental Science Professional had sales in 2020 of more than $700 million.
    No interested buyers have been identified yet, and there is no official timeline for a sale. Even when a deal is reached, such mergers are subject to regulatory review and can take several months to complete. Bayer's acquisition of Monsanto, announced in 2016, took two years to complete.
  • Superintendent of the Year winner Stephen Rabideau credited his crew with pulling off a successful 2020 U.S. Open at Winged Foot Golf Club in Mamaroneck, New York. Getting ready for one of golf's major championships is a process that begins years in advance. When the pandemic cast a shadow over the 2020 U.S. Open, last spring became a time of serious angst around Winged Foot Golf Club in Mamaroneck, New York, where Stephen Rabieau is director of golf courses.
    "No question, that was the most stressful time here I can remember," said former Winged Foot green chairman Dave Staudinger. 
    "Steve and I talked a couple of times every day, and he was at an all-time low. He and his team had worked so hard, and we didn't know if we were going to have the Open or if there was even going to be an Open."
    Options entertained by the USGA including postponing the event, canceling it or moving it to later in the year at a warm-weather location. Ultimately, the Open was held in September at Winged Foot, and players raved about the conditions that Rabideau and his team provided after record play through the summer. For the way in which he held his team together through times of uncertainty, met member demands during a busy summer and provided Open conditions in September in New York, Rabideau was named the winner of the 2020 TurfNet Superintendent of the Year Award, presented by Syngenta.
    "I think 2020 is a year nobody's going to forget," Rabideau said after being named the winner of the award. "Everybody faced things we didn't expect being thrown at us."
    Rabideau was selected by a panel of judges from a list of finalists that included Alan Brown of Timuquana Country Club in Jacksonville, Florida; Chris Reverie of Allentown Municipal Golf Course in Allentown, Pennsylvania; Justin Sims of Alotian Club in Roland, Arkansas; and Anthony Williams of TPC Four Seasons in Irving, Texas.
    Criteria on which nominees are judged typically include: labor management, maximizing budget limitations, educating and advancing the careers of colleagues and assistants, negotiating with government agencies, preparing for tournaments under unusual circumstances, service to golf clientele, upgrading or renovating the course and dealing with extreme or emergency conditions. However, this year, managing against Covid was the only challenge that mattered.
    The winner typically is announced live at the Golf Industry Show, but was announced this year on Zoom due to Covid. As the winner, Rabideau will receive a Sonos Cinematic Surround Sound Audio System and Weatherproof Outdoor Sound System courtesy of Syngenta.
    Before most knew anything about Coronavirus, Rabideau, his team and folks from the USGA were busy prepping Winged Foot for the Open. By mid-March, Gov. Andrew Cuomo had ordered non-essential workers to stay home, a decision that included the turf team at Winged Foot. Just like that, preparations for the Open stopped and the people from the USGA stopped work and left.
    During the next month, the fate of the Open was unknown. The Masters and the PGA Championship rescheduled, and no decisions had yet been made on the British Open. There was talk of postponing the Open and leaving it at Winged Foot, canceling it outright or moving it to later in the year to a warm-weather location with Open experience, like Torrey Pines or Pebble Beach. It was not until the first week of April when the USGA settled on playing the Open at Winged Foot, but postponing the tournament until September.
    "Later in the year, and a west coast host site was on the table right up until we announced we would shift to September," said Craig Annis, director of brand management for the USGA. "The September date came with the presumption that Winged Foot was the host site. There were certainly times with the eb and flow of Covid that we had to consider alternatives after that, but our goal was always to have it at Winged Foot."
    Winged Foot was like so many other places that enjoyed record play throughout 2020. Producing Open conditions on cool-season grass at the end of summer is another matter entirely. Rabideau directed credit to his crew, calling his current unit "the best I've ever had."
    "It was a long summer, when guys were trying to get ready for the U.S. Open, all the letdowns, but at the end of it we were able and fortunate to have the Open and a successful Open," Rabideau said. 
    "I couldn't have done it without my staff and the support of friends and the support of volunteers who helped us throughout the Open."
    Perhaps greater than growing lush U.S. Open rough in September in New York was the way Rabideau kep his team focused on daily play for members while first awaiting the fate of the tournament and second preparing for it.
    "Hopefully, the game of golf is better for this. A lot more people played golf and we were fortunate enough to provide that service for people," Rabideau said. "We all did it with less staff, and all the other obstacles thrown at all superintendents, we persevered through it."
    Previous winners of the award are:
    Matt DiMase, The Abaco Club on Winding Bay, Cherokee, Great Abaco, Bahamas (2019)
    Carlos Arraya, Bellerive Country Club, St. Louis, MO (2018)
    Jorge Croda, Southern Oaks Golf Club, Burleson, TX, and
    Rick Tegtmeier, Des Moines Golf and Country Club, West Des Moines, IA (2017)
    Dick Gray, PGA Golf Club, Port St. Lucie, FL (2016)
    Matt Gourlay, Colbert Hills, Manhattan, KS (2015)
    Fred Gehrisch, Highlands Falls Country Club, Highlands, NC (2014)
    Chad Mark, Kirtland Country Club, Willoughby, OH (2013)
    Dan Meersman, Philadelphia Cricket Club (2012), Flourtown, PA
    Paul Carter, The Bear Trace at Harrison Bay, Harrison, TN (2011)
    Thomas Bastis, The California Golf Club of San Francisco, South San Francisco, CA (2010)
    Anthony Williams, Stone Mountain (GA) Golf Club (2009)
    Sam MacKenzie, Olympia Fields (IL) Country Club (2008)
    John Zimmers, Oakmont (PA) Country Club (2007)
    Scott Ramsay, Golf Course at Yale University, New Haven, CT (2006)
    Mark Burchfield, Victoria Club, Riverside, CA (2005)
    Stuart Leventhal, Interlachen Country Club, Winter Park, FL (2004)
    Paul Voykin, Briarwood Country Club, Deerfield, IL (2003)
    Jeff Burgess, Seven Lakes Golf Course, Windsor, Ontario (2002)
    Kip Tyler, Salem Country Club, Peabody, MA (2001)
    Kent McCutcheon, Las Vegas (NV) Paiute Golf Resort (2000)
  • The Musser International Turfgrass Foundation named Cameron Stephens, Ph.D., the recipient of the 2021 Award of Excellence.  
    Named in honor of the late H. Burton Musser, Ph.D., the foundation presents "the award of excellence and a significant financial gift to the best doctoral candidates who, in the final phase of their graduate studies, demonstrated overall excellence throughout their doctoral program."
    Stephens earned a bachelor's degree in agriculture with a focus on turfgrass science from Ohio State University. He went on to earn a master's in agronomy from Penn State, where he focused on turfgrass pathology and fungicide resistance. Stephens earned his doctorate in plant pathology at North Carolina State University, where he pursued a dissertation entitled, "Etiology, Epidemiology, and Management of Take-all Root Rot on Golf Course Putting Greens." His research is focused on detrimental turfgrass pathogens and optimizing disease management solutions. 
    "Earning this prestigious award has been a professional goal of mine since studying turfgrass science as an undergrad at Ohio State. It is an absolute honor to receive this accolade and to be considered among such elite company," Stephens said. "I am extremely grateful to all of the people who have helped shape who I am as a turfgrass scientist and plant pathologist and hope to faithfully carry on the legacy of Professor Musser."
    Stephens has accepted a position as the technical market manager for BASF's turf and ornamental division. 
    "The primary pillar of my academic journey has always been to solve challenging disease problems that turfgrass managers encounter by improving our knowledge of turfgrass pathogens and providing practical management solutions," he said. "It's always been about helping the end users and I will strive to fulfill that mission throughout my career."
    The criteria on which applicants are judged include graduate work, academic record, dissertation, publications, leadership and extracurricular activities. To date, awards have been granted to doctoral students from universities including; Arizona, Auburn, Cornell, Georgia, Maryland, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Carolina State, Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue, Michigan State, Rutgers, Tennessee, and Texas A & M.
    Naming a winner this year was a tough choice, according to Musser International Turfgrass Foundation president Frank Dobie.
    "The qualifications for applicants are very high for the doctoral candidates that apply for the Foundation's Award of Excellence, so all of the applicants are of the highest caliber," Dobie said. "We strive to select the one candidate that we feel is the best of the best."
  • "Follow the science" has been a common theme for the past year. It is impossible to turn on the TV or scan social media without being reminded of our duty to help protect others and ourselves during a time of global crisis.
    Like the medical community, the agri-chemical industry too has its roots in science, however its future is being dictated more by pure emotion than the scientific method. 
    Herbicides, insecticides and fungicides used on golf courses are coming under increased scrutiny, which is fine, as long as such scrutiny is based on science. But that is not always the case.
    Despite scientific studies that have concluded that glyphosate is safe when used according to label directions that have been approved by the Environmental Protection Agency, decisions in U.S. courts say the science does not matter. And Bayer, the maker of Roundup, is staring at $11 billion in settlements to prove it.
    The World Health Organization, with only the discredited Zhang paper as proof, has determined that glyphosate "probably"  is to blame for thousands of cases of non-Hodgkins lymphoma reported by users of Roundup. Maybe it does, maybe it doesn't, but maybe it could.
    The EPA says there is no scientific proof that glyphosate is a carcinogen. Maybe it causes cancer, maybe it doesn't, but there is no proof it does. But "maybe it does" is also why there are instructions for safe usage on the label.
    So much for innocent until proven guilty.
    For the past year, our lives have been dictated by scientists trying to outguess a new viral strain. They implore us to "follow the science" to reduce the risk of spreading a disease that has been blamed for more than 2 million deaths worldwide, including 500,000 here in the U.S.
    That science includes wearing a mask, staying 6 feet apart from others and washing your hands. And it sounds a lot like the "keep your hands to yourself, wash them and don't hack on others" drum that my kindergarten teacher, Miss Wincup, dished out way back in 1967.
    The only one saying definitively that glyphosate causes cancer has been the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. Three cases, three verdicts in favor of the plaintiffs in excess of $2 billion translate into "no doubt about it, glyphosate is a carcinogen."
    Courtroom decisions regarding the safety of glyphosate were made based on opinion, conjecture and speculation, foreign concepts to those in the scientific community.
    The narrative is being driven by ambulance-chasers, late-night television commercials and email spammers all employing scare tactics to influence the opinions of the public and mainstream media that has lost its way and its objectivity and hand picks stories and themes to fit its cause du jour.
    One law firm citing the dangers of glyphosate references on its web site the threat to golf pros "who spend a lot of time on golf courses treated with Roundup." That same site automatically opened a chat window asking site visitors if they want to speak to someone about possible litigation.
    There are limited needs for glyphosate on golf courses, but golf has been low-hanging fruit in the war on chemicals for a long time, largely because no one fights back, so the truth matters little. Specific uses for glyphosate in golf include renovations and repair projects that require removing wide swaths of turf and would drastically limit the need for a golf pro anywhere in the area. But hey, follow the science.
    A recent webinar by the Golf Course Superintendents Association of Ireland notes that there are many commonly used products that have toxicity levels that far exceed glyphosate. That list includes salt, aspirin, caffeine, sodium fluoride, vitamin D3, nicotine and botox, almost all of which a child can purchase.
    A highly respected weed scientist at a very large U.S. university has said it is absurd to think the EPA would shill for a chemical company, or that there is anything for the agency to gain by falsifying data. And that's what we are talking about here ultimately - lawyers and media accusing the EPA of providing false data. And with no science to support such claims, we've swallowed it, hook, line and sinker.
    Follow the science - but only when the science reinforces our unscientific beliefs.
    At least now you know what you are dealing with.
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