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From the TurfNet NewsDesk


  • John Reitman
    Graduate student Bernadette Mach, right, listens as Dan Potter, Ph.D., talks about butterflies during a 2016 University of Kentucky turfgrass field day. Below, Potter established the first Operation Pollinator site on an American golf course at the Griffin Gate Marriott just a few miles from the UK research farm in Lexington. Photos by John Reitman After spending parts of six decades studying the kinds of organisms that others dismiss and simply want dead at all costs, University of Kentucky entomologist Dan Potter, Ph.D., is calling it quits.
    Since 1979, Potter, 70, has been a leading voice in the study of all things creepy, crawly, and his work has helped make golf course superintendents, sports field managers, lawn care professionals and others better at their jobs. He will officially retire from his position at UK on Sept. 2.
    "It's time to step aside and allow my department to move forward with a new faculty hire who hopefully will continue to serve the turf and landscape industries through entomological research," Potter said. "Also looking forward to having more freedom and time for family, travel, fishing and other interests."
    Potter earned a bachelor's degree in entomology at Rutgers and went on to earn a doctorate at Ohio State. Ever since, Potter has produced seminal work in entomology. His research has appeared in more than 200 publications and he is a leader in work to protect pollinators, including bees and butterflies. 
    Potter was part of a renowned faculty that once included the late A.J. Powell, Ph.D., and Paul Vincelli, Ph.D., who has since turned his focus toward climate change research.
    The 2010 recipient of the USGA Green Section Award, Potter's work is known throughout the industry. He established the first Operation Pollinator zone on a golf course at Marriott Griffin Gate Golf Club, which is just 3 miles from the UK research farm. Today, there are more than 60 Operation Pollinator zones on U.S. golf courses across the country.
    His work has commanded respect from colleagues around the industry. Throughout his career, Potter has mentored 48 graduate students who have gone on to careers in academia as well as with companies such as Syngenta, BASF, Bayer, FMC, Valent, PBI Gordon and others.
    "Dan has been a rock-solid applied scientist," Vincelli said. "If Dan did the work, you could trust it as high-quality and relevant to the real world."
    Even in retirement, Potter plans to continue his work through volunteer outreach activities, and also will continue to do invited talks and workshops at Green Industry conferences and field days and webinars.
    A grandfather of five, Potter plans on spending his retirement with family, traveling with Terri, his wife of 43 years, and fishing.
    I'll fish for anything that swims but especially like fly-fishing in cold moving waters," he said. "New Zealand, when we lived there, was my favorite for fly fishing, but I have also enjoyed fishing the White River in Arkansas, Holston River in Tennessee, and Provo and Snake Rivers out west."
  • The University of Florida turfgrass program turns 100 this year, and will throw a party of sorts in October to mark the occasion.
    To celebrate the centennial event, UF will hold an alumni golf tournament and evening reception marking 100 years of the turfgrass program. 
    The golf tournament, a four-person scramble, is scheduled for noon on Oct. 4 at UF's Mark Bostick Golf Course in Gainesville, which is ranked No. 24 on Golfweek's list of best campus golf courses. Golf will include lunch as well as prizes for the top three teams, closest to the pin and long drive.
    An evening reception will follow at the Straughn Center in Gainesville.
    The two-day bash will conclude on Oct. 5 with a turfgrass field dauy at the UF research center in Citra, 20 miles south of campus, where the university's faculty will provide updates on the latest research.
    Click here for more information.
  • Chris Sheehan, Jim Fitzgibbons, Rick Tegtmeier and Ronnie Myles form a lasting friendship at the Open Championship. All photos courtesy of Rick Tegtmeier Tiger Woods wowed the golf world when he completed the career grand slam in four straight championships spanning two seasons. The feat, which included winning the U.S. Open, Open Championship and PGA Championship in 2000, followed by the 2001 Masters and made Woods the first player in the modern era to hold all four major titles at the same time. became known as the Tiger Slam.
    The Tegtmeier Slam might not be as well known around golf, but it is no less impressive.
    Iowa Golf Association Hall of Famer Rick Tegtmeier, CGCS at Des Moines Golf and Country Club, completed his own career grand slam of sorts in July when he was selected to work the 150th Open Championship at The Old Course at St. Andrews as part of the BIGGA Volunteer Open Support Team. 
    "I've worked a Ryder Cup. I've worked a Solheim Cup. I've been to PGA Championships. I've been to U.S. Opens, and I've been to the Masters," Tegtmeier said. "The only thing I hadn't been to is the Open Championship.
    "Now I have. I don't think a lot of superintendents can say that."
    Tegtmeier is no stranger to golf in Europe. He earned BIGGA's Master Greenkeeper designation nearly a decade ago and has maintained relationships with those he meets overseas because he says the level of camaraderie is different there.
    "There were many of us in our 60s who will never rake bunkers together again, but we will be friends forever now," Tegtmeier said. "And we're from all over: Denmark, Scotland, England, Sweden, Iowa. It's pretty cool."

    For those who think raking bunkers is the same anywhere, thing again. A head superintendent for more than 40 years, Tegtmeier and the rest of the Open Support Team went through training to learn the Old Course way of raking sand according to Old Course manager Gordon McKie.
    "We had a lesson with Gordon on Wednesday before the tournament," Tegtmeier said. "He jumped in a bunker, messed it up and had one of his guys fix it.
    "I don't know if there is much different about the way they do it, but we were going to do it they way they wanted it done. We wanted it done right for TV and right for the players."
    During his four days on bunker duty, Tegtmeier was on the rake for some of the game's biggest names, like Justin Thomas, Shane Lowry and Hideki Matsuyama, but one in particular made a sizable impression.
    "Bryson DeChambeau came up to us before the round, and introduced himself to all of us," Tegtmeier said. "He even interacted with us during his round. I was very impressed with him."

    Tegtmeier has immersed himself in Euro golf culture since he learned Des Moines G&CC would be the host site of the 2017 Solheim Cup. Two years prior to the tournament, he earned BIGGA's Master Greenkeeper designation. When he was inducted into the Iowa Golf Association Hall of Fame, Tegtmeier was one of only 80 people worldwide to have earned certification from the GCSAA and Master Greenkeeper  designation from BIGGA.
    Although the Solheim Cup, which is a distant memory in the rearview mirror, was the impetus for Tegtmeier getting involved with golf on the other side of the ocean, he continues to embrace the connections he has made through BIGGA.
    During his stay, he and other volunteers were boarded at Parker House in Dundee. The facility, 15 miles north of St. Andrews, is housing for students at Abertay and Dundee universities. Before he arrived in Scotland, Tegtmeier was contacted by retired Loch Lomond superintendent Ronnie Miles. The two had never met before, but Miles reached out with an offer to play tour guide for Tegtmeier and wife Sherry.
    "He took us to dinner and gave us a driving tour. He showed us the William Wallace monument," Tegtmeier said. "He contacted me out of the blue. I'd never met him before and he got me everywhere I needed to be. Who does that?
    "What he did made the stay that much more enjoyable, and it taught me a valuable lesson, which is how to treat people - to treat them the way you would want to be treated."
  • Emerald ash borer, an invasive pest from Asia with no natural predators here, has spread to the West Coast. Photo by USDA APHIS When New York Congressman Horace Greeley famously urged Americans to go west in 1865, somewhere the emerald ash borer must have been listening.
    Although the emerald ash borer has only been in the U.S. for 20 years, it has been on a westward - and eastward - migration faster than anyone in a covered wagon traversing the continent in the 19th century ever did.
    Since arriving in Detroit in 2002 aboard a Chinese shipping freighter, the ash borer has now been spotted in at least 41 states, and most recently was found in South Dakota and Oregon. And scientists in some locations finally are looking for ways to fight back.
    The only states where EAB has not yet been found are Alaska, Arizona, Hawaii, Idaho, Washington, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Washington.
    Native to eastern Asia, the EAB borer burrows into ash trees as an adult where it lays its eggs. The larvae feed on the layer beneath the bark, disrupting the tree's vascular system and its ability to take up water and nutrients and eventually kill the tree.
    EAB entered the United States in 2002 aboard a Chinese cargo ship. Since then, it has spread to 35 U.S. states and five provinces in Canada and caused billions in damage, killing trees on golf courses, in parks and forest land. 
    Eventually, say scientists with the U.S. Forest Service, the bug will expand throughout the entire range where all 16 North American ash tree species grow.
    The U.S. Department of Agriculture confirmed EAB in Oregon on July 15 and believe it probably has been in the state for as many as five years. The Oregon ash, the state’s only native species, plays a critical role in bank stabilization in streams and rivers. The trickle down caused if those trees are lost could be widespread.
    As they have watched EAB spread across the country the past two decades, forestry officials there have harvested and stored close to a million Oregon ash seeds to try to preserve the species’ genetic diversity for replanting.
    Researchers with the Oregon Department of Forestry will test the seeds to see if any have resistance to ash borers and if so, they may be able to breed resistance into local strains and replant them.
  • The largest university in Ohio and the state's only private historically black college college reached an agreement recently to promote careers in turf management.
    The first-of-its kind agreement between Ohio State University and Wilberforce University will create an advanced golf course management degree program for students from the latter.
    The agreement that officials from Wilberforce described as "groundbreaking" was finalized in late June and will begin in the fall. That's when students at Wilberforce will be able to enroll in online classes through Ohio State and begin earning credits toward a certificate.
    The partnership includes courses in turf grass management, history of golf courses and golf management. The classes will be offered through OSU’s College of Food, Agriculture and Environmental Sciences.
    Established in 1856, Wilberforce is the alma mater of William Powell, the founder of Clearview Golf Club in Canton.
  • The Lion's Paw at Pioneer Point. Photo via Facebook Hawks Landing and Pioneer Pointe golf courses might be separated by just a few miles, but they are otherwise worlds apart in just about every way.
    Designed by the late John Harbottle, Hawks Landing Golf Club in Verona, Wisconsin, has been attracting some of the most discerning golfers in the Madison area for more than 20 years. Conversely, Pioneer Pointe has been open only a year and is where many newcomers to the game learn to play.
    Designed by Todd Quitno and Jerry Kelly, PGA Tour player and Madison native, Pioneer Pointe is a 13-hole short course with holes ranging from about 100 to 300 yards in length with multiple teeing options that open a world of playing possibilities.
    "There are no tee markers at Pioneer Pointe. You just play where you want, and there are a lot of different angles. You choose your own path," said Neil Radatz, superintendent at both courses.
    "The traditional member at Hawks Landing likes the structure that course offers. People playing at Pioneer Pointe really are embracing this concept. The No. 1 thing I hear is how much fun people are having when they play there."
    Radatz has been at Hawks Landing from the beginning when bulldozers began moving dirt 22 years ago. He also is the construction and grow-in superintendent at Pioneer Pointe. Admittedly, he was a bit skeptical of the plan to build a 13-hole short course that golfers could play in 2 hours. Now that he has seen the finished product and the way it has been embraced, he is a believer.
    "I was a little hesitant," he said. "I'm excited about what I see happening now."
    Pioneer Pointe was inspired by some of the great holes in golf, including No. 7 at Riviera Country Club, the Road Hole at St. Andrews and several by Seth Raynor, including a Redan (No. 3), Lion's Mouth (6), Biarritz (7) and Thumb Print (8). 
    "The Madison market is strong with a lot of great golf courses. Our goal was to have some of the best par 3 holes that you could pick from any great golf course and make them playable for the average person," Radatz said. "I think we hit it out of the park with that."
    The clientele at Pioneer Pointe is a mix of newcomers to the game and those looking to get in a quick round. Walking rates range from $20 for juniors to $29 for everyone else. That's a lot of golf for a little amount of money, and that has been attractive for golfers of all levels.
    "You can play in about two hours and 15 minutes," Radatz said. "We are seeing a lot of play in the late afternoon, including guys getting off work who can get out and have a good time.
    "We wanted to go with no rough at all. From the tee to around the green, grass is cut at the same height, so there is not a lot of maintenance involved, but we still have features around the green that make people say 'wow, this is cool.' We didn't make it too difficult. And we thought it would be a hit when people found out there would be no tee markers, no rough. It is really starting to take off."
  • It is back into the grinder of the legal system for Roundup.
    Weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected Bayer's appeal to halt thousands of lawsuits claiming the herbicide is responsible for causing cancer, a federal appeals court on July 12 revived a lawsuit by a Georgia man claiming Roundup  caused his cancer.
    The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Montgomery, Alabama, rejected Bayer's argument that federal law shielded it from state law claims like the one brought by John Carson, who claims he was diagnosed with a form of cancer known as fibrous histiocytoma in 2016 after using Roundup for 30 years
    Carson's attorneys argued there should be a cancer warning on the product label. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has said there is not sufficient proof that glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, is a carcinogen.
    According to a report by Reuters, Bayer had hoped that a victory in Carson's case would create a conflict between appeals courts that would make the U.S. Supreme Court more likely to take up the issue, potentially limiting its liability in thousands of lawsuits.
    The Supreme Court rejected Bayer's pleas to hear the case on June 21.
    Bayer faces more than 30,000 outstanding claims that glyphosate causes cancer. Bayer, which acquired Monsanto and its popular glyphosate-based weedkiller in 2018, set aside $15 billion to settle current and future cases. So far, the company has settled approximately 107,000 cases, with about 30,000 still outstanding.
    Claims against Monsanto and now Bayer stem from a 2015 ruling by the World Health Organization that glyphosate is likely carcinogenic, a claim the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has rejected.
    Bayer announced last year that it would discontinue sales of Roundup in the consumer marketplace by next year, when it will be replaced by products with a different active ingredient. Roundup will remain available in the professional segment.
  • Several Delaware Valley University students and alumni were on the volunteer crew at Saucon Valley for the U.S. Senior Open. Photo courtesy of Doug Linde A group of Delaware Valley University students earned some serious on-the-job training last month when they worked the volunteer crew at the U.S. Senior Open.
    The Del Val students and some alumni were part of the 80-person crew that helped director of grounds Jim Roney and his team prep Saucon Valley Country Club in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania for the 42nd annual tournament.
    "I feel very fortunate that DelVal is a part of a major golf tournament from the grounds perspective," said Doug Linde, turfgrass professor at Del Val. "It gives students a chance to experience what it takes to prepare for a professional tournament. I've been strongly encouraging students to be an intern or volunteer this summer. Jim Roney has been such a strong supporter of the DelVal turf program over the years, and I do my best to supply students and graduates for him."
    The day began for staff and volunteers each day at 4:15 a.m. with a meeting where Roney, a Del Val alumnus, would assign jobs for the day. During the tournament, DelVal students and alumni did things such as fill divots, rake bunkers and fluff traffic-worn turf. The experience showed Del Val students the difference between everyday conditions and being tournament-ready.
    "It was interesting to compare the course where I'm interning with how things are done at Saucon Valley," said Del Val student Nick Koch. "I am learning to hand water greens this summer and I was impressed with how careful and accurate the greens were watered for the tournament. The experience has made me take my job more seriously and want to make the best conditions possible for the golfers."
    The tournament also gave students the chance to see how their work as well as the agronomic practices implemented by Roney and his team weeks in advance of the tournament directly influenced play by some of the game's best players, including winner Padraig Harrington.
    "Highlights included: One, being able to see how difficult it was for the golfers to play the course," said Del Val student Dylan Agpar. "It made all the hard work and long hours we put in worth it. Two, being able to talk to the USGA agronomists and see what they are looking for in playability. Three, being able to be on the 18th green to see Harrington win and be part of the ceremony."
  • Micah Woods, Ph.D., founder of the Asian Turfgrass Center, is the new director and president of Pace Turf. All photos courtesy of Micah Woods As the founders of PACE Turf eyed retirement, there was really only one name that made sense as Drs. Larry Stowell and Wendy Gelernter looked for a successor to take over their business.
    Micah Woods, Ph.D., founder of the Asian Turfgrass Center, has acquired the science-based turfgrass management information service and took over July 1 as its director and president.
    "Anyone who has worked with MIcah is impressed by his creativity, integrity, honesty and experience," Stowell said. "But what makes him uniquely qualified to continue PACE Turf’s mission is an ability to blend his comprehensive and sophisticated research expertise with his very practical experience as a golf course superintendent. He embodies all of the qualities that Wendy and I have been looking for to lead PACE Turf into the future."
    Gelernter and Stowell launched PACE Turf in 1992 as a fax-based subscription information service that delivers science-based solutions to turf managers using site-specific climate, weather and pest-forecasting systems, peer-reviewed research and expert advice.
    Woods founded the Asian Turfgrass Center in 2006 to develop and provide turfgrass information for the golf and sports turf industry in Asia. He, Gelernter and Stowell have collaborated on several projects over the years, including the Minimum Levels for Sustainable Nutrition guidelines that have been adopted by turf managers around the world.
    "Micah searches for real answer and solutions that benefit the client and the industry as a whole," Stowell said.
    A former golf course superintendent in China and Japan, Woods plans to run both operations concurrently from his home in Thailand.
    "My motivation for taking over PACE Turf is to make sure the valuable information resources continue to be available," Woods said. "PACE Turf provides information that translates science-based results into practical advice for turfgrass managers. There is a substantial and valuable archive of material on the PACE Turf website, and I intend to make sure that material continues to be available, and to add to it and expand it as more information becomes available."

    Drs. Micah Woods and Wendy Gelernter. Since Woods completed work toward his doctorate at Cornell University, his research and educational activities have led to the international recognition of ATC. 
    Woods' work as a consultant, researcher and speaker has taken him to more than 30 countries on five continents. Through the ATC, he provides turfgrass advisory and soil testing services to clients around the world. Since 2009, he has also been an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Plant Sciences at the University of Tennessee.
    He plans to expand PACE Turf's offerings to meet the needs of today's turf-management community that includes golf course superintendents, sports turf managers, commercial and residential landscape managers worldwide.
    The PACE Turf subscription information service also houses an extensive collection of turf management tools and guides, including the free Climate Appraisal form.
    "Larry and Wendy created a company that is renowned for both the volume and the quality of the material available," Woods said. "Their temperature-based turfgrass growth potential, which is known around the world as GP, has been used for fertilizer scheduling, overseed timing, sand topdressing rate calculations, and stress indices, among many others. They've had information on the web since 1997 - 25 years now. I remember when I was a golf course superintendent in China in the late '90s, I used the TurfNet forum for information, and I got as much information as I could from the old PACE Turf website. Larry and Wendy have been providing these essential decision-support tools for turfgrass managers for my entire career. I used that information at the start of my career, have subsequently collaborated with Larry and Wendy on projects such as MLSN, and to now be responsible for PACE Turf myself, I feel it's exciting, it's a challenge, and it's an honor."
    Woods has worked with Stowell and Gelernter on many projects in the past. Together, they developed the Minimum Levels for Sustainable Nutrition guidelines that have been adopted worldwide and helped turf managers reduce inputs without compromising conditions.
    "Aside from being a talented scientist, writer and speaker, Micah thinks broadly when searching for solutions and does not get trapped by out-of-date paradigms," Stowell said. "He demonstrated this early on in his career with his Ph.D. research on potassium. It was that “out-of-the-box” thinking that first caught our eyes, and we have been conversing and working together since then."
    That past collaboration made Woods a natural fit to take over PACE, Gelernter said.
    "We can't imagine anyone better suited than Micah to take on PACE Turf's mission," she said.
    While there are similarities between the services offered by PACE and the ATC, they are vastly different entities in their approach, Woods said.

    Drs. Micah Woods and Larry Stowell. "There's definitely overlap between ATC and PACE Turf, because we have such similar missions," Woods said. "The PACE Turf information service delivers science-based solutions to turf management problems with breaking research news, information and expert advice that is customized for your location. PACE Turf offers this through detailed climate analyses, and through translation of relevant turfgrass research into practical advice that turfgrass managers can use, resulting in a plethora of decision-support tools for turfgrass management. 
    "What ATC does is a bit more eclectic. There's a lot of research, advisory work for select clients around the world, speculative and philosophical musings about turfgrass management, that sort of thing. What ATC offers is not nearly as structured or as actionable as the PACE Turf information service is. While we have almost identical objectives in providing fact-based information that turfgrass managers can use to make the best decisions for the site they are at, given the current turf and weather and soil conditions, Larry and Wendy created PACE Turf to provide these tools in a structured way. ATC is more like thinking about things, and PACE Turf is doing them."
    For more information, visit www.paceturf.org and www.asianturfgrass.com, or on social media at @asianturfgrass and @paceturf.
  • Colbert Hills Superintendent of the Week Logan Waite talks with turf team member Shannon Parr. Photo courtesy of Matthew Gourlay What began as a way to help prepare interns at Colbert Hills for the next step in their careers has become a longstanding family tradition.
    The Superintendent of the Week program at Colbert Hills in Manhattan, Kansas gives interns a head start on their careers by making them the boss for all agronomic and labor decisions for seven days. The program, started years ago by David Gourlay, continues today under his son Matthew. 
    "I wanted to make the internship the best," David Gourlay said. "After doing an internship at Colbert Hills, the student would be ready either to have the confidence to get an assistants position straight out of university, or find out that the profession was not for them."
    Gourlay was general manager at Colbert Hills for 14 years, and not much has changed since he implemented the Superintendent of the Week program.
    "They get to run the crew and make the decisions on what we are going to accomplish at the facility for that week. That includes budgets and invoicing," Matthew Gourlay said. 
    "My role, my responsibility is to help build their confidence so they know what it is like to be a golf course superintendent. My ultimate goal is to show them everything that the superintendent does during the week."
    Former Colbert Hills intern Brennan Acree, now the assistant at Lawrence Country Club in Kansas, went through the Superintendent of the Week program in 2019 under Matthew Gourlay, and said the experience was invaluable.
    "I learned more there than anywhere else," Acree said. "I wouldn't be where I am today with him.
    "He threw me into everything. He knew what I needed to know. He went above and beyond and pushed me to my limits."
    Andrew Harty is a current Colbert Hills intern and recently wore the mantle of Superintendent of the Week. It was supposed to be a topdressing week during Harty's tenure, but the weather did not allow for that.
    "It was definitely an interesting week," Harty said. "It rained almost every day, and we still had three tournaments and some other events.
    "Making decisions on your own forces you to figure things out. It was a good experience. I had to really think about what we were trying to achieve on a daily basis. I'm glad he does it."
    Gourlay says the experience can be daunting for those who do not know what to expect.
    "The staff reports directly to that person for that week," he said. "Their phones go off constantly.
    "My role is to make sure they don't make mistakes that are detrimental to the operation, but a small mistake here and there is part of learning."
    Today, Gourlay likes to give interns the controls for a week early in their internship, because he believes it helps build a better team throughout the golf season.
    "I try to do it toward the beginning of the internship. I believe in throwing them into the fire early," he said. "I believe they become bette team members when they see all the thing a superintendent sees: the political side, if someone calls in sick, how it affects the entire organization throughout the day when someone is late.
    "It helps build future leaders. At the end of the day, I want anyone I work with to succeed. This is a way to show them what it is like to be a superintendent. Sometimes it doesn't work out, and they realize it isn't for them. I had one kid who realized fairly early that this wasn't for him. I helped him move on to what he thought he wanted to do next. At the end of the day, I care about what is best for them."
  • Founded in 2019 by Aquatrols, the FairWays Foundation promotes conservation efforts in the golf industry in the U.S. and abroad. After more than three years since it was established, the FairWays Foundation held its inaugural meeting.
    Founded in 2019 by Aquatrols president Matt Foster, the FairWays Foundation is a non-profit organization that promotes conservation efforts in the golf industry in the U.S. and abroad.
    More than 80 industry professionals and previous and potential award winners attended the group's first meeting June 20-21 at Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio, with a goal of raising awareness for environmental stewardship projects in golf. Former USGA Green Section director Kim Erusha, Ph.D., was the keynote speaker.
    To date, the foundation has raised nearly $300,000 and soon will meet to decide its third annual group of award winners.
    Past recipients include Cog Hill Golf and Country Club, Salmon Run Golf Course, Hartford Golf Course, the Scottish Wildlife Trust, Concord Country Club, Heritage Oaks Golf Course, Cactus and Pines GCSA, Martis Camp, Chester Golf Club, Elcona Country Club and the University of Georgia Research Foundation.
    The FairWays Foundation is seeking ambassadors to perpetuate its goal of championing environmental projects but cannot proceed due to a lack of resources. Find out how you can get involved by clicking here.
  • Demands on superintendents to provide top conditions have not changed, but how they accomplish that has. Talk to just about any superintendent about the current challenges they face and most will have labor-related issues at or near the top of the list.
    On many levels, Persimmon Hills Golf Course in rural western Tennessee is not like most places. The definition of mom-and-pop golf, Persimmon Hills is a laid-back, daily fee operation that relies heavily on an older local clientele. OK, so maybe it is like a lot of places in that regard, but in many ways it is totally unique.
    Not only does Persimmon Hills owner and superintendent Steven Scott have plenty of help this season, he is having a hard time finding enough for them to do.
    "This is going to fly contrary to what most managers are seeing regardless of the industry, but my biggest labor challenge right now is finding enough work for my crew," Scott said. "We had several high school and college age people asking about jobs this spring, and despite me informing them that the pay is not great and the only tangible benefit is free golf and discounted snacks, every one of them was still interested when it came time to hire for summer."
    Scott has not had to spend much time or effort recruiting help, either. He has been lucky that a steady stream of high school kids have dropped by inquiring about a job.
    "(They) just ask about employment. And if we have a spot available they fill out paperwork," he said. "I' ve hired four this spring and have probably had five or six more inquire. We just get their names and numbers in case we lose someone."
    they don' t really apply, just ask about employment and if we have a spot available they fill out paperwork. However, I' ve hired 4 this Spring and have probably had 5 or 6 more inquire, we just get their names and numbers in case we lose someone mid-season.
    Needless to say, it is an entirely different dynamic in the San Francisco Bay area. Play is bustling at the Olympic Club, just like it is at Sharon, but the similarities pretty much end there.
    It is not only a different clientele, but the labor challenges there are radically different, says superintendent Troy Flanagan.
    "Just like everyone else, we are having a tough time finding employees and turf managers. We have had to hire more hourly employees with little to no golf/landscape experience," Flanagan said. "I typically like to be more selective on who we hire, but lately if they show up to the interview, are presentable and hungry to work we take a flier on them hoping to find a gem."
    Superintendents, along with managers in just about every other industry, have been struggling to find enough help for more than two years. Many potential workers are seeking greener pastures in higher-paying jobs, while some others do not appear to be interested in working at all. Then there are the hybrids, those who want the good-paying gigs, but do not want to put in the work.
    "Labor is crazy," said Al Choiniere at Rocky Ridge in Vermont. "They want (a lot of money), but won' t show up. Construction is paying a lot more. I' m starting new hires with little or no expectancy at $18 to $20 an hour if I can find them. Been looking for a mechanic all season with no luck."
    Since the early days of Covid, Chris Reverie has been struggling to get parts and equipment at Allentown Municipal Golf Course in Pennsylvania. Any such delay can be a major problem at a municipal course where backup equipment is a luxury, not the norm.
    "This is not a year for equipment failures," Reverie said. "It has been weeks and sometimes months for parts and golf course accessories."
    Even the big boys are not immune from supply chain challenges. Stephen Rabideau at Winged Foot in Westchester County, New York also is finding it difficult to get what he needs when he needs it. As a result, Rabideau is trying to stay ahead of the problem by anticipating what he might need and when.
    "We are having to be proactive on ordering well in advance to make sure we allow plenty of time for supply chain issues," Rabideau said. "We are trying to make sure we have anything we might need on the shelves for when something breaks, or we need it.
    "For us, the expectations are the same on the course, so it' s going to cost more.
  • The U.S. Supreme Court on June 21 refused to hear Bayer's appeal to halt thousands of lawsuits claiming its Roundup herbicide is responsible for causing cancer. The decision upholds a $25 million award filed by a California man who claimed Roundup and its active ingredient glyphosate caused his non-Hodgkins lymphoma.
    The ruling also complicates Bayer's plans to stem the 30,000 outstanding claims that glyphosate causes cancer. Bayer, which acquired Monsanto and its popular glyphosate-based weedkiller in 2018, set aside $15 billion to settle current and future cases. So far, the company has settled approximately 107,000 cases, with about 30,000 still outstanding.
    Claims against Monsanto and now Bayer stem from a 2015 ruling by the World Health Organization that glyphosate is likely carcinogenic, a claim the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has rejected.
    A favorable ruling by the Supreme Court likely would have ended the threat of future litigation against Bayer.
    The ruling was the second blow in less than a week to Bayer and its attempts to cancel thousands of claims.
    In a separate ruling, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on June 17 rejected the EPA's claims that glyphosate does not cause cancer, that the EPA failed to adequately considered the risks of using glyphosate, which could force another review by regulators.
    Bayer announced last year that it would discontinue sales of Roundup in the consumer marketplace by next year, when it will be replaced by products with a different active ingredient. Roundup will remain available in the professional segment.
  • For nearly two decades, Green Start Academy has helped prepare assistant superintendents for the next stage of their careers.
    The 17th annual class is scheduled for Dec. 12-14 at Pinehurst Resort. Hosted by John Deere, Bayer and Rain Bird, Green Start Academy is a career-development program covers budgeting, resume writing, networking and more.
    Green Start Academy will bring 50 assistant superintendents from throughout North America to Pinehurst for this educational and networking experience. From the lectures and round table discussions with the top leaders in the golf industry to best practice exchanges, Green Start provides assistants with knowledge and tips to help with their professional growth.
    Since 2006, the goal of this program has been to help assistant superintendents build a strong foundation for their careers as well as to support the future of golf courses and the entire golf industry by offering growth through networking, professional development courses and interactive peer groups.
    Each year’s program features educational and mentoring sessions from some of the most respected superintendents and leaders across the industry. The Academy is a chance to forge connections and skills that can last a lifetime.
    The application deadline is Aug. 1.
  • Not all heroes wear capes.
    Throughout his career as a superintendent, Rick Tegtmeier has ordered enough gasoline and diesel to last through the next golf season. Locking in a season's worth of fuel at a locked-in price protects the golf course from potential shortages and price volatility.
    There likely have been many years that his decision to buy fuel at a locked in price has gone unnoticed. This is not one of those years, as Tegtmeier's decision to buy a season's worth of fuel will help keep the budget in line this year at Des Moines Golf and Country Club in Iowa.
    During the winter offseason, Tegtmeier contracted 7,500 gallons of gasoline at $3.25 per gallon and 9,000 gallons of diesel at $2.90.
    "I did this back in December and January. I look like a hero right now," Tegtmeier said. "But come budget time next year, this is going to kill us."
    The average cost of a gallon of regular gasoline on June 16 was $5.01 per gallon, according to the American Automobile Association. That's an increase of 63 percent from a year ago. Diesel is even higher at $5.76, an increase of 80 percent from a year ago when the average price was $2.58 a gallon. Given those numbers, it is no surprise that 60 percent of Americans say pain at the pump is affecting their summer travel plans, according to a recent Washington Post poll.
    At Winged Foot in Mamaroneck, New York, Stephen Rabideau is paying rack rate for fuel - $4.95 for gasoline and $5.27 for diesel. The added cost has done nothing to curb the enthusiasm of golfers.
    "For us the expectations are the same on the course," Rabideau said. "So it's going to cost more."
    Al Choiniere at Rocky Ridge in Vermont is in a similar situation, with delivery surcharges on fuel deliveries and just about anything that arrives by truck.
    "Gas last fill up was $5.19, and diesel was $6.29. They charge for delivery now too," he said. 
    "I am paying a surcharge per pallet delivered based on the price of diesel."
    The rising cost of fuel does not discriminate between private clubs and daily fee operations.
    Steven Scott had been managing Persimmon Hills Golf Course in Sharon, Tennessee for almost 10 years when he and his wife Tracy bought it two years ago.
    They reaped the benefits of Covid-induced golf that resulted in record play of 518 million rounds nationwide last year.
    This year, he is paying $5.60 per gallon for gasoline and $5.20 diesel. The increase in the cost of fuel comes right off the bottom line. 
    "Right now we are still eating the extra costs of fuel and parts," Scott said. "Any plans for equipment have been put on hold as we've seen more problems with availability than we have with cost.
    "And with a significant amount of our play coming from seniors on fixed incomes, we have not increased our pricing as significantly as some other courses have."
  • Nothing lasts forever.
    Throughout 2021, golfers played a record 518 million rounds. This year is not shaping up to be a repeat performance.
    According to Golf Datatech’s monthly report, rounds played were down 13 percent through April, compared to the same period last year. Year-over-year rounds played were down in 38 states, with the biggest losers being Minnesota (down 65 percent) and Wisconsin (52 percent). In the few states where rounds played were up, only Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont, which Golf Datatech groups together as one locale, showed a significant increase at 29 percent.  
    Jim Koppenhaver’s Pellucid Corp., which tracks all manner of data related to participation, says the inventory of golf playable hours - a function of golf-friendly hours throughout the day - is down 11 percent so far this year.
    "May was one of those sneaky bad outcomes," Pellucid principal Jim Koppenhaver wrote in his monthly newsletter. "There weren’t any major, headline-grabbing weather events impacting large sections of the country, but we just got ding’d day-by-day in enough geography to make a significant difference." 
    So, is today the day the golf world hoped would never come, or is it a temporary bump in the road caused by external factors, like weather? 
    A total of 21.3 million people played 518 million rounds last year, which was a 5 percent increase over 2020 and represented nearly a 20 percent increase over the pre-pandemic golf economy. The 518 million rounds played in 2021 matches the industry high previously set in 2000.
    Those gains were remarkable, considering that in two years of a global health crisis, the golf industry gained back all of the 85 million rounds played that it took two decades to lose.
    Koppenhaver’s weather model separates the country into 45 geographic regions. Golf Playable Hours in May were down in 35 zones, neutral in six and up in only four.
    The results for April were similar to those in March when year-over-year rounds played were down by 7.5 percent.
    "The April scenario mirrors March’s results and falls into the typically-unsupported industry assertion of 'it was the weather,' " Koppenhaver wrote. "But, this month, it actually was."
    Nothing lasts forever. Or does it?
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