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From the TurfNet NewsDesk


  • John Reitman
    Anyone headed to Arizona for a winter golf conference might want to pack a jacket, and those located in parts of the Midwest, Mid-Atlantic and Northeast might want to start putting together a plan to thwart winter damage on greens.
    Slightly warmer water temperatures in the equatorial Pacific could trigger El Niño conditions in much of the country this winter, according to meteorologist Herb Stevens, principal of Grass Roots Weather and T3 Golf. That could translate into cooler-than-normal temperatures throughout much of the South from California to Florida, heavier precipitation in parts of the eastern U.S. and some extended periods of frigid polar air.
    When water temperatures in the eastern equatorial Pacific are warmer than usual, the result usually is an El Niño winter that brings cool, wet conditions across the South, drier-than-normal conditions in the Midwest and more precipitation in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast.
    A La Niña is the result of cooler temperatures in the Pacific and translates into dry conditions across the country's southern tier, unseasonably warm temperatures in the upper South and increased precipitation in the Midwest.
    "The Pacific is the biggest source of heat energy on the planet," Stevens said. "When the water temperatures are warmer than normal, or cooler than normal, it has an effect on weather conditions in North America.
    "If you're going to Phoenix for the GCSAA show, you better bring a coat, or at least a jacket."
    Stevens recently was speaking with a friend who spends the winters in Florida playing golf.
    "They had three great years of La Niña," Stevens said. "He said in three years he never touched a rain jacket. I told him he better find it."
    Water has 1,000 times the heat energy of air, Stevens said. And since the Pacific is the world's largest body of water, fluctuations in water temperature greatly affect global weather patterns.

    An El Niño winter often means colder conditions in the desert Southwest. PGA Tour photo Deviations of 1.5 degrees Celsius in temperature can result in a strong El Niño or a Niña.
    This year, those temperature fluctuations are not as dramatic. That makes accurate predictions even more of a challenge, said Stevens.
    "This is going to be a weak to moderate El Niño," Stevens said. "When it's weaker, accurate forecasting is a toss-up."
    The Great Lakes and Midwest should be drier this winter, but a phenomenon known as Sudden Stratospheric Warming, which is a disruption to the polar vortex and results in extremely cold air descending into North America.
    "The cold that comes with Sudden Stratospheric Warming lasts longer and is more extreme," Stevens said. "History tells us that January will be harsh in the Great Lakes, Northeast and Mid-Atlantic."
    Stevens is a former TV meteorologist and one of the original on-air personalities when The Weather Channel debuted in 1982. He has been providing weather reports to the skiing and golf turf industry for more than 20 years with Grass Roots Weather. In 2021, Stevens and fellow meteorologist Garrett Bastardi launched T3 Golf which provides golf course superintendents with short-term forecasts at an uber local level.
    Aside from the threat of another polar vortex, there are other reasons for concern among superintendents in some parts of the eastern half of the country.
    "It is my estimation that this winter could be stressful for superintendents because of snow cover and ice cover from the Central Appalachians to the Northeast," he said. "And it's going to be cold and dry in other areas, and the concern is desiccation."
    There's more good news. An El Niño winter typically means a longer winter.
    "The air is colder, and it keeps it cloudy and these storms don't allow for an early spring," Stevens said. "With El Niño there will be no early start to the spring."
  • Former LPGA Tour professional and tour TV broadcaster Dottie Pepper has been named the recipient of the GCSAA's 2024 Old Tom Morris Award.
    The Old Tom Morris Award is presented to an individual who, through a continuing lifetime commitment to the game of golf, has helped to mold the welfare of the game in a manner and style exemplified by Old Tom Morris. Old Tom Morris was a four-time British Open winner and the legendary greenkeeper at St. Andrews in Scotland.
    Pepper was a 17-time LPGA tour winner whose victories included two majors (1992, 1999 Nabisco Dinah Shore). She competed in six Solheim Cup events, finished atop the LPGA money list in 1992 and finished in the top 10 ten times. She is the seventh female to win the Old Tom award, joining Patty Berg (1986), Dinah Shore (1993), Nancy Lopez (2000), Judy Ranking (2010), Annika Sorenstam (2014) and Renee Powell, who, along with her family, was the 2019 recipient.
    "When you put me in a group with Judy and Dinah and those others in the same sentence, it's significant," Pepper said in a news release. "This is the pinnacle, you know, like Mount Everest, for a garden geek and dirt nerd like me."
    She will be recognized on Jan. 31 at the 2024 GCSAA Conference and Trade Show in Phoenix.
    "Dottie Pepper has had a standout career as both a major champion and a golf reporter," GCSAA CEO Rhett Evans said in a news release. "But she also has a deep appreciation for what all goes into making the game happen and the work that superintendents do, which is why Dottie Pepper is an ideal recipient of the Old Tom Morris Award."
    Pepper's first career win was a playoff victory over Beth Daniel in the 1989 Oldsmobile LPGA Classic at Stonebridge Golf and Country Club in Boca Raton, Florida. Her final win came in the season-ending ADT Championship in 2000 at Trump International in West Palm Beach.
    She moved off the golf course and behind the microphone in 2004. In 2020 she was the first-ever walking reporter during the Masters.
    A native of Saratoga Springs, New York, Pepper comes from an athletic family. Her father, Don Pepper, was a professional baseball player who had a short stint in the Majors with the Detroit Tigers. She took up the game at an early age, and her father built a practice range on the family farm in New York to keep her interested. It was there that she also learned an appreciation for maintaining fine cut turf.

    Dottie Pepper is a 17-time LPGA Tour winner and an accomplished TV analyst. She will be recognized in January as the 2024 Old Tom Morris Award recipient. Furman University photo "It had well-manicured greens. I was never allowed to mow the greens, but I certainly mowed the fairways on the tractor in my youth," Pepper said in the release. "I knew when it was time to aerate and put things to bed properly for the winter."
    When she was 14, Pepper turned to PGA professional George Pulver as her coach. She wrote about the impact Pulver had on her life in her book "Letters to a Future Champion: My Time with Mr. Pulver" (Mission Point, 2021, 195 pages).
    She thrived as Pulver's student. At 15 she won the 1981 New York State Amateur and was the low amateur in the U.S. Women's Open in 1984. At Furman University, Pepper was a three-time All-American and graduated in 1987 with a bachelor's degree in health sciences. She joined the LPGA Tour in 1988.
    After a 16-year professional career that included two major wins, a 13-5-2 career record in the Solheim Cup and being named Player of the Year in 1992, Pepper retired from the Tour in 2004 for the next phase in her career.
    "When she came to us, she immediately raised our broadcasts to a new level," said Jim Nantz, Pepper's CBS colleague and 2021 Old Tom recipient. "She executes to perfection."
    Pepper's preparation for telecasts often relies on superintendents. 
    "I try to speak with the superintendent on a regular basis," she said, "especially those superintendents who have gone through a restoration or renovation because they're the ones who are hands-on the whole time."
    Old Tom Morris Award recipients
    2023 — Johnny Morris
    2022 — Vince Gill
    2021 — Jim Nantz
    2020 — Gary Player
    2019 — The Powell Family
    2018 — Ernie Els
    2017 — Paul R. Latshaw
    2016 — Herb Kohler
    2015 — Dan Jenkins
    2014 — Annika Sorenstam
    2013 — Mike Hurdzan, Ph.D.
    2012 — Peter Jacobsen
    2011 — Nick Price
    2010 — Judy Rankin
    2009 — Col. John Morley
    2008 — Greg Norman
    2007 — Charles Sifford
    2006 — Joseph M. Duich, Ph.D
    2005 — Jack Nicklaus
    2004 — Rees Jones
    2003 — Pete Dye
    2002 — Walter Woods, Esq.
    2001 — Timothy W. Finchem
    2000 — Nancy Lopez
    1999 — Jaime Ortiz-Patiño
    1998 — Ken Venturi
    1997 — Ben Crenshaw
    1996 — Tom Fazio
    1995 — Dr. James R. Watson
    1994 — Byron Nelson
    1993 — Dinah Shore
    1992 — Tom Watson
    1991 — William C. Campbell
    1990 — Sherwood A. Moore, CGCS
    1989 — Juan "Chi Chi" Rodriguez
    1988 — Gene Sarazen
    1987 — Robert Trent Jones Sr.
    1986 — Patty Berg
    1985 — Gerald Ford
    1984 — Bob Hope
    1983 — Arnold Palmer
  • Height of cut on the Turf Pride roller mowers can be adjusted up and down without the need for tools. Turf Pride photo For professional turf managers who do not want to compromise quality of cut in hard-to-mow areas, Turf Pride recently introduced its new and improved line of roller mowers.
    Available in 11-, 15- and 17-foot tow-behind models as well as three-point hitch versions that cut widths of 43, 57 and 72 inches. Tow-behind models have full width front and rear rollers for following contours, as well as mowing around bunkers and along cart paths with a quality that helps reduce the need for string trimming. The three-point hitch versions are are outfitted with full-width rear rollers and front castors.

    Height of cut is adjusted in one-sixteenth-inch increments by removing and reinserting spacers, with no tools required.
    Mowing decks are constructed of 7-gauge steel for durability and to maximize safety, and drive belts are reinforced with kevlar.
    Four blade selections are available: fine cut, medium cut, heavy duty cut and ultra thatch blades that, with available reversible and replaceable blade tips, can turn clippings into dust in a single pass.
  • Jonathan Larson knew that spotted lanternfly would be such a problem that he became an expert in the field before they ever found their way into his state.
    "I just wanted to prepare people because the wolf is at the door," said Larson. "I hate when people are surprised by invasive species. It's better to have some knowledge in your back pocket."
    Larson earned a bachelor's degree at Purdue and was fast-tracked in the Ph.D. program at Kentucky by UK entomologist and former USGA Green Section Award winner Dan Potter, Ph.D.
    Spotted lanternfly is an invasive species that came to the U.S. in 2014 on a shipping freighter. It was first found here in Pennsylvania in packing material.
    According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, spotted lanternfly is now found in 14 states, but Larson says it is probably more than that now.
    That list includes Connecticut, Delaware, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia and West Virginia.
    There is only one generation of spotted lanternfly a year in the U.S. Adults mate in late august and early autumn, lay their eggs, which are covered in a brown smear that helps them survive over winter until spring when they hatch and the life cycle begins all over again.
    Unlike other invasive insects like the elm bark beetle, or emerald ash borer that chew into trees and ultimately kill them, spotted lanternfly is just a nuisance pest that invade in huge numbers then feed off the sap of several varieties of trees and poop out a sticky excrement that falls on whatever is underneath the tree, which might include golfers and golf cars. It also attracts other unwanted visitors like yellow jackets.
    "They constantly go to the bathroom, and that sticky excrement attracts sooty mold and stinging insects," Larson said "It doesn't do any damage, but a lot of people don't want to be outside near these insects. They're odd looking, and they'll get on your or get tangled in your hair. And they just go to the bathroom all the time. It's like if you just drank Mountain Dew all day every day, you'd just go to the bathroom all day, too."

    When spotted lanternfly find a tree on which to feed, they show up en masse. Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture photo The adults also will lay their eggs on just about anything, which helps facilitate their interstate spread, Larson said.
    "The egg case looks like a muddy smear, and there are about 40 or so eggs under this brown coating," he said. "You expect them to lay their eggs on shrubs and trees, but they'll lay them on firewood, cars, trains, paver sones, just about anywhere.
    "They're getting thicker in Cincinnati. Let's say you drive there in the fall. A female crawls in the wheel well of your car, lays her eggs then you drive back home. Nobody noticed the hitchhiker they just brought home."
    Tree of heaven is their preferred place to congregate and feed, but often any port in a storm will do and they'll attack any one of dozens of other species.
    When they find a tree on which to feed, they often swarm in by the hundreds and sometimes thousands, Larson said, making them virtually impossible to control once they have been detected.
    The best option for superintendents is to remove tree of heaven if it grows in out-of-play areas, or inject desired or strategic trees with a neonicotinoid class of insecticide like dinotefuran.
    "They feed on the trees as nymphs and adults," Larson said. "That will kill them."
    The spotted lanternfly also is equipped with a built-in self-defense mechanism.
    "They are black with white spots through the third install stage. The tree of heaven has a smell of rotten peanut butter," Larson said. "They are able to ingest that and sequester that, and that makes them taste bad to predators."
    Still, there are a few things in the U.S. that will eat the spotted lanternfly. Those predators include common garden spiders, some species of praying mantis and chickens.
    "They have no role in the ecosystem. They serve no grand purpose except to be food for something else that eats them," Larson said "The problem is they reproduce so quickly that it is hard for their enemies in the U.S. to keep up with them."
  • Dorothy famously said "there's no place like home" as she clicked her ruby slipper-covered heels in an effort to return to Kansas 84 years ago. Apparently, she had never been to Idaho.
    For nearly a quarter-century, there has been a Gourlay employed at Colbert Hills.
    That run is about to come to an end soon when Matt Gourlay, CGCS, leaves Colbert Hills in Manhattan, Kansas, for the next phase in his career.
    On Dec. 4, Gourlay will begin his new position as superintendent at Hillcrest Country Club in Boise, Idaho.
    He leaves behind a golf course, where his father, David, was grow-in superintendent and chief financial officer, and that Golfweek ranked as the No. 5 public access course in Kansas.
    "It's definitely emotional," said Gourlay, 38. "I've gone through a whole range of emotions at one time — happy, sad, anxious."
    Gourlay began working for his father at Colbert Hills when he was 14 years old. 
    "They paid me in cash because I was underage," Gourlay said. 
    "It was like doing chores. My dad would say 'Come to the golf course. There's something you can help me with.' "
    While he attended Kansas State, Gourlay worked for three years under superintendent Kenny Rogers.
    Gourlay was a senior at KSU in 2007 when Rogers retired. He applied to be Rogers' successor, and was hired as superintendent before graduation.
    Leaving a place that has been so important to his family for so long was no easy decision for Gourlay, wife Jenna and their 5-year-old son, Payne.
    "There were a lot of things that we considered as a family," Gourlay said. "One was it had to be a really special place. And we think Boise is the place, and we think Hillcrest is that golf course.
    "We love the scenery. It's at the base of the foothills. … The city is in a plateau, then there are hills and the Rockies are right behind it. I'm Canadian and I played a lot of hockey. There are a lot of outdoor sports to do with my son."
    According to course history, Hillcrest sits on the site of the old Idaho Country Club. The original nine holes at Hillcrest were fashioned in the 1940s. The second nine, located across a road, came some 20 years later. All 18 were designed by Oregon architect A. Vernon Macan. 
    Since 1990, Hillcrest has been the site of the Korn Ferry Tour Boise Open.
    Eventually landing at a bigger club, perhaps one that was a tour stop, also went into the decision to leave Colbert Hills, said Gourlay, the 2015 TurfNet Superintendent of the Year. To that end, members at Colbert Hills have been positive since he told them he was leaving.
    "There has been such an outpouring of support," he said. "Everyone has been so supportive for the past 24 years. It's sad leaving, but they understand that I was destined to take on a bigger club with more resources."
    One of Gourlay's biggest supporters now and since he was named superintendent has been the facility's namesake, professional golfer Jim Colbert.
    "Jim Colbert has always been a supporter of mine," Gourlay said. "He's been super appreciative of everything."
    Gourlay's goal at Hillcrest is a simple one.
    "I want to build upon what they've done so far," he said. 
    "They don't have a master plan, but maybe we can come up with one for the club to enhance what they have.
    "It's important for a club to buy-in to what a master plan is and what they want as a club.
    "A goal of mine is to create one and create a vision where they can improve the course in the next several years."
  • There is no mistaking the fact that everything about the game of golf has been under assault for some time. I can recite the complaints in my sleep: It caters only to rich white people, it's a waste of real estate, it uses too much water, it poisons the environment.
    We've heard it all.
    Just when you think you've read the dumbest thing yet to disparage the business of golf, guess what? There's more.
    For the past two weeks, assistant superintendent Emily Casey's video of javelina damage at Seven Canyons in Sedona, Arizona, has attracted more than 33 million views and a lot of commentary. Some funny, some helpful, some ridiculous.
    A story published on Yahoo claimed that the javelina herd making its daily trek through Seven Canyons is doing so because golf courses across Arizona threaten their natural habitat.
    The story is a partisan hit job, ignorant of the facts necessary to frame an objective description of the events. Instead, it supports a pre-ordained, anti-golf agenda. It's the kind of subjective "journalism" The story further illustrates the disconnect between your business and those who do not follow the game and have no idea what you do. 
    To them, you rob the planet of its water resources and poison the environment.
    Comprising nearly 114,000 square miles, Arizona is the country's sixth-largest state by area and is 14th in population with 7.4 million people. With about 370 golf courses across the state, it's not even in the top 10 in that category. There are a humble seven golf courses within 15 miles of Sedona, so it seems like the javelina in the country's 48th state have some room to spread out.
    In light of those facts, the story's author calls golf courses "water hungry" and "a nuisance to environmentalists." Never mind Arizona's population that has exploded by 470 percent in the past 60 years, from 1.3 million in 1960 to 7.4 million today, or how housing developments, strip malls and highways encroach on javelina habitat to a much greater degree, or how much water is used by the millions of Arizonans who have chosen to live in a desert.
    Talk about a strain on water resources and habitat.
    But let's blame golf. After all, it's an easy target and it doesn't fight back.
    The story cites a University of Arizona researcher who says in the face of shrinking habitat, the javelina have "no choice" but to raid golf courses for food - in this case lush green turf. 
    Two things. First, if the golf course was not there, there would be no lush green turn for the Javelina. Second, Casey is on record saying the javelina are digging for earthworms, which she notes are beneficial to the soils at Seven Canyons.
    But who cares about facts?
    "It's sad because we have coexisted with wildlife for our entire evolutionary history," the "researcher" said. "Up until the past 200 or 300 years, this wasn't seen as an 'us versus them.' It was just seen as living."
    Three-hundred years? That's nearly a decade before the birth of George Washington.
    The truth is that javelina are prolific breeders — females usually have two litters of two young per year — and are thriving so much that they have been hunted legally for more than 60 years with hunters taking as much as 10 percent of their total population each year in a season that spans parts of January and February.
    But who cares about facts when you're trying to make a point?
  • What do you do with an 18-hole executive course struggling to make ends meet in one of the country's most golf-centric locations? Easy; turn it into a 9-hole daily fee course with a luxury apartment complex for seniors. Oh, and tie the name of the new venture to the earliest days of American history.
    Sounds different, but that's exactly what has happened at the former Heatherwood Golf Course on Long Island in New York.
    Opened in 1965, the financially struggling Heatherwood course was shuttered in 2020 in the midst of the Covid pandemic. Fast forward three years, and Heritage Spy Ring Golf Club — along with a 200-unit, upscale 55-and-over apartment community — opened on its spot in the town of Setauket, which is located along the northern coast of central Long Island.
    Although it only came together in the past few years, the transition of converting a struggling 18-hole facility to a 9-hole operation with built-in cash flow from a rental community is one that has been on the drawing board for nearly a decade. 

    Heritage Spy Ring Golf Club includes 200 upscale rental units for seniors. It was nine years ago, in 2014, when Heatherwood's owners were able to secure a zoning change that would allow for a rental community in the Long Island town, albeit a pricey one. 
    Even though zoning change allowed owners to redevelop the Heatherwood site, plans to add a luxury rental community were not approved until 2021, a year after Heatherwood closed.
    When plans for the Heatherwood site were announced, the property's owners said they wanted a challenging 9-hole layout that could be played in less than two hours but would be challenging enough to attract Long Island's better players.
    Architect Tyler Rae, who studied under Ron Prichard and Keith Foster, was brought aboard to design the new par-36 course that plays from 2,323 to 3,105 yards with holes ranging from 97 to 520 yards in length. The course is defined by its massive greens and hazards that take advantage of the property's natural landforms.
    The course draws its name from the Culper Spy Ring that was founded by Gen. George Washington's intelligence officer during the American Revolution.
  • If this whole golf course maintenance thing doesn't work out for Emily Casey, she might want to consider a career as a social media influencer.
    Casey, the assistant superintendent at Seven Canyons Golf Club in Sedona, Arizona, is the owner of the infamous video with nearly 33 million views on the site formerly known as Twitter that shows damage caused by javelinas. That's right, 33 million.
    "I know, it's crazy. I was expecting maybe a few thousand views, not 30 million," said Casey (right) laughing. "It's not even a good video. It's loud and it's shaky and it's recorded on an iPhone X. I'm not even a social media person."
    You are now.
    The video shows the result of a herd of javelina, which are native to Arizona, peeling back turf in search of a meal underneath the surface.
    "We've done all our apps for grubs, and we haven't found a grub on the golf course," Casey said. "We think they're going for earthworms." 
    The feedback the video has generated runs the gamut from supportive and sympathetic to callous and repugnant.
    Some offered thoughts and prayers, others suggested solutions to help heal the course. At the other end of the spectrum were those who concluded that Arizona is no place for a golf course, anyway, and the staff and members at Seven Canyons sort of got their comeuppance. There were even some who said Casey couldn't tell the difference between a collared peccary (the javelina's official moniker) and a feral hog.

    Ultimately, like most social media influencers, Casey was forced to limit responses on the thread and even stepped away from the unplanned notoriety.
    "Yeah, I've had to take a break from it," Casey said. "I've stopped checking my messages. It's been a little much."
    Prior to Oct. 22, the most popular video on Casey's account was a Jan. 20 clip of a northern Arizona snowstorm that to date has collected more than 480,000 views.
    "I thought that was a lot," she said. "And that was just a snowstorm. This was different." 
    The recent javelina video rapidly brought a very bright spotlight, wanted or not, onto Seven Canyons.
    "I've been posting videos of javelinas for the last few months, and no one has ever noticed," Casey said. "I posted this one on a Sunday, and by the time I came into work on Monday morning, it had more than 3 million views. I thought 'Oh, man.' "
    Andy Huber, her boss and the superintendent at Seven Canyons, was headed to the airport that day for a conference. Casey told him she'd sent him a text message when the video reached 10 million views. 
    "By the time his plane landed it was at 15 million," she said.
    And his response?
    "Oh, no. That might be publicity we don't want."
    "At first, I was a little nervous," she said. 
    "It's been a lot of publicity, but most of it has been positive. Now, we just laugh at it."
    Members not only have gobbled up the notoriety their golf course has received, many have pitched in to help repair the damage. That's a good thing, considering the javelina show up almost daily during the hot, dry months. When the javelina are most active, the Seven Canyon crew spends 100-150 hours a week repairing turf in fairways and rough and on tees and approaches.

    Damage on the 13th fairway at Seven Canyons in Sedona, Arizona. All photos by Emily Casey "The members have been great," she said. "It's been nice to have the support of the members."
    So, just what is a javelina, or collared peccary?
    Some in Casey's conversation wondered, or even claimed, that they are related to pigs, but they're not. As disgusting as pigs are, javelinas are even worse, said Casey, a Penn State graduate who has learned a lot about them since she arrived in August 2022 at Seven Canyons. 
    "They stink," Casey said. 
    Unrelated to pigs, javelinas are native the American Southwest with a natural range that extends south through Mexico and Central America into South America. They are considered game in Arizona with a strictly regulated hunting season that spans January and February. 
    That rules out the advice offered by so many on X who suggested a poison or even what caliber of ammunition would be best to wipe them out.
    Even those who hunt them legally during season are permitted only one per tag.
    "They're native to here, just like deer," she said. "And we wouldn't just blow away deer."
    They're native like deer with the odor of a skunk, leading some to call them "skunk pig."
    A scent gland on the javalina's rump emits a strong odor that most find repulsive but javelina consider inviting. They rub their rears on trees to mark territory, and they rub it on other javelina to identify members of their herd, which can number up to 50 or more.
    "It's nasty," Casey said. "If you hunt them and get their oils on the meat, it spoils the meat. And if you hit that scent gland, forget it. You just have to leave it for the coyotes, and they probably won't even touch it."

    In the meantime, the javelina run roughshod over Seven Canyons almost daily. When Casey posted a time-lapse video of the Seven Canyons crew repairing damage, viewers noted how they'll just return and damage the same area.
    "That's what they do. They come right back the next day," she said. "We have to laugh about it. If you don't, you'll cry."
    Javelina activity is dependent on weather. They are less active - at least on the golf course - during rainy periods and throughout the winter.
    "When it's hot and dry, they're here almost every day," Casey said. "Last summer we had a lot of rain, so we didn't see too many."
    With overnight temperatures in the 30s in northern Arizona, the javelina finally are becoming less visible at Seven Canyons. When winter hits, they'll disappear.
    "I think now they're just loading up, getting as many earthworms as they can before winter," Casey said. "When it's freezing, there's nothing here for them."
    With each visit, they hit the same cluster of holes. They're favorite run includes holes 9, 11, 15, 16 and the practice range.
    "It looks worse on video than it is," Casey said. "They're like animal sod cutters. They roll up the turf and we just roll it back - at least in the fairways. The rough is the worst, we've had to shut down trying to repair the rough until they go away."
    To minimize future damage, the club is soliciting bids to complete fencing of the property.
    "Traps don't work. They're very territorial. Once one herd leaves, another one will take right over," Casey said. 
    "The club is partially fenced. We're taking bids right now to see who can complete it ASAP." 
  • Agronomy is among the many training modules offered by the Bobby Jones Links Leadership Center. BJL photo Bobby Jones Links is adding a new division focused on leadership training for companies in the golf and hospitality industries.
    The Bobby Jones Links Leadership Center is an educational initiative focused on training resources, consulting and best practices developed at Bobby Jones Links-managed properties across the country.
    The center's focus is on training individuals and teams within an operation on leadership systems, insights and leadership philosophies.
    The company offers consulting in agronomy, operations, food and beverage, membership services, staff training, sales and marketing, communications, risk management, development and renovation, human resources, procurement, finance and accounting, technology and social media.
    The leadership center also provides in-person training to clients, the next being Feb. 13-14 at Eastpointe Golf Club in Palm Beach Gardens. Attendees do not have to be existing Bobby Jones Links clients or from BJL properties.
    Based in Alpharetta, Georgia, Bobby Jones Links manages more than two dozen clubs in 11 eastern U.S. states.
  • Funny how life changes when one encounters a fork in the road. Life hangs in the balance depending on which route is chosen.
    Steve Cook, CGCS MG, director of golf course operations at Medinah Country Club in suburban Chicago, came upon such a fork decades ago when he was a student at the University of Illinois. One route led to a dead end career in forestry, the other to an incredibly successful career as a golf course superintendent. 
    Cook, who started down one path, backtracked and eventually took the other, will retire Nov. 1 after a 40-year greenkeeping career that has taken him around the world.
    As a forestry major, Cook thought he had his career all figured out.
    "I had an affinity for forestry," Cook said. "I wanted to be a park ranger."
    Things changed when he and his classmates were dispatched to southern Illinois for a series of summer courses.
    The class was sent to a facility in Paducah, Kentucky, where lodgepole pines were trimmed and shaped into telephone poles and injected with creosote. Cook talked up one of the workers who was covered head to toe in the tarry substance.
    "I asked him how he got a job like that," Cook said. "He told me he had a master's (degree) in forestry, and that was all I heard."
    That same year, a forestry professor from the university told the class his priority was to get as many students as possible to drop out of the program.
    He asked how many people entered forestry to become a ranger, thinking they'd ride a horse through the mountains of Colorado.
    "Of course, my hand shot straight up," Cook said. "Then he told us for every job like that there were 1,000 applicants, and we'd probably end up taking tickets at a state park and cleaning bathrooms."
    Clearly, it was time to change majors.
    Cook, turning right rather than left, changed majors to horticulture, took a summer job on a golf course and the rest is history.

    Steve Cook will continue to explore the outdoors in his upcoming retirement. "You could have heard a pin drop in that room," Cook said. "Honestly, it was depressing to kill someone's dream like that. I was waiting this whole time for someone just to show me how to ride a horse. I thought I would be Smokey the Bear."
    Forty years later, Cook is set to take another fork on the road when his retirement is official. Cook worked at Medinah under Pete Wilson before taking the job at Golf de Joyenval in France, where he worked for two years.
    That led him in 1992 to the Wakonda Club in Des Moines, Iowa, where he eventually met Rick Tegtmeier.
    "When he came here, I reached out and told him whatever he needed to let me know," said Tegtmeier, CGCS at Des Moines Golf and Country Club. "We've leaned on each other a lot over the years."
    Sharing information has not been limited to agronomics on the golf course. When Tegtmeier has encountered things in his career that are outside of his control, Cook has been there with advice.
    "When I've had concerns, he tells me to get over it," Tegtmeier said. "When I need to get my head straightened out, he's my guy."
    That approach has summed up much of Cook's career.
    During the past four decades, Cook has seen tremendous advancements in greenkeeping technology, newer and more effective products make it to market and height of cut drop dramatically, increasing pressure on the turf and those who manage it.
    Eight years ago, he scaled almost all 22,349 feet of Ama Dablam in Nepal before his party was forced to turn back due to an injury among one of his colleagues.
    Whether it was in France, or Des Moines, at Medinah or at Oakland Hills in suburban Detroit where he spent 21 years and oversaw conditions for the 2004 Ryder Cup Matches, Cook always has put people ahead of the job itself.
    "I'm most proud of the relationships I've made," he said. "There have been some tough summers, and some low points. The problem with this job is you take your work home too much, and that robs you of your time. It not only robs you, but it also robs those around you. I'm looking forward to occupying my mind with other things."
    Cook is looking forward to spending time at his newly purchased home in Durango, Colorado and seeing the country from his Airstream camper.
    "I'm going to continue to hike, bike and climb," he said.
    "There have been some tough summers, and some low points. The problem with this job is you take your work home too much, and that robs you of your time. It not only robs you, but it also robs those around you. In the end, nobody remembers the green speed for the club championship. In fact, they probably forget it the next day. What people do remember is what you say to them. It's not the events. They're just a moment in time, and there is no lasting satisfaction in that. It's the people you meet along the way."
    Steve was honored in March, 2022 as a TurfNet All Star of Turf:
     
  • Time is winding down for those who hope to secure a spot in the 2024 UMass Winter Turf School.
    Scheduled for Jan. 2-March 1, the 2024 program will be conducted in a remote, virtual format for the fourth consecutive year. Deadline to apply is Nov. 1.
    Since 1927, the UMass Winter Turf School has been providing an alternative to traditional education that has pumped professional turf managers into positions all around the world.

    Assembled in a compressed certificate program, the 2024 Winter Turf School will cover all the concepts essential to maintaining high quality turf, with emphasis on environmental stewardship and fiscal responsibility. This comprehensive short course includes more than 110 hours of instruction taught by UMass extension specialists and faculty as well as guest instructors and is ideal for experienced or aspiring golf course superintendents, sports field managers, as well as parks and rec and LCO professionals.
    The 2024 course period will be nine weeks built around a 4.5-hour block on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays throughout the duration of the program, with scheduled class time from 1-3 p.m. and 3:30-5:30 p.m. Successful applicants will receive a detailed schedule before classes begin.
    Specific topics that will be covered are:
    > Fundamentals of Turf Management
    > Soil Science and Management
    > Turf Pathology
    > Turf Entomology
    > Weed Management
    > Advanced Topics in Turf
    > Irrigation and Equipment Management
    > Arboriculture
    Benefits of the virtual format include saving on registration costs, travel expenses and time; and opens the program to those who otherwise could not attend.
    A Certificate of Completion will be awarded to those who complete the program. Pesticide recertification contact hours will be offered for those from Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont, and continuing education credits will be available.
  • Pinehurst Resort will be the site of several USGA events during the next 25 years. Pinehurst Resort photo With a long history of national championships to its credit, Pinehurst Resort will be the host site of six more events during the next 25 years.
    These events are the 2027 U.S. Women's Amateur, 2032 U.S. Junior Amateur and U.S. Girls' Junior, 2038 U.S. Amateur, 2044 U.S. Women's Amateur and a future U.S. Adaptive Open. The 2027 and 2044 U.S. Women's Amateurs and 2038 U.S. Amateur will be held on Pinehurst No. 2, with the remaining championship's courses to be determined at a later date.
    "Bringing more championships to a venue like Pinehurst is a testament to the USGA's commitment to our long term partnership with the Resort and our promise of expanding the presence of our organization in the area," John Bodenhamer, USGA chief championships officer, said in a news release. "Pinehurst's rich golfing heritage and commitment to excellence make it the perfect setting for all of the USGA's world-class events. Their commitment to our Open championships is incredible, and now we are able to shine a light on the amateur game here as well."
    This decision reaffirms the USGA's commitment to staging national championships at Pinehurst while also bringing its other premier championships to North Carolina with more frequency. The inclusion of the U.S. Junior Amateur and U.S. Girls' Junior will mark the first time these championships will be contested at Pinehurst. The resort has hosted one U.S. Women's Amateur in 1989 and the U.S. Amateur will be played at Pinehurst for a fourth time when it returns in 2038. 
    In addition to the championships announced on Tuesday,  Pinehurst No. 2 also will be the site of the U.S. Open in 2024, 2029, 2035, 2041 and 2047, as well as the U.S. Women's Open in 2029 for another historic year of back-to-back U.S. Open and U.S. Women's Open Championships like the USGA staged at Pinehurst in 2014.
    "We are honored and thrilled to welcome these USGA championships to our historic venue in the years to come and today continues to help us achieve our goal of hosting a variety of premier championships," said Bob Dedman Jr. in the news release, speaking on behalf of the Dedman family, which owns Pinehurst Resort. "This continued partnership with the USGA reflects our shared dedication to the game of golf and the bright future we envision together. Pinehurst's legacy in golf combined with the USGA's commitment to innovation ensures that our collaboration will continue to create memorable championship moments for years to come at all levels of the game."
    North Carolina has hosted 37 USGA championships while Pinehurst Resort has hosted 12 USGA championships, including the U.S. Open in 1999, 2005 and 2014; the U.S. Amateur in 1962, 2008 and 2019; the U.S. Senior Open in 1994; and the U.S. Women's Open in 2014. Other USGA events contested at Pinehurst include the 2017 U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship, and the first two U.S. Adaptive Open championships in 2022 and 2023.
    The U.S. Adaptive Open is open to male and female professional and amateur players with a handicap index of 36.4 or less and an eligible impairment confirmed by a WR4GD Pass. The championship is a stroke play event contested over 54 holes utilizing multiple sets of tees.
  • For several years, the Greenkeeper mobile app has been helping superintendents determine the best time to apply plant growth regulators.
    Now, an add-on feature will help them ensure they apply product on where it is needed.
    Greenkeeper CIS allows users to map course boundaries, log pest applications, create prescription spray maps and add drone maps and application records. Users can turn data into application maps for GPS-guided sprayers allowing them to save time and money on product and water.
    "We needed some way to make data actionable," said Bill Kreuser, Ph.D., superintendent at Jim Ager Golf Course in Lincoln, Nebraska, and the founder of Greenkeeper and CIS. "It provides better control of GPS sprayers and irrigation systems. It allows you to pull in boundary files so you can customize where you want to spray.
    "It prevents some areas from not being treated, or over-applying. We now have a way of controlling that sprayer."
    Besides marking boundaries of fairways, tees, bunkers and greens, Greenkeeper CIS (short for Course Information System) allows users to mark off specific targets, including individual weeds, pests and other smaller problem areas for spot-specific application.

    Greenkeeper CIS helps superintendents dial in precise spray applications. Greenkeeper CIS photo "With CIS, you can see your location on the map and you can mark exactly where the pest is," Kreuser said. "You can write notes, and create custom spray applications for those spots for, say, for yellow nutsedge. We're really excited about the realm of precision turf management that this can bring to every turn manager. The reduction in spray volume can be huge. And this allows you to do this without complex software.
    "It will be a nice change to take a map of the course and identify where the problems are, share them and link that to the sprayer."
    Data can be stored locally or on Greenkeeper CIS.
    Kreuser had just recently finished collecting data for the CIS system when his sprayer was stolen from Ager Golf Course and crashed into a police vehicle in August.
    He related a real-world experience to demonstrate the savings that can be realized through the CIS program when he treated for Pythium root rot on four greens at Ager.

    Superintendents can create prescription maps to treat specific areas on the golf course. Greenkeeper CIS photo "I drew where we wanted to treat. It was six spots on four greens," Kreuser said. "Instead of treating all 50,000 square feet, we treated 6,000 square feet and still eliminated the problem."
    To date, Kreuser has worked with multiple companies, including Deere and Frost to upload maps into spray units.
    "They realize clients are begging for a tool to control their sprayer," he said. 
    "This is a hub that brings all that data together and overlays them so the turf manager can make a decision."
    Kreuser founded Greenkeeper in 2017 along with Doug Soldat, Ph.D., of the University of Wisconsin. Kreuser insists that the latest CIS add-on is not the end of innovation under the Greenkeeper umbrella.
    Kreuser promises more changes by the end of the year.
    "I love the entrepreneurial side of this," he said. "This is all about when you need to do something, minimizing the quantity and making sure the timing is right."
  • Buffalo Turbine's KB23 has a 23 hp, fuel injected gasoline engine. For turf managers who need an easy-to-use, high-powered and affordable blower, Buffalo Turbine recently introduced the Cyclone KB23 tow-behind blower.
    The KB23 is incorporates many of the features from Buffalo's popular KB6 blower built around a 23 horsepower, fuel-injected gasoline engine with and a lower price point. The engine comes with a 3-year warranty and the unit includes a 10-year manufacturer's warranty.
    A wireless start/stop function means no choke is required before starting. 
    Other features of the KB23 easy-to-operate hitch, wireless throttle and nozzle control, heavy duty air cleanerauto nozzle positioning and a six-gallon fuel capacity like its KB6 cousin.
    The KB23 comes with a standard polymer nozzle with rectangular and round aluminum nozzles an available option.
     
  • A year-long restoration of the University of North Carolina's Finley Golf Club was finished this week, with the course opening for play on Wednesday.
    The restoration was the handiwork of Love Golf Design and Davis Love III, who played for the Tar Heels from 1982 to 1986, company president Mark Love, also a Carolina graduate and former Tar Heel golfer, and lead architect Scot Sherman. 
    The $13.5 million restoration includes a wall-to-wall regrassiing with Bermudagrass, lengthening of some holes and expanding the practice area to better suit the needs of the university's golf teams.
    The latest redesign effort is only the second makeover at UNC since the course was built in 1950, when Finley was built by architect George Cobb.
    The course had not been touched since a Tom Fazio renovation in 1999. As other courses throughout North Carolina converted to one of many varieties of ultradwarf Bermudagrass, Finley's greens remained creeping bentgrass. The university's golf team also was in need of a more expansive practice facility.

    The newly renovated University of North Carolina's Finley Golf Club recently reopened. UNC photo Greens were recontoured and regrassed with Tif-Eagle and are surrounded by Tahoma 31 collars. Tees, fairways and rough were grown-in with 419.
    About 16 acres from the 10th and 11th holes have been absorbed to expand the practice facility and provide the golf teams every lie, grass length, corridor and target imaginable. Consulting on the practice facility project was Darren May, desinger of the Michael Jordan-owned Grove 23 in Hobe Sound, Florida.
    The Finley course was built in 1950 by Cobb on land donated to the university by William Coker, a UNC professor and botanist. In 1982, when three holes were remade into intramural and athletic fields and three new ones built in the woods on campus.
    In 1999, Fazio was hired to re-design the course and build a new one. He used some of the original corridors and added drainage since the course was built in a low-lying area prone to flooding. 
    The project also included reversing the nines, with the old front nine now being the back, and vice-versa, because Love saw the par-4 ninth hole as an ideal finishing hole. And with the 10th and 11th holes being swallowed up by the practice facility, the par-3 12th hole is now hole No. 1.
    Losing Nos. 10 and 11 meant finding room for two new holes on the new front nine. The new holes are the 320-yard uphill par 4, and No. 6, an uphill par 3.
    The course held a grand opening on Oct. 18. Golf car traffic will be restrict to cart path only for eight months until the men's NCAA Regional Tournament in May.
  • As New York Gov. Kathy Hochul weighs whether to sign a bill that would ban neonicotinoids in the name of protecting pollinating insects, Tom Kaplun hopes to convince her staff of how important that class of chemistries is to the state's golf industry and how responsible superintendents are in using them.
    In June, the New York State Senate voted to pass Senate Bill S1856A.The proposed legislation would prohibit the sale of neonicotinoids as well as coated seeds used in agriculture.  Known as the Birds and Bees Protection Act, the bill is on Hochul's desk where it awaits her signature or veto.
    Kaplun is superintendent at North Hempstead Country Club in Port Washington, as well as vice president of the New York State Turfgrass Association and government affairs chair for the Long Island GCSA. He wants the governor to have all the facts before making a decision that could be detrimental to golf courses around the state.
    "I would tell her in turf we deal with the application of a product that goes down one time a year at the height of grub-laying season," said Kaplun. "And it goes down on a surface that is devoid of flowering plants that would attract bees."
    Neonicotinoids are commonly used in golf to control pests such as white grubs. Specifically, imidacloprid is a common tool of choice among superintendents in New York, Kaplun said.
    Previous versions of the Birds and Bees Protection Act were introduced as long ago as 2017. According to Kaplun, it gained support in Albany based on a 2020 report published by Cornell University that concluded that routine neonicotinoid use is detrimental to bee populations. He believes researchers with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, not elected officials in Albany, should decide the fate of neonicotinoids and other chemistries that are in question.
    "It is a collection of data to see if there is a cause and effect with bee loss associated with use of this product," Kaplun said. 
    "If something is deemed unsafe, why doesn't the state instead operate in a capacity to fund scientific studies to show that is the case? The Department of Environmental Conservation should make these decisions, not legislators."

    There are many contributors to bee colony loss besides pesticides, including parasitic varroa mites and habitat loss. Utah State University photo Neonicotinoids are not the only contributors to hive loss. Habitat loss and parasitic varroa mites also have dramatic effects on bee populations.
    Kaplun says he and his colleagues throughout the state have worked hard to develop best management practices that show by example their commitment to environmental stewardship while also providing the best possible playing conditions for their golfers.
    He is not necessarily looking for a veto of the birds and bees act, but at least an exemption for golf.
    "The goal of establishing best management practices is to be environmental stewards of the golf course grounds that we maintain," he said. "Those are our guiding principles. And we use science-based documents and research to safely manage these grounds under an integrated best management practices."
    If the governor signs the bill enacting it into law without any exemptions, the outcome could be detrimental for golf because superintendents would lose an effective tool, Kaplun says.
    "This legislation would make our jobs more difficult, and it will make golf more expensive," he said. "More than 70 percent of golf in New York is public, and the average greens fee is $40. This legislation is going to drive that price up, and drive some in golf out of business."
    Kaplun has spoken with members of Hochul's staff and the state's green industry is working with the Vandevort Group, an Albany-based lobbying firm to plead their case. The governor must decide either way by the end of the year.
    "We met with the governor's advisors, so she can make her best informed decision," he said. "At this point, we are looking for a veto or an amendment that allows for one application one time per season for golf.
    "We need to act on things that affect us, and this is one topic we felt we had to vigorously oppose."
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