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From the TurfNet NewsDesk

  • John Reitman
    When Jorge Croda arrived at Southern Oaks Golf Club in North Texas less than two years ago, the course was, as one member put it, on the verge of destruction. Now, after Croda has been on the job for 20 months, those same members now say they've never seen the course in better shape.
      One might argue that destruction of the course located in the Dallas-Fort Worth area already had occurred. A video posted early in 2013 referred to the property in the opening frame as "Southern Weeds, formerly known as Southern Woods."   The video itself backs up those statements with images of knee-high weeds, wide swaths of in-play areas devoid of turf and upscale homes serving as a backdrop to this eyesore.   When Croda came aboard shortly thereafter, the owner (who had run out of money) sold the property, and the new owner injected money and new life into the property.   Less than two years later, thanks to Croda and his reinvigorated crew, Southern Oaks' members hardly can believe the difference.   "I have been intimately associated with the course evolution, ownership/management changes and the historic maintenance of (Southern Oaks)," wrote Joseph Durham, a member at Southern Oaks, in nominating Croda for the 2014 TurfNet Superintendent of the Year Award, presented by Syngenta. "I have seen the good, the bad and the incomprehensible, and finally the resurrection of one of the finest courses in the MetroPlex."   When Croda arrived at Southern Oaks, the problems there were far greater than just agronomic challenges. Dead turf and no turf were symptoms of a systemic problem of a property that included a lack of resources, lack of reliable equipment and a need for a little housecleaning.  
    "The equipment needed to be fixed, the irrigation system needed to be fixed when I arrived," Croda said. "I needed a new mechanic to fix the equipment. That was the most important thing, to get the equipment in this place running."   For his ability to bring Southern Oaks back from the dead, Croda has been named a Superintendent of the Year Award finalist.   "Two years ago, Southern Oaks was on the verge of complete destruction," Durham wrote.   "This became a death spiral that led to less and less resources available as fewer rounds were played because the facilities were continually deteriorating. Then came Jorge Croda. We all were amazed that he was able to keep the course playable and even improving with so few resources and very little help. He did this through sheer determination, pride and hard work. Through some ingenious use of these limited resources, we even saw some noticeable improvements.   "Then, a miracle of new ownership/management occurred resulting in the financial commitment to improving the condition of the course. Today, under Jorge's management, innovative ideas, extraordinary work ethic and artistic vision, SOGC is better than it's ever been."   Croda, 51, has been a head superintendent for 14 years, and has built a career out of taking distressed golf courses and rebuilding them into something golfers can be proud of.   "I have played the course since it opened up and have never seen it in better shape than it is now," wrote Les Beadle, director of golf at Cowboys Golf Club, in Grapevine, Texas. "The difference that has transformed the course from just a golf course that was struggling to a top notch golf course that you want to play is Jorge's expertise and skill. The most amazing of all is that he has done it in less than a year."   Key to the turnaround has been the crew, many of whom are new hires Croda trained. Since they played a key role in the rebuilding process, they also have more of a stake in the final product. Part of that new crew is mechanic Alejandro Berce, an associate of Croda's through the Pan American Golf Association.   "In a short period of time, he transformed this facility's once poor reputation to it being considered one of the premier courses in the area," wrote assistant GM Kim Bunch.    "Rather than focus on the problems, Jorge found and implemented solutions that placed this course among the top 20 in North Texas. Jorge's course management skills go well beyond the physical facility. He has implemented required education for employees, which teaches a strict code of conduct, and core values that include teamwork, interpersonal communications and wise decision-making.    "To Jorge, assuming a leadership role in the club reflects his passion for golf, and allows him to give back to the game that he loves."   Croda is one of 10 finalists for the award, which is sponsored by Syngenta. Finalists are chosen by a panel of judges from a field of nominees based on the following criteria: labor management, maximizing budget limitations, educating and advancing the careers of colleagues and assistants, negotiating with government agencies, preparing for tournaments under unusual circumstances, service to golf clientele, upgrading or renovating the course and dealing with extreme or emergency conditions.   The winner will be named Feb. 26 at the Golf Industry Show in San Antonio. Previous winners include: Chad Mark (2013); Dan Meersman (2012); Paul Carter, CGCS (2011); Thomas Bastis, CGCS (2010); Anthony Williams, CGCS (2009); Sam MacKenzie (2008); John Zimmers (2007); Scott Ramsay, CGCS (2006); Mark Burchfield (2005); Stuart Leventhal, CGCS (2004); Paul Voykin (2003); Jeff Burgess (2002); Kip Tyler (2001); and Kent McCutcheon (2000).
  • It's not often that a golf course superintendent is paid to lie down on the job. Members at The Ford Plantation have grown accustomed to superintendent Nelson Caron doing just that since he started working at the course in Richmond Hill, Georgia.   The son of a research scientist who has won worldwide acclaim for research in such areas as Parkinson's disease, Caron attacks turfgrass management from a science-based approach.   "One day I was walking playing golf, and I noticed a body, lying prone on the green. Concerned, I hurried to the green to see what was the matter, only to find Nelson staring into a microscope at the turfgrass," wrote Dr. Bill Thompson, green committee chairman at The Ford Plantation, in his letter nominating Caron for the 2014 TurfNet Superintendent of the Year. "This was my first introduction to our new GCS, and as a physician I knew things were about to change at Ford."   For his many accomplishments at The Ford Plantation, Caron has been named one of 10 finalists for the TurfNet Superintendent of the Year Award, presented by Syngenta.   Caron, 38, maintains a collection of various types of field microscopes that he uses to scout for early signs of disease as well as quality of cut and plant density.  
    "You can really monitor secondary growth, which turns into primary growth," Caron said. "Then you can make adjustments to your cultural practices. It concerns people. They don't generally see people lying down on the job.   "We have to see if the bedknife is dragging and if the leaf is crisply cut. You can't really see that with the naked eye. Some say they can, but when you're mowing as low as we are, you have to take it to the next level."   Caron elevated the standards at Ford Plantation during a recent $7.5 million of the 30-year-old Pete Dye design. In fact, Dye, who vouched for Caron when Ford Plantation members were searching for a new superintendent seven years ago, came back to the Georgia coast to work on the redesign.   Even though Dye was the architect of record, make no mistake - Caron was in charge of the project from beginning to end.   "To get to rebuild a Pete Dye golf course with Pete Dye, who actually helped me get this job, and manage Pete Dye as the project manager, it actually did turn my hair gray," Caron said.   "There was not one part of this 140 acres that was not completely blown up and rebuilt."   Much of the impetus for the renovation project was to improve drainage and playability, because so much of the property is at sea level, or lower. And that can be a source for many challenges at a property in such close proximity to water. The project included leading permitting negotiations with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the preservation of nearby wetlands.   "Forty percent of the golf course is located at elevation zero. It's like managing a golf course in New Orleans," Caron said. "When you're at elevation zero, or even negative elevation, a 2-inch rainfall would put us out of business for three days."   Miles of new drainage and a new stormwater pump system underground at Ford Plantation has largely made rain-induced closings a thing of the past.   "The (renovated) course was designed to withstand an 8-inch rainfall in a 24-hour period," he said.   "Now this place is as dry as a bone."   The changes have been a hit with Ford Plantation members.   "On the club level, prior to renovation, every tournament was a challenge for our superintendent," Thompson wrote. "Less than an inch of rain would produce flooded bunkers, wet fairways and undesirable playing conditions.    "With Mr. Caron's arrival to Ford and the incredible work ethic of his team we began to have successful, fun club tournaments. Fewer days were lost to weather events. Our maintenance staff had to become construction staff as irrigation mainline breaks occurred several times a week and clogged or crushed drainage conduits had to be repaired. Over the course of several years the course improved dramatically and the members and guests raved about the playing conditions."   Caron said he could immediately see the member's relief when the course reopened in October.   "I could see on everyone's faces," Caron said, "that we hit a home run."   Caron is one of 10 finalists for the award. Finalists are chosen by a panel of judges from a field of nominees based on the following criteria: labor management, maximizing budget limitations, educating and advancing the careers of colleagues and assistants, negotiating with government agencies, preparing for tournaments under unusual circumstances, service to golf clientele, upgrading or renovating the course and dealing with extreme or emergency conditions.   The winner will be named Feb. 26 at the Golf Industry Show in San Antonio. Previous winners include: Chad Mark (2013); Dan Meersman (2012); Paul Carter, CGCS (2011); Thomas Bastis, CGCS (2010); Anthony Williams, CGCS (2009); Sam MacKenzie (2008); John Zimmers (2007); Scott Ramsay, CGCS (2006); Mark Burchfield (2005); Stuart Leventhal, CGCS (2004); Paul Voykin (2003); Jeff Burgess (2002); Kip Tyler (2001); and Kent McCutcheon (2000).  
  • The golf course construction business might be stagnant in some parts of the country, but it's alive and well in some sections of Florida.
    Streamsong Resort east of the Tampa area announced plans to build a third course to complement its two highly acclaimed layouts.
    The proposed course, Streamsong Black, will be designed by Gil Hanse, who recently completed work on the Olympic course in Rio de Janeiro, site of golf's return to the Summer Games in 2016 after an absence of more than 100 years.
    Streamsong Black would join the Red course, a Bill Coore-Ben Crenshaw design that is ranked No. 29 on the Golfweek's Best Modern Courses list, and the Blue course, a Tom Doak layout that is No. 43. Both opened in 2012 to widespread critical acclaim.
    "Gil is a tremendously talented architect who approaches each project with a fresh, thoughtful perspective and a keen eye for the natural landscape," said Rich Mack, executive vice president of Mosaic Co., which owns Streamsong. "He is one of the best architects in the industry, highly gifted with sand-based sites and has an exciting vision for Streamsong Black."
    The Black course will be built southeast of the two existing courses on the remote site between Tampa and Orlando, as part of a 16,000-acre reclaimed phosphate-mining operation. The resort also features a 216-room lodge and three restaurants. Officials also announced plans for a second practice facility, clubhouse and restaurant to serve guests playing the Black course.
    "We're honored to be a part of such an amazing venue and to be able to develop a layout alongside Streamsong Red and Streamsong Blue, which were designed by the three architects I admire the most," Hanse said in a statement. "Streamsong is about an authentic golf experience, and the natural environment and landscape at Streamsong is simply like nothing we've experienced. It's one of the very best. To work with such a great piece of land and to showcase Streamsong Black alongside Bill, Ben and Tom's designs is a dream come true for a golf course architect. We view this as a huge opportunity for our team, and one that we're very excited about. I can't wait to get started."
    The course is projected to open in fall 2017.
  • Webster defines equilibrium as "a state in which opposing forces or actions are balanced so that one is not stronger or greater than the other."   Defining equilibrium as it relates to golf has proven to be a lot easier said than done. For most of the past decade, golf has been defined by too much supply and not enough demand. A business that once was guilty of promoting the "build a course a day" mentality, has been marked for nine years by a glut of course closures as players continue to flee the game at an alarming rate.   According to the National Golf Foundation, 42 golf courses opened in 2014, while 185 closed, for a net loss of 143 courses (in 18-hole equivalents). It's the ninth consecutive year in which more courses closed than opened. In that time, 501 new courses have been built, while 1,269 have closed, for a nine-year net loss of 768 (EHE).   Those closures, however dramatic they might appear, are not nearly enough, says Jim Koppenhaver of Pellucid Corp.
    According to Koppenhaver, golfers played about 451 million rounds (exact figures for December are not out yet). That's down 2 percent from 2013, and is the fewest rounds played since 440 million in 1995. It's way off the peak of 518 million rounds played in 2000.   "Supply absorption is still painfully slow," Koppenhaver said during the annual state of the golf industry talk he gives each year at the PGA Merchandise Show with Stuart Lindsay of Edgehill Golf Advisors. "I said six years ago we needed to take 300 or 400 courses out of supply each year for the next six years. We're taking about 140 out a year, so we still have a long way to go before we get back to equilibrium.   "At a net loss of 140 (facilities) a year, we're five years from equilibrium of 13,700 (golf courses)."   So, just how is this magical figure of equilibrium reached? Koppenhaver says the market is at its healthiest when there are 35,000 rounds available for the average golf facility. With the current supply-and-demand data available, that number comes in at around 31,000 rounds per EHE.   "There are two ways to change that; either you get rounds up, or you decrease the supply," he said. "Either we have to take 7 percent of the supply out of the market, or we have to find a way to get rounds demand up to about 500 million again."   According to industry statistics, there were 22.9 million golfers in 2013 (still the most recent data available). That is down nearly 1.2 million players from 2012 and almost 7 million since 2005.   Assuming that there is no rush of new players around the corner, and there is no reason to believe there are, the obvious answer is that more golf courses must go, and quickly.   "That's the common theme we've been saying for eight or nine years," Koppenhaver said. "Don't shoot the messenger."
  • Team Zoysia, as part of the ?Zoysia as a Game Changer' tour will offer, during this year's Golf Industry Show, an inside look at the construction of the Olympic Golf Course in Rio de Janeiro.   The event is scheduled for 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Feb. 23 at The Golf Club of Texas, and will feature a panel of experts involved in construction of the course in preparation for the 2016 Olympics in Brazil. As part of the event, attendees will tour Bladerunner Farms, reportedly the world's largest independently owned zoysiagrass breeding facility, as well as The Golf Club of Texas, said to be the first course grassed wall-to-wall with zoysiagrasses.   Zoysiagrasses have made tremendous inroads into Texas golf recently, and is grown on Bluejack National, Tiger Woods' first U.S. design near Houston; and Trinity Forest, a new Coore-Crenshaw design slated to be the new home to the PGA Tour's AT&T Byron Nelson Championship.   Experts speaking on the benefits of zoysiagrass will include: Milt Engelke, Ph.D., Texas A&M; Ambika Chandra, Ph.D., Texas A&M; Brian Schwartz, Ph.D., University of Georgia; Doug Petersan, Austin Golf Club; Ken Mangum, CGCS at Atlanta Athletic Club; and others. Team Zoysia is a group of producers, scientists, golf course superintendents, equipment manufacturers and distributors who promote the benefits and use of zoysiagrass.   The team speaking specifically on construction of the Olympic Golf Course, which is grassed with Zeon zoysia, will include: David Doguet of Bladerunner Farms; Neil Cleverly, superintendent at the Olympic Golf Course; and Marcelo Matte, the sod producer who grew and installed the grass.   The event is approved by GCSAA for 0.7 CEUs. Click here to register.
  • Jacobsen has named Caribbean Turf as its new sole dealer in the Dominican Republic. Caribbean Turf is a full-service turf equipment dealer based in the Dominican Republic with locations in Santo Domingo and Punta Cana.   Jacobsen dealer Tropicars will continue to serve as the company's distributor for the rest of the Caribbean region, and JACH USA will continue to serve as the Jacobsen dealer for all of Central America.   The news comes on the heels of other Jacobsen distribution updates, including a recent announcement that the Charlotte, North Carolina-based company is now serving customers directly in Virginia, Maryland, Washington, D.C., and a tiny slice of West Virginia.    Jacobsen will serve this region from two locations: one in Virginia and one in Maryland. Both locations will be equipped with fully stocked parts departments for both Jacobsen and allied equipment lines.     This announcement comes just weeks after Jacobsen announced the establishment of direct operations in Alabama, Georgia and Northern and Central Florida. The company says it believes it can better support customers in these regions by servicing them directly. Jacobsen will be increasing stocking levels in these areas and adding additional sales and service staff.   The company also recently established direct operations in the Western and Midwestern U.S. 
  • In response to constantly changing pesticide regulations, LebanonTurf announced a complete revitalization plan for its Emerald Isle Solutions foliar fertilizer product line. This plan includes the development of product updates centered on enhanced agronomic solutions for golf course superintendents and an overall expansion of the sales and marketing strategy.   When existing products are changed, tweaked or enhanced, they still have to comply with these changing regulations, the company says. Nitrogen limitations and phosphorus restrictions in several states also are being assessed to ensure maximum product availability throughout the country without compromising product efficacy and performance.   "A generation of superintendents has relied on Emerald Isle products to maintain their courses' year-round high performance," said Christopher Gray, brand manager - golf market at LebanonTurf. "Now it's time to make sure the next generation has the same tools available to deliver exceptional color and playability."   Emerald Isle Solutions products promote stress tolerance associated with drought, disease and wear throughout the growing season. As part of the revitalization plan, new university research will be conducted to help refine and improve the quality of Emerald Isle Solutions' products in the future.   Along with the product updates, new, co-branded agronomic programs have been developed featuring Emerald Isle Solutions and Country Club MD products to provide superintendents with specifically designed golf course fertility programs based on grass types and climate zones. These programs combine the benefits of traditional, slow-release granular applications with the spoon-feeding and controlled-growth benefits of foliar applications.  
  • It's been more than 15 years since Cushman entered the golf utility vehicle market with the Truckster. That's an eternity in the golf business. And since then, utility vehicles from several manufacturers have overrun the market.    A new utility vehicle from Jacobsen that is due to launch later this year promises a larger payload capacity and cabin area than previous Textron entries, and is based on years of research and development derived from input from hundreds of people who use such vehicles for myriad purposes every day.   More than two years in the making, the new Jacobsen Truckster XD offers what the company says is the largest payload capacity (3,550 pounds) in the turf industry and a roomier over-wheel cab that allows for a longer bed without increasing the wheelbase. Speaking of the bed, the Truckster XD features on that Fox says is thicker, perhaps as much as 75 percent thicker, than those found on older Cushman models. The product is still in testing, so specific details and technical specifications are being closely guarded until the product is available for purchase, probably in the second quarter. Beta vehicles will be on display at next month's Golf Industry Show in San Antonio, as well as the Sports Turf Managers Association Conference this week in Denver.   "This vehicle is based on input from more than 400 customers," said Jacobsen product manager Chris Fox.   "We went out and talked to them to understand their needs. We knew the answer to what they needed was not inside our factory. We had to get out and talk to them to find (that answer)."   Although the word Cushman arguably has become synonymous with utility vehicles regardless of manufacturer, competitors soon hit the ground running with their own entries into the market, arguably leaving the Cushman behind.   "It had a payload capacity of 2,850 pounds, which was the largest in the industry," Fox said. "Then, the Cushman was like the Blackberry. It was new, everyone loved it and had to have one. Since then, like the Blackberry, the Cushman has been leapfrogged."   Curious turf managers can see the Truckster in action on .   Fox and other folks from Jacobsen talked with turf managers about what they like and don't like about the Truckster as well as vehicles from other manufacturers. They also asked them to fill out a 15-20-page survey.   Needless to say, answers about what people like in turf utility vehicles and how they use them were quite varied.   "I can see a mower in use in Las Vegas or Florida, and I see all I need to see. Everyone mows the same way," Fox said. "But with a truck, any day a superintendent might use it for 10 different things. It's much more challenging to capture everything going on with a truck."   The new truckster promises a cab that is 60 inches wide where the operator sits. As a result, controls are not as cluttered. Location of controls has been changed many times throughout testing. Other aspects of the design, such as a tailgate latch, still are not finalized.   "That's the working end of the truck," Fox said. "People were not happy with our (old) design. It's robust, but it got beat up."   The new Truckster is going through a seven-stage design and production process, in which each segment of the business, from research to engineering to sales, is involved every step of the way.   "We are involving all departments all the way through," Fox said. "That way, if someone sees something that is not going to work, we can identify it as soon in the process as possible."
  • The Patent Trial and Appeal Board of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has upheld the validity of three dispersible granule technology patents owned by The Andersons.    The patents were challenged in response to a patent infringement lawsuit filed by The Andersons in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida against Enviro Granulation LLC, Plant Science Inc. and Harrell's LLC. The decision allows The Andersons' lawsuit to continue. The Board ruled that the petitions failed to establish a reasonable likelihood of prevailing in challenging the validity of the claims of any of the three patents.     The Andersons introduced its dispersible granular technology in 2004 under the brand name Contec DG.    Enviro Granulation manufactures a water-dispersible pellet fertilizer and sells it to Plant Science, which markets it under the name Tru-Prill. Harrell's distributes Tru-Prill to end users in the turf market. The patent-infringement suit was initiated in late 2013.
  • Rounds played dropped by nearly 8 percent in November, compared with the same month in 2013, virtually ensuring yet another lackluster performance in the golf industry.   November rounds dropped 7.7 percent, including 8.5 percent at daily fee facilities and 5.4 percent at private clubs, compared with the same period in the prior year, according to Golf Datatech's National Golf Rounds Played Report.   Play was down in 46 of 49 states participating in the survey, which does not include Alaska. The only states that saw a year-over-year increase in play were in the desert southwest: Nevada, where play was up 6 percent, Arizona (3 percent) and New Mexico (0.5 percent).   The biggest losses occurred in Indiana (45 percent); Minnesota (44 percent); Wisconsin (42 percent); Iowa, North Dakota and South Dakota (33 percent); Kentucky (30 percent); Maine, New Hampshire, Nebraska and Vermont (27 percent); Missouri (26 percent); Colorado and Illinois (23 percent); Connecticut (22 percent); Michigan (20 percent); Ohio (19 percent); Utah (17 percent); Massachusetts, Oklahoma and Rhode Island (15 percent); Arkansas (14 percent); Virginia (13 percent); New York (11 percent); Tennessee (10 percent).   The report includes self-reported data from 3,490 daily fee and private facilities nationwide (except Alaska) on rounds played in November 2014 and November 2013.   Weather might have played a role in November's downfall. In Indianapolis, the average daily high throughout the month was about 44 degrees, 8 degrees below the historic average for that time of year, according to the National Weather Service. In Westchester County, New York, the average daily high in November was 38, which is the norm. However, that is well behind the balmy conditions felt there last November, when the average daily high was 50 degrees.   With November's losses, year-to-date rounds played are 1.8 percent behind the first 11 months of 2013.
  • Hunter adds new short-throw rotator
      Hunter Industries recently launched its new MP800SR360, a short radius version of its MP Rotator.   The MP800SR360 offers 360-degree full-circle distribution and features rotating streams of water applied at a slower rate to conserve water and prevent runoff. The new rotator reaches radius settings as low as 6 feet and can reach up to 12 feet.   The precipitation rate remains matched across all arc and radius settings at approximately 0.8 inches per hour.   This new addition to the MP Rotator family boasts all of the features and benefits of the current MP Rotator line, including high distribution uniformity, wind-resistant streams, debris-resistant double-pop design, and construction with the highest quality materials available.   BASF names new VP
      BASF recently named Paul Rea as senior vice president of its North American crop protection unit.   A native of New Zealand, Rea has held numerous positions at BASF since joining the company in Australia in 2001. He came to the United States three years later. Among his previous positions at BASF are director of the professional and specialty solutions division, and vice president of U.S. crop operations.    Most recently, Rea was senior vice president of crop protection in BASF's Asia-Pacific division.   Bayer fills SW Florida regional spot
      Bayer Environmental Science named Max McGee as a regional sales manager. A former greenkeeper, he will be responsible for all turf and ornamental sales initiatives in the southwestern Florida region.   McGee has strong agronomic experience in all aspects of golf course operations including his most recent position as assistant superintendent at the Hideout Golf Club in Naples, Florida.   A Green Start Academy alum, McGee is a graduate of North Carolina State University.
  • 'Tech Support'

    By John Reitman, in News,

    When it comes to helping golf course equipment managers further their education and promote their profession, the Mississippi Valley Golf Course Superintendents Association is putting its money where its collective mouth is.   Last month, nearly 50 equipment managers, superintendents, dealers and vendor distributors and others, including some from almost 200 miles away, turned out at Sunset Country Club in St. Louis for the second MVGCSA equipment managers meeting of 2014.   The event, held in cooperation with the International Golf Course Equipment Managers Association, included education and networking opportunities as well as a chance for technicians to get an up close and personal look at new mower technology from Jacobsen, John    "The enhanced education (that) things like this bring to technicians in our industry is beneficial to both the technician and the golf club," said Stephen Tucker, founder and chief executive officer of the International Golf Course Equipment Managers Association and the equipment manager at Tranquilo Golf Club at the Four Seasons in Orlando, Florida. "We are just happy that the IGCEMA could contribute and hope to see many more of these starting up around the country." Deere and Toro.    The event also included an opportunity for one lucky attendee to win an all-expenses-paid trip to next month's Golf Industry Show in San Antonio. Steve Wright, equipment manager at Norwood Hills Country Club in St. Louis, will attend this year's GIS, courtesy of the MVGCSA.   "I feel that winning the trip to the show is a huge career opportunity," Wright said. "I'm looking forward to meeting other technicians, advancing my knowledge at equipment classes and increasing my involvement with the IGCEMA. A special thanks to all who helped make this happen for me."   John Cunningham, CGCS at Bellerive Country Club in St. Louis said improving learning opportunities for equipment managers is cause every superintendent should want to support.   "It's the one job most of us superintendents can't do," Cunningham said.    "Events like this will only make the golf course better."   Cunningham and Bellerive equipment manager Chris Rapp have worked closely with Tucker in helping build IGCEMA. Rapp is a member of the association's board of directors. While great strides have been made in promoting the equipment managers profession, there is still much work to be done, Cunningham said. Two more meetings in the MVGCSA area will be held this year, one in the spring and a second in the fall. Dates and locations for each have not been finalized.   "We have to have an audience first," Cunningham said. "There is no sense in someone doing a Webinar on reel grinding if we don't have an audience. We have to try to create that first.    "With these meetings, we're hoping to get more people involved and get some momentum going."   Not only did attendees have a chance to learn all about the latest in mower technology, they were tested on what they learned.   "We don't want them just to come to a meeting," said Cunningham, who graded the exams himself. "We want them to participate in the meeting."
  • Time to hunker down

    By John Reitman, in News,

    If there were such a thing as royalty in the turf management business, Eric Greytok is one of those guys who might have been a monarch.    During his 15-year career as a head superintendent Greytok gained fame for being the youngest host superintendent of not one, but two U.S. Open Championships. With a resume that includes stops at places like Merion, Congressional, Riviera, Pebble Beach and Winged Foot, Greytok today is trying to bring a fledgling company in the T&O business to similar heights. Recently, he was named national sales director for Macro-Sorb Technologies and SMS Additive Solutions. The former manufactures and markets a line of amino acid-based fertilizers, while the latter's portfolio includes surfactants, adjuvants and additives. In other news, John Haguewood, former research specialist at the University of Missouri, was named as technical manager for both companies.   Greytok, who most recently served as golf course superintendent at Eagle Point Golf Club in Wilmington, N.C., stepped away from golf last year when he said chronic back pain prevented him from giving his all to his job.   He first became familiar with the current Macro-Sorb product line in 1996, then under the Nutrimax label, when he worked for Paul R. Latshaw, CGCS, at Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pennsylvania. Since then, Lance Seeton bought the former Nutrimax ag line in 2013 before launching Macro-Sorb last year. Throwing his support behind a product he was familiar with and believed in was a natural fit for Greytok, who turns 42 on January 9.   "This was not a hard decision," Greytok said. "I like helping people on or off golf course. I believe in the product line. My end goal is to help people and give them the tools they need. The role suited me."   Greytok will oversee all sales initiatives for both companies, implementing agronomic programs, strategic planning and new product development, as well as provide assistance and product training for golf course superintendents and sports turf managers nationwide. Greytok now is based in Chico, California, where his wife of 13 years, Kelly, has family. The couple has two children, Joe, 11, and Kendall, 9.   "I've moved them around so much," he said. "It's time to hunker down and be near family."   A 1996 Penn State graduate, Greytok began his turf career in 1996 as spray tech at Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pennsylvania. He followed up with brief stints as an assistant at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Maryland and Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, California, before being named superintendent at Pebble Beach Golf Links in 1999, the following year, at age 27, became the youngest superintendent to host a U.S. Open.    A year later, Greytok's career journey took him to Winged Foot Golf Club in Mamaroneck, New York, site of the 2006 U.S. Open. At age 33, he was the youngest superintendent to oversee the Open twice. He has since been the grow-in superintendent at Remington Ranch in Powell Butte, Oregon, followed by Belfair Plantation in Bluffton, South Carolina, and Eagle Point.    Greytok says the secret to the effectiveness of the Macro-Sorb line of amino acid-based fertilizers is glucosamine, the same stuff pharmaceutical companies market to relieve joint pain. The glucosamine, he said, helps turf recover quicker during times of stress, increases drought and stress tolerance and helped him reduce not only fertilizer applications, but plant growth regulator apps as well since there was no flush of growth.   "What makes it unique is the way it is produced," he said.   "They are free amino acids that are immediately available, so the plant can use them immediately."
  • Cash for Grass is not a new concept in the Western United States. Water districts in places like Las Vegas, El Paso, Texas, Albuquerque, New Mexico and Los Angeles for years have been offering residential homeowners cash rebates of up to $1 per square foot to convert their lawns to more water-friendly landscapes.   The Coachella Valley Water District in California has taken the program to the next step, offering desert golf courses a similar water-saving incentive that includes rebates of up to $15,000 per acre of converted turf up to a maximum of seven acres ($105,000), according to a story in The Desert Sun.    A total of 70 of the 123 courses in the valley pump groundwater, with the other 53 on Colorado River or recycled water. Those 70 courses, according to the CVWD, use almost 24 billion gallons of groundwater per year, or about 25 percent of the area's annual supply. Craig Kessler of the Southern California Golf Association told the newspaper that at least 30 of those 70 courses are considering a conversion. The water district says it plans to spend $1.3 million in rebates to golf courses through mid-March. The program is funded through a $5.2 million state Proposition 84 grant that was awarded to the Coachella Valley Regional Water Management Group that includes the areas five public water agencies.   Golf facilities throughout the area were built decades ago, when Bob Hope, the area's most famous golf ambassador was wielding a driver on stage while he entertained U.S. troops overseas, and long before the current three-year drought plagued the area. Operators of those facilities know conserving water is important, but converting managed turf to xeriscape settings is costly, and can cost twice what the CVWD is offering per acre, according to Dean Miller, director of agronomy at PGA West in the story in The Desert Sun. The rebate program offers those courses a chance to recover some of the cost associated with such a conversion.  The CVWD has been offering cash for grass to homeowners since 2005, and is not the first water agency to offer such rebates to golf courses. The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, the country's largest public utility, is a consortium of 26 municipalities and water districts that bring water to 19 million residents in six Southern California counties. Last May, it offered golf courses $2 per acre for converting turf to non-irrigated landscape.
  • Every New Year brings with it promises of new resolutions; those seemingly unreachable personal goals that test one's resolve and self-discipline. Like losing that extra 10 pounds, there are things on the wish lists of many in the golf business that seem equally unattainable.

    Besides the obvious answer of more golfers, superintendents are wishing for things such as favorable weather conditions, a stronger economy (and more money in the budget) and other elusive factors that are outside a superintendent's control.

    "More job security for superintendents," said Matt Shaffer of Merion Golf Club when asked what is on his 2015 wish list. "We have the most at risk, because we deal with the most variables."

    Although a lofty wish like more job security might seem as unrealistic a goal as losing those unwanted pounds, Shaffer knows something about risk and accountability. He managed Merion through the 2013 U.S. Open as Tropical Storm Andrea swept through the area the week before the tournament. The Philadelphia-area course stood up to those extra-tropical conditions thanks in part to the work of Shaffer's staff and an army of volunteers, but also because of ongoing drainage improvements and water-management strategies that have marked his career at Merion.

    Shaffer has built a career defined by producing consistently high playing conditions while redefining what it means to minimize fertilizer, fungicide and water inputs. Like Shaffer, Mark Hoban, Sean Tully and Jim Ferrin also have embraced a similar minimalist philosophy. Part artist, part revolutionary, each has created a work of art that proves superintendent ingenuity and creativity and adopting new technology can go a lot farther than making applications with a broad brush.

    Ferrin, a certified golf course superintendent at a 36-hole Del Webb facility in Roseville, California, has taken it upon himself to be a statewide authority on water issues in California. He speaks to regularly on the subject to policy makers and other water users throughout the state in hopes of helping to educate them when it's time to either turn on the tap, adopt public policy or renew his employment contract, depending on the audience.

    "So the future of golf is unfortunately driven by marketing and PACs (political action committees). That is why I am part of the GCSAA Ambassadors program and an active member in CAG (California Alliance for Golf), all the major golf  organization involved in golf- associations, PGA, owners, superintendents etc.," Ferrin said. "Hopefully we can get the word out. Golf is good."

    Shaffer, too, has for years been judicious with water, pesticide and fertilizer inputs, and said at the 2014 Ohio Turfgrass Foundation Conference in early December that tracking growing degree days has allowed him to cut his all-inclusive apps budget by 69 percent from 2002 to 2013. He was an early adopter of in-ground sensor technology and speaks regularly on water use to help educate colleagues. He points to his own efforts as well as the water-saving restoration of Pinehurst No. 2, by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw that included removing 700 irrigation heads and converting 40 acres of turf to native areas, as blueprints for water-saving efforts in the future.

    "Realistically, (I'd like to see) less water use," Shaffer said. "We are going to do it at Merion. Perhaps between us and Merion it will lead the way for a new trend in golf; less water, less inputs, more affordability in golf."

    Superintendents could help improve the image of their profession by implementing more of the technological tools at their disposal, says Hoban, a certified golf course superintendent at Rivermont Country Club near Atlanta. Since the mid-1980s, Hoban has been an advocate of minimal inputs resulting in conditions that have been less than lush and green, and also cited the Pinehurst model as an example of how superintendents can diffuse public opinion about golf's impact on the environment.

    "In technology I would like to see widely used GPS for all courses that control golf car travel and for spray equipment," Hoban said. "It's out there but cost needs to come down for most of us.

    "I would like to see more courses embrace the Pinehurst model of less fertilizer, pesticide, water, and maintenance inputs. I would like to see researchers increase testing of biologicals for disease and insect control and take a new look at the soil health side of the equation and not just plant response. We know a product works on the plant but we are in the dark on what it is doing to the sub-trophic levels in the soil.

    "I think that that technology is available, but it would reduce compaction and make applications more efficient. I think that the future of turfgrass management is in being better stewards of the land and more mindful of what inputs we select and how they truly affect the whole system not just the turfgrass."

    A minimalist philosophy not only makes for good PR as the green industry constantly seeks to educate the general public about what really goes on behind the scenes in a golf course maintenance operation, it also makes sense in light of current economic times, says Tully, superintendent at the Meadow Club in Fairfax, California. Tully has gone to great lengths to try to bring the Alister MacKenzie design closer to what it looked like when it opened in 1927. He also has spent a lot of time studying MacKenzie's thoughts on golf course design, how they were applied at the Meadow Club and elsewhere, and educating others why design

    "For too long the idea of perfection has ruled the day," Tully said. "With that comes the need to add staffing and additional expenses to make perfect happen.

    "(I) Don't see a lot of industry guys getting too excited about using less product. But we have to be asking the questions, because we are the only ones that know all the details. Do we want to be spending more money for less people to enjoy the game because they can't afford the product that we provide? Can we get people to reduce their expectations and still feel good about the finished product?"
  • The U.S. Department of Agriculture has cleared the way for cultivation of genetically modified tall fescue without conducting an environmental review of the new crop, according to a story in The Capital Press.
    The Scotts Miracle-Gro Co. developed the glyphosate-resistant turfgrass variety with genes from other plants through a process known as biolistics, in which DNA-coated metal particles are injected into the plant cell.
    Because the method does not involve the use of a plant pest for gene transfer, the USDA has no authority to regulate the tall fescue, according to a document recently released by the agency.
    Other glyphosate-resistant crops common in agriculture were made using a soil pathogen, which required the USDA to study the plants before deregulating them.
    Glyphosate-resistant grasses, while convenient for growers, can be troublesome for others.
    Scotts began to renew its biotechnology program after a regulated variety of Roundup-ready creeping bentgrass escaped a central Oregon field in 2003 and resulted in a $500,000 civil penalty from USDA. The bentgrass cultivar has been stuck in regulatory limbo as the USDA has not approved it to be grown commercially without restrictions.
    However, over the past four years the company has persuaded the USDA?s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service that several biotech varieties of Kentucky bluegrass and St. Augustinegrass did not come under its regulatory jurisdiction.
    Genetically modified tall fescue, which Scotts has also altered to grow shorter, thicker and darker green, is the latest grass crop to be cleared by USDA after Scotts notified the agency that it planned to begin field testing the variety.
    Naturally occurring resistance from repeated glyphosate spraying has already caused problems for Northwest hazelnut growers and farmers in the Midwest who use annual ryegrass as a cover crop, said Bryan Ostlund, administrator of the Oregon Tall Fescue Commission.
    Turf-type tall fescue that is common on golf courses, is not considered a weedy grass, Ostlund told The Capital Press.
    Unlike Kentucky bluegrass, which largely produces seeds asexually, tall fescue is more likely to cross-pollinate with other grasses of its variety, the story said.
    While the potential for cross-pollination can be mitigated during commercial seed production, it would be more difficult to control gene flow after the fescue, a perennial crop, is released.
    - The Capital Press
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