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From the TurfNet NewsDesk

  • John Reitman
    Bayer Environmental Science is accepting applications for the third annual Bayer Plant Health Academy.   Open to all GCSAA Class A and Superintendent members who also are members of My Bayer Rewards, the academy is a series of four educational events offered through the Healthy Turf, Healthy Tomorrow initiative launched by Environmental Science, which is a division of Bayer CropScience.   A dozen superintendents will be chosen to take part in next year?s academy, a two-part program that includes plant health research and education sessions. The first session will be held April 20-22 at GCSAA headquarters in Lawrence, Kansas. The second session is scheduled for Sept. 16-18 at the Bayer Training and Development Center in Clayton, North Carolina. Travel, accommodations and meals are included for those chosen to participate in the program.   "Bayer?s Plant Health Academy provides a unique opportunity for superintendents to stay-up-to-date on real-world plant health applications," said David Wells, golf business manager for Bayer. "The Academy offers attendees a chance to learn from industry experts about the latest trends in plant health and how they can positively impact their course."   The program will cover data and case studies on a large array of plant health topics, including how to measure plant health and its benefits, available treatments and preventive products. Leading plant health researchers will translate plant health studies to agronomic issues such as nutrient, water and pest management.    "It was very beneficial to hear about new products in development and share our feedback about challenges we face as superintendents," said Andrew Jorgensen, member of the 2014 Plant Health Academy class, and certified golf course superintendent at On Top of the World Communities Inc., in Ocala, Florida. "What I enjoyed most was learning from leading plant health professionals, as well as seeing the behind-the-scenes product development and research behind it."   Application deadline is Dec. 19.
  • The Andersons, Inc. plans to combine the Turf and Specialty and Plant Nutrient groups into a yet-to-be-named combined operating group.   The move streamlines operations not only for the company, but also its customers.   "The Turf and Specialty and Plant Nutrient groups have become closely aligned in the customers they serve, the products and services they offer, the manner in which they operate and in their growth strategies," said Hal Reed, the company?s chief operating officer. "We believe the two groups are stronger together than separate. This move offers additional growth opportunities, enhances profitability and, most importantly, takes our customer service to the next level."   Leading the combined group will be Bill Wolf, who currently serves as the president of the Plant Nutrient Group. Tom Waggoner, currently the president of the Turf and Specialty Group, will assume a new role as corporate vice president, marketing and operations services.   Leadership changes are expected to occur at the first of the year, with full integration and subsequent reporting changes taking place later in 2015.
  • For nearly three decades, Mark Hoban has been improving golf courses around Atlanta by turning back the clock on turf maintenance, but his work throughout the years has gone largely unnoticed. Until now.   Hoban, superintendent at Rivermont Country Club, recently was named winner of the Georgia Golf Environmental Foundation Environmental Leader of the Year Award. His work incorporating native tall grasses, native sand and organic management practices that have helped put Rivermont on a path toward sustainability were the subject of a recent three-part TurfNet TV video series produced by Randy Wilson. Hoban, who has been incorporating such practices since the 1980s when he worked at The Standard Club, hinted that the videos might have helped finally bring more widespread attention to his work.   "I think the word got out on a lot of what I'm doing based on the videos. Very few people, even in Georgia, knew what I have been doing," he said. "Because of the TurfNet video, I think a lot of people got more exposure to it."   Since 2011, the award by the Georgia Golf Environment Foundation, which is an arm of the Georgia GCSA, has recognized golf course superintendents and/or their courses for overall environmentally friendly golf course management in the areas of resource conservation, water quality management, integrated pest management, wildlife/habitat management, and education/outreach. In addition, these categories are judged on sustainability, community outreach, originality and the use and/or implementation of technology. Previous winners include The Landings Club (2013), Reynolds Plantation (2012) and Buck Workman, CGCS (2011).   The association also presents an award in an open or non-golf category.   The open or non-golf category of the annual awards went to State Rep. Tom McCall, R-Elberton, Georgia, for his work on a statewide water management plan and drought regulations.   A past Georgia GCSA president and chapter superintendent of the year in 2002, Hoban was nominated by a handful of his peers, according to the Georgia Golf Environment Foundation, for incorporating organic practices and utilizing native grasses and sands to give Rivermont a rustic appearance that elicits memories of the game's past.   "Mark has long been an advocate for less pesticides (are) better," wrote Richard Staughton, CGCS at Towne Lake Hills Golf Club in Woodstock, Georgia, in his nomination letter. "His yearly agronomic plans have been aimed at maintaining his turf with more natural inputs and applying the minimum number of pesticide applications possible, and actually accomplishing just that."   Among the many initiatives undertaken by Hoban at Rivermont are the incorporation of native tall fescues that require minimal maintenance and inputs and help conserve water. He also maintains scruffy-edged bunkers filled with brown river sand that help provide a classic-era appeal. The course was the first Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Golf Course in the Southeast located outside Florida. The work is the result of a 10-year-old restoration of the property that reflects his views on the direction in which he believes the turf maintenance business should be pointed.   "We put in a design that was based on native vegetation that was quite different from anything else in Atlanta," Hoban said. "It became a real wow for the members. They loved the brown sand, they loved the look."   Hoban also has reduced fertilizer and fungicide use by embracing organic management practices. He maintains a worm bed on the property and brews compost tea that helps produce beneficial mychorrhizae in the soil, which is the subject of University of Georgia research being conducted on the course.   Hoban hosts youth groups to educate children about what goes on behind the scenes at a golf course, and the kids, he says, love getting their hands dirty in the worm bed. He also established hives for native pollinators, a program which he plans to expand this year. His work goes a long way to defy public perception about the golf industry.   "The parents talk about it and ask if they can come see what we're doing," Hoban said.   "Come out here, look at what we're doing and tell us we are a nuclear waste site. You can't deny what you're seeing out here."   His work with earthworms and compost tea has captured the attention of his colleagues, many of whom are eager to see the long-term and repeated results of the work.   "His latest innovative worm farm project is actually serving two purposes, using the biodegradable trash from the clubhouse to produce a compost tea for spraying his turf; the biodegradable trash acts as a food source for the worms which in turn produce a healthy soil/vermicompost full of natural nutrients. This compost is then brewed to separate the microbes from the compost and produce a sprayable tea. Mark and his mad scientist imagination with homegrown microbes may be onto something that could help golf course superintendents and the environment in Georgia with healthier and more natural-like turf."   Hoban, who has been at Rivermont for 10 years, began his career at The Standard Club in 1971. There he eventually succeeded the legendary Palmer Maples Jr., CGCS, in 1986, and began working with native grasses when the club physically moved from its original location in Brookhaven, Georgia to its current home in Johns Creek. His work there drew mixed reviews from golfers. Some loved it while others, obsessed with the idea of lost golf balls, hated it, describing their thoughts on fescue with words not fit for print.    "We kept telling members they had a diamond in the rough, but back then, people were just so obsessed with Augusta National. Older members finally started to get it. They weren't obsessed with every bunker lie. They noticed the deer and the birds, and they were looking up and seeing different colors, contrasts and seasons. Before that, all we had was brown in the winter and green in the summer."   Before Hoban worked at Rivermont, the course never was particularly well known for its conditions or playability. Hoban's tenure there began with a restoration that allowed him to move in with his philosophy lock, stock and barrel.   He plans to continue full-speed ahead with his natural management philosophy, including increasing the number of bee boxes on the course this year.   "We put in six this year. Next year, I'm going to go nuts with them," he said.   He credits leadership and members at Rivermont for giving him the freedom to explore this passion, and hopes he doesn't push things too far.   "I have a boss who has vision, and we have a great partnership because he allows me the latitude to do this," Hoban said.    "Sometimes, I wonder if I've gone too far. I keep telling my wife if I ever come home with a tattoo, a ponytail and an earring, you know I've gone off the edge."  
  • By admission, Chad Mark doesn't enjoy life in the spotlight. He's more comfortable directing his crew and improving conditions and playability at Kirtland Country Club. From that perspective, 2014 has been a year that Mark has spent a large portion of the year outside his comfort zone.
      Winner of the 2013 TurfNet Superintendent of the Year Award, presented by Syngenta, Mark has been the center of attention at the club in Willoughby, Ohio since general manager and chief operating officer Mark Petzing slipped in what turned out to be the last entry during last year's award nomination period.   Mark was the man of the hour during the recent TurfNet member golf trip to Kohler, Wisconsin, but recently, accolades heaped upon Mark extended off the golf course and all the way to the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus.   State Sen. John Eklund, who represents Ohio's 18th district that includes Willoughby, wanted to show his support of Mark's abilities, and in March read a resolution to his colleagues in Columbus. The result was the full Senate unanimously voting to honor Mark for winning the Superintendent of the Year award and saluting him as "one of Ohio's finest citizens."    (Click here to read the full text of the resolution)   How's that for a spotlight?   "The entire (Superintendent of the Year) experience has been overwhelming," said a humbled Mark. "I am completely out of my comfort zone when it comes to receiving this type of recognition. Our membership is made up of outstanding people and they make Kirtland the special place that it is. I cannot describe how appreciative I am to our membership and staff, Turfnet, and Syngenta for a truly wonderful experience."   Kirtland president Brian Zollar presented Mark with a framed copy of the resolution during the club's annual meeting Nov. 12.   "This is a Resolution of the Ohio Senate, adopted by unanimous vote of the Senate," Zollar told Mark and others during the annual meeting. "Resolutions are used to recognize, and to express the Senate's respect and admiration for great Ohioans and their singular achievements, events and accomplishments. By any standard, Chad Mark, and his award, clearly qualify for this honor."   Said Petzing: "This is a testament to why this is such a great club. The membership and our team work hand in hand. It's that symbiotic relationship that makes us so successful."   (Click here to nominate someone for this year's Superintendent of the Year Award)
  • Waiting for a day when typewriters, legal pads and ballpoint pens re-emerge to replace smartphones, tablets and laptop computers, Golfweek's Bradley S. Klein, Ph.D., is a renaissance golf writer who tolerates the modern world of immediacy journalism.
    In a day when information often is limited to 140 characters or less, Klein thrives in telling a story about a game he has written about for more than a quarter-century, the people who mold it and the venues on which it is played.
    The author of seven books on golf course architecture, including Discovering Donald Ross, Rough Meditations and Wide Open Fairways, Klein recently was named the recipient of the Donald Ross Award by the American Society of Golf Course Architects.
    The ASGCA's highest honor, the Donald Ross Award is presented annually to "an individual who has made significant and lasting contributions to the profession of golf course architecture."
    A writer for Golfweek since 1988 and the publication's architecture editor for the past 15 years, Klein first learned an appreciation for course design while coming up through the caddie ranks, and today is a regular speaker at industry events on such topics as course architecture and history. As architecture editor, Klein also directs Golfweek's Best course-rating program.
    "This is such an honor," Klein told Golfweek. "I'm really proud to have had a home for so long at Golfweek and with so much print space to develop a voice on these issues."
    He is the latest in a long list of journalists to win the honor, joining Herbert Warren Wind (1977), Peter Dobereiner (1985), Charles Price (1987), Dick Taylor (1989), Ron Whitten (1996), George Peper (2008) and James Dodson (2011).
    Klein, whose doctorate degree is in political science, spent 14 years as a college professor before joining Golfweek. He will receive the award in March during the ASGCA's annual meeting in La Jolla, California. 
  • News and people briefs

    By John Reitman, in News,

    Ditch Witch introduces mini skid steer

    Ditch Witch recently launched its SK850 mini skid steer for those who need a powerful machine with a large load capacity wrapped in a small package.
    The SK850 is powered by a Tier IV-compliant 37 hp Yanmar diesel engine capable of driving the machine at speeds up 4.7 mph in forward and reverse. And with a load capacity of 860 pounds it can handle a variety of tasks both big and small.
    Other features include low-maintenance track-tensioning system with a grease cylinder for easy adjustment and track removal, for increased track life and reduced downtime, a belt-free design that means less maintenance; advanced attachment latching system for simple, secure connection of the attachments; and an auxiliary control foot pedal helps maintain hydraulic flow to the attachment, freeing the operator to control depth and ground speed.
    The 74-square-inch operator platform is larger than on previous models, and the standard auto-throttle that is incorporated into a new LCD display reduces engine RPM after sustained inactivity.

    Bernhard recognizes top distributor

    Bernhard and Co., manufacturer of Bernhard Grinders, recently named ShowTurf its 2014 North American Distributor of the Year.
    Based in Boynton Beach, Fla., ShowTurf supplies turf maintenance equipment to golf courses and sports facilities in South Florida, South Georgia, Hilton Head, South Carolina and the Caribbean. This is the first time the company has received Bernhard's Distributor of the Year honor. Show Turf was also acknowledged as one of Bernhard's Gold Level Certified Distributors.
    ShowTurf carries a large selection of Bernard inventory, including the company's trademark Express Dual and Anglemaster models. The Express Dual grinds reels without requiring disassembly of the mower, and the auto relief eliminates the need for lapping.

    Jenkins named Old Tom winner

    Dan Jenkins, one of a handful of writers in the World Golf Hall Fame and who has covered each of the game's major championships for more than 60 years, was named by GCSAA as the recipient of the 2015 Old Tom Morris Award.
    Presented annually since 1983, the award honors one, who through a 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. Morris, a four-time British Open winner, was the longtime superintendent at St. Andrews in Scotland until his death in 1908. Some of the past winners include Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Ben Crenshaw, Ken Venturi, Nancy Lopez and Annika Sorenstam.
    Jenkins will receive the award Feb. 25 at the opening session of the Golf Industry Show in San Antonio. He is the first member of the media to win the award.
    In addition to writing about golf for the past 30 years for Sports Illustrated and now Golf Digest, Jenkins also has published more than a dozen books, with his most famous being the football-themed ?Semi-Tough? in 1972.
    A native of Fort Worth, Texas, where he still lives, Jenkins, 84, began covering sports while attending Texas Christian University. He has been covering golf since the 1951 Masters.

    E-Z-GO offers improved battery charging

    E-Z-GO recently launched its new SC-48 battery charger for its 2015 model year RXV and TXT electric golf cars. The SC-48 charger was developed in collaboration with Delta-Q Technologies.
    The SC-48 uses a sealed die-cast housing to protect against dirt, water and other contaminants entering the charger, which is key to a charger's long-term reliability. The SC-48 also offers course operators worry-free charge by utilizing temperature-compensated charging that adjusts charging performance based on measurements from the temperature sensor installed on the car's battery pack. This approach is preferred by leading battery manufacturers, and is proven to maximize overall battery life.
    Field serviceability extends to the AC and DC charger cords, which, when under excessive stress, will be released from the Delta-Q SC-48 without damaging the charger. LED charge indicators on the charger and vehicle keep provide up-to-date information about AC power status, charging progress, charge completion, or whether a fault has occurred.

    Standard Golf names new marketing head

    Standard Golf Co. recently named Matt Pauli as director of marketing.
    He will be responsible for managing all of the company's domestic and international marketing communications, including product and brand research/analysis, strategic planning and the execution of marketing campaigns for Standard Golf and its products. 
    Before joining Standard Golf, Pauli served as the director of operations and marketing for MauiOwnerCondos.com. In that role, he developed corporate websites, sales presentations and collateral, and a wide range of digital media and social networking platforms.
    Based in Standard Golf's hometown of Cedar Falls, Iowa, Pauli is a University of Michigan graduate with a bachelor's degree in communications, and earned a masters degree in business administration from Michigan State.
  • As a golf course superintendent, Jim Ferrin is accustomed to wearing many different hats. He just never realized that one day one of them might be a fireman's helmet.
    Wildfires might be an annual occurrence in California, but three years of drought have sparked concern as homeowners in severely affected areas watch their dreams go up in smoke. For example, a fire that is believed to have started on a San Diego-area golf course has resulted in a class-action lawsuit with homeowners and attorneys lining up against the Omni La Costa Resort in Carlsbad.
    The cause of the fire has yet to be determined, but what investigators do know is that it wiped out 600 acres and damaged or destroyed more than 50 homes and businesses. A statewide powder keg of dried and brittle turf just waiting for something to ignite it has resulted in superintendents at many courses taking measures to reduce water usage and make sure they're not the next sacrifice served up on the evening news.
    In Southern California, golf courses are ripping out turf and replacing it with a desert landscape that is transforming links-style courses into target golf almost overnight.
    The drought is not limited to Southern California.
    In Roseville, a Sacramento suburb where Ferrin manages 36 holes at a Del Webb adult community, working to minimize the threat of fire and the spread of one should it occur, has become part of his daily responsibility.
    "Superintendents can handle things like this. I don't know if other groups could change what they're doing and handle this," Ferrin said. "In this business, you have to be a can-do person.
    "You have to do what people need you to do."
    At Sierra Pines and Timber Creek golf courses, Ferrin takes seriously his responsibility to help protect the hundreds of homes that surround the two courses and the thousands of other properties located nearby. He has to during times of severe drought.
    The Sacramento/Roseville area historically receives up to 18 inches of rain per year. Last year, only 6 inches fell in that area, resulting in a tinderbox of dry turf everywhere.
    "I used to think that this is just how the grass is every summer," Ferrin said. "But there has to be a component that as drought continues for one year, then two years, then three years that it has to be like a firecracker ready to explode.
    "If you look at the fires in California, they're powder kegs. They burn acre after acre, and there is hardly anything that fire agencies can do except bomb them from the sky and hope (the fires) run out of fuel."
    The property has established a no-smoking policy during the summer that extends to employees as well as cigar-chomping golfers, maintains a firebreak between the golf courses and the homes that surround them and even utilizes goats to manage turf in open spaces along the golf courses and preserve areas in other parts of the community.
    While marshals on the golf course are expected to help enforce that policy, it is one that requires constant monitoring should a rule-breaker slip through the cracks. In fact, a cigarette here and a cigar there have resulted in a few minor flare-ups, but course personnel have been on top of those and have been able to extinguish them without the fire department intervening.
    State fire officials have asked for 100-foot-wide barriers between common areas and private property to prevent the spread of fire. Ferrin, through a proactive relationship with local fire department, is allowed a 30-foot barrier that he mows off three to four times a year. Still, homeowners who read about fires elsewhere, like the one in San Diego, are concerned and engaged enough that they too ask whether 30 feet is enough.
    Ferrin said he plans to expand the firebreak next year should the drought extend into a fourth year, which virtually all experts are predicting.
    "Residents have been concerned," he said. 
    "Next year, if we get into another year of water scarcity, and it looks like we will, I will do more, especially under trees, to keep people more secure. I think that is the wise thing to do."
    A little farther south in Pacific Grove along the Monterey Peninsula, Daniel Gho says the responsibility to guard against wildfire flare-ups doesn't end with golf course or park officials, but extends to homeowners as well.
    Gho spent six years as superintendent of city-owned Pacific Grove Golf Links. As superintendent of the city's public works department, he still interacts with the golf course but also is responsible for maintaining all public parks and common areas, so the threat of fires starting and spreading to homes is a constant concern.
    The golf course is irrigated wall-to-wall, so the threat of fire starting on and spreading from the golf course is minimal. Other areas around the town are not as much of a lead-pipe cinch.
    Each year, he takes part in an effort to communicate with local residents about the need to maintain their own private landscaping so that it too doesn't become the source of a fire or feed one that starts elsewhere.
    "We send out notifications and fliers with the building department prior to the summer months," said Gho. "We really ramp up our public outreach so people know to maintain landscaping around their houses. It's up to them.
    In areas, like Pacific Grove, where golf courses and residential real estate coexist in close proximity, the message for superintendents in drought-stricken areas is clear, Gho said.
    "I think golf course need to reach out to people to and let them know they need to manage their landscape," he added of the outreach effort. "It's private property. We can't do that for them, but it needs to be done."
    Like Ferrin, Gho also mows down and maintains borders between public and private property and keeps an eye cast skyward for dead or dying trees that could fuel a fire.
    Golf courses in other drought-plagued areas have instituted controlled burns, with the help of local fire officials, to clear out areas that could turn into a larger problem should a wildfire ignite.
    Back in Roseville, officials have adopted organic approaches to help Ferrin in his quest to minimize the threat of wildfires. The city requires him to keep thatch to manageable levels in open spaces because fire apparently loves thatch. Fortunately, .
    Using goats to clear thick brush and undergrowth at other California tracks like The Presidio in San Francisco and Pasatiempo in Santa Cruz are well chronicled. Using them to clear organic matter is less common, but equally effective.
    "It's beneficial. It's expensive, but it is beneficial," Ferrin said. "I know if I use goats, everybody is happy. 
    "I don't know how else we're going to control thatch unless you eat it."
    He'd rather leave that to the goats.
  • The promise of GPS-guided application technology and precision turf management took a step closer to 'affordable reality' recently with the formation of Turflux, LLC, a new venture formed by industry veterans Tim Fitzgerald, Mark Luffy and Andy Billing -- all employees of Krigger and Company, the storied Pittsburgh-area Jacobsen distributor.
    Turflux has an exclusive distribution agreement with Raven Industries to market Raven Slingshot® RTK technology to the North American golf and turf market. Turflux spray systems will be available for installation on new sprayers or as a retrofit to existing sprayers.
    What's RTK? In a nutshell, RTK (Real Time Kinematic) provides a new level of precision over traditional "GPS-only" systems. RTK utilizes cellular networks and fixed reference points to enhance the precision of positional data derived from satellite-based systems for repeatable sub-inch accuracy.  Because the system is connected via cellular networks, control functions are accessible remotely on the fly and data is transferred wirelessly in real time to a secure online database. All data can be accessed from anywhere via a web browser or cell phone.
    Compared to traditional "GPS-only" systems, Raven Slingshot (coupled with the Raven Envisio Pro II) eliminates line-of-sight obstructions like trees, valleys and buildings. The cellular connectivity feature enables Raven or Turflux support personnel to diagnose and fix problems on the fly or walk the operator through the issue.
    According to Tim Fitzgerald, president of Turflux, LLC and Krigger & Co., the Turflux spray system will be available to fit any brand or color of sprayer, whether pressure-based like the Cushman SprayTek or flow-based like the Toro and Smithco systems.  The Turflux system will be priced at $29,300 plus tax and shipping of the vehicle to and from Gibsonia, PA for installation. While a dealer network is being established, Turflux intends to install all systems at their location.
    An annual subscription fee of $1800 will apply after the first year.  That includes $1000 for the base station network and $800 for a cellular data plan.

    How does this system differ from the Smithco Star Command or Nutec/TurfGeeks systems?  The Smithco Command Pro uses the Raven Envizio Pro control system, which is described as "Slingshot ready". As such, it does not (as yet) have the cellular connectivity, RTK correction and real-time remote management capabilities of Slingshot.
    The Turf Geeks autocontrol spray system from Nutec Soil utilizes the DirectCommand system from Ag Leader rather than Raven components.
    Scuttlebutt around the water cooler indicates that Toro will introduce a GPS-controlled spray system of it's own in 2015, and with the many layers of precision-ag technology residing within John Deere, smart money would say they will have one soon too.
    Turflux has been working with eight Slingshot-equipped systems in the field (four are Turflux-branded conversion kits) in the Pittsburgh area for the past year, and has been able to document chemical savings of 15% to 23% at those facilities.
    "On the lower end, we see the 15% savings numbers on those courses with relatively straight fairways and accessible green and tee complexes where alignment of passes isn't that much of a problem," said Fitzgerald.  "We see the higher savings (up to 23%) on those courses with tightly-bunkered green complexes and more complex fairway layouts," he said.
    Either way, payback on the system investment can be as short as two years.
    Ken Flisek, CGCS, of The Club at Nevillewood in Presto, PA, said in a video interview that prior to using the Turflux system on their Smithco Spray Star 2000, various operators would spray anywhere from 225,000 to 250,000 square feet when spraying greens and approaches.  "Now that we have it mapped out, we spray exactly 200,000 square feet every time, regardless of operator," said Flisek.
    John Shaw, CGCS, of Valley Brook Country Club said in another video interview that the individual nozzle control of the Turflux system enabled them to vary their spray pattern throughout the season and thus avoid the repeating overlaps caused by having to spray in the same direction each time. Shaw estimates he has realized a 20-23% reduction in chemical usage due to the Turflux system.
    Both Flisek and Shaw are long-time TurfNet members.
    Fitzgerald estimates that at some point in the not-too-distant future half or more of the 15,000 golf courses in the US will be equipped with GPS-controlled sprayers.  He obviously wants Turflux to have a big share of that. 
    "The systems offered by Turflux are built on proven Raven products and can be game-changing in an industry that is judged by quality but desperately looking for cost control," Fitzgerald commented.  Well said.
    More information in the videos below and at turflux.com.
  • The road to prosperity

    By John Reitman, in News,

    As a campaign advisor in one of the country's most politically charged cities, Tom Hsieh has no shortage of hot-button issues behind which he can cast his support. Instead, Hsieh is a soft touch for many of the city's lost causes.
    A native San Franciscan, Hsieh has led efforts that helped secure financing to rejuvenate institutions that assist the city's underserved, such as Laguna Honda Hospital that supports San Francisco's indigent senior population, the California Academy of Sciences, rundown public schools, libraries and the San Francisco Zoo and Gardens.
    "There is a lot of city pride here," said Hsieh, 49. "I'm a local, born and raised, who cares about this city."
    Chief among Hsieh's pet projects is ensuring that another of the city's forgotten institutions doesn't fade away.
    For the past nine years, Hsieh has held the management contract on city-owned Gleneagles Golf Course, an all-but-forgotten nine-hole facility on San Francisco's crime-ridden southeast side. And for those nine years and then some, the course has lived in the shadows of the city's other courses across town that, by comparison, have gained favored status in City Hall.
    Recently, Gleneagles Golf Partners, of which Hsieh is the principal, forged a relationship with a local laborers union that he says could take Gleneagles and some of the residents of the surrounding neighborhood out of the doldrums and on a path toward prosperity.
    The story is an example of what can happen when a common goal brings otherwise disparate partners together.
    As part of this new relationship, the Laborers Community Training Foundation and Northern California District Council of Laborers, Local 261 plan to start a pre-apprenticeship school at neglected Gleneagles that will teach much-needed career skills - in golf course maintenance - to residents of one of the city's most dangerous neighborhoods while at the same time providing the 62-acre layout with a pipeline to cost-effective labor. Although there are many details to be ironed out, Hsieh said he expects the program, which will provide the financially strapped golf course with as many as a half-dozen workers to be paid by the union, to begin within a few months.
    "We have two goals: to revitalize the golf course and create a community resource that creates not just jobs, but careers," Hsieh said. "We have high hopes for this program."
    So does the union.
    "This is a unique partnership that exposes young people to real career paths in construction and landscaping," said Chris Gruwell, president of the public affairs agency known as Platinum Advisors and spokesman for the union.
    "We now have a training center in the heart of the neighborhood the Laborer Community and Training Foundation is designed to serve."
    If there is any place in San Francisco that could do with a little hope, Gleneagles is it.
    Municipal golf in San Francisco is, literally, a tale of two cities.
    People have come out of the golf industry woodwork to help support Sharp Park, a course owned by the City of San Francisco but located in neighboring Pacifica, that has been the target of environmentalists for years. PGA Tour-managed Harding Park, another San Francisco muni located on Lake Merced near The Olympic Club and San Francisco Golf Club, will host the 2015 WGC-Match Play Championship, 2020 PGA Championship and the 2025 Presidents Cup. On the other side of the tracks, Gleneagles fights for its very existence on a daily basis, and it does so without a lot of help from downtown.
    Although it is located in one of the city's poorest neighborhoods and bad-news stories, like golf-playing patrons behind held up at gunpoint, abound, Gleneagles at McLaren Park has built a dedicated following since it opened in 1962. One might think that in a politically liberal bastion like San Francisco, a community resource in a downtrodden neighborhood that has pumped thousands of at-risk children through the local First Tee program would have the full support of the city and its coffers, but that is anything but true here. Gleneagles receives little or no money from its owner, and Hsieh is responsible for paying for all maintenance and wages out of day-to-day operations. He gets to keep the profits - if there are any.
    Five years ago, Gleneagles went under the knife in a community-led restoration that included donations of equipment, product and seed from several area vendors, labor from nearby California Golf Club of San Francisco and expertise from its superintendent, Thomas Bastis, CGCS.
    The restoration, that included regrassing the Poa annua greens with A1/A4 bentgrass, garnered worldwide acclaim about what can happen when separate entities in the golf business pull together for a common cause.
    Despite the hard work of course superintendent Gabriel Castilla and assistant Ishmael Gonzalez, the only two maintenance workers at Gleneagles, nearly all signs of that restoration are gone thanks to a chronic lack of resources. Shortages of water and money have turned much of the turf from green to brown to gone, except on putting surfaces and tees.
    "It's hard to stop a ball on dirt," said a patron playing foot golf on the course.
    The soon-to-be established pre-apprenticeship program, which is reported to be the first and only of its kind, should change that.
    "There's a lot of golf courses in San Francisco," Gruwell said, "but only one that both trains people for good jobs and exposes people to a great golfing experience."
    The program, which has gained the support of at least 16 entities, including several local and state government agencies, as well as the PGA of America, The First Tee of San Francisco, the San Francisco Public Golf Alliance and the California Foot Golf Association, would provide Gleneagles with a half-dozen or so trainees for up to six months at a time. Graduates, who would be paid by the union, then could enter a full apprenticeship program and eventually could transition into a paid position in which they receive a union wage and benefits from an employer. The program also would include input from area golf course superintendents on establishing a curriculum based on best practices used at nearby courses that are among the world's finest. That's important in an area embroiled in a three-year-long drought with no end in sight.
    Earlier this year, a planned 50-percent hike in water rates threatened to close Gleneagles. On July 1, Hsieh issued a 30-day notice that if a rate settlement with the city was not reached he would likely step away from the course by August. With no one else beating on the mayor's door to take over management of the property, Gleneagles' future was in serious doubt.
    Ultimately, a deal was reached that resulted in the city paying half of Gleneagles' water bill.
    Water rates at Gleneagles have risen 10 percent per year for the past 10 years. The bill in July was $11,000. Without a deal with the city in place, Hsieh would have been facing an August bill in the neighborhood of $17,000.
    "I didn't know where that was going to come from," he said.
    Until recently, he didn't know where much-needed improvements to the course would come from either. The pre-apprenticeship program should clear up some of that.
    "We're going to be fine going forward, but we have to be creative going forward," Hsieh said. "If we want to be around for another generation of golfers, we have to do something different."
    The course's original irrigation system is 52 years old and is in constant need of repair. Delivering even modest amounts of water means manually running no more than four valves at a time. Running each for brief 10- to 15-minute intervals beginning at 6 a.m. is a process that continues until about 11 a.m., and that is hardly convenient for golfers. There are other areas of the 62-acre property that haven't been tended to in decades. Although those areas are out of play, they aren't out of sight.
    "We have to clean up some areas that have had no maintenance over the last 40 years," Hsieh said. "This is an exercise in creativity for me as a manager.
    "I want Gleneagles to be more than just a great golf course. I want it to be a community resource that people need, not just another golf course that is not doing well. That's why it has to change if it is going to survive. With this program, we have a chance to do that."
  • You know golf has hit a new low when a celebrity worth more than $100 million decides a golf course course no longer is a worthwhile investment.
    Pop music sensation Justin Timberlake, who, according to the Web site CelebrityNetWorth.com, is worth about $175 million (frankly, we thought it would be more), recently bailed out of the business, selling his Memphis, Tennessee golf course Mirimichi to Memphis businessman Fred Edmaiston for an undisclosed amount.
    Although terms of the deal were not disclosed, chances are Mirimichi wasn't cheap.
    Timberlake and his family bought the property in 2009 when it was known as Big Creek Country Club and spent $16 million renovating the property into what the Mother Nature Network says is one of the five greenest golf courses in the country. An American Indian word meaning Place of Happy Retreat, Mirimichi is one of a handful of Audubon Classic Sanctuary golf courses and reportedly was the first to attain that status. It also is GEO certified by the Golf Environment Organization. Still, $16 million?
    According to some reports, the property was earmarked for commercial development when Timberlake, an avid golfer and regular at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, bought it. 
    Edmaiston is founder of Aircon Corp., a maker of dust-control and pneumatic conveying systems.
    The deal was reportedly finalized Nov. 1.
  • When Kris Kristofferson penned the lyrics to Me and Bobby McGee in the late 1960s, he did so with thoughts of a pair of drifters wandering California, not a golf course superintendent traversing the South leaving a trail of awesome golf courses in his wake.   Although Janice Joplin made the former Bobby McGee a household name when she took the song to No. 1 on the charts in 1971, the latter was equally popular in golf circles in Georgia and Arkansas where he built and owned golf courses and was the host superintendent to the only U.S. Open ever held in the Peach State.   McGee's career included stops like East Lake Golf Club and Atlanta Athletic Club, where he was the host superintendent for the 1976 U.S. Open won by fellow Georgian Jerry Pate. In December, he and two others will be inducted into the Georgia Golf Course Superintendents Hall of Fame.   Joining McGee, who will be inducted posthumously, will be William Shirley of Peachtree Golf Club in Atlanta and Ron Sinnock, who spent nearly 40 years as a superintendent and also served as director of the Georgia GCSA. The trio will be inducted Dec. 8 during the annual Georgia GCSA annual awards banquet at The King and Prince Resort on St. Simons Island.   McGee, who died in 2005, was a native of Rockmart, Georgia and a second-generation golf course superintendent. His career started as an assistant at East Lake before being named superintendent at AAC.   There he received acclaim by many, including the USGA, for conditions during the 1976 Open that was plagued by rainy conditions during the final run-up to the tournament. He also served on the Georgia GCSA board of directors and was president in 1975-76. He also served on the USGA Green Section committee for more than 20 years.   After leaving Atlanta Athletic Club, McGee moved to Arkansas where he was superintendent at The Country Club of Little Rock and North Hills Country Club. He also designed Glenwood Country Club and Coopers Hawk in Melbourne, Arkansas as the owner of McGee Golf and Design.   He helped establish the Arkansas Turfgrass Association and was considered by many to be the dean of golf course superintendents in Arkansas. He served as president of the GCSA of Arkansas and received that organization's inaugural Distinguished Service Award in 2003. He was inducted into the Arkansas Golf Hall of Fame in 2009.   Shirley began his golf course superintendent career in 1980 at Newnan Country Club. He'd been working in the pro shop when club leaders encouraged him to apply for the vacant superintendent's job. Some 45 years later, he's still working in the field.   From Newnan, he moved to Canterbury Golf Club in 1983, Rivermont Golf and Country Club in 1986, Idle Hour Club in late 1988, Capital City Club in 1994 before arriving at Peachtree in 1996. Shirley served on the Georgia GCSA board of directors and as president in 1993-94. He was the chapter's Superintendent of the Year in 2011.   Sinnock served as a Georgia GCSA director during nearly 40 years as a golf course superintendent at Chattahoochee Golf Course in Gainesville and Coosa Country Club in Rome. At Coosa, Sinnock was host superintendent for many events including two State Amateur championships and the first State Mid-Amateur in 1982.   He was a bentgrass pioneer in Georgia, converting both Chattahoochee and Coosa from the coarser Bermudagrasses of the day. He was the chapter Superintendent of the Year in 1999.   An Illinois native, Sinnock oined the Army straight out of high school. After the service, he began working at Belle Meade Country Club. After two years there he was asked to apply for the superintendent's position at Chattahoochee. He took that job in 1968 and began a career that spanned nearly 40 years in Georgia, and included two stints on the Georgia GCSA board of directors and a turn as the Georgia state director of the Southern Turfgrass Association before he retired in 2005.   The Georgia GCSA was formed in 2011. Other inductees include (2011) Harold Baldwin, Palmer Maples Jr., Randy Nichols and Charlie Underwood; (2012) Don Branch, Buzz Howell and Bill Womac; and (2013) Mark Esoda and Ken Mangum.
  • Jim Brosnan, Ph.D., knows a thing or two about weeds; just ask the Weed Science Society of America.   A series of tutorials and online teaching tools provided by the society dispelled a common myth about herbicide-resistant weeds and reinforced the message behind Brosnan's recent TurfNet University Webinar: Winter Weed Annual Management.   There is a perception in some circles that weeds are developing herbicide resistance because of a gene transfer between genetically modified crops and weeds.   The reality, according to Brosnan, a WSSA member, is that resistance is attributed to an over reliance on herbicides with a single mode of action, any turf manager not employing multiple mechanisms in a year-over-year rotational program is headed for problems - quickly.   "Using the same herbicide ? that is a perfect equation for herbicide-resistance evolution," Brosnan said in the Webinar.    Brosnan noted in his presentation that more than 400 weed species have developed herbicide resistance since1950. The majority of these weed species occur most often in agriculture, but three of the top four - rigid ryegrass, Poa annua and goosegrass - are turfgrass weeds. In fact, Poa annua is exhibiting herbicide resistance in at least eight Tennessee counties. Research out of Mississippi State cited by Brosnan indicates that annual bluegrass on 40 percent of that state's golf courses has exhibited PSII herbicide resistance directly attributed to overuse.   According to the WSSA bulletin: "Overuse of any compound class, whether antibiotic, antimicrobial, insecticide, fungicide or herbicide, has the potential to lead to reduced effectiveness. Although weeds resistant to herbicides were first reported more than a half century ago, integrated weed management strategies that included more tillage, more hand weeding and multiple herbicides kept them in check to a large degree."   A rotational program that includes two or more modes of action can play a key role in delaying herbicide resistance in grassy weeds like Poa annua, Brosnan said. The Weed Science Society said as much in a bulletin included in the latest Plant Management Network e-newsletter.   According to Brosnan, overuse of a single mode of action year after year can lead to resistance within 10 years. Incorporating a second product into a rotation of one year on, one year off, will double the life cycle of each mode of action, and a program that includes three products of one year on, two years off for each will extend that life cycle to 30 years, he said.   The key word here is extend. No matter what, grassy weeds eventually will develop resistance to any product if exposed to it enough through the years.   "No matter what you do, you're going to get herbicide resistance. Nature will win," Brosnan said. "What we're trying to do is manage the rate at which resistance is evolving."   "There is a sentiment that a silver bullet is on the way."    However, there has not been a new mechanism of action in the herbicide market since bleaching herbicides that inhibit a plant's ability to conduct photosynthesis, were introduced in 1982.   The WSSA concluded by stating: "It is more critical than ever for a variety of carefully integrated weed management strategies to be used so weeds resistant to one method can be controlled in other ways before they have an opportunity to spread."
  • Ditch Witch recently launched its SK850 mini skid steer for those who need a powerful machine with a large load capacity wrapped in a small package.   The SK850 is powered by a Tier IV-compliant 37 hp Yanmar diesel engine capable of driving the machine at speeds up 4.7 mph in forward and reverse. And with a load capacity of 860 pounds it can handle a variety of tasks both big and small.   Other features include low-maintenance track-tensioning system with a grease cylinder for easy adjustment and track removal, for increased track life and reduced downtime, a belt-free design that means less maintenance; advanced attachment latching system for simple, secure connection of the attachments; and an auxiliary control foot pedal helps maintain hydraulic flow to the attachment, freeing the operator to control depth and ground speed.   The 74-square-inch operator platform is larger than on previous models, and the standard auto-throttle that is incorporated into a new LCD display reduces engine RPM after sustained inactivity.
  • Few things are as disconcerting in this business as scouting the golf course first thing in the morning and finding signs of damage on putting greens that weren't there the day before. One thing that can intensify that stress and place a superintendent into a new level of discomfort, says Frank Wong, Ph.D., technical service specialist for Bayer Environmental Science, is to waste valuable time on a recovery program that doesn't work because the source of the damage was incorrectly diagnosed.
    "Timely diagnosis is important for understanding what you have and what you have to do about it next," Wong said during this year's Northern California Golf Association Assistant Superintendent Boot Camp in Monterey. "If you misdiagnose something, it can put you behind the 8-ball. Smoking craters on the greens don't roll very fast."
    Wong, who has worked for Bayer for the past three years and is based in Washington, D.C., spent 10 years as a turfgrass pathologist at the University of California at Riverside, so he knows a thing or two about turf damage on California golf courses. In fact, many West Coast superintendents still call him seeking his advice as well as for his diagnostic skills.
    Correctly diagnosing a disease pathogen can be the difference, Wong told a group of about 40 assistants from throughout Northern California, between becoming a successful head superintendent and looking for a new career. Wong, who told the group he prefers to be called Dr. Frank rather than Dr. Wong because the latter "makes me sound like a proctologist", suggests using a checklist of five criteria, along with establishing a relationship with a single pathology lab for identifying disease pathogens expeditiously and working toward a solution. 
    "I've seen a lot of guys dismissed from the captain's chair because of disease. You, as assistants, are fighting all the time to get to the captain's chair," said Wong. "Once you get there, having a good handle on disease recognition and how to deal with it right away is a good strategy for staying there."
    A relationship with a pathologist is important, because a single sample can contain many pathogens at the same time, but maybe only one that has manifested as a full-blown disease.
    "A good lab will tell you what you what's in there," he said. "A great lab will tell you what disease you have and how to manage it."
    In its 14th year, the NCGA boot camp is a two-day educational event for assistant superintendents that began in 2001 and includes seminars from industry experts on a wide variety of hot-button issues affecting golf course maintenance.
    Speakers at this year's event also included irrigation consultant Mike Huck, who is one of the state's most well-informed experts on water use; former superintendent Eric Greytok, who spoke on hiring, training and terminating employees; and Pat Finlen of The Olympic Club, who spoke on goal-setting and career advancement. 
    When he was a turf pathologist at UCR from 2001-2011, Wong said a list of five criteria - host, environmental conditions, cultural conditions, symptoms and signs - helped him zero in on the right pathogen when identifying a disease. Going through that list along with submitting a sample removes the guess work and results in an accurate diagnosis, which allows the superintendent to get on with the correct management plan and a path to recovery as soon as possible.
    "Some things aren't controlled by certain fungicides, and some things get worse with certain cultural practices. The worst thing you want to do is to be in a hole and dig yourself into a deeper hole," Wong said. 
    During his time at Riverside, Wong estimated that the lab received up to 5,000 turf and soil samples. About half of those samples submitted, he said, showed no signs of disease.
    "Other things can cause damage on turf. If you have a salt issue, but you think it's disease and you are spraying fungicides, you are going to stay behind that 8-ball," he said. "Making a correct diagnosis allows you to make the right management decision and buys you some time."


    If you know what species of turf you have, you have a good idea of what diseases could be affecting your stand, because certain diseases affect specific varieties of turf, says Wong.
    "Anguina (gall nematodes) are only on Poa, but there are other things like fairy ring that are across the board, it doesn't care; and gray leaf spot is only on perennial ryegrass or kikuyugrass," he said.
    "Everyone knows their species, but if you realize that every species has its own subset of diseases, you can eliminate all these other things you don't need to worry about."

    Environmental conditions

    Different fungi like different temperatures, and Wong says it is important to monitor daily temperatures, especially overnight lows, when concerned about disease pressure.
    For example, snow mold likes it cold, while other diseases such as Pythium and dollar spot like it hot, particularly when overnight temperatures are 68 degrees Fahrenheit or above.
    "It can be 120 degrees during the day, but it drops to 60 at night, you're good as far not developing Pythium, but if night time temperatures are above 68, there's something magic about that number, that allows Pythium to go out the door. When you look at the weather forecast and its going to be humid, or it's going to be wet and you have those high night time temperatures, that's a red flag for Pythium."

    Cultural Conditions

    Salts and nitrogen, Wong says, are factors that play a role in disease onset.
    Salt-rich soil, especially in times of drought, makes turf especially susceptible to rapid blight, as is the case this year in Northern California, according to boot camp attendees.
    "If it's salty, rapid blight is a possibility," he said. "If it's not salty, it's not going to be an issue."
    Other problems are tied to nitrogen levels, including anthracnose, Waitea patch and dollar spot, which like lean, thin turf. Still others, like brown patch and Pythium blight like turf that is "fat and juicy," Wong says.
    "Every disease has a distinct signature."

    Symptoms and Signs

    Turf managers often confuse these two criteria, or use them interchangeably, Wong says. But they are, indeed, two separate things.
    Symptoms are the plant's response to being diseased, which could include changing colors and patterns of diseased or dying turf.
    Signs, on the other hand are the physical manifestation of the pathogen itself, such as mycelia on a leaf blade.
    Although he no longer works in the UCR lab, Wong still receives calls from West Coast superintendents seeking help. Each time, he goes through his five-point checklist, and then offers his opinion.
    "I ask them all of these questions," he said. "You can usually guess within 90 percent of what someone has from 3,000 miles away by asking these questions. All our diagnoses at Riverside were based on these criteria."
    Having a relationship with a lab is just as important as asking the right questions.
    "You want to make sure what it is and that you make the right management decision," said Wong. 
    "One thing that amazes me is guys are happy to drop $300 on a fungicide spray instead of $100 plus $20 for shipping to really make sure they know what they are dealing with. 
    "Get in the habit of sending in samples so that when something big happens, it's not a crisis and you don't know who to send a sample to."
    Wong suggests taking a large sample that also captures the root zone. Before submitting a sample, he also recommends superintendents first sprinkle them with water and placing them in a gallon-sized plastic bag to learn more about what is going on.
    "Throw it on your desk overnight, nine times out of 10, if it's foliar, mycelia will pop out, or spores will be produced," he said. "If there's nothing there, you know it's not foliar and you need to focus on things that attack the roots, or the soil."
    That's why samples should include the rootzone as well. Samples also should be taken from active, diseased turf, not dead turf that might be rife with other problems. They also should be tightly packed for shipping in something breathable that also holds it together, but doesn't cook if left in the sun on a shipping company's loading dock.
    "It's a way of either identifying the fungi that develop, or excluding things that are not causing the problem," he said. 
    "We don't know if it's going to be foliar, or soil-borne or root-borne. I love a cup cutter-size sample. It's great to work with. If someone sends in a 1-inch-sized sample, it's hard to tell what's going on there. The easier it is for the diagnostician to find out what's going on, the easier it makes your job, so don't be stingy with the turf."
  • Terry Bonar, CGCS, can add Hall of Famer to his long list of career accomplishments.
    The 2009 USGA Green Section Award winner, long-time TurfNet member and former TurfNet Superintendent of the Year finalist, Bonar recently was elected into the Northern Ohio GCSA. 
    Bonar worked at Canterbury Golf Club in Beachwood, Ohio from 1963 until his retirement in 2010. He was the assistant for 18 years and was named head superintendent in 1984. The only interruption in his tenure there was in the 1960s, when he served four years in the U.S. Air Force.
    During his time at Canterbury the course was the site of the 1979 U.S. Amateur and the 1996 U.S. Senior Open. It is scheduled to host next year's U.S. Senior PGA Championship. In recognizing Bonar's accomplishments the Green Section cited his efficient use of water and work mentoring employees. According to the Green Section there are more than 50 Bonar protégés who have moved up from the ranks of assistant or intern to work in other positions in the industry. Bonar also is a pioneer in the use of lightweight mowers to maximize turf health and playability.
    He is a past recipient of the Mal McLaren Award, presented by the Northern Ohio GCSA and the Ohio Turfgrass Foundation Professional Excellence Award. He was a finalist for the 2003 Superintendent of the Year Award was won by Paul Voykin of Briarwood Country Club in Deerfield, Illinois. Three of Bonar's former instructors at Penn State, Burt Musser, Joe Duich, Ph.D., and Houston Couch, Ph.D., also are Green Section Award winners.
  • Bayer Environmental Science has recently retooled and relaunched its Backed by Bayer program that now includes access to a host of tools and resources for superintendents and others seeking solutions to today's most common turfgrass-management challenges.
    The overhaul includes an expanded mobile app and a redesigned Web site that features product updates, industry news, sales and technical support and more.
    "Our customers need solutions, business tools, and technical support to help them reach higher levels of success," said Jose Milan, head of the T&O business at Bayer. "We are constantly exploring new ways to help our customers accomplish their objectives and grow their businesses. Our vision with this revitalized Backed By Bayer platform is to communicate to our customers the idea that 'we have your back' by providing a highly relevant, robust program that delivers what they need to succeed and uses their input to help shape new and future solutions."
    The newly redesigned Web site features information on Bayer herbicides, fungicides, insecticides and plant growth regulators; a video channel; distributor finder; reference library that includes product guides and white papers; links to common turf problems and recommended treatment programs; a link to the My Bayer Rewards program home page and contact information for Bayer's Green Solutions Team.
    The Backed By Bayer mobile app is available for Mac devices on the App Store and Android devices on Play Store.
    That platform also includes similar tools for landscape management, industrial vegetation management, vector control and pest management.
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