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From the TurfNet NewsDesk

  • John Reitman
    An apprenticeship program in New York is focused on helping solve a labor shortage in the state's turfgrass industry. Photo from NYSTA Golf course superintendents and sports turf managers throughout New York struggling to find help soon will have a new labor source to tap to quench pipeline to tap to alleviate their labor woes.
    The New York State Turfgrass Association is finalizing a statewide registered apprenticeship program for the turfgrass industry. The program will help NYSTA employer partners find and secure talent for specialized skilled positions in an industry starved for trained and educated professionals by creating a career pathway for job seekers throughout New York on golf courses, sports facilities, athletic fields, lawn/landscape and other turf-oriented businesses.
    The program provides a template to help employers provide state-approved training for an existing employee or a newly recruited worker, said Dom Morales, the retired SUNY Delhi instructor who is helping organize the project for NYSTA.
    The New York State Department of Labor is in the final stages of approving the template. Once approved, the program will offer 4,000 hours of structured, on-the-job training and additional instruction through a host of cooperating partners.
    The concept has been in the works since 2018. Once approved, the program will offer training, education and certification for groundskeeper - golf course, groundskeeper - sports turf and turf equipment technician.
    "Programs like this have been discussed before," Morales said. "This program is the first time something like this has been done on a statewide basis."
    Tyler Bloom Consulting helped develop core competencies for the training program and will help market the concept to employers throughout New York. So far, six employers have signed on to either train an existing employee or use the apprenticeship to attract new help.
    "I saw this as a way to make an impact in the turf industry and solve a problem," Bloom said. 
    "This is not just one faction of the turf industry. This is multiple factions coming together to solve a really big problem."
    Once the program is up and running, it will do so on a one-year probationary period.
    "There are a lot of checks and balances," Morales said.
    "It is currently in the hands of the Department of Labor, and it should be approved by late May, or early June."
    There is an increasing number of high school students across the state who at least express a passing interest in careers in agriculture and horticulture. As many as 140 high schools in New York have a Future Farmers of America chapter or some other type of agriculture education program. 
    Morales and Bloom are going to Syracuse May 12-14 for the state's FFA conference that is expected to attract more than 2,000 high school students interested in some sort of agricultural career.
    "Ag-ed has exploded here," Morales said. 
    "The apprenticeship program also would be ideal for a veteran, or someone looking for a career change. This is where the rubber meets the road."
  • Brandt partners with Florida GCSA
    A new system modeled on the PGA Tour FedEx Cup will help send a group of Florida superintendents to the GCSAA National Golf Championship. Under a three-year partnership with Brandt Consolidated, the new points-race system will provide an annual trophy for the overall winner plus travel, entry fees and uniforms for a total of 10 Florida GCSA members (two teams) to represent the state in the team event at GCSAA championship.
    Golfers will earn points based on their performance in the Everglades GCSA Poa Annua Golf Classic, the Florida GCSA Steven Wright Memorial Golf Tournament, the North Florida GCSA Fall Classic, the Central Florida Crowfoot Open and the inaugural Florida GCSA Benevolent Fund Tournament.
    The event will be known as the "Florida GCSA Race to Orlando presented by Brandt." The highest points earner will get to keep the BRANDT Cup for one year as well as a trophy they keep permanently.
    "We are very excited to help ensure that superintendent golfers who qualify will actually get to go the national," Brandt turf and ornamental territory manager, Chris Cartin, says. "It gets more and more expensive to attend the national show each year and not every superintendent or their facility has the resources to meet those costs. We’re looking to help guys have that chance to participate, show their skills and proudly represent their state."
    The partnership will also ensure the Florida GCSA has the best chance to build on its record at the national golf championship. During the past 20 years, Florida has produced the winner of the individual championship nine times and the winners of the team event eight times.
    FMC gives back to golf
    FMC gave back more than $26,000 to 49 local GCSAA chapters through its "Give B ack to Local GCSAA Chapters" program. Since the program’s inception, FMC has donated more than $106,000 directly back to local chapters to fund education, programming and research.
    This year's rewards-check recipients represent GCSAA chapters from all across the country that were winners in FMC’s booth contest at the GCSAA Conference and Trade Show in February in San Diego that was tied to the launch of Serata fungicide.
    Purchases of Fame SC, Rayora, Kalida, and Serata fungicides through August will generate additional rewards for GCSAA local chapters.
    PBI-Gordon names new sales, marketing managers
    PBI-Gordon, a manufacturer of herbicides, insecticides, fungicides, growth regulators and other products, recently named Geoff Smith the company’s new sales team as national key account manager, and Lyndsie Balstad as product manager for the marketing team.
    As national key account manager, Smith is responsible for overseeing all sales initiatives. Most recently, he was formulator sales territory manager for Gowan USA and also worked for The Scotts Co.
    As product manager with the PBI-Gordon marketing team, Balstad will focus on the herbicide portfolio by supporting product life cycle management and driving innovation to bring new products to the market. 
    Before joining PBI-Gordon, Balstad was with Corteva, where she has extensive experience in the agricultural market. 
  • There is a lot of competition for use of public golf courses in California. Photo by John Reitman Don't look now, but the California legislature's assault on public golf that appeared dead earlier this year is gathering momentum.
    The state assembly Local Government Committee voted 5-2 (with one abstention) on April 27 in favor of Assembly Bill 1910, which would provide funding to help convert publicly owned golf courses to a mix of high-density housing and open space. There are a few steps remaining before the bill would become law. The proposed legislation now moves on to the Appropriations Committee for a vote. If approved, the measure would next have to pass the full assembly before it could be sent to Gov. Gavin Newsom to be signed into law.
    The push to repurpose public golf courses in housing-starved California appeared over in January.
    Known as the Public Golf Endangerment Act, Assembly Bill 1910 was first introduced in 2021 as AB 672 by assembly member Cristina Garcia of Bell Gardens in Los Angeles County. It appeared dead in January after it passed through two California Assembly committee hearings on Jan. 12, but failed Jan. 20 to get the necessary support in the Appropriations Committee.
    It was brought up again to the Housing and Community Development committee on March 23, where it passed by a 6-2 vote. An early April vote by the Local Government Committee was postponed by the bill's author when it did not have the support necessary to get through the committee.
    The bill proposes providing public relief in the way of developer subsidies and grants to local agencies to redevelop California's municipal golf courses into low-incoming housing and green space. To be eligible for public assistance in converting a golf course, a project must meet several criteria under AB 1910 in its current form. At least 25 percent of all new dwelling units must be affordable to, and occupied by, lower-income households; at least 15 percent of the development must be publicly accessible open space (a golf course is not considered public space under AB 1910); no more than one-third of the square footage of the development, excluding the portion reserved for open space, is dedicated to nonresidential uses, such as parking.
    Through every stage, AB 1910 is the subject of constant tweaks and rewrites, and it might be fine-tuned yet again before its next vote. Other criteria, which are not so clear cut, include: the subject golf property must be deemed underutilized; must be in a community that rises to a certain level of population density; and must be in a community deemed park poor. Three terms that have not yet been fully defined, nor has it been determined who will define them are underutilized, population density and park poor.
    The Southern California Golf Association released a statement addressing the issue shortly after the vote.
    "What do 'underutilized,' 'population density,' and 'park poor' mean in concrete terms? What are the metrics of each? How are they to be objectively measured?”
    "Who or what will serve as the final arbiter of whether real meat can be put on the bones of these three vague admonitions? That's not entirely clear. Will golf be invited to provide input on how real meat can be put on those slender bones?
    "Lots of questions. No real answers yet."
    Garcia introduced the bill last year eyeing the repurposing of some public golf courses as a way to solve a housing shortage crisis in California. Simply put, lawmakers say, there is not enough affordable housing for many of California's 39 million residents, and converting golf courses into a mix of affordable housing while retaining some of the property as greenspace, could help solve that.
    The Southern California Golf Association and the USGA both have actively opposed the bill and lobbied the public about the merits of municipal golf in the country's most populous state.
    There are 921 golf courses located throughout California, about 200 of which are publicly owned. Although municipal golf comprises only about 22 percent of California's golf supply, it hosts about 45 percent of all play statewide, according to the Southern California Golf Association.
    No date has yet been set for a vote by the Appropriations Committee.
  • It is no secret that staffing issues are among the chief concerns currently facing golf course superintendents. Those staffing challenges are not limited to assistant superintendents, interns or seasonal crew, but often include mechanics, as well.
    In an effort to alleviate some of the void created by a lack of qualified applicants, East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, is implementing an equipment manager apprenticeship program that golf course superintendent Charles Aubrey hopes will help the club fill its own needs in the near term, while also eventually providing long-range benefits to colleagues throughout the industry.
    Ideally, the program (which admittedly is in its infancy) will provide a paid entry level position plus housing while that person learns the trade for a period of two to three years under the direction of East Lake equipment manager Chris Lewis. Upon completion of the program, that newly trained technician will be pushed out of the nest into the world to fly on his (or her) own, and the cycle will begin anew.
    "We will put that person on a continuing education path to become a successful equipment manager," said Aubrey, who has worked at East Lake with director of agronomy Ralph Kepple for seven years. "In two or three years, they will be ready to be an equipment manager, and they'll be able to choose where they want to go."
    Even East Lake, the site of the PGA Tour Championship and the historic home course to Bobby Jones, is not immune to staffing challenges, said Aubrey.
    "Everyone is having difficulty filling positions. Period," Aubrey said. "That's not just entry level, or assistant superintendents. The last few years, when clubs around Atlanta have been trying to find a head equipment technician, no one is qualified, or no one is interested. I know places in Atlanta that have been looking for a head equipment tech for six months, and can't find anyone."
    Housing is provided at a nearby apartment complex in a three-bed, two-bath unit shared with two of East Lake's assistants in training.
    Lewis currently has an assistant mechanic working with him, but more help is needed throughout much of the year, especially in the run-up to the Tour Championship.

    East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, the historic home course to Bobby Jones and the permanent site of the PGA Tour Championship since 2004, is starting an equipment technician apprenticeship program to help fill a need at the club and eventually help pump qualified mechanics into the field. Photo by East Lake Golf Club "We walk-mow everything, and we are running three fairway units a week, and we might have anywhere from seven to 20 cutting units a day that need to be checked in," Aubrey said. "Chris does all the budgeting, then you might have a unit with a flat tire, a backpack blower might not be working, sprayers need servicing. There is a constant line of equipment that needs to be checked out and checked in every day.
    "Chris and his assistant stay on top of things. They do a phenomenal job. But there is a never-ending queue of maintenance needs, and Chris needs an extra hand to do that.
    "We're going to get someone in here and train and educate them, and we're going to help them move along, and then we're going to start over. We want to get mechanics in here and trained and out into the industry, because God knows we need them."
    Although he is anxious to get the program off the ground in its inaugural year, Aubrey said working at East Lake is not for everyone.
    "You have to have the right work ethic to be successful. And you have to just put your head down and do the job with the right attitude. That is what we value," he said. "If someone has to stay late, who is going to do it? If you're showing initiative and doing the extra things and want to learn something else, let's introduce that person to other aspects of the industry. This isn't just a job. We want to educate them."
    A graduate of the Michigan State turfgrass program, Aubrey said he is not worried about training someone and losing them, even if they leave East Lake and land at another Atlanta-area club. In fact it is quite the opposite. Aubrey not only believes East Lake already has a well-earned reputation as an efficient training ground for up-and-coming professionals in the turf industry, he feels an obligation to educate people and send qualified professionals out into the workplace. To that end, the goal of the program is to eventually pump qualified equipment technicians into the field to help other golf operations, not just East Lake.
    "Everyone is hard-up try to find someone," he said. "We want to build a program to mold people and provide them with what they need to be successful, and this program will give them the skills to do that.
    "High turnover is part of what this industry is. All we can do is teach people as much as we can while they are here. And when they leave here, we hope they tell others 'if you get a chance to go to East Lake, you can't turn it down, because you will learn so much.' If we can do that, it will help our business 10-fold while also giving back to the industry."
  • Type the words "golfers are . . ." into Google and a flood of unflattering modifiers auto-populate in the results. Apparently, there are people who believe that golfers are "not athletes," but feel pretty strongly that they are "pricks, douchebags, selfish and rude."
    It's hard to argue with any of that, but one description that did not pop up in the latest Google search was "golfers are . . . terrorists."
    That might change after a jury awarded nearly $5 million in damages to Erik and Athina Tenczar, who claimed they have been terrorized by hundreds of golf balls launched toward their home along Indian Pond Country Club in Kingston, 35 miles south of Boston. 
    The headline in the original story in the Boston Globe read: "Family terrorized by golf balls wins nearly $5 million from neighboring country club."
    The plaintiffs bought their home on the par-4 15th fairway in 2017 and soon realized just how bad some of the golfers at Indian Pond are at hitting fairways in regulation. During the course of four years, the plaintiffs say about 700 golf balls either crashed into their home, breaking windows, denting siding, damaging their deck and left the couple's children clad in bicycle helmets to protect themselves from incoming fire while playing outdoors.
    They filed suit after repeated calls to the golf course and police resulted in no help.
    "When it hits, it sounds like a gunshot," Athina Tenczar said. 
    "We're always on edge," said her husband.
    A jury awarded the homeowners $3.5 million in damages. Including interest, the award totals $4.9 million, or about $7,000 per golf ball. And you thought 50 bucks for a dozen Pro V1s was a ripoff!
    Whether the court's decision is upheld in appeal remains to be seen, but this is by no means the first time a golf course has been sued by those feeling like their home is being used for artillery practice. In fact, it's not even the first case in Massachusetts. 
    Here are just a few other examples of homeowners suing golf courses over the intrusion of errant shots.
    Another Massachusetts homeowner filed suit in 2005 against Middlebrook Country Club in Rehoboth, when she claimed golfers pelted her yard and house with 1,800 golf balls during a five-year span. The plaintiff in that case was awarded an undisclosed amount.
    In 2008, a court issued a restraining order that temporarily banned play on the No. 6 hole at Winged Foot in Mamaroneck, New York, which has been the site of six U.S. Open Championships and a PGA Championship. 
    Homeowners in Ventura County, California, moved out of their home and demanded a professional relocation service refund their purchase price of their home on Spanish Hills Country Club in Camarillo, after complaining of more than two-dozen golf balls per day landing in their yard or bouncing off their $2 million house on the seventh fairway.
    In the case of Indian Pond and the $4.9 million payout, the plaintiffs said getting the courts involved was the last thing they wanted.
    "We never wanted a lawsuit," said one-half of the couple looking to collect on $4.9 million. "Nobody wants a lawsuit."
    An appeal most assuredly awaits in what is not the first case of homeowner vs. golf course. And with juries handing out seven-figure awards, it won't be the last.
  • Winter damage on the No. 7 green at Norfolk Golf Club in Westwood, Massachusetts in late March. Photo by Chad Brown via Twitter When it comes to dishing out punishment on golf courses, diseases play no favorites.
    Winter damage caused by repeated cycles of thawing and refreezing of soaked putting greens historically is a sporadic issue on golf courses. When it shows up, it does not care whether the superintendent is a rookie on a public golf course or a seasoned veteran getting ready for a major championship. 
    The winter of 2022, specifically the month of February, provided one of those occasional periods of distress for many superintendents in the Northeast. Private and daily fee golf courses throughout the Northeast were equally affected. 
    As spring weather emerges and turf begins to green up, there is evidence that a series of freeze-thaw cycles in February have caused damage of varying degrees on Poa annua putting greens throughout parts of the Northeast.
    "When it comes to winter damage," said Steve McDonald, a golf turf consultant and owner of Turfgrass Disease Solutions, "Mother Nature does not discriminate."
    McDonald has conducted site visits to dozens of golf courses this year where winter damage has been an issue. The severity of damage has been indiscriminate.
    "I've seen damage that is only the size of a pillow to about 60 percent of the putting surface. I've seen it on all the greens (on a golf course) and on just a few," McDonald said. 
    "I can visit five or six courses a day within 30 to 40 minutes of each, and it's all different."
    Tony Girardi has spent 28 of his 33 years as a superintendent at Rockrimmon Country Club in Stamford, Connecticut, and winter damage has been an infrequent visitor there. This year is the first time he has seen it at Rockrimmon since 2015. 
    Of this year's damage, Girardi said: "We got clobbered."
    "We had a freeze-thaw, then snow, then rain in January. That created slushy ice. That wasn't so bad," Girardi said. "Then we had temperature swings from the 20s to the 50s for the whole month of February."
    Girardi is using permeable covers to accelerate growth so he can see every place where damage has occurred.
    "We're still trying to assess damage," he said. 
    His multi-probed recovery plan includes resodding large areas, aerification and overseeding, or just letting the least-affected turf to grow out naturally.
    "In 2015, there was distinct death in areas where water pooled. We were able to identify damage right away," he said. "This year, damage was widespread and not confined to one area."
    At Fairview Country Club in Greenwich, Connecticut, Jim Pavonetti had minimal damage on three greens. He believes he was able to avoid further, more serious damage through an aggressive aerification program late last fall. That program started with an aerification procedure of three-fourths-inch holes on 2-inch spacing in November, followed by a drill-and-fill of 12-inch holes on 6-inch spacing, followed by another aerification procedure - also three-fourths inch on 2-inch spacing.

    Winter damage on the No. 7 green at Norfolk Golf Club in Westwood, Massachusetts in early April after a week or so under a cover.. Photo by Chad Brown via Twitter "With so many holes," Pavonetti said, "we did not have the surface water needed to create problems."
    Currently, there is no science to back up the validity of any preventive measures, says turfgrass consultant John Daniels, agronomist with the USGA Green Section's Northeast Region. Any success, says McDonald, is purely anecdotal.
    "The problem is this year we are seeing damage in areas where we are not accustomed to seeing damage. It's a head-scratcher," Daniels said. 
    "Damage is in varying degrees, even on the same golf course. That golf course might have damage, while others in the same town do not."
    Chad Brown, superintendent at Norfolk Golf Club in Westwood, Massachusetts, can attest to that.
    Brown has been on the job at Norfolk for less than two months, but knows the course inside-out. A former assistant at Norfolk, Brown left in 2019 to accept his first head superintendent position and returned when his former mentor, Jon Zolkowski, resigned earlier this year.
    Even the installation of new drainage on the No. 7 green did not prevent damage from occurring there this year.
    "We still had ice damage," Brown said. "We had just radical changes in temperatures that did not allow surface water to penetrate."
    He placed a permeable cover over the area to promote green-up and assess the extent of the damage.
    "We covered that area from the last week of March and the first week of April," Brown said. "I considered plugging, but day by day it looked better, so I decided to let it ride. I did skip the first Proxy application in that area. I'll take any seedhead as long as we have turf."
    In his days as an assistant under Zolkowski, Brown would dig out small pockets of problem areas, install pea gravel to promote drainage and re-cover the area with the turf canopy. 
    "After seeing damage this year, in the future, whatever I decide to do on greens in winter, I'm probably going to go old school and dig a hole again," Brown said. "I have to give the water somewhere to go."
    Some years, winter damage might come in the form of desiccation on bare, exposed areas, or Poa greens encased in ice for extended periods. This year, a pattern of freeze-thaw cycles has resulted in crown hydration damage.
    "A lot of damage can be traced back to drainage limitations on the surface or underground," Daniels said. "A lot of courses in the Northeast love their Poa greens, and they are proud of them. But winter damage is one of the risks you take when you try to maintain Poa greens in this part of the country. It's been six years since we've had damage, then boom! We have damage. It might be another six years before we see this again, or we might get hit again next year."
    "There is not a hard-and-fast rule that says 'if this happens, all damage can be traced back to this.' There certainly are factors that predispose certain greens to more damage, but it's not as simple as you can just do one thing and then you're good, or fix one issue then you're good. It's much more complex and multifaceted as to what you can do.When we experience this kind of weather, really all we can do is keep our fingers crossed and hope the water can move before it refreezes."
    Although there is no science to accurately predict when and where winter damage might occur, promoting overall soil health throughout the year could minimize the threat, Daniels said.
    "We have to step back and ask, how strong and healthy are your greens year-round?" Daniels said. "If greens are in a weak state in October, I would expect them to be more vulnerable to winter damage in January, and in April if they have to recover. I don't think you can push greens so hard in the summer, then just raise the height of cut going into winter and think that is going to absolve you of all your problems going forward."
  • Anyone who has managed warm-season turf on a golf course already knows how devastating nematodes can be. What they might not be aware of is the extent of the damage they can cause nationwide.
    Conservative estimates put nematode damage in warm-season turf at north of $50 million annually. Often, however, nematode damage is misdiagnosed, perhaps as a fungal disease. Other times, damage can be caused by both disease and pest. According to University of Florida nematologist Billy Crow, Ph.D., (shown at right) root damage caused by sting nematodes can create an optimal environment for fungal diseases, such as Pythium.
    Left to their own devices, nematodes can wipe out entire areas on warm-season turf on putting green, so if these microscopic worms are suspected of causing damage, then it is critical to get the diagnosis correct and put the correct curative measures in place.
    Crow says there is a science to sampling for nematodes. The country's leading voice in nematology says take about 16 samples in a back-and-forth pattern across the affected area. Doing so helps ensure randomly capturing enough nematodes.
    Taking samples from one area, Crow said, does not provide an accurate view of what is happening beneath the surface.
    "On healthy grass, because we don't know where these nematodes tend to occur because they're going to be unevenly distributed in clumps," Crow said. "We don't know where these clumps are," Crow said. "So what you're going to do is you're going to go across the area, the green, the fairway, or the tee, in more of a zig-zag pattern, and taking samples as you're going along in the zig-zag so we're getting the average nematode population density across the areas."
    Crow's nematode sampling advice was the subject of a recent video distributed by Syngenta.
    In the video, Crow also recommends not sampling areas where damage is overly obvious, i.e., areas of dead turf or bare ground.
    "We wouldn't want to take a nematode sample there because there's no grass. So nematode populations are going to be low because these nematodes have to feed on live turf, so we want to stay away from the really bad spots," he said. "I try to concentrate on areas where the grass was sick, (but) where it wasn't dead."
    The point is to provide the lab with enough accurate samples so the problem is properly diagnosed, said Crow, who has seen dried and useless samples arrive at his lab in Gainesville in everything from plastic containers to brown paper lunch sacks.
    Samples should be taken from a depth of 3 to 4 inches.
    "Greens, 3 inches, fairways and tees, down to 4 inches," he said. "In that range is going to be where most of the nematodes are."
    He recommends placing the samples, about 16 cores, in a plastic bag and getting them out of direct sunlight as soon as possible. It also is important to store them in an air-conditioned room until they are shipped - ideally within 24 hours of sampling - so they do not dry out.
    "The longer these samples are in transit," he says, "generally the lower the recovery gets."
  • The USGA is investing $1.9 million in more than 80 turfgrass research projects this year. Photo by USGA The USGA has committed nearly $2 million to help fund dozens of research projects throughout the year, marking the largest investment in turf and environmental research in the game's history.
    In the past 40 years, the USGA has invested almost $47 million in turfgrass research, including $1.9 million this year that will fund more than 80 projects. In the past decade, USGA-funded projects has resulted in practices that can help turf manages reduce water use by 20 percent and nutrient use by 40 percent, the association says.
    The USGA says its investment in golf course sustainability saves the industry as much as $1.92 billion annually. That includes $201 million from advancing irrigation and reducing water use, $530 million from advancing irrigation scheduling with soil-moisture meters and $295 million from more efficient fertilizer and pesticide use.
    "A core focus of the USGA is to ensure golf is not only thriving today, but is also growing in the next 20, 30, and 50 years. To ensure future success, we need to continually invest in efforts that can address challenges that our game will face long-term – like water scarcity, the cost of labor/resources, and the availability of land," said Mike Whan, USGA chief executive officer. "We are making significant investments in research projects that will create an even more sustainable and resource-friendly game. These advances are critically important steps to ensure that golf remains nimble and innovative in its approach to long-term sustainability – so that our kids, and their kids, inherit an even stronger game."
    The 2022 grant recipients include more than a dozen universities and represent both short- and long-term projects. Grant applicants are chosen for meeting criteria, such as optimizing sustainable golf course management and playing conditions; protecting and conserving water resources; or identifying and developing novel plant materials.
    Projects receiving funding this year include a multi-university evaluation of drought tolerance and water use of fairway grasses; a Texas A&M study focused on site-specific reduction of fertilizer use; and turfgrass breeding programs at several universities.
    Formerly the Turfgrass Environmental Research Program, the initiative was renamed last year for Mike Davis, the former USGA executive director and CEO.
  • It often is said that it takes a village to raise a child. There are times when it also requires a large group to raise a golf course superintendent, especially in times of disaster.
    When an overnight fire on April 2-3 destroyed an auxiliary maintenance building and most everything inside it at Framingham Country Club in Massachusetts, director of golf course and grounds Pat Daly, CGCS, wondered how he and his team at the club near Boston would be able to complete all of the spring spraying applications.
    After a couple of quick phone calls, a host of people, including fellow superintendents and suppliers came forward with equipment from sprayers and utility vehicles to blowers to help Daly get through his spring spraying applications.
    "This is already a tough business, but the beauty of it is the camaraderie," said Daly, who is in his 22nd year at the club near Boston. "I can't tell you how many people have called to offer equipment - equipment distributors, chemical distributors. I've been overwhelmed by my friends in the industry who have stepped forward to help out."
    On April 3, Daly and wife Judy were supposed to take their son, Nathan, to Williamsburg, Virginia, to visit William & Mary, where he will be a freshman in the fall. Those plans changed when Daly awoke that morning and saw missed calls and messages on his phone from a club bartender, general manager and Framingham's president. Rather than head for the airport, Daly went to the golf course.
    The night before, an assistant clubhouse manager noticed flames coming from a satellite maintenance building about 9:45 p.m. A former cart barn, the building houses much of the specialized equipment that Daly does not use on a daily basis, such as sprayers, aerifiers, blowers and a tractor. The fire department was on the scene by 10 p.m. The fire finally was out by 2 a.m. Structurally, the building was a total loss as was everything in it.
    The cumulative loss is estimated at $1.2 million.
    Among the victims were, four sprayers, four aerifiers, two tractors and blowers, a verticutting unit, seeder and two tow-behind leaf vacs. An adjacent storage unit used to house chemicals and fertilizers was not damaged by the fire, but remained shuddered by fire officials until they were able to safely clear it. Their concern was that firefighting efforts might cause runoff into an adjacent stream if the doors to the unit are opened. Daly also was concerned how the intense heat from the flames might affect product efficacy. 
    "Everything I walk through, I find something else under the ashes," Daly said. "It was a gut punch."
    Daly immediately started calling equipment and chemical suppliers looking for help.
    Soon, he had assistance from many. Among those who rushed to help were Tony Girardi, superintendent at Rockrimmon Country Club in Stamford, Connecticut; Herbert Meredith of Meredith Chem-Farm Sales in Maryland; Shane Cornicelli of A-OK Turf Equipment of Coventry, Rhode Island; and Nat Binns of Turf Products Corp., an Enfield, Connecticut Toro dealer, among others, who stepped up to loan Daly blowers and sprayers and utility vehicles to help him get through his spring applications.
    "We had a new blower that was used once. And now it is under a pile of debris," Daly said. "I contacted A-OK Turf, and the first word out of Shane's mouth was 'what do you need?' I told him I needed a blower, and it was shipped. That's the industry we're in."
    Girardi and Daly have been friends since the early 1990s when they were classmates at the University of Rhode Island. When he heard about the fire, Girardi pledged anything he could do to help his friend, including sending a 200-gallon sprayer.
    "Fire is my biggest fear. If something like that happens to the maintenance building, I never want to know that feeling," Girardi said. "I am a big believer in paying it forward. I would want someone to help me if I was in that same situation."
    Chemical suppliers were on the phone with Daly by Sunday. New product is now being stored in a smaller unit, which will necessitate reorganizing the space and installing shelves so Daly can fit everything he needs into a confined area.
    "I feel like I could teach a class," Daly said. "I feel like Matt Damon in 'The Martian': I'm working the problem. I have a legal pad with me all the time. When I see something I write it down."
    Meredith's father, Howard Sr., started Chem-Ag in the 1970s to service the agriculture industry. Eventually, business expanded to include golf. Daly and Howard Sr. first met in the 1980s, so when news of the fire spread, Howard Jr. began working the phones on Daly's behalf.
    Supply chain issues that have plagued the golf industry have made it a challenge to get everything to Daly that he needs. Meredith quickly refurbished a sprayer with a new pump and new hoses to make sure Daly would get a reliable piece of equipment that is built to last.
    "He called me Sunday after the fire. I've known Pat for 25 years. I immediately searched to see if we had anything that would work for him," Meredith said. "He was dead in the water, we had to find him something. 
    "The pump I put on was the last one on my shelf, and I don't know when I'll get another one. No one can tell you how long it will be."

    After four hours, firefighters finally had the blaze under control by 2 a.m. on April 3. Fire photos courtesy of Pat Daly   Binns has known Daly since the former began working at Turf Products in 2006. He too, was quick to respond to the needs of a longtime customer and friend, sending him a Workman.
    "He's welcome to use anything he needs," Binns said. "There is a brotherhood in this industry, and when something like this happens, it's everyone to the forefront. We just happened to get lucky. The biggest need was sprayers. Howard found some of those, but Pat needed vehicles to mount them on."
    The fraternal bond that has been on display since the fire is not the only silver lining to come from the disaster at Framingham. The lost building also was used for staff meetings, leaving Daly with the feeling that as bad as things are, they could have been worse.
    "I've always had a great relationship with the fire department, police and the town. I'm thankful no firefighters or police were hurt," Daly said. "Thank God it didn't happen at 2 in the afternoon. I would have gone in and tried to grab a sprayer, or something stupid like that. I have a great crew, and they are very dedicated, and one of them probably would have done the same. They're a great crew, with young families. It always could have been worse. Thank God no one got hurt.
    "This can be a difficult job, but the people are outstanding, and sometimes, we need to focus more on that. That might be better for all of us."
  • Photos by University of Missouri For those confounded by weeds rearing their ugly heads on the golf course this spring, a digital resource from the University of Missouri makes identifying weeds and developing a management plan easier than ever.
    Missouri's Weed ID Guide provides information on more than 450 species of broadleaf and grassy weeds. The guide includes descriptions on each plant’s life cycle and growth characteristics, as well as identifiable features, such as leaf structure, and descriptions of stems and flower and fruit, and other characteristics. 
    Multiple photographic images of each plant also help with identification.
    Users also can cross reference their search by grassy or broad-leaf weed type, common name or Latin name for 461 weed species.
    The site also includes a searchable database that references scientific research by weed species, year and specific herbicide used.
  • Garia is a manufacturer of golf cars and light utility vehicles based in Denmark. Club Car has reached a deal to acquire Garia, a Danish company that makes electric vehicles for the golf industry and other markets.
    Founded in 2005, Garia is a leader in Europe in the luxury golf car market, and launched a utility vehicle line in 2015. The company also serves the municipal, hospital, university, parks, industrial, hotel and resort, zoo, amusement park, forestry and agriculture, postal and package-delivery and food-delivery markets.
    The acquisition also includes Melex, a Polish company Garia acquired last fall that specializes in lightweight utility vehicles.
    Club Car is a division of Platinum Equity, which acquired the company from Ingersoll-Rand a year ago.
    Club Car officials say Garia and Melex’s utility products fill a market that Club Car does not occupy.
    The deal is expected to close in the second quarter. Terms were not released.
  • Learning the art of negotiating is just one of the sessions taught at the Syngenta Business Institute. File photo by John Reitman Applications are being accepted for this year's Syngenta Business Institute, which is back as an in-person event after being conducted online for two years.
    The three-day professional-development program is scheduled for Dec. 6-9 at the Graylyn International Conference Center in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
    Offered in cooperation with the Wake Forest University School of Business, SBI features educational courses designed to teach superintendents critical industry skills and offers plenty of networking opportinities. Upon completion, participants will earn 1.5 GCSAA Education Points. Topics to be covered during this year’s program include: work/life balance, negotiating, personnel management, leading across cultures and generations.
    Attendees must be employed as a superintendent, director of agronomy or at an equivalent level at a U.S. golf course.
    To apply, visit GreenCastOnline.com/SBI. Deadline to apply is Aug. 22. Applicants selected for the program will be notified by Syngenta in October. 
  • Pasatiempo Golf Club in Santa Cruz, California. Photo by John Reitman With water-use restrictions for golf looming once again in the nation's largest state, the time for developing a plan to conserve is before such rules become mandatory, not after. 
    "The time to plan for this is now," said Craig Kessler, director of public affairs for the Southern California Golf Association. "Get the message, and let's start doing it before it is mandatory. Document what you are doing and be a good corporate and environmental citizen and life will go better for us." 
    When it comes to conserving water on golf courses, there is no one-size-fits-all model. Winter months historically are California's rainy season, so when fall storms last fall drenched much of the state, it is understandable if the drought-weary were anxiously awaiting what should have been a wet first three months of 2022 for even more relief.
    Rather than more precipitation falling across a state mired in a three-year drought, January, February and March have been the driest first three months of the year since weather records have been kept. 
    In response, Gov. Gavin Newsom issued an executive order asking all Californians to voluntarily reduce water consumption and the State Water Resources Control Board to adopt emergency conservation measures among the state's urban water districts. The difference between current restrictions compared with the 20 percent minimum mandated by former governor Jerry Brown in 2015, is the former accounts for differences in microclimates and water supplies across the state.
    "The greatest lesson we learned from the last drought is to be cognizant of the fact that everything should be dictated by local water supply, which is radically different in California," Kessler said.
    "I still think we're going to see mandatory restrictions, but we won't see mandatory restrictions like what we saw before. I believe it will be much more nuanced, and not like the numbers that were assigned before. This will be a looser structure that will allow local jurisdictions to define things that work there."
    Justin Mandon has been superintendent at the Alister MacKenzie-designed Pasatiempo Golf Club in Santa Cruz, for nine years. On the western slope of the Santa Cruz Mountains about 2 miles from the northern end of Monterey Bay, Pasatiempo is one of those locations that could potentially benefit from locally derived restrictions if cutbacks extend to golf again this year. 
    The area receives significantly more rain than courses on the Monterey Peninsula 50 miles to the south.
    "If you look across to Pebble Beach and Cypress Point, they get 30 to 40 percent of the rain we get," Mandon said. "And if you go over the Santa Cruz Mountains to San Jose, they get 50 percent of what we get. When the rain hits the mountains, it just stalls."
    So far, the voluntary cutbacks do not include golf, and also excludes schools, sports fields and cemeteries, but many expect use restrictions to be expanded if drought conditions that have dominated California for much of the last 22 years persist through the summer. Because further cutbacks appear to be imminent, Kessler, California's resident expert on the relationship between golf and water, says now is the time to develop a savings plan.
    "It always does (include golf) in one way or the other," Kessler said.
    "This is a clue to get out front. If you are proactive and get out front before they make you (reduce water use), it will always go better for you."
    Proponents of the governor's current approach see the merit in leaving conservation up to the state's 421 individual water districts to manage the flow in their own jurisdictions based on local need and supply.
    "This is a serious drought that requires serious action," said Jennifer Pierre, general manager of the State Water Contractors, a non-profit association that represents 27 urban water districts that serve 27 million water users. "We learned a lot from the last drought. In addition to the increased drought planning requirements and responsible preparation that were put in place, the governor is wisely focusing on local shortage contingency plans with today's executive order. Urban water agencies throughout the state have water-shortage contingency plans that can be activated right away to ensure conservation and other actions consistent with their region's unique circumstances.
    "Managing through this drought requires each and every Californian to reduce their water usage. The governor's order today recognizes the diversity of California communities and their water supply conditions. Ordering agencies to exercise their specific plans strikes that important balance of statewide needs and local action."

    The U.S. Navy's Admiral Baker Golf Course in San Diego. Photo by Southern California Golf Association Detractors of the plan who remember the across-the-board mandates of 2015 say the current plan does not go far enough.
    An editorial in the San Jose Mercury News on March 30 read: "As California's devastating drought worsens, Gov. Gavin Newsom's leadership has run dry. . . . (W)ith no signs that this historic drought is relenting, Newsom on Monday again refused to impose mandatory water restrictions on urban users. Instead, our spineless governor ordered the state's 420 water agencies, which serve 90% of California residents, to tighten their water conservation rules, allowing each provider to set its own plan. . . . No statewide water reduction goal. No set of simple rules for Californians to follow. No equal sacrifice for the benefit of all. No leadership from the top."
    Pasatiempo received plenty of rain last fall, but it has been pretty dry there since. Through a deal with nearby Scotts Valley, Santa Cruz trades its potable water for recycled water from its neighbor. The deal gives Scotts Valley the drinking water it needs and provides an outlet for disposing of its reclaimed water. A wastewater treatment plant on site at Pasatiempo provides Mandon with plenty of water to irrigate the golf course.
    It has been so dry so far in 2022 Mandon is considering firing up the treatment plant early.
    "This is our rainy season, so you don't want to be irrigating right now. If you are irrigating this time of year, then you are extremely dry," Mandon said. "Typically, I would not consider turning on the wastewater treatment plant until May, sometimes not until June. At this rate, I might be turning it on in a couple of weeks."
    Mandon was superintendent through the 2014-16 drought. For superintendents who have been through drought before, the experience will help them prepare members if cutbacks return.
    "The good thing about the drought is that if you've gone through it before then it is easier to communicate going forward," Mandon said. "When you know the impact it will have on the operation, it is easier to get ahead of it. It makes it easier to communicate to stakeholders."
    As a longtime superintendent in California, Austin Daniells is no stranger to drought, either. A regional superintendent for U.S. Navy golf courses in California, Daniells was the superintendent at the Navy's Monterey Pines course when then-Gov. Brown mandated blanket water cuts seven years ago. He said he is in constant conservancy mode, making it easy for him to pivot if and when mandated restrictions are implemented.
    "Monterey is on a well, so it always felt like we were in restrictions," said Daniells, who also is superintendent at Admiral Baker Golf Course, a 36-hole Navy facility in San Diego. "We knew the well would not produce as much water by the end of the summer and we had to manage it."
    In constant water-saving mode, Daniells maximized coverage at Monterey Pines through a program that included finding the right wetting agents for use on cool-season grass in an area with a 12-month golf season, dialing in nutrition and adjusting and moving irrigation heads.
    "We always paid attention to weather in the summer, and we knew when we had to back off, or when we could push it," he said. "As far as restrictions, I dove into wetting agents more in the last five to 10 years than I ever have before. You have to find one that works for your property. I found some that work for me. When you have to cut back during a drought, the golf course might not be what you want to put out there, but by managing irrigation and using wetting agents, you're not losing turf when you have to cut back."
    Newsom dialed up voluntary cutbacks last year in hopes it would result in water savings of 15 percent. The ask resulted in use reductions of about 6.2 percent. But that does not tell all of the story, said Kessler. Water use in California is down 16 percent from the last drought that lasted from 2014 to 2016. 
    "That's 6.2 percent off of 16 percent," he said. "You put those two together, and we are using substantially less water than we did eight to 10 years ago."
    The length of California's drought depends on who you ask. With nearly the entire state in some stage of drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, some say the current dry period is in its third year. However, many climatologists believe the past three years are part of a longer megadrought that began 22 years ago.
    While a history of drought provides an opportunity to communicate with golfers about how cutting back water use might affect playing conditions, Daniells said golfers historically have been pretty understanding.
    "We're already behind the 8 ball every year anyway," he said. "When we cut back, if we focus down the middle, I don't know if it really affects the golfer. As a superintendent, I want the property to look the best it can year-round, we all do. At the same time, if we focus down the middle, we can make down the middle look as good as we can in the heat of the summer and still provide a quality product."
  • Companies throughout the turf industry came together to help fund construction of an athletic field and research putting green at the University of Georgia Griffin campus. Photo by University of Georgia Turfgrass is big business in Georgia. It covers 1.8 million acres across Georgia, making it one of the largest agricultural commodities in the state. The industry also employs more than 100,000 people and has a maintenance value of $1.56 billion.
    Scientists at the University of Georgia have played a key role in supporting and promoting the state's turfgrass industry through research, education and extension work. In a show of support, several companies throughout the turf industry have come together to fund construction of a research putting green and soccer field at the university's Griffin campus. Both were constructed with turf varieties developed at the UGA campus in Tifton.
    "The need was being sensed by the industries for new and updated equipment and infrastructure," said Alfredo Martinez-Espinoza, UGA cooperative extension plant pathologist. "With the high quality of work UGA turfgrass faculty have done with them over the years, the companies viewed UGA-Griffin as a prime partner for these projects."
    Bayer Environmental Science funded construction of a 9,600-square-foot TifEagle green built to USGA specifications and will be used for research and educational purposes. 
    The 22,000-square-foot sports-field research and education area built as a soccer field with primary funding by Sports Turf Co., and was sprigged with Tifway Bermudagrass, which is the same turf used in the university's football stadium.
    The field will allow faculty and students to perform research, education and extension. It will also be available for play to the local community.
    Other companies that came together on the project, that began in 2020, include Green Tee Golf Inc., NG Turf and Pike Creek Turf.
  • Municipal Saddle Rock Golf Course in Aurora, Colorado. The benefits of golf courses are many. They provide wildlife habitat, recreational opportunities, improve air quality, filter ground water, positively influence real estate value and generally are an aesthetic improvement to any community. They also are low-hanging fruit when subjects like chemical bans and water use come up, a trend that illustrates the need for public relations work on behalf of the golf industry.
    With growth in the golf industry trending negative for most of the last 16 years, it is unclear how many, if any, are interested in building a golf course in the Denver suburb of Aurora. But if the city's mayor has his way, that option could soon be off the table.
    An ordinance proposed by Aurora mayor Mike Coffman would eliminate planting new grass in public areas and would limit the amount of grass allowed in residential lawns in new home communities. The ordinance, if passed by the city council, also would prohibit construction of any new golf courses within the city limits. 
    There are a dozen golf operations in Aurora, including five municipal operations, and 250 located throughout the state, according to the Colorado Golf Association.
    Neither number is likely to grow much, if at all, anytime soon.
    Much of Colorado has been in some stage of drought since 2000. Today, 100 percent of the state is under drought conditions, ranging from abnormally dry to extreme drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. 
    According to Colorado State University, cool-season grasses can require 1 inch to 2.5 inches of water per week, depending on the time of year. Aurora receives an average of 16 inches of rain per year, according to the National Weather Service. Aurora water officials say outdoor irrigation comprises 50 percent of the city's water use. 
    With a population of 370,000, Aurora is the largest suburb in the Denver area and is Colorado's third-largest city.
    Besides prohibiting the construction of new golf courses, the proposed ordinance would prohibit grass in medians and common spaces and in front and side lawns in new home construction.
  • Rivermont Golf Club in Johns Creek, Georgia, has participated in two studies that examine how turf managers might one day be able to use nanobubble-infused water to reduce inputs on golf courses. In the photo above, researchers install sensors during the first research project. Photo by the University of Georgia Good things come in small packages. Really, really small packages. Water infused with tiny bubbles could hold a key to growing healthier turf and reducing inputs.
    A study by researchers at the University of Georgia is examining the effects of nanobubble-ozone technology on soil health and turfgrass systems.
    The study, which is led by UGA soil microbiologist Mussie Habteselassie, Ph.D., will study the effects of nanobubble-infused irrigation water on root aeration and soil health. Nanobubbles, according to researchers, are 2,500 times smaller than a grain of salt. They are so small that the technology used to infuse the bubbles into water can squeeze 61 million nanobubbles into a single milliliter of water.
    Funded by the Georgia Department of Agriculture, the three-year study began in October and will look at factors such as water use, shoot growth and root growth, and will take place in a greenhouse and in a laboratory at the university's research facility in Griffin, as well as in the field at Rivermont Golf Club in Johns Creek, Georgia. The research team says the study will "track changes in activity, abundance and composition of beneficial soil microorganisms that play an important role in organic matter decomposition and nutrient cycling."
    Although they are small, nanobubbles are mighty, according to researchers who say they can change surface tension and can improve soil health by increasing microbial activity beneath the surface. The results the researchers hope to prove are that the nanobubbles can lead to healthier soil and turf while also allowing turfgrass managers to use less water. Previous research has shown that nanobubbles smaller than viral particles stay suspended in solution unlike larger carbon dioxide bubbles, like those found in soft drinks, thus allowing oxygen to subside throughout the soil profile. Several other studies have shown that use of nanotechnology can result in water savings of as much as 20 percent.
    "What this potentially means is that, when you irrigate a field with nanobubbles, you increase the oxygen level in the root area of the turfgrass," Habteselassie said in a UGA news release. "More oxygen at the roots means better root development, increased water use efficiency, and also an increase in microbial activity. When you have increased microbial activity, there is better decomposition of organic matter and that releases nutrients and makes them more available to the plant."
    Rivermont Golf Club superintendent Mark Hoban has a long history of developing protocols to minimize inputs at the golf course in Atlanta's northern suburbs. He told TurfNet that he hopes the research will prove that the bubble-infused water can result in reduced reliance on pesticides, fertilizers and water.
    "We started trial work in our greenhouse three weeks ago, and we are starting on the golf course this week," Hoban said. 
    "Hopefully, in six to nine months we'll begin seeing some good data."
    The research is an extension of previous work at UGA that was funded by the Georgia Golf Environmental Foundation. The new study utilizes newer technology by Rapid Water Technologies, which manufactures a nanobubble generator that removes and prevents the buildup of biofilm in commercial and industrial water use. Other nanobubble research in turfgrass has been conducted at the University of Arkansas and Clemson University.
    Previous research in Australia has shown that turf irrigated with nanobubble-infused water requires less water, wetting agents and fungicide, Hoban said.
    Results of a similar study conducted in China on rice were published last year. That study showed that nanobubble-infused water resulted in improved nutrient uptake and plant growth. 
    According to the UGA researchers, when nanobubbles burst they release H2O3 which they believe can kill microbial cells and eventually control pathogens that cause diseases such as dollar spot and leaf spot.
    "This is where the sustainability aspect comes in," Habteselassie said. "If we can show that this works in turfgrass, it can lead to reduced use of chemicals and fungicides because the radicals released by the nanobubbles are controlling pathogens."
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