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From the TurfNet NewsDesk


  • John Reitman
    Technician of the Year Award Finalist
     
    Chris Adler, Oakland Hills Country Club, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan
     
    Home to more than a dozen major championships throughout its history, Oakland Hills Country Club is all about quality of cut. So is the club's equipment manager, Chris Adler.   "His commitment and passion are like none I've seen in 30 years," said Steve Cook, CGCS, director of agronomy at Oakland Hills, a 36-hole property near Detroit in Bloomfield Hills.    "His main focus is quality of cut. He makes sure all of our mowers are set perfectly before they go out. You just don't see an uneven cut here."   That's important at a place like Oakland Hills where members are driven to make sure the property is a regular fixture in major championship golf.   Designed by Donald Ross in 1918, the club's South Course has been the site of 13 major championships, including six U.S. Opens, three PGA Championships, two U.S. Senior Opens, a U.S. Amateur Championship and the Ryder Cup Matches. The Ross-designed North Course, which first greeted players in 1924, went under the knife in 2013 to the tune of $2.3 million.    Overseeing property with so much history requires a superintendent to be on top of his game. Likewise,managing the $2.3 million in equipment used to maintain the property requires a skilled equipment manager as well.   Enter Adler who was an assistant technician during the 2009 PGA Championship at Oakland Hills and left later that year to become the equipment manager at Indianwood Country Club in Lake Orion, Michigan. When the top mechanic's position at Oakland Hills became available in 2011, Cook actively recruited Adler to fill it.   Adler has been named one of three finalists for the TurfNet Technician of the Year Award, presented by Toro.   The winner of the TurfNet Technician of the Year Award will be named this summer, and will receive the Golden Wrench Award and a spot in the Toro Service Training Academy at the company's headquarters in Bloomington, Minn.   Previous winners include Brian Sjögren, Corral de Tierra (California) Country Club (2013); Kevin Bauer, Prairie Bluff (Illinois) Public Golf Club (2012); Jim Kilgallon, Connecticut Golf Club (2011); Herb Berg, Oakmont (Pennsylvania) Country Club (2010); Doug Johnson, TPC at Las Colinas, Irving, Texas (2009); Jim Stuart, Stone Mountain (Georgia) Golf Club (2007); Fred Peck, Fox Hollow and The Homestead, Lakewood, Colorado. (2006); Jesus Olivas, Heritage Highlands at Dove Mountain, Marana, Arizona (2005); Henry Heinz, Kalamazoo (Michigan) Country Club (2004); Eric Kulaas, Marriott Vinoy Renaissance Resort, St. Petersburg, Florida (2003). No award was given in 2008.   Adler has worked in the past as a spray tech and maintenance crew worker. He even attended turf school and worked for three years as superintendent at Mulligan's Golf Center, a driving range and practice center in nearby South Lyon, before deciding he no longer desired the aggravation that comes with being a superintendent, Cook said.   Still, that experience has increased his value as an equipment manager, said Cook.    "He has a good eye and understands the playing surfaces and what they should look like. He gets the grass growing part of it, and when a sprayer or a piece of equipment doesn't work, he gets that too," Cook said. "That's important here, because here our next major is always tomorrow morning. Whether it's for daily play or major tournaments, we might raise or lower the height of cut, but we don?t change much else."   Adler also possesses intangible qualities that Cook can't quantify like he can quality of cut, or the ability to manage a budget.    "Chris is transformative," Cook said.   "The entire staff now communicates openly with our team of mechanics. Morale is higher. Cookouts are better. Production has increased. Our costs are lower. We have more respect for the equipment and he has elevated the visibility of our fleet, our staff and our department."
  • Jack of all trades

    By John Reitman, in News,

    TurfNet Technician of the Year Finalist
    Brian Aiken, Kings Point Golf Course, Delray Beach, Florida
       
    Being a golf course equipment manager often requires ingenuity and creativity, especially at a low-budget operation with high-budget expecations.   When a leak recently emerged on the pickup superintendent William Jeffrey drives at Kings Point Golf Course in Delray Beach, Florida, equipment manager Brian Aiken used a fog-making machine that people use on their front porch to scare trick or treaters at Halloween to isolate the problem.   "He can troubleshoot and diagnose just about anything," said Jeffrey.    Aiken is a second-generation mechanic who learned the trade from his father. He  has been the equipment manager at Kings Point since 1993, and in that time, he's repaired pieces of equipment others might have condemned as scrap, fabricated tools out of odds and ends to fit a specific need and keeps reels sharpened to a razor's edge at a property with 36 holes of par 3 and executive golf covering 120 acres of managed turf and 30 acres of common area nestled among 7,200 private residences and a maintenance budget of less than $600,000. Aiken's monthly budget for all equipment maintenance and repairs is $2,500.   "He's a one-man show at a low-budget operation, but we have every piece of equipment you can imagine," Jeffrey said.    Aiken has been named one of three finalists for the TurfNet Technician of the Year Award, presented by Toro.   When Meadowbrook Golf took over management of the Kings Point last year, the course inherited a 20-year-old tractor that didn't work from a nearby sister property that told Jeffrey "If you can fix it, you can keep it."   The dealer representing the OEM wanted $4,500 for a single part to keep the relic running. Aiken was able to get it back onto the golf course for a third of that cost.   "He could have thrown his hands up and told me he couldn't fix it," Jeffrey said. "He can fix stuff over and above normal."   That's an important skill at a place like Kings Point, where there is no offseason and golfers arrive early every day making it necessary for the grounds crew to get an early start.   "Brian is without a doubt the best mechanic I've ever had in my 40 years in golf turf maintenance," Jeffrey said. "He can do it all. He is a master at all kinds of engine diagnostics and repairs. That's important here.   "This place is busy, busy, busy. By 7 a.m. they are teeing off on both courses, and we have to move them around the course. We do everything on the front nine of both courses in the dark."   The winner of the TurfNet Technician of the Year Award will be named this summer, and will receive the Golden Wrench Award and a spot in the Toro Service Training Academy at the company's headquarters in Bloomington, Minn.   Previous winners include Brian Sjögren, Corral de Tierra (California) Country Club (2013); Kevin Bauer, Prairie Bluff (Illinois) Public Golf Club (2012); Jim Kilgallon, Connecticut Golf Club (2011); Herb Berg, Oakmont (Pennsylvania) Country Club (2010); Doug Johnson, TPC at Las Colinas, Irving, Texas (2009); Jim Stuart, Stone Mountain (Georgia) Golf Club (2007); Fred Peck, Fox Hollow and The Homestead, Lakewood, Colorado. (2006); Jesus Olivas, Heritage Highlands at Dove Mountain, Marana, Arizona (2005); Henry Heinz, Kalamazoo (Michigan) Country Club (2004); Eric Kulaas, Marriott Vinoy Renaissance Resort, St. Petersburg, Florida (2003). No award was given in 2008.
  • TurfNet Technician of the Year Finalist
    Lee Medeiros, Timber Creek and Sierra Pines Golf Courses, Sun City at Roseville, California
      A mechanic who can fix just about anything is a commodity at any golf course. One who can prevent breakdowns from occurring in the first place is even more valuable.   Lee Medeiros is that man. For the past eight years, Medeiros has been equipment manager at Timber Creek and Sierra Pines golf courses that are part of a Sun City development in Roseville, California. His superintendent says he can diagnose and repair any down piece of equipment, but his real expertise is keeping machinery rolling and keeping it in good enough condition that he can sell it off before it reaches the end of its useful life.   "He increased the longevity of equipment, prevented major breakdowns and assisted the crew in becoming more productive on the golf course," said superintendent Jim Ferrin, CGCS.   "In the eight years he has been here, there have be no major breakdowns."   Madeiros has been named one of three finalists for the TurfNet Technician of the Year Award, presented by Toro.   The only major repair Ferrin could recall during Medeiros' time at Roseville was when he overhauled a rough mower after the transmission failed. Now, each piece of equipment lasts an average of five years longer than it did before arrived, helping Ferrin meet and exceed budget every year. For example, there is an 18-year-old Toro rotary mower with a front deck that Ferrin still uses, thanks to Medeiros.   Those skills also help add to the bottom line when it's time to sell used equipment that brings in as much as $40,000 per year in additional revenue.   "He continually figures out how to keep that running," Ferrin said. "He's got crafty skills.   "He's increased the longevity of our equipment and prevented major breakdowns, saving thousands."   Tim McCoy, sales manager for Turf Star, a California-based Toro distributor, says Medeiros displays a dedication for his job that he doesn't see everywhere. And he shows that passion by helping other courses with less experienced technicians with needed repairs, loaning equipment to other nearby properties and serving up the courses at Sun City Roseville as test sites for local equipment distributors.   "Lee has the experience from being in our industry for several years. He has the attitude of lifelong learning," McCoy said. "More importantly, Lee has the passion to resolve every issue to completion.    "Lee has helped neighboring courses, not only loaning a part, but helping with the repairs. . . . He has helped equipment distributors with loaning equipment, beta testing, valuable feedback on new products. Lee has loaned me a HD Workman for a demo in a neighboring city. He has given valuable feedback on new products."    The winner of the TurfNet Technician of the Year Award will be named this summer, and will receive the Golden Wrench Award and a spot in the Toro Service Training Academy at the company's headquarters in Bloomington, Minn.   Previous winners include Brian Sjögren, Corral de Tierra (California) Country Club (2013); Kevin Bauer, Prairie Bluff (Illinois) Public Golf Club (2012); Jim Kilgallon, Connecticut Golf Club (2011); Herb Berg, Oakmont (Pennsylvania) Country Club (2010); Doug Johnson, TPC at Las Colinas, Irving, Texas (2009); Jim Stuart, Stone Mountain (Georgia) Golf Club (2007); Fred Peck, Fox Hollow and The Homestead, Lakewood, Colorado. (2006); Jesus Olivas, Heritage Highlands at Dove Mountain, Marana, Arizona (2005); Henry Heinz, Kalamazoo (Michigan) Country Club (2004); Eric Kulaas, Marriott Vinoy Renaissance Resort, St. Petersburg, Florida (2003). No award was given in 2008.
  • Sustainability isn't a buzzword or catchphrase at BASF. Instead, it's a philosophy that extends throughout all of the multinational corporation's five business segments at nearly 700 production sites in 80-plus countries around the world. 
     
    "We create chemistries for a sustainable future. This is totally different from 'we sell chemicals,' " said Andreas Kreimeyer, BASF's research executive director and a member of the corporation's board of directors.
     
    "Creating chemistry means we combine chemicals. It's about how we use them, how to make our customers more successful using them, offering technical service and helping our customers design exclusive programs."
     
    Nowhere within that corporate structure is this philosophy more evident than in BASF's Agricultural Solutions division, or more specifically, within the unit's crop protection segment.
     
    Every two years, members of the upper management team from BASF's headquarters in Ludwigshafen, Germany, as well as those who oversee its crop protection business in North America convene at the BASF North American Agricultural Solutions Media Summit to discuss the crop protection challenges facing the world and BASF's efforts to confront them.
     
    "We are trying to move from a technology-driven and product-oriented organization to a solutions-oriented organization," said Markus Heldt, president of the company's crop protection unit, during this year's summit held in Durham, North Carolina.
     
    For BASF, that means focusing on innovation and research and development for new products and ideas, dialing in on customer needs and bringing those innovations to customers faster, Heldt said.
     
    According to Kreimeyer, BASF spends $1.8 billion annually just in R&D and employs 10,000 people in that field worldwide. About 37 percent, or nearly $2 million per day, of that is devoted to research in crop protection, Heldt said.
     
    Admittedly, most of the bi-annual program is devoted to the corporation's efforts to meet the food-production needs of a growing world population, but that focus on sustainability translates to the company's turf and ornamental business as well. In fact, many of the products that eventually emerge on the turf and ornamental side of the industry were born in agriculture, where the bulk of the research funding lies.
     
    Two examples of the journey toward sustainability in the turf market are the release of two new products that provide preventive and curative control of a host of fungal diseases.
     
    Xzemplar, with the active ingredient fluxapyroxad, is a succinate dehydrogenase inhibitor fungicide that works by blocking fungi respiration and disrupting the energy supply, which prevents further growth of fungal cells.
     
    Lexicon Intrinsic contains both fluxapyroxad and pyraclostrobin, the ingredient common to all products in BASF's Intrinsic portfolio. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency granted label registration to both products in January.
     
    "When you bring innovation to market, you have to be able to demonstrate an increase in value to the end user," said Jon Sweat, director of BASF's specialty products division. 'We have to demonstrate that using Lexicon means fewer trips than a superintendent would make with something else, or that it's more effective at a lower rate than other products.
     
    "We are trying to look at it holistically. We are trying with active ingredients and inputs to make it for superintendents to be able to look at their constituents and say 'I am running a more sustainable operation than I was five years ago.' "
     
    Fluxapyroxad, now branded as Xemium, is a chemistry in the carboxamide family, and exhibits enhanced systemic activity that BASF technical specialist Kathie Kalmowitz, Ph.D., says extends its residual properties, thus increasing the plant's ability to fight stress and resulting in longer, more prolific root growth and curative activity against disease.
     
    During a Summit field trip to BASF's 130-acre research farm in Holly Springs, North Carolina, Kalmowitz showed the efficacy of each product on a Crenshaw creeping bentgrass plot subjected to abnormally hot summerlike conditions in late spring. Plots treated with Lexicon and Xzemplar were disease free, while the untreated control plot was pocked with dollar spot lesions.
     
    "That means turf can go through a day like today, or just a normal day, and it means we have consistent growth patterns and we're not losing roots through these stress events," Kalmowitz said.
     
    "First and foremost, we have to be a fungicide. Our customers demand that of us."
     
    Among the outside factors prompting BASF to take a solutions-based look at the future is projected world population growth. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the world population is nearly 7.2 billion. The United Nations projects that number to swell to more than 8 billion in the next decade and reach 9.6 billion by 2050. Although population growth has slowed in developed nations, the challenges associated with that projected growth are underscored by the fact that the UN predicts populations in the 49 least developed countries will more than double in the next 35 years. The challenge facing companies like BASF is how farmers worldwide will be able to produce enough food to meet that demand and how they can get it to the table affordably.
     
    To do that, BASF says it will lean on its three pillars of sustainability that include efficiency in economy, ecology and society.
     
    That means minimizing economic risk for customers, developing products and solutions that ensure BASF and its customers are able to practice stewardship without compromising efficacy.
     
    "We have to get closer to our customers and bring those innovations, new ideas and business concepts to our customers faster around the globe," Heldt said. "To achieve this, we have to be close to our customers, focus on their needs and better anticipate their needs."
  • Assistant superintendents interested in furthering their education can apply for one of 50 slots in the eighth annual Green Start Academy.   A professional development initiative presented by John Deere Golf and Bayer Environmental Science, Green Start Academy includes educational sessions, workshops and roundtable discussions for assistant superintendents from the United States and Canada.    This year's Green Start Academy is scheduled for Oct. 15-17 at the Bayer Development and Training Center in Clayton, N.C., and John Deere's Turf Care facility in Fuquay-Varina, N.C. Attendees will have the opportunity to network with peers, absorb best practices from industry leaders to propel their careers and gain insights into trending topics and key issues they can take back to their courses.   Those interested in attending the ninth annual event must submit a resume and complete the online application process here.   Applications will be judged by a panel that includes Chris Condon of Tetherow Golf Club, Jeff Corcoran of Oak Hill Country Club, Paul Cushing of the City of San Diego, Chris Dew of The National Golf Club of Canada, Bob Farren of Pinehurst Resort, Ken Mangum of Atlanta Athletic Club and Bryan Stromme of Billy Casper Golf and Billy Weeks of Duke University Golf Club.   Application deadline is June 29.
  • Toro has taken its AquaFlow drip irrigation system online, making it more accessible for end users.   AquaFlow 4.0 includes expandable panels that automatically adjust to multiple screen and font sizes, and allow instant visibility of design decision results by scrolling. The upgrade to take the system online was in response to customer feedback, according to Toro.   Pull-down menus allow users to create new customers and projects and select program features, such as Mainline Design, Custom Laterals and Pipes, Options, Common Formulas and Help. In addition, lateral quantity per block, number of laterals per block, submain and mainline irrigation travel time, and submain velocity vs. distance are now reported as well.    AquaFlow supports Toro's Aqua-Traxx and Aqua-Traxx PC premium drip tape, Neptune flat emitter dripline, as well as BlueLine Classic and BlueLine PC premium dripline laterals. In addition, multiple pipeline choices include Toro Oval Hose, Toro Layflat and PVC pipe. As in previous versions, multiple slopes can still be entered for laterals, submains and mainlines; and submains and mainlines may be telescoped with multiple pipe sizes.   AquaFlow designs can be saved, exported and imported. Or, users can print or save to in PDF format. The system can be used in English and Spanish as well as standard and metric units. The user manual also is available in English and Spanish.
  • Jacobsen at the World Cup
      As teams from around the globe compete in the World Cup in Brazil, they will be doing so on turf maintained with Jacobsen equipment.   The venues using Jacobsen equipment include the Arena de Baixada in Curitiba, Arena de Sao Paulo, Arena Pernambuco in Recife, which hosts USA's final Group G game against Germany on June 26 and Estadio Mineiro in Belo Horizonte.    The most prestigious venue at the tournament, the Maracana stadium in Rio de Janiero, which will host the final of the competition on July 13, is being mowed with the Jacobsen Tri-King small area reel mower. The Tri-King is popular with sports field managers because it provides reel-quality results at higher heights-of-cut.    Jacobsen Tri-King mowers are also being used at several national team training venues including the Australian training camp at Vitaria in Espirito Santo, Portugal's training center at Campinas at Sao Paulo and Mexico, who are using the training facilities of Santos, also in Sao Paulo.    In addition to the Jacobsen Tri-King mowers, stadium grounds managers will also be using the Ransomes Mastiff walk-behind reel mower to give the fields a final striping before each game.    The United States team plays its first matches June 16, 22 and 26 against Ghana, Portugal and Germany, respectively.    Grigg Brothers goes Down Under
      Beginning this summer, Grigg Brothers, a wholly owned subsidiary of Brandt Consolidated Inc., will launch its plant nutrition products in Australia through Globe Australia, a division of Amgrow Group.   The brand launch includes Grigg's proprietary liquid organic line of proven foliar nutrients, such as Gary's Green, PK Plus, AminoPlex and Tuff Turf, as well as select granular fertilizers.    Brandt, which provides products and services for the agricultural market, acquired Grigg Brothers in a deal that was announced in January. Amgrow has been a long-term partner of Brandt in both agriculture and turf markets.   Globe Australia is a subsidiary of Amgrow Australia. Amgrow is a market leader in Australia with its NuTurf and Globe business units and is part of the CK Lifescience Group Hong Kong.   Arysta taps Maravich to fill top T&O slot
      Arysta LifeScience North America recently named Michael Maravich (no relation to Pistol Pete) as business manager for its turf and ornamental division.    Maravich has been with Arysta since 2008 as a product line manager, and will be responsible for leading all sales and marketing efforts within the division.   A veteran of the T&O market who also has worked for Lesco, Maravich will be based in La Quinta, California.
  • Wake-up call

    By John Reitman, in News,

    While transition zone golf courses spent the winter in a deep slumber, the sight that awaited many superintendents in the spring should serve as a wake-up call that Bermudagrass in the upper South needs extra care during the offseason.
     
    That's the take-home message from this winter, says Fred Yelverton, Ph.D., of North Carolina State University, as many courses in several states, including Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia that grow Bermudagrass greens continue to struggle into late spring.
     
    During the many site visits he has made this winter throughout North Carolina, Yelverton has seen a lot of winter damage and winterkill. It's the first time since 1995, Yelverton said, that he's seen since such widespread damage in North Carolina. What he hasn't seen much of on those visits, he said, are greens covers.
     
    "I think we have to be careful to remember we are in North Carolina, and winter kill is a real possibility," Yelverton said. "We have to plan for it. If we don't, we're setting ourselves up for disaster.
     
    "We've gotten complacent. Those who think this was some wild, cold winter, that's not accurate. Yes, it was cold if you look at records, but it was reminiscent of what we had in the early to mid-1990s."
     
    In Raleigh, the average low in January was 25 degrees Fahrenheit, which was 6 degrees below the historic average, according to the National Weather Service. February's average low was 33, which is the average. March remained cold, with average lows of 34 degrees. However, the historic average for that time of year is 40 degrees. That didn't come close to the coldest winter in central North Carolina. The record low in January was minus-9, set in 1985. February's record cold temperature of minus-2 was set all the way back in 1899. And the coldest day ever in March in central North Carolina was 11 degrees on March 2, 1980.
     
    "We tend to have short memories," Yelverton said. "If we haven't seen something in 15 years, we don't worry about it."
     
    The story is a similar one in Arkansas, where Mike Richardson, Ph.D., says the last time there was significant winter damage there was 2000-01.
     
    "This is only the second severe winter we've had in northwest Arkansas in the 16 years that I've been here," said Mike Richardson, Ph.D. of the University of Arkansas. "When you don't experience a problem for several years, people let their guard down and forget those basic practices and fundamentals. When you do that you set yourself up for a bad winter.
     
    "If you're growing ultradwarf Bermudagrass anywhere in Arkansas and you're not using covers, frankly, you're a fool. This year, you could have lost your entire greens complex without covers, and you still could have lost some even with covers."
     
    Equally damaging as winter's cold temperatures was a slow start to the growing season. Although average temperatures were pretty much in line with historic averages, according to the NWS, overnight lows dipped into the low 30s as late as the third week of April. That was 17 degrees below average. Cool conditions persisted into May as well.
     
    "We had winter injury, followed by conditions that were not conducive to Bermudagrass growth," Yelverton said. "What we have is slow grass that is still painfully slow."
     
    Winter conditions also led to a bumper crop of spring dead spot, and the only cure for that is patience, said Lane Tredway, Ph.D., senior technical representative for Syngenta.
     
    "There's really not much you can do from a fungicide standpoint," Tredway said. "You really just have to wait."
     
    As recovery crept along at a snail's pace, superintendents faced one of two choices: repair or wait. Areas left to recovery could take until July or August to fully recuperate. Areas that have been regrassed will be held out of play for almost as long. Which fork in the road each superintendent chose was a decision based on some combination of budget, damage level and golfer patience, Tredway said.
     
    "It just depends on how much damage there is and if it's a private club or a public course," Tredway said. "If the damage is severe, a high-end private club will never have the stomach for waiting. They'll regrass."
     
    There are agronomic practices, such as aerification, that superintendents playing the waiting game can employ to promote quicker recovery. 
     
    "I would suggest aerification, or spiking the greens," Tredway said. "You don't even have to go that deep; maybe an inch or so. Anything to break up that organic matter layer."
     
    Richardson suggests that superintendents and other stakeholders should take a look at the big picture when selecting turf types in the transition zone where the summer growing season is shorter than it is farther south.
     
    "If you go to Bermuda, you have to realize that for some of the traditional golf season you are not going to have green putting greens," Richardson said. 
     
    "For us in Arkansas, four-and-a-half or five months is all you are going to get out of Bermudagrass greens, so we're looking at seven months of dormant, painted Bermudagrass. On the other hand, bentgrass struggles here from July through September, but the rest of the year it looks great. 
     
    Among the reasons so many courses throughout the mid-south have made the switch from bent to Bermuda is cost of maintenance. That is an ill-informed decision, Richardson says.
     
    "First and foremost, Bermuda is not going to be cheaper to manage, so you have to get that out of your head," he said. "You might sleep better in summer because Pythium is not killing bentgrass, but there are still costs associated with it, such as covers, grooming, verticutting. The cost is a wash.
     
    "You really have to decide whether the grass you choose lines up with your playing season. The most important thing in this area is winter survival, because it's not a matter of if you're going to get winter damage. It's a matter of when."
     
    Yelverton agreed that Bermudagrass might have reached or even exceeded its geographic limits.
     


    "First and foremost, Bermuda is not going to be cheaper to manage, so you have to get that out of your head," he said. "You might sleep better in summer because Pythium is not killing bentgrass, but there are still costs associated with it, such as covers, grooming, verticutting. The cost is a wash.

     

    "There is a hard push for Bermuda greens into the northern limits. There are a lot of people in the industry who haven't been around long enough to experience anything like what had this winter. And there are some concerns among some of us who have been around a while that it might be too aggressive in places like North Carolina and Arkansas," Yelverton said. "I don't know how unusual this winter was. It's unusual if you look at it in the context of the last 18 years or so. But winter injury is not unusual for us, and you have to take a broader look at things."
  • We hear the excuses all the time about how rounds played lag because of the weather. It's too hot. It's too cold. It's too wet. It's too dry. In a month that even Goldilocks would conclude was just right, rounds played in April still lagged behind the weather.
     
    According to Golf Datatech's Monthly Golf Rounds Played Report, play in April was down by 1.7 percent nationwide despite an overall increase in the inventory of optimal playing conditions. Golf Playable Hours, Jim Koppenhaver's (Pellucid Corp.) measure of acceptable daylight hours in which one could play golf, factored against climatic influences that are unfavorable for playing golf, were up by 2 percent nationwide for the month. 
     
    According to Datatech, in the seven geographic regions into which it has divided the country, precipitation was up significantly in two, down substantially in two and were insignificant, plus or minus less than 10 percent, in the remaining three. An increase in the availability in dry, daylight hours doesn't always mean golfers are going to play more golf. In fact, it seems those conditions rarely translate into more play.
     
    Monthly rounds played have risen only twice in the last 28 months, with the last increase coming in October 2013 (3.7 percent). Before that, one has to go all the way back to November 2012 when the industry was bolstered by a whopping 2.6 percent boost in rounds played.
     
    According to Datatech's April report that measured rounds played at 3,705 facilities in 49 states (all but Alaska), rounds played were down in 27 states, up in 21 others and flat in another.
     
    The greatest gains were in Minnesota, where rounds were up by 51 percent. Double-digit gains were realized in 10 other states: North and South Dakota (27 percent); Colorado (23 percent); Indiana (16 percent); Idaho, Montana, Wisconsin and Wyoming (14 percent); Louisiana and Oregon (11 percent).
     
    Double-digit losses occurred in 14 states: Maryland and Rhode Island (23 percent); Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont (18 percent); New York (17 percent); Arkansas (16 percent); Hawaii (15 percent); Delaware and Maryland (14 percent); New Mexico (13 percent); Ohio and Virginia (12 percent); 
     
    The silver lining is that rounds played, while still down, were not down as much as they have been earlier this year. As a result, year-to-date rounds played, which were down by 4.8 percent through March, improved slightly in April to 3.4 percent through the first four months of the year compared with the same period in 2013.
  • When it comes to professional development, John Cunningham and Scott Abernathy see the big picture associated with devoting resources to staying abreast of the latest information available. Both know that continuing education, networking with peers and learning their tricks are tools that can help produce the best possible playing conditions on the home front.   "Continuous education is really important," said Abernathy, superintendent at the TPC Four Seasons in Irving, Texas, home of the PGA Tour's HP Byron Nelson Championship. "Our industry is only getting more and more technical."   Said Cunningham, superintendent at Bellerive Country Club in St. Louis, site of the 2013 Senior PGA Championship: "It's only going to filter down and ultimately make the golf course better."   Oh, and by the way, they are talking about professional development for equipment managers, not superintendents.   By supporting their respective technicians and their need for ongoing education, both played a key role in helping develop the International Golf Course Equipment Managers Association's first-ever regional meeting. Held May 27 at Bellerive, the meeting was held in conjunction with the Mississippi Valley GCSA chapter and was the result of eight months of planning by equipment managers Chris Rapp of Bellerive and Cunningham. It provided nearby equipment managers with an opportunity to convene for a day filled with education by industry leaders and networking opportunities in which they were able to learn from each other.   A total of 32 equipment managers attended the event that was supported by a host of industry vendors.    "The attendance and interaction at the first MVGCSA Technicians Meeting held at Bellerive Country Club obviously uncovered a need in our industry," said Ed Eschbacher of MTI Distributing, a Toro distributor with seven outlets across four Midwestern states. "Providing pertinent education, information, and exposure to new equipment technology was certainly a successful format."   It was so successful that organizers are hoping to conduct the meetings twice a year with a second slated for this fall at Sunset Country Club in St. Louis. IGCEMA founder Stephen Tucker also believes the meeting provides a blueprint for equipment managers in other parts of the country.   "It's been a long process, but we wanted to make sure we got it right the first time," Tucker said.    "The idea is to make a model that can be moved to other superintendent chapters. Our goal is to see more meetings start up over the next few years. We wanted to make sure this first one sticks so the model can be transferred to other chapters around the country."   And Bellerive proved to be a perfect location given Cunningham's long record of support for equipment managers. Cunningham was superintendent at the Four Seasons in Texas when his equipment manager there, Doug Johnson, won the 2009 TurfNet Technician of the Year Award, presented by Toro. The event would not have been possible without Cunningham organizational skills and support as well as support from other superintendents throughout the Mississippi Valley GCSA.   "His support has been awesome," Rapp said. "He's very analytical and has great communications skills with members and people on his staff. That is the key to making this work. I've been in this business for 30 years, and I remember when you couldn't get a superintendent and a technician in the same room together. That's changed, and it's because of people like John."
    Mobilizing equipment managers in the past has been a labor of love for Tucker, who started IGCEMA in 2006. And combining the meeting with a superintendents chapter event makes the most sense logistically, at least for now.   "There are just a few key people that keep (IGCEMA chapters) running, and when that guy loses interest or changes jobs, often the chapter falls apart," Tucker said. "We've seen that in Florida. Some years it does well, some years it struggles, some years it just falls apart."   That wasn't a concern at this inaugural meeting as nearly three-dozen equipment managers gathered at Bellerive to pick each other's ideas and listen to seminars on Tier 4 regulations.   Rapp said the session was especially helpful because Boyd Montgomery of Toro tailored the presentation to technicians, not superintendents.   "I've heard a lot of Tier 4 talks over the past year," said Rapp, also an IGCEMA board member. "But this was the first one that was directed to me as a technician."
  • Dead bodies . . . dozens of 'em . . . buried beneath a golf course . . . in Georgia. Sounds like a movie, or the gruesome end to  Atlanta's latest crime spree. Instead, the remains of more than 80 people detected underneath North Fulton Golf Course at Chastain Park on Atlanta's north side have been there since the early part of the 20th century when the land was used to house the city's indigent elderly population.
     
    Rumors of human remains under the course have been the subject of speculation for years thanks to a 1920s-era map of the property, and Ray Mock says he's known about it since he was named Chastain Park Conservancy director in 2003. And now, thanks to the latest in mapping technology, some light is being shed on exactly where this unmarked cemetery is and how many people are buried there. News of dozens of bodies buried beneath the golf course has generated a lot of interest, to Mock's amusement.
     
    "We've known about this for years, we just didn't know exactly where was located. This isn't news, at least not to us," Ray said of the potter's field, a name typically given to unmarked plots of the indigent. "I was trying to scratch an itch. I just wanted to see where they were. Exactly where they were."
     
    North Fulton is a city-owned course in Chastain Park that was designed by H. Chandler Egan and opened in 1935 . Egan, who died the year after North Fulton opened, was fresh off his 1929 renovation of Pebble Beach Golf Links. But long before Chastain Park was built, the area on which it and the golf course no rest once was the site of a public housing project for Atlanta's elderly indigent population. 
     
    The site included two buildings called Alms Houses, one for white residents and one for black that housed the indigent until the early 20th century. Because they were poor, residents of the buildings were buried in unmarked graves upon their death. There was a transition period of about 20 years between the closing the alms buildings and opening the park, Mock said. Today, the black almshouse is home to the Chastain Park arts center. The private Galloway School now occupies the building that once was the white almshouse.
     
    Although the existence of the potter's field might be common knowledge for Mock and others within the park system, its exact size and location have been somewhat of a mystery since the housing development was closed about 100 years ago. Also lost is any record of just who is buried out there, Mock said.
     
    Mock hired Omega Mapping Services to scan the property with ground-penetrating sonar. That revealed 84 separate graves in a field behind the golf course's No. 5 green that should be, for most normal shots, out of play.
     
    "If you skull one from the front of the green, you're going to be playing your next shot from a cemetery," Mock said, detecting the irony in his words. 
     
    "Ever since all this excitement started I've been speaking in puns without even trying. I catch myself saying 'we've unearthed this' or 'we're digging for that.' I'm not trying to do it. It's just how things are coming out."
     
    The cemetery presents no extra management duties for North Fulton superintendent Steve Kovacs, and the site will be left as is, and Mock said planting wildflowers on the site is a possibility.
     
    It was important, Mock said, for someone to speak out for the voiceless and nameless buried beneath the golf course.
     
    "Now we know exactly where this cemetery is," he said. "By preserving this area we know it will never be paved over or disturbed if the golf course is altered. If we don't mark it, it will be forgotten."
     
    Mock isn't stopping at making sure the potter's field is preserved. He wants those buried there to be remembered, too. That is why the park is undertaking the task of pouring over county documents to hopefully some day identifying  those buried there.
     
    "We have 83 more to go because we've only been able to confirm one," Mock said. "We're calling it the forgotten cemetery because no one knows who is buried here. But they are real people buried here. It's time to recognize these poor souls. They were abandoned in their lifetime.
     
    "It's going to take a lot of work on the research end, but we're going to try."
  • Playing golf or serving in active combat duty? The choice between the two seems like a simple one. And for golfer Lloyd Mangrum, it was.    Mangrum, the World Golf Hall of Famer who turned pro in 1929 and eventually enjoyed a successful playing career, could have spent World War II playing golf, but instead he opted to spend it fighting Hitler's Germany. Indeed, while Tiger and Phil command headlines today, the line begins behind Mangrum when measuring the standard of wartime golfers.   Mangrum's feats on the golf course were many, and included three-dozen PGA Tour victories, a U.S. Open title and serving as Ryder Cup captain. But his accomplishments on the battlefield were far greater as he took part in and survived the invasion of Normandy and the Battle of the Bulge, arguably the two greatest and momentum-changing battles of the European Theater.    Mangrum was but one of many professional golfers to serve during wartime, in fact the list of those who also took part in the Normandy invasion includes Jack Fleck and Bobby Jones.   But few walked in Mangrum's bootsteps.    A native of Texas, Mangrum was among the hundreds of thousands of troops who stormed the beaches of Normandy in 1944 when the Allied forces launched the war-changing invasion of the European mainland. Within a month, more than 1 million troops came ashore on those French beaches in a barrage of manpower that eventually repelled the Third Reich. The 70th anniversary of that historic battle that turned the tide of the war will be recognized June 6.   By Christmas of 1944, Mangrum and the rest of Gen. George Patton's Third Army, had advanced to the Ardennes Forest in Belgium for what has become known as the Battle of the Bulge, a conflict that often has been called the fiercest and most violent battle in modern warfare.   Prior to the D-Day invasion, Mangrum was offered a position as the golf professional at the course at Fort Meade in Maryland. He turned down an opportunity to navigate bunkers on a golf course for a chance to navigate bunkers on a field of battle. While in active combat, Mangrum, who died in 1973 at age 59, was awarded the Purple Heart twice for battlefield injuries, including one during The Bulge.   Mangrum found his greatest playing success after the war, including the U.S. Open title in 1946 and captaincy of the U.S. Ryder Cup team in 1953. He topped the Tour's money list in 1951 and won the Vardon Trophy for lowest scoring average in '51 and again in '53. Because he played in the same era as Ben Hogan, Byron Nelson and Sam Snead, Mangrum was dubbed by late Los Angeles Times writer Jim Murray as "forgotten man of golf."   Mangrum's toughness, much of which was honed during the war, was reflected in his play on the course after the war, leading many of his colleagues to conclude it was his time spent staring down the enemy in Europe where he developed nerves of steel with a putter in his hand.  
    ...leading many of his colleagues to conclude it was his time spent staring down the enemy in Europe where he developed nerves of steel with a putter in his hand."
      Indeed, it was after the war that Mangrum was reported to have said: "I don't suppose that any of the pro or amateur golfers who were combat soldiers, Marines or sailors will soon be able to think of a three-putt green as one of the really bad troubles in life."   Mangrum was not the only professional golfer to have served in active military duty, but he might be the most decorated. Fleck served in the Navy's quartermaster corps, and was aboard a warship during the Normandy invasion. Jones ascended to the rank of major during World War II. He, too, went ashore at Normandy, in the second wave, and served the Army as a prisoner interrogator.
  • Tool or toy

    By John Reitman, in News,

    High-priced toy, or invaluable tool.
      Determining which phrase best describes drones for use on golf courses depends on whom you speak to.   Drones never will displace a greensmower as the most used piece of equipment on a golf course. But for some, drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles, have become one of those items that make superintendents ask "how did I ever live without one of these?" For others, they are an expensive toy that at best totes a camera that takes really good photos of the property, and at worst sits in a corner collecting dust.    At the California Golf Club of San Francisco, superintendent Thomas Bastis, CGCS, figures his DJI Phantom, his second drone, paid for itself rather quickly.   He has used it to monitor all manner of agronomic issues, such as how morning shade affects putting greens. With those images, he was able to time stamp photos and present them to his greens committee. The end result was a tree-management plan that relieved shade and the stress it can cause.   "I can take a top-down photograph at 7 a.m., 9:30 a.m., 2 p.m., or whenever, and have a real-time image of how shade affects our greens," Bastis said.    Drone use is limited only by a superintendent's imagination and the needs of each property. Some have used them to monitor native plant populations in hard-to-reach areas or algae blooms in ponds as well as the more obvious before- and after-restoration shots of greens, tees and bunkers. Third-party entities such as Turf Scout even can use the imagery to create, for a fee, a map of an entire golf course. It can cost more than $1,000 to get an aerial snapshot of a golf course from a helicopter or airplane flyover, for about the same cost, a superintendent can get top-down images on demand from anywhere on the golf course.   "They're definitely fun, and they are a toy," said Rick Tegtmeier, CGCS at 36-hole Des Moines Golf and Country Club in Iowa. Tegtmeier, not the club, bought a DJI Phantom in December and outfitted it with his own GoPro camera, and is experimenting on ways he can use that combination as he prepares for the 2017 Solheim Cup.   "The cool thing is that it gives me real-time data right now," he said. "It gives me information that I didn't have access to even two years ago."   Tegtmeier hopes his drone will give him an accurate assessment of sprinkler head distribution patterns as well as traffic wear throughout the property, neither of which is easy to detect with ground-based imagery. He even plans to use his Phantom-GoPro setup to provide members with progress reports on Phase II of a four-part master plan restoration that is being led by architect Tim Liddy. Videos posted to his blog would allow members to see what is taking place during the restoration without endangering them on a construction site.   Larry Stowell of PACE Turf owns two drones, a DJI Phantom and an AR Drone, and he offers a list of safety guidelines, some of which focus on the federal government's current and pending regulations of drone use: don't sell images derived from drone use for profit; do not photograph people without their permission; do not fly over personal property without permission; do not fly much higher than treetop level; and always keep the vehicle in view.   These tips are especially poignant after a March 22 incident in which an unmanned aerial vehicle and a commercial airliner nearly collided over Tallahassee, Florida.   "Drones are currently hobby/toys, so we just have to follow the rules governing their use in that fashion. It's the same as other radio-controlled model aircraft," Stowell said. "But with the recent near-impact with an airplane, restrictions might get more intense.   "We really don't want these things flying over about 200 feet altitude. (That is) plenty high for recreational diagnostic work and hobby research at golf courses."   At Coeur d'Alene Resort in Idaho, Kevin Hicks says he's not so much concerned with using the DJI Phantom II he bought in April for monitoring agronomic issues on the golf course, but rather to help market the property to resort guests. As he becomes acclimated with the Phantom II that comes with an embedded camera already on board, Hicks envisions videos highlighting the property that can be posted on the resort's Web page.    "We have a 330-room hotel with a golf course, and I saw the drone right away as a tremendous marketing tool," Hicks said. "I have teenagers, and the only way that generation learns anything is on the Internet. Right or wrong, that is where our business is going to come from in the future.    "If we do this right and integrate video into our Web site that show a flyover of the golf course, and then there is a button that says ?book a tee time', with one click it's paid for.   "This property spends a lot of money on marketing and advertising. This is a pretty small investment, and it's just plain fun."   Hicks eventually plans to show off the resort's No. 14 island green, but only after he becomes a better drone pilot.   "Believe me, (No. 14) is the primary goal, but with 150 yards of carry over water I want to make sure I know how to fly it first. But (No. 14) is the pay back right there."   There definitely is a learning curve to drone flight, and some are easier to fly than others. The Phantom line has become popular because it's relatively inexpensive and the learning curve is not as steep as some others, or as Bastis puts it: "You can slap a battery in it and fly it."   Hicks might argue that point.   "They say it can go vertical to 1,000 feet. I took it to 250 feet and covered almost half the golf course," Hicks said. "But we did have a pretty horrific crash after that flight. We had another crash just a few days ago. It's pretty durable, I will say that for it."   Bastis operates his Phantom coupled with remote control vision glasses from Fatshark that allow him to see the view from the drone in real time. He's used it to monitor weed control and even used it at another Bay-area property to confirm to the satisfaction of a wildlife biologist that a hawk's nest in the treetops was indeed abandoned, and thus allow a tree-removal project to go on as scheduled.   "Is it a tool or a toy? I don't know, but it's on the forefront of technology," Bastis said.    "If I am looking at a green that shows stress, I can easily record that without driving out there and spend 10 minutes with the guys on what we need to do."    
  • Winter might be long over, but its effects are long lasting for northern golf courses.   As if damage caused by severe cold and ice during winter wasn't bad enough, from Chicago to Detroit to Toronto, superintendents continue to struggle as unseasonably cool conditions persist into spring making recovery a long and prolonged experience the likes of which many have never seen before.   "Personally, I've never seen anything like it," said Ed Nangle, Ph.D., director of turfgrass programs for the Chicago District Golf Association.    It's been so bad that Nangle has taken it upon himself to send letters to the memberships at Chicago-area courses on behalf of superintendents throughout the region, calling this year' a 100-year winter.   "I've talked to some long-serving superintendents around here and they said they haven't seen anything like this since 1977 or 1978," he said. "Before this year, you had to go back to 1903 to find a winter this cold, and there isn't anyone around who was here then to ask."   Temperatures in the Chicago area dipped below 0 degrees Fahrenheit on 16 days in January, including a low of minus-16 on Jan. 6. A brief thaw gave some superintendents a chance to break up ice on greens during the second week of January, Nangle said. But temperatures were back below freezing within two days. Poa annua greens under those conditions were hit hard, Nangle said.   "There was turf death then," Nangle said. "Then some superintendents broke ice in February after 42 days, and the damage was significant. There was a lot of death then, and they knew it."   Problems might have started in January when the infamous polar vortex crept into modern vernacular, bringing with it freezing temperatures that dipped southward all the way into northern Florida. But those challenges hardly ended in January. In fact, in some ways they were just beginning.   Folks in the northern suburbs of Chicago awoke May 16 to a light dusting of snow, reportedly up to a half-inch in some spots, marking the first May snow event in the area in nearly a decade. And soil temps have been slow to get to a threshold needed to sustain growth for all the bentgrass seed that has been laid since winter released its grip.   Newspaper reports in the Chicago area have reported significant damage at several courses. Even after reseeding with creeping bentgrass at several places, recovery on the metropolitan area's north side has been slow thanks to unseasonably cool spring temperatures that have delayed the process.   "The northern courses, especially those around the lake are the ones having trouble," said Ron Townsend, the CDGA's turfgrass research. "The lake really keeps everything cooler. Recovery from this winter has been a long, slow process."   Chicago isn't the only area still having problems. News accounts in Ontario tell of a 27-hole facility that is operating on 27 temporary greens.   Research shows that sustained soil temperatures of at least 55 degrees for several days are needed for bentgrass to germinate and begin growing.   Townsend said that threshold has been sustained on Chicago's south side for about a month. But temperatures on the north side are only reaching that mark now.   "We even had frost on Saturday morning (May 17). We haven't had time for bentgrass to start growing. Everyone is so far behind," Townsend said. "It looks like this week we will have some good growing temperatures, but we're not sure if they'll stay there."   Winter was so severe and the spring so cool that even ryegrass has turned up dead around Chicago, Nangle said.   "It's going to be a slow recovery," Nangle said. "We're still waiting on temperatures to pop so the bentgrass can grow. The Poa that is alive is severely stunted. It is taking its sweet time coming back."
  • "The most important job in golf." That's the label often given to golf course dogs.   Each year, superintendents list the reasons their dogs are so important in their quest to manage day-to-day golf course operations. They keep geese and other nuisance animals on the run, provide reliable companionship throughout the day and are effective at running PR interference against overzealous golfers. As one superintendent said of his dog: "My members think more of him than they do of me."    Every year since 2002, the TurfNet Superintendent's Best Friend Calendar has highlighted 14 golf course dogs for their tireless contributions to golf courses across the country and around the world. If this describes your golf course dog, then nominate your canine friend for a place in the 2015 TurfNet Superintendent's Best Friend Calendar, presented by Syngenta.   A panel of judges will select the 14 dogs for the calendar, including the cover and December 2014. Images should be taken horizontally at your camera's highest resolution setting. Also, try not to center your dog in the frame, as left or right orientation often can result in a more dramatic photograph. Nomination deadline is July 31. Each dog submitted will be included in our online gallery.
    Here are a few tips to increase the chances of your dog being selected: All dogs chosen must work or spend a significant amount of time at the golf course, photographs taken on a horizontal orientation rather than vertical work best, action photos are strongly encouraged, do not have your dog wear sunglasses or pose as if driving a motorized vehicle.   To nominate your dog, email HIGH-RESOLUTION photos to Laura Salinas (lsalinas@turnstilemediagroup.com) and be sure to include the dog's name, age and breed; photographer's name; owner's name, phone number, email address; and the name of the golf course where the owner and dog both work.   
  • More business, less agronomics. That phrase sums up in four words the changing nature of the job of a golf course superintendent. For many, however, business played a minor if non-existent role during the formal educational process.    Superintendents who are looking to expand their business knowledge can apply to attend the sixth annual Syngenta Business Institute.   Presented in partnership with Wake Forest University, the three-day event includes graduate-level business instruction from members of the MBA faculty from the Wake Forest University Schools of Business and focuses on management, budgeting and other fiscal matters, communications, delegating, negotiating and more.   "This truly is an eye-opening experience," said Matt Kregel of The Club at Strawberry Creek in Kenosha, Wis. "Negotiating has been on of my weaknesses. The techniques we've heard about can be implemented as soon as we get home."   This year's event is scheduled for Dec. 8-11 in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.   "This provides a chance to become a better professional," said Rob Williams of Stockton Golf and Country Club in California.   "The opportunity to come here and study business was an opportunity I didn't have before."   To be considered, applicants can apply online at greencastonline.com/SBI/. All applicants must include an essay on why they believe they should be selected to attend.   Application deadline is Aug. 19.
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