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From the TurfNet NewsDesk

  • John Reitman
    The run-up to the 2013 U.S. Open should have been a fun ride for Matt Shaffer and his crew at Merion Golf Club. Indeed it was a ride, although whether it was fun is a matter of debate.
    With several inches of rain falling at the course in Ardmore, Pa.,  in the week leading up to the event and the challenges it brought, Shaffer, his crew and his volunteer army of superintendents faced a stiff challenge to get Merion ready for the Open and keep it that way.
    But succeed they did, and Shaffer has been widely credited for his ability to provide a course that not only was playable, but, despite its length of just less than 7,000 yards, left the world's best golfers battered and bruised, including one who said via social media that he could take no more.
    For his ability to maintain his composure under pressure and present a U.S. Open that is talked about for all the right reasons, Shaffer is has been named as one of six finalists for the 2013 TurfNet Superintendent of the Year Award, presented by Syngenta.
    Other finalists include Matt Gourlay, CGCS, of Colbert Hills in Manhattan, Kan.; Brad Jolliff of KickingBird Golf Club in Edmond, Okla.; Chad Mark of The Kirtland Country Club in Willoughby, Ohio; Josh Saunders of Longue Vue Club in Penn Hills, Pa.; and Curtis Nickerson of University Park Country Club in Sarasota, Fla. Click on the links to read more about each finalist. To read more about Shaffer's year at Merion, click here.
    The finalists were selected by a panel of judges from a list of 96 nominees.
    Criteria on which nominees are judged include labor-management skills, maximizing budget limitations, educating and advancing the careers of colleagues and assistants, negotiating with government agencies, preparing for tournaments under unusual circumstances, service to golf clientele, upgrading or renovating the course, dealing with extreme or emergency conditions.
    Judges include Bob Goglia and Stephanie Schwenke of Syngenta; Peter McCormick, John Reitman and Jon Kiger of TurfNet; Chris Hartwiger of the USGA Green Section; Cal Roth of the PGA Tour; Tim Moraghan of Aspire Golf; Joel Jackson of Florida Green magazine; Larry Hirsh of Golf Property Analysts; Mike McCullough of the Monterey (Calif.) Regional Water Pollution Control Agency; Bradley Klein, Ph.D., of Golfweek; Dave Wilber of Sierra Pacific Turf; and current superintendent of the year Dan Meersman of The Philadelphia Cricket Club.
    The winner will be announced Feb. 6 at the Syngenta booth during this year's Golf Industry Show in Orlando, Fla.
    Previous winners include: Meersman (2012); Paul Carter, The Bear Trace at Harrison Bay, Harrison, Tenn. (2011); Thomas Bastis, The California Golf Club of San Francisco (2010); Anthony Williams, Stone Mountain (Ga.) Golf Club (2009); Sam MacKenzie, Olympia Fields (Ill.) Country Club (2008); John Zimmers, Oakmont (Pa.) Country Club (2007); Scott Ramsay, Golf Course at Yale University, New Haven, Conn. (2006); Mark Burchfield, Victoria Club, Riverside Calif. (2005); Stuart Leventhal, Interlachen Country Club, Winter Park, Fla. (2004); Paul Voykin, Briarwood Country Club, Deerfield, Ill. (2003); Jeff Burgess, Seven Lakes Golf Course, Windsor, Ontario (2002); Kip Tyler, Salem Country Club, Peabody, Mass. (2001); Kent McCutcheon, Las Vegas Paiute Golf Resort (2000).
  • 2013 Superintendent of the Year finalist

    Matt Shaffer, Merion Golf Club, Ardmore, Pennsylvania

    To say the deck was stacked against Matt Shaffer before last year's U.S. Open would be an understatement.
    Preparing for and hosting a major championship can be a once-in-a-lifetime moment for a golf course superintendent. When the USGA granted last year's U.S. Open to Merion Golf Club's East Course, many wondered whether the 100-year-old classic, was worthy of such acclaim. That was especially true after weather conditions in the Philadelphia area became a major part of the story surrounding last year's Open.
    There is no questioning the integrity of the 1912 Hugh Wilson design in Ardmore, Pa. that is ranked No. 7 on Golfweek's list of top 100 classic U.S. golf courses. But with a length of less than 7,000 yards, the concern was whether the East Course could provide an adequate test to the world's best players. And when the remnants of Tropical Storm Andrea coughed up as much as 9 inches of rain in eastern Pennsylvania in the week leading up to the Open last June, questions circulated about whether Shaffer, or any other superintendent for that matter, would be able to have a course measuring 6,696 yards and softened by torrents of rain ready for an event of such magnitude.
    The fear was that the pros would take target practice on the rain-softened soil-based greens at Merion.
    Shaffer, who has been at Merion since 2002, has developed the reputation as a skilled agronomist and shrewd manager. Since he stepped foot on the property he also has been known as a minimalist, keeping the historic track on the dry side while constantly improving its drainage.
    The end result was a 1-over-par win for England's Justin Rose on a short and narrow course that left the pros grinding. Only five players managed to shoot under par on the event's final day.
    After the tournament, players talked openly of the difficult conditions and set up at Merion.
    Tweeted Brandt Snedeker afterward: "The rough did me in this week. I am done."
    Lee Westwood went on Twitter with: "If Merion would have played dry this week like the USGA wanted it would have been impossible."
    Hunter Mahan told ESPN: "Man, it was brutal out there. It was tough finishing.
    "At the start of the week, everyone thought we were going to rip it up, but I just knew that somewhere around even par was going to win it."
    "Matt is considered to be one of the most innovative and forward-thinking individuals in the industry," said East Course superintendent Aaron McCurdy. 
    "After hosting the most prestigious event in golf on a golf course that everyone said did not deserve to do so, Merion Golf Club was the only major to record an over-par champion."
    Although much praise was heaped upon Merion for the way in which he prepared and maintained the course, Shaffer prefers to deflect praise to his superintendents and staff as well as his volunteers. In fact, Shaffer also has developed the reputation of mentoring others who go on to head superintendents positions elsewhere.
    "His philosophies encourage staff members to think critically and make decisions that ultimately are in the best interest of playability, not so much of turf health," McCurdy said. "Matt also is at the forefront of environmental stewardship with an IPM strategy and implementation that requires far less inputs than any top 100 golf course in America."
  • 2013 Superintendent of the Year finalist

    Curtis Nickerson, University Park Country Club, Sarasota, Florida

    While golfers praising the work of superintendents might, for some, appear to be a rare occurrence, club members actually standing and clapping for a greenkeeper is all but unheard of - except at University Park Country Club in southwestern Florida where Curtis Nickerson works.
    Three years ago, Nickerson, a veteran superintendent who has worked at courses throughout Florida, inherited a University Park course in need of some TLC. 
    In those three years, Nickerson has turned around a golf course that members say was "an embarrassment" and turned it into "a thing of beauty."
    Members have been so amazed at how he has been able to turn around conditions in such a short time that 75 of them submitted nominations on his behalf for TurfNet's 2013 Superintendent of the Year Award, presented by Syngenta. A total of 36 of those nominations were submitted by members of the club's ladies golf association.
    "Curtis has made a huge difference in the quality of our golf course greens, fairways and bunkers in the short time he has been here," said University Park member Elaine Kulbako. "He gets a standing ovation whenever he comes to our LGA luncheons to talk about course conditions."
    LGA president Nancy Kopinsky echoed those sentiments.
    "He turned this course around in two years. When he took over the course was in really,really bad condition . . . . He is available in person and via email at all times, he answers your concerns immediately, and sends out e mails with explanations of what is happening on the course and why. He was asked to attend our opening season meeting, where he got a standing ovation and cheers from our members.
    We are happy and lucky to have him as our course superintendent."
    Nickerson, who worked at University Park for about a year before being named superintendent, conducted an immediate audit of equipment, agronomic programs and personnel, and he empowered members of his staff to take part in the property's pending rebirth by asking each to assess where they thought the quality of course management and where it should be headed. 
    He worked to replace broken down equipment, and because he had been on property for about a year, felt like he had a head start on where to focus his efforts.
    He immediately dialed in on an irrigation program that dried down the course and implemented an aerification program designed to begin removing an organic matter layer that had reached a depth of 5 to 7 inches in some areas of the putting greens, Nickerson said. 
    "When I arrived at University Park, the course was solid and had all the makings of a great golf course. The main problems, well, it was simply tired and the maintenance practices and equipment fleet a bit outdated," Nickerson said. 
    "After a bit of re-structuring of the management staff, a major house cleaning of obsolete and broken down old equipment and an the implementation of an entirely new agronomic plan with new core values and goals we were prepared to re-staff, retool and hit the ground running."
    As he began making changes throughout the course, he kept in constant communication with members and administration through a regular newsletter, open-house meetings and email.
    "Since Curtis Nickerson (has been) our superintendent, the fairways are lush and well maintained and the greens are true and fast," said University Park member Martin Graaf. "This is not unusual for many golf course. What is astounding is that Curtis has achieved this standard of excellence in less than a year, from a very poor and sickly looking golf course, where greens were virtually dead and the fairways had barely any grass and were poorly maintained. 
    "This man deserves a medal."
  • 2013 Superintendent of the Year finalist

    Josh Saunders, Longue Vue Club, Penn Hills, Pennsylvania

    When a member accuses a golf course superintendent of turning a course upside-down, it usually is not meant as a compliment.
    In the case of Josh Saunders, the topsy-turvy description of his first year at Longue Vue Club in Penn Hills, Pa., is a term of endearment.
    Conditions at the course near Pittsburgh had slipped in recent years beyond a point with which members had become accustomed. Upon the start of his tenure that began on New Year's Day, 2013, Saunders immediately set into motion a new agronomic program and management style that pumped what some have called a much-needed breath of fresh air into the golf course, crew and membership. And the result is a well-maintained piece of property that is managed by an engaged crew and enjoyed by an informed group of members.
    "During his short tenure, he has done remarkable things and the course conditioning has improved dramatically," wrote Longue Vue member David Koi in his nomination of Saunders for TurfNet's 2013 Superintendent of the Year Award.
    "With Josh at the helm, many of our members feel that Longue Vue has been restored to its long tradition of greatness."
    Presented by Syngenta, the award winner will be announced Feb. 6 during the Golf Industry Show in Orlando, Fla.
    Some of the words used to describe conditions at Longue Vue upon Saunders' arrival included "bad shape", "unplayable" and "horrific."
    Today, members use words like "magnificent" and "pristine" when describing playing conditions at Longue Vue.
    Saunders, who came to Longue Vue from Kinloch Golf Club in Virginia where he had been an assistant, said his first order of business was creating a new culture at the club in western Pennsylvania. 
    That started with instilling more discipline in his crew, which he termed "instituting an attention-to-detail policy" by retraining and reinvigorating his crew. From implementation of a staff uniform policy to addressing placement of rakes in bunkers to how and when divots are filled to respecting pace of play while conducting on-course activities, Saunders constructed from his staff an entirely new crew.
    "Implementing a change in culture philosophy was the driving force to the success of the turnaround that we experienced over the past season," Saunders said. "The change started with staff development and training and educating a tenured greens department about instituting the techniques, practices and protocols I learned during my tenure as a top assistant at Kinloch Golf Club. Improving playability and turf health provided the foundation toward turning the corner, and the entire greens department quickly bought into my system."
    In the past, Longue Vue also had been plagued by disease issues, such as wet wilt, that Saunders said were attributed to over watering. In an effort to minimize such threats he cut back on use of irrigation water, and he also began using walk mowers, and implemented new chemical and fertility programs.
    With his plan in motion, Saunders' next step was to educate Longue Vue's members about what was happening in relation to restoring their golf course, which he accomplished through social media and a blog.
    "Aside from the course itself," said club member John Dick, "Josh has engaged the members on an entirely new and constructive level, even taking to Twitter on a daily basis to keep everyone informed about his progress, completed work, and even the daily pin placements."
    Saunders says he can't take all the credit for his philosophy, admitting he stole much of his ideology from his mentor and former Kinloch superintendent Pete Wendt, CGCS.
    "My mentor gave me good advice: In order to be an effective manager, you have to be an effective communicator," Saunders said. "That philosophy clearly has contributed to the turnaround."
  • 2013 Superintendent of the Year finalist

    Chad Mark, The Kirtland Country Club, Willoughby, Ohio

    The Chagrin River provides an aesthetic backdrop for golfers at The Kirtland Country Club. Mark Petzing, the club's general manager and chief operating officer, called the river both a blessing and a curse. It is a blessing because its meandering beauty is pleasing to the eye and the steelhead that swim its waters provide yet an additional recreational opportunity for the club's members. It also is a curse, because like most courses that wind through golf courses, it has a tendency to overrun its banks during times of excessive rain.
    That is exactly what happened July 20 when more than 5 inches of rain fell at the club in Willoughby, Ohio. The Chagrin encroached onto the course covering parts of six holes (Nos. 10-15).
    The manner in which superintendent Chad Mark and his staff brought the course back after the flood is just one of many reasons that Petzing, several Kirtland members and a handful of former employees nominated him for TurfNet's 2013 Superintendent of the Year Award, presented by Syngenta. Those who nominated him also included a pair of fellow nominees for the award - a TurfNet first.
    Removing silt from the course after the water receded was a multi-step process that began with using snow shovels, brooms and hoses to clear silt from the 10th and 11th greens.
    The crew then moved on to clear fairways on Nos. 14 and 15 and the approach on 13. 
    Any turf that couldn't be repaired was replaced, and Mark went though a total of 30 pallets of sod and a half-dozen pales of seed.
    When mud and silt finally were removed, any signs of damaged turf were aerified using five-eighths-inch hollow tines, filled with topdressing sand and overseeded with Alpha creeping bentgrass at a rate of 3 pounds per 1,000 square feet. A slit seeder was used to drop in even more seed at half the overseed rate.
    A Verti-Drain was used a month later to relieve compacted soil.
    Area clubs and vendors helped Mark and his crew with the repair work by donating the use of equipment, including fans and pumps.
    He rewarded his staff's efforts with a swag bag of Under Armour items.
    "Chad is an exceptional, skilled professional who has exceeded everyone's expectations at Kirtland," said Kirtland grounds chairman Tony Rehak. "He leads by example and commands respect with his team."
    The gifts were just one example of how Mark strives to keep his crew motivated and engaged. He also has developed a unique scheduling system that actually gives time off (including weekends) to his hourly and permanent staff.
    The result of his efforts is a course that is ranked among the finest in northeastern Ohio (it is ranked No. 90 on Golfweek's list of the top 100 classic courses) despite a budget that hasn't budged since at least 2006.
    Mark, who has been superintendent at Kirtland for 10 years, holds a unique place among this year's list of nominees. He has worked for former Superintendent of the Year John Zimmers of Oakmont Country Club, and also prepped under 2013 super of the year nominees Jim Roney of Saucon Valley Country Club and Paul B. Latshaw of Muirfield Village Golf Club.
    During Mark's time at Kirtland, two of his former assistants have been named head superintendent elsewhere, Chuck Zaranec, West Course superintendent at Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, N.Y., and Chuck Lewanski, superintendent at Sleepy Hollow Golf Course in Brecksville, Ohio.
  • 2013 Superintendent of the Year finalist

    Brad Jolliff, KickingBird Golf Club, Edmond, Oklahoma

    Golf course superintendents are used to performing often under grueling conditions. Still, it's difficult to imagine facing some of the conditions Brad Jolliff encountered in 2013.
    Superintendent at KickingBird Golf Club in Edmond, Okla. for the past 15 years, Jolliff faced a trying set of circumstances last year that included both of his assistants and a full-time equipment operator leaving early in the year, leaving only Jolliff and his mechanic as the only full-time employees for much of the season at a daily fee facility subject to heavy play.
    Add to that an extremely wet spring and summer that brought about 37 inches of rain between April and July in the Oklahoma City area, which is about 17 inches above normal, according to the National Weather Service. Those rainfall totals included a record 14.5 inches in May, according to NWS.
    Despite the many hurdles facing Jolliff, many of the golfers who play at KickingBird say its greens rate with any found in the Oklahoma City area, including at private clubs. And they say Jolliff is the reason why.
    "I have played KickingBird Golf Course since the 1970s. Never has this course been as attractive, well-groomed and inviting to players," said KickingBird golfer Judy Warren. "I have recommended this course to many individuals. On every occasion, I have described KickingBird as public course that could be mistaken for a private club course. That explains the dedication and desire by Brad and his team to please the public and those of us who do not have private club memberships."
    By May, Jolliff's second assistant and equipment operator had left KickingBird, and his first assistant received a head superintendent's position about a month later. With the months of golf left for KickingBird, only Jolliff and equipment manager Sylvester Tillman were full-time employees of the city-owned course. Seasonal helped ranged between eight and 10 (mostly high school students working their first jobs) throughout the season.
    For his dedication to the course and those who play it, Jolliff has been named as a finalist for the 2013 TurfNet Superintendent of the Year Award, presented by Syngenta. The winner will be announced Feb. 6 during the Golf Industry Show in Orlando, Fla.
    A total of 38 people who play or work at KickingBird submitted nominations on Jolliff's behalf. Humbled by the recognition, he doesn't believe he has done anything that any his 15,000 or so colleagues around the country wouldn't do if put in his position.
    "What I did is very similar to what I hear a lot of superintendents have done," Jolliff said. "There are periods in our careers when we will have to work a lot if not every day. I worked every day for five or six weeks.
    "I know that I didn't count the hours. That might get discouraging."
    Still, golfers who play at KickingBird are indebted to Jolliff for ushering the course through trying times in 2013.
    "His team consisted entirely of seasonal employees, with the exception of his full-time mechanic,. Due to this shortage Brad put in many extra hours throughout the summer," said Brett Pribble, a member of KickingBird's advisory board. "I appreciate his effort and am proud that he was able to keep our municipal course in excellent shape."
    For Jolliff, the dedication required to get through the year is part of doing what he loves best - providing a golf course with the best possible playing conditions.
    "I enjoy the customer interaction as much as the agronomic side of the business," he said. "That is why I don't mind the hours. There is a lot of satisfaction knowing that the customers are enjoying their time at KickingBird because of what we have done in preparation for them."
  • 2013 Superintendent of the Year finalist

    Matt Gourlay, CGCS, Colbert Hills, Manhattan, Kansas

    Each year, Colbert Hills is ranked among the best public golf courses in Kansas. According to many of the golfers who play there, Matt Gourlay, CGCS, is big reason they hold the course in such high regard.
    Gourlay not only keeps the course in Manhattan, Kan., in championship condition throughout the playing season, he does so with a budget and staff that would make operators at some mom-and-pop facilities blush. He also is recognized by members for his selfless dedication to the facility where he has been known to pinch hit behind the counter in the golf shop and for his ability to manage the course in a way that matches playability with environmental stewardship and sustainability.
    For his efforts, Gourlay has been named as a finalist for the 2013 TurfNet Superintendent of the Year Award presented by Syngenta.
    "It is well known that Colbert Hills has won many awards for environmental, conditioning, training, turfgrass research and the development of future golf course superintendents," said Gourlay's father, David, general manager and chief operating officer of Lakewood Country Club in Westlake, Ohio.
    "It is an honor for me to make a recommendation for Matt Gourlay for TurfNet Superintendent of the Year. Truth be told, Matt should have been recommended each year for the past seven years."
    The Superintendent of the Year Award winner will be named Feb. 6 at the Golf Industry Show in Orlando, Fla.
    Colbert Hills is home to dozens of tournaments each year, including, including collegiate tournaments hosted by the men's and women's golf teams from nearby Kansas State University. 
    "We strive to have Colbert Hills in tournament ready condition every day as we host over 65 tournaments yearly," Matt Gourlay said. 
    And he does so with comparatively modest resources.
    Gourlay has a humble annual budget of about $550,000, and he spends about 27 percent ($150,000) of that on irrigation water, according to professional golfer Jim Colbert, the course's namesake and architect. And he maintains the course with a crew that includes a full-time assistant superintendent and a makeshift crew comprised of Kansas State turf students. Although the students bring a certain amount of expertise to Colbert Hills, the staff has a high rate of turnover as students enter and leave the school.
    Still, Gourlay spends a great deal of energy helping to further the career of others. He teaches at regional turf conferences and 28 of his former employees have gone on to become a superintendent or assistant superintendent at other courses.
    "I have had at least 50 superintendents in my employ over the last 25 years, and I would put Matt Gourlay at the head of the class," Colbert said in his nomination. "This year Matt, did a great job of restoring Colbert Hills to its top form . . . He did all of this with a total budget of $550,000, and $150,000 was for water - a remarkable feat in this part of the country. Those numbers are well below the norm for just daily maintenance and he has done all of this with a makeshift of talented but part time staff. His dedication to Colbert Hills is unparalleled."
    Although Gourlay's agronomic and management skills have helped make Colbert Hills one of the premier golf destinations in Kansas, he selflessly lends his expertise to other departments throughout the property.
    Besides managing the maintenance facility, Gourlay goes above beyond the normal call of duty for a superintendent by sometimes selling merchandise and tee times in the golf shop, and cooking, tending bar and even washing dishes in the restaurant.
    "Making our golf clientele's experience at Colbert Hills memorable," he said, "is my main priority."
  • The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently gave the thumbs-up to two new highly mobile BASF fungicides for professional turf managers seeking rapid preventive and curative control of a host of common turfgrass diseases.   Xzemplar fungicide and Lexicon Intrinsic brand fungicide both contain the active ingredient fluxapyroxad, brand name Xemium, a new succinate-dehydrogenase inhibitor. Fluxapyroxad is a highly mobile active ingredient that provides both preventative and curative activity on many turfgrass pathogens. Xzemplar fungicide is a solo product containing only fluxapyroxad.    Lexicon Intrinsic brand fungicide contains a 1:2 ratio of fluxapyroxad and pyraclostrobin, the active ingredient in Insignia SC Intrinsic brand fungicide. Lexicon Intrinsic is a next-generation Intrinsic product with disease control and advanced plant health, say BASF scientists. Field trial results for Lexicon Intrinsic brand fungicide have shown it provides efficacious control on a variety of turfgrass diseases, including brown patch, dollar spot, summer patch and fairy ring, in addition to 22 other diseases.   Research shows Xzemplar fungicide and Lexicon Intrinsic brand fungicide provide consistent, long-lasting protection against a broad range of turf diseases. In trials conducted during 2008-2013 by both university and private contract researchers, excellent disease control was observed.   Trial results for Xzemplar fungicide have shown excellent control against dollar spot at all rates and spray intervals (14-28 days) on greens and fairways. In a fairway dollar spot trial at Penn State University in 2013, Xzemplar fungicide on a 21-day spray interval was the top performing treatment among 40 entries. On the final rating date, Xzemplar fungicide was the only treatment with no dollar spot present, while the untreated plots contained over 140 dollar spot lesions per plot.    In a curative dollar spot trial on a Crenshaw Bentgrass putting green at the Pee Dee Research and Education Center of Clemson University, Xzemplar fungicide plots contained an average of two dollar spot lesions as compared to the untreated plots that contained over 20 lesions at 14 days after the application.   Lexicon Intrinsic brand fungicide trials demonstrated efficacious control of a variety of diseases including brown patch, dollar spot, summer patch and fairy ring. In a trial conducted on SR7100 colonial bentgrass, no Rhizoctonia infection (brown patch) was observed in Lexicon Intrinsic brand fungicide plots at 21 days after application as compared to the untreated control plots that averaged 70.5 percent disease incidence at the Rutgers? trial site.   Similarly, in a trial conducted on Baron Kentucky bluegrass showed low infection (1.8 percent) of summer patch after 21 days, compared with 58.2 percent in the untreated control.   Both Xzemplar fungicide and Lexicon Intrinsic brand fungicide are expected to be available for sale later this year.   Click here to read more about Xzemplar and Lexicon Intrinsic fungicides.  
  • TurfNet contributor Hector Velazquez has been named to the board of directors of the International Golf Course Equipment Managers Association.   Velazquez, equipment manager at Walnut Creek Country Club in South Lyon, Mich., will join several others named as officers or board members of the association.   Mike Kriz of Arrowhead Golf Club in Rapid City, S.D., was elected the association's next president, and serving as vice president will be Henry Heinz of Belfair Plantation Golf Club in Bluffton, S.C., and secretary/treasurer John Weidler of Ironbridge Golf Club in Glenwood Springs, Colo. John Patterson of PGA National Golf Resort and Spa in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., is the association's immediate past president.   Joining Velazquez on the board of directors will be Bret Hart of Turning Stone Resort in Verona, N.Y., Scott Sanderson of Stonebridge Country Club in Goffstown, N.H., Chris Rapp of Bellerive Country Club - St.Louis, Mo., Luke Spartalis of The Royal Melbourne Golf Club in Melbourne, Australia, Adam Thompson of Commonwealth Golf Club in Victoria, Australia, Alan Bussey of The Ford Plantation in Richmond Hill, Ga., and Kenneth Meals of Baltusrol Golf Club in Springfield, N.J.
  • Bridging the gap

    By John Reitman, in News,

    Connecting the gap between generations has been a challenge for the ages, but it's been especially tough on the golf business during an ever-changing economy.   Attracting new and younger players has proven to be, despite widespread efforts, nearly a futile effort. And expecting the next generation of employees to display the same work ethic their parents did, is, for many superintendents, an exercise in frustration.   Indeed, the complaint is a common one among seasoned superintendents: Younger employees lack the work ethic displayed by their older colleagues. Interns arrive ready to get on the fast track to becoming a head superintendent, yet don't want to work weekends and lack the experience required to rake a bunker.   And when it comes to assigning blame for that lack of work ethic, senior superintendents might not like where they have to look for an answer a mirror.   As a consultant to corporate America, Steve Drake says 20-somethings weren't born with a lack of get-up-and-go; it was taught to them by doting helicopter parents who teach that effort trumps results.    "Now, here's this Gen Y, who from the time they were born got a trophy if they woke up. Seriously. You got a trophy for participating. You didn't have to win," said Drake, a speaker at last month's Syngenta Business Institute in Winston-Salem, N.C.   "Who trained this generation to expect that? (Baby) Boomers and older (Generation) Xers."   The younger generation of today's workers, called Generation Y or Millennials by Drake,  also learned a lack of loyalty for employers by watching their parents, despite years of dedicated service to a single employer, get laid off in their 50s thanks to sweeping cost-cutting moves. (Sound familiar?)   Regardless of how potential employers feel about any of this, Millennials are here to stay. This age group comprises more than 70 million people and is the country's fastest-growing demographic due to immigration, Drake says. And they're not likely to change how they view employers and what they expect in return.   "Baby Boomers live to work. To them, work is a place where you go every day," Drake said. "For Generation Y, they work to live. Things that are important to them are flex time, friends, family, community service and social media."   Superintendents on the other hand are simply worried about hiring, managing and retaining a good crew so playability on the course is not compromised and everyone gets to keep his or her job. But that won't always be enough.   "Now, the challenge is we have to deal with this, because (Millennials) want recognition and rewards," Drake said.   Like it or not, Drake says, managing a younger workforce eventually is going to require some change by those up the chain of command to be more accepting of the factors that are important to younger workers.   Although offering flextime to someone scheduled to be on a mower at 6 a.m. daily is a stretch, there are other, easier-to-implement ways to engage younger employees, Drake says. That list includes promoting feedback, empowering workers, embracing technology, offering educational and career-advancement opportunities, employee golf outings or take-your-child-to-work days and promoting stronger interpersonal communications.   Attracting and engaging the next generation of golfers has been even more difficult for an industry struggling under current economic conditions. Since 2006, rounds played have been relatively flat resulting in a net loss of more than 500 golf courses, according to the National Golf Foundation. Research by Pellucid Corp. shows that golf is increasingly a game carried disproportionately by those age 50 and above.   Like their peers who work at golf courses, members of Generation Y are attracted to golf's social aspects, Drake says. And golf facilities that hope to attract them will have to promote that interpersonal touch.   "What are you going to do to get them?" Drake asked. "They have a lot of other things to do (with their time). Keep in mind that according to all generational research, they like to do things as groups of friends. What does golf do to get groups of friends to play golf? Appealing to them to play golf on their own ain't gonna work."
  • The Golf Course Superintendents Association of Northern California recently named Wayne Kappelman as the recipient of its superintendent of the year award.
    Kappelman, who is superintendent at Sharp Park Golf Course, an Alister MacKenzie designed owned by the City and County of San Francisco, will receive the award at the chapters annual meeting, scheduled for Jan. 13 at Oakhurst Country Club in Clayton, Calif.
    The association also will honor former University of California Cooperative Extensive specialist Ali Harivandi, Ph.D., with the GSANC Presidents Award for his contributions to turfgrass and irrigation water research.
    Other award recipients will include Randal Gai, CGCS, formerly of Claremont Country Club (George Santana Distinguished Service Award); Jim Ferrin, CGCS at Sun City Roseville and Jason Goss of Sonoma Golf Club (public and private sector Turfgrass Excellence Awards, respectively); and Adrian Bertens of Hydro Engineering and Mike Ligon of Jacobsen West (Bert Graves Affiliate Merit Award).
    In other news, former GCSAA president Steve Cadenelli, CGCS, and turf pathologists Bruce Clarke, Ph.D., of Rutgers University and Bruce Martin, Ph.D., of Clemson University have been named as recipients of this year's GCSAA John Morley Distinguished Service Awards.   The awards will be presented at this year's Golf Industry Show that is scheduled for February in Orlando, Fla. Cadenelli spent more than 40 years as a golf course superintendent at clubs throughout the Northeast, including at the Country Club of New Canaan in New Canaan, Conn., Metedeconk National Golf Club in Jackson, N.J., and Cape Cod National Golf Club in Brewster, Mass.   Clarke is chairman of the department of plant biology and pathology and director of the Center for Turfgrass Science at Rutgers, where he has been a member of the faculty since 1982.   His research has focused on managing cool-season turf diseases such as anthracnose, gray leaf spot and patch diseases. His work has resulted in widespread implementation of new control strategies.   Martin has been a research scientist in the plant pathology and physiology division of Clemson's department of entomology, soils and plant sciences for 26 years and has been a leader in developing strategies for managing creeping bentgrass in warm-weather locations.   His work has focused mostly on developing management programs with fungicides and nematicides.    In 2010, Martin received the Carolinas GCSA Distinguished Service Award as well as the Clemson Alumni Association's Alumni Distinguished Cooperative Extension Public Service Award. Named for the founder and inaugural president of the GCSAA, the Morley award is given annually to those who have made an outstanding, substantive and enduring contribution to the advancement of the golf course superintendent profession.
  • The Golf Skate Caddy offers an alternative to golfers who want a more contemporary way to get from one golf hole to the next.    Due for official launch at this year's PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando, Fla., the Golf Skate Caddy is a stand-on golf transport vehicle that looks like a skateboard with a golf bag attached to it.   Powered by a 1,000-watt electric motor and lithium ion battery, the Golf Skate Caddy features a mono-handle that is pushed to one side or the other to steer. The handle also features a handbrake, which will come in handy since the vehicle has a top speed of about 12 mph.   The Golf Skate Caddy does have a pedestal seat, but the ability for golfers to stand and steer the device like a skateboard is an appeal to attract younger players.    Maximum weight load is 243 pounds, including golf bag and clubs. The vehicle also can carry divot mix dispenser, a drink bottle, umbrella and scorecard, and an optional cooler also is available.   The Golf Skate Caddy reportedly will sell for about $3,200.
  • Brandt, a manufacturer of agricultural specialty products, has reached an agreement to buy Grigg Brothers.
    The acquisition of Grigg Brothers, a manufacturer of liquid and granular fertilizer products for the golf and sports turf markets since 1995, fits Brandt's aggressive corporate strategy of providing superior products throughout the world, according to the Springfield, Ill.-based company. The combined company has sales in 48 states and 45 countries. In addition to the turf category, Brandt offers a broad range of specialty products for the agriculture, sustainable and ornamental markets, including plant nutrients, adjuvants, lawn & garden products, sustainable controls and soil amendments.
    Though long-term business plans are still being formulated, Grigg Brothers will become part of Brandt's Specialty Formulations division, under the direction of Vice President, Bill Engel.
    "The intellectual capital, knowledge and relationships (Griggs Brothers) bring will transform our existing T&O capabilities, making us an undisputed leader in the turfgrass business," Engel said. "I can't wait for the Golf Industry Show to really start to get to work together."
    Mark and Gary Grigg will become part of the Brandt team. Mark Grigg, current CEO of Grigg Brothers, will continue to provide strategic operations management and key account service. The announcement comes on the heels of the Gary Grigg's recent retirement.
    "I am proud of the company we built," Mark Grigg said. "But I am truly excited about our future together with Brandt. This transaction will give us access to a wide range of world class people and products."
  • It's not exactly the same as Congress deciding the fate of the country, but the annual ritual of budget negotiations can be just as important to the future viability of any club.   "I'm not talking about two nations here, but we are talking about competing for resources with another manager within your organization, and you have to figure out who gets those resources and how you have to allocate them," said Amy Wallis, professor of practice in organizational behavior at Wake Forest University during this year's Syngenta Business Institute. "You have an employee who wants to change their work schedule and you have to decide if that is feasible and everything that is going to be impacted by that decision.   "These are the kinds of negotiations we engage in on a day-to-day basis."   Held in December at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C., SBI is a four-day professional business development program that provides about two-dozen superintendent attendees with graduate school-level business education in a compressed and interactive format.   Developed in conjunction with the Wake Forest University Schools of Business, the program supplements superintendents' management skills with a curriculum that includes financial management, personnel management, effective communications and negotiating skills delivered in an interactive series of seminars and workshops conducted by members of Wake's MBA faculty.   The program included sessions on financial management, managing across generations and leading teams and individuals.   Negotiations processes that the group identified as the kind that typically involve superintendents include negotiating with managers about budgets, the golf shop about frost delays and vendors over product pricing.   "This truly is an eye-opening experience," said Matt Kregel of The Club at Strawberry Creek in Kenosha, Wis. "Negotiating has been one of my weaknesses. The techniques we've heard about can be implemented as soon as we get home."   According to Wallis, many negotiations go awry because people from one or both sides enter the process without understanding what makes such processes successful.   "We tend to think of negotiations as a zero-sum game," she said. "Everything I get is something you lose. Everything you get is something taken from me. I am competing to get the most of that pie.   "That is how most of us think about negotiations. What we find out is that when we cooperate others tend to cooperate as well. We need to learn how to leverage that."  
    What we find out is that when we cooperate others tend to cooperate as well..."
      Wallis used an arm wrestling exercise to demonstrate how negotiations commonly work, which often is a confrontational relationship, and how the process can be a win-win for both sides.   She instructed members of the group to pin their arm wrestling partner as many times as possible. As attendees struggled to pin each other in the exercise, Wallis demonstrated how by each person allowing themselves to be pinned, both people got what they wanted.   "We tend to define success as I have more than you do so I won," Wallis said. "Is there a different definition of success that is not about winning or losing, but about both of us getting what we need?   "What happens to develop a win-win situation? We have to learn how to let go. We have to trust, have to be willing to concede, i am willing to let you take this point because i am go to trust that next you are going to be willing to let me take the point."  
    We have to learn how to let go. We have to trust, have to be willing to concede,.."
      Sometimes, it requires creativity for the negotiations process to be successful.   "I didn't get a business degree, I got an agronomy degree," said Ralph Kepple, CGCS at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta. "I took some business classes. The part on negotiating was eye opening. You see what happens when you break trust."   Three things to consider for a successful negotiations process include: substance, or what is being negotiated; process, or how the negotiation will take place and relationships between those involved in the process.   This requires some self reflection to determine if one tends to approach interpersonal conflict from competing, collaborating, compromising, accommodating or avoidance perspectives.   "We have to be mindful to processes, and if we are going to change them," Wallis said. "If we don't think about the processes beforehand, what assumptions do we walk in with? We walk in with the assumption that this is going to be combative, somebody's going to win, somebody's going to lose. I have to get as much as I can out of this and make sure the other guy or gal doesn't get as much as they want."   "The other thing we need to take into consideration is the relationship. Most of the time you are engaged in a negotiation, it probably is with someone you are going to have an ongoing relationship with."   Wallis pointed to an example provided by an attendee who says he spends all year fostering a positive relationship with his club's controller to help smooth over the budget negotiations process.   Investing in relationships makes sense, Wallis said.    "That way, when you do eventually need something you've got that good will in the bank so people are inclined to help you," Wallis said.   "Folks who spend most of the year making other people mad probably are not going to be as successful in a negotiation as someone who invests in helping people get their job done well."
  • Between semesters at Anoka Technical College (Anoka, MN) and while interning on the greens staff at Golden Valley Golf and Country Club (Golden Valley, MN), Rob Grant had one of those "better ideas": a simple, plastic, easily removable device to protect golf cups from paint drips, spray and pigment stain, and sand topdressing.
    Thus, the Cup-Saver was born.
    Grant had a virtual prototype designed on a CAD system and a physical model produced via 3-D printing, a relatively new "additive manufacturing" process that slices a virtual prototype into digital cross sections to serve as a blueprint for "printing". The machine then lays down successive layers of liquid, powder, paper or sheet material until the final 3D model is complete. The final product is made of engineered thermoplastic.
    Looking sort of like an inverted funnel, the Cup-Saver fits inside the cup hole and rests on the top lip of the golf cup... beneath the inch of soil frequently painted white for visibility.  The inverted "nose" serves as a handle to quickly insert and remove the Cup-Saver while painting cup rings, before and after spraying, and to keep sand topdressing out of the cup.

    The Cup-Saver is available for purchase through cup-saver.com, Pricing is $130 for four and $275 for ten.
  • November was a good news, bad news sort of month for the golf business.
    The bad news, according to Golf Datatech's National Rounds Played Report, was that year-over-year rounds played for the month were down 11 percent (10 percent at daily fee courses and 15 percent at private clubs), compared to November 2012.
    The good news, according to Pellucid Corp., is that such losses so late in the golf season have little bearing on yearly totals.
    Rounds played for the month were down in 39 states by as little as 1.2 percent in New York to as much as 53 percent in Iowa. For the year, play is down by 4.8 percent compared with the first 11 months of 2012.
    According to the report, which does not track rounds in Alaska, play was up in 10 states, including gains of 4 percent in Utah and 25 percent in New Jersey.
    The losses in November were predictable, according to Pellucid, given the early arrival of winter conditions in many states.
    For example, in Chicago, which is no stranger to cold weather, average daily highs and lows throughout November, ran 3 degrees colder than the historic average, according to the National Weather Service. As a result, play was down in the city by 48 percent in November. Daily temperatures in St. Louis, where play was down by nearly 30 percent, also were 3 degrees below normal for the month.
    According to Pellucid, golf playable hours, a measurement of the total number of daylight hours compared with factors that influence play such as precipitation, humidity, daylight variances, etc., were down by 14 percent in November.
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