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From the TurfNet NewsDesk

  • Peter McCormick
    Just when superintendents are getting used to their new soil moisture meter -- the FieldScout TDR 300 from Spectrum Technologies seems to be the favorite -- along comes another tool designed for turf use that combines moisture sensing with conductivity and temperature measurement along with on-board GPS and WiFi.   The new POGO® (for "Poke and Go") from Stevens Water Monitoring Systems, Inc. (formerly Leupold-Stevens) is a handheld probe that measures moisture (% volumetric water content), temperature (degrees C and F) and conductivity (EC in dS/m).     Carmen Magro, CGCS, well-known to many in the industry as a former superintendent, former director of the Golf Course Turfgrass Management Program at Penn State, musician and industry consultant, is heading up the POGO program as Vice President, Business Development / Agronomist for Stevens.   "It is widely accepted that measuring soil moisture without salts is not nearly as useful as measuring them together," Magro said. "So we combined those capabilities along with temperature measurement and GPS positioning data in POGO.  Now a superintendent can accurately and instantly measure moisture, EC and temperature together to help identify key stress on turf which moisture measurements alone can't detect."   "Using POGO, dry spots or wilt spots can be easily identified as truly dry spots, or really salt-induced stress," he continued. "With that information, one can determine and map distribution uniformity of all three variables in any particular zone or area, and then make irrigation adjustments, hand-watering applications, nutrient applications and stress-relief applications as needed, in real time."  
    "Using POGO, dry spots or wilt spots can be easily identified as truly dry spots, or really salt-induced stress..."
      The POGO interfaces via WiFi with a custom app for iPhone, iPad, iPod or Android device. A turf-specific app will be released in October.   The user inserts the probe end of the POGO into the soil, selects the correct soil type from the menu, and taps the Sample button on the screen of the Apple/Android device. The app will display soil temperature, conductivity and dielectric permittivity on-screen for immediate viewing. The user also has the option to log with time and date stamp all sensor measurements to a file with optional GPS location coordinates also recorded. Saved data can then be easily sent via email as a CSV file for further analysis.   "Putting this all together, a superintendent can now easily establish baseline values of the turf performance and conditions he or she desires," Magro continued.  "Then they can easily monitor conditions with daily measurements and quickly make decisions as needed to maintain desired conditions."   "Compared to other moisture sensing units, the difference is that the POGO does it all for you. There is no need for add-on GPS units or even software to use the POGO. Unlimited data storage, share anywhere right from the app and analyze instantly through the app. To top it off we offer a 5 year warranty. This is the superintendent coming out of me. I need to know this is going to help me and be able to withstand the wear-and-tear of daily use on the golf course," Magro said.  
    "This is the superintendent coming out of me. I need to know this is going to help me and be able to withstand the wear-and-tear of daily use on the golf course..." - Carmen Magro
      The POGO utilizes the Stevens Hydra Probe II sensing technology that has been deployed over 10 years by the USDA and is used by NASA for ground truthing of satellite-based soil imaging. Stevens is the environmental sensor supplier for NOAA, the USDA and the NRCS in the US as well as agricultural agencies and governing bodies around the globe.   The POGO has an anodized aluminum housing (available in multiple colors) that contains a rechargeable battery pack that powers the Hydra Probe. An LCD screen indicates battery voltage.   Retail price is $1995.  More information here.  
  • Calm after the storm

    By John Reitman, in News,

    When it comes to career aspirations, Ralph Kepple has one goal, and it's a big one.   "I'm hoping to be like Clem Wolfrom," he said.   Wolfrom is the former superintendent of Detroit Golf Club, and earlier this year he completed a run that by current standards is almost unbelievable, working 51 years at the same club, a run that began in 1962.   "I don't know if I'll make 50 years," Kepple said. "When you look at what he's done, it's amazing."   The 51-year-old Kepple was born about the time Wolfrom was hired at Detroit. For the past 21 years, he has been the head superintendent at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, home of the PGA Tour Championship, and although he's off to a good start at catching Wolfrom, six years ago, even Kepple might have consider he might have thought such a run was attainable.   In the days leading up to the 2007 PGA Tour event, the club's bentgrass greens were struggling under brutal summer conditions in Atlanta. Only through help from volunteers, staff and PGA Tour agronomists as well as the support of club officials was Kepple able to develop and implement a plan that eventually made the tournament a success and salvage a reputation that was taking a beating in worldwide media.    Fast forward to this year, and rather than resodding barren areas on the greens in advance of the championship, final preparations often include a late-summer aerification that would not have been possible if not for a conversion to MiniVerde ultradwarf Bermudagrass immediately after the 2007 tournament.   Although it's a simple agronomic procedure, late-summer aerification illustrates how far the event and its superintendent have come since that fateful tournament six years ago. And although getting a stressed golf course back into tournament shape while concurrently dealing with the negative press would be just about every superintendent's worst nightmare, Kepple said he came out better for the experience. In fact, he still points to PGA Tour senior VP of agronomy  Cal Roth, competitions agronomist and Jay Sporl, legions of volunteers and East Lake director of golf Rick Burton and other club officials for being there in his hour of need.    The makeup of the club's membership also worked in Kepple's favor.    East Lake is operated by the East Lake Foundation, which helps support social programs and residents of the urban neighborhoods surrounding the golf course. Its scrolls are comprised primarily of corporate members.   "It wasn't fun when it happened, but good things came of it," he said. "I'm still here, and that's a testament to the club. They stuck with me, and it would've been easy not to have done that."   If the club had individual members, "I probably wouldn't have survived what happened," he said.   Prior to 2007 the Tour Championship had been played in November, prime bentgrass-growing weather even in Atlanta. The tournament was moved to mid-September in six years as the culmination of the inaugural FedEx Cup series.   The new format instilled renewed enthusiasm for the game in the Atlanta area, and rounds played at East Lake swelled in the weeks prior to the event. Increased play coupled with a record heat wave created a perfect storm that resulted in struggling bentgrass on several greens and a maelstrom of negative press about conditions at East Lake.   Daytime highs in August 2007 in Atlanta topped 90 degrees on 26 of 31 days. The monthly average high temperature in the four weeks leading up to the tournament was 96 degrees, with the mercury in the thermometer exceeding the 100-degree mark on several dates, including a record high of 104 on Aug. 22. Soil temperatures of more than 100 degrees in the top 2 inches were recorded on more than one occasion, creating a growing medium that was inhospitable to cool-season turf.   Until this time, bentgrass was the predominant putting surface at many of Atlanta's private clubs, including East Lake. But a schedule change for the Tour Championship when it became part of the FedEx Challenge necessitated converting to Bermudagrass by 2008, and the tournament's subsequent success on MiniVerde has helped set off a cascade of similar conversions ever since.   It is widely believed around Atlanta that Berkeley Hills Country Club in Duluth was the only high end private club in the area to have Bermudagrass greens before East Lake. Since 2008, however, it is estimated that as many as 25 other facilities have since made the switch.   "You knew that once (Bermuda) had been established at a high-profile course that the dominoes would begin to fall," said Mike Crawford, who has been superintendent at TPC Sugarloaf in Duluth for 18 years and who, along with several members of his crew played a key role in helping Kepple through the recovery process in 2007.   Flashback to 2007 when the event, historically played in November, was moved to mid-September as the culmination of the inaugural FedEx Cup challenge. The greens had been in great shape throughout the summer, until that combination of record heat and increased play took its toll by mid-August.   "We didn't foresee that increase in play in August," Kepple said of the increase in play.    According to the National Weather Service, 26 of 31 days in August had daytime highs in excess of 90 degrees. The monthly average high was 96, but temperatures topped 100 degrees on several occasions including a record 104 on Aug. 22. Soil temperatures at the course topped 100 degrees in the top 2 inches of the soil profile for 10 consecutive days.   "It was a perfect storm with the heat, the humidity and the duration of those conditions," said TPC Sugarloaf's Crawford. "Under those conditions, bentgrass can hang in there, but only for so long. If those conditions persist, bentgrass will eventually give up the fight, and that's what happened."   Tour officials posted warnings in players' locker room at the BMW Championship in Greensboro, N.C., informing them of the conditions that waited at East Lake. It wasn't long until the news was broadcast on television including at the Kepple house.    "My wife saw it, my kids saw it," said Kepple, a father of three. "When it upsets your family you know it's bad."   Kepple put his worries aside or at least kept them hidden from view and with help from Tour agronomists put together a plan that included resodding the edges of the affected greens with Bermudagrass, thus shrinking the contours of the bentgrass putting surfaces so the tournament could go on as scheduled. Given the short window of three to four weeks, it was the only viable solution. Growing in bentgrass in those areas was not a realistic option.   "Obviously, we had to let everyone know of the problems, and Ralph began efforts to recover the turf through cultural management practices and seed/topdressing," Roth said. "At that time of the year, bentgrass recovery was going to be difficult, especially with so little time, so plans were also made to acquire sod for repairs that ultimately were done during the week before the tournament."  
    It wasn't fun when it happened, but good things came of it. I'm still here, and that's a testament to the club. They stuck with me, and it would've been easy not to have done that."
    After seeing the damage firsthand in mid-August en route from the West Coast to Florida, Roth called Sugarloaf's Crawford for help since the club is a TPC facility. Crawford, who has known Kepple since both were assistants more than 20 years ago, was eager to comply.    Crawford solicited a dozen or so volunteers from Sugarloaf, collected some tools and headed to East Lake. Almost immediately they joined other volunteers working to resod the edges of the thinning greens. Crawford and his band of volunteers spent every day at East Lake for the next several weeks, while co-workers back at Sugarloaf prepared for the club's annual member-guest tournament.   "We didn't know what to expect," Crawford said. "Some greens had some serious issues. We expected some to have loss of turf, and that's what we saw. But most greens had no real issues at all.    "We were glad we could help. The stress Ralph was under, I don't know the word to explain it. This isn't just a job to us. It's kind of our life. It's not more important than family, but it is our identity. It's who we are. The conditions on your property are a reflection of you and what you do. When conditions don't meet expectations, you take it personally. What he was going through had to be gut-wrenching."   When players arrived, there was hardly a hint of damaged turf. And by the time Tiger Woods had posted a tournament record 265 on Sunday, there was nary a word of what had been printed on those warning notices the week before in North Carolina.   "Ralph was quick to act and put together a plan with his team to recover as much turf as possible in the remaining weeks leading up to the tournament," Roth said. "Ralph remained very positive and proactive in his efforts to accomplish what was needed in order to provide playable conditions for the Championship.  Our agronomy team worked very closely with Ralph, his team, and a team of professional turfgrass volunteers that Ralph enlisted from the Atlanta area to do everything possible to make this happen. It was a very successful effort by everyone involved and the hard work and results were greatly appreciated by the players and the PGA Tour."   Although no one involved in helping pull the event together was particularly eager about reliving the experience, Kepple says the challenge put before him during the summer of 2007 made him a better superintendent and eventually resulted in a series of events that made East Lake a better course.   "In the long haul, it was a positive thing for the club," Kepple said. "We're better for it now than we were then. We have more consistent and better playing surfaces.   "It wasn't fun when it happened, but good things came of it. I'm still here, and that's a testament to the club. They stuck with me, and it would've been easy not to have done that."
  • One thing is for sure, when officials from The Toro Co., gathered recently to break ground on a $25 million expansion of its headquarters in Bloomington, Minn., they don't have to search far for equipment.
      Company personnel along with local elected officials congregated Sept. 5 to celebrate the 75,000-square-foot expansion of the company's product development and test capacities.   Toro chairman and chief executive officer Michael J. Hoffman took the first scoop of dirt from the controls of, what else, a Toro backhoe.   "We are investing in our Bloomington facility to enable our businesses to continue to meet the needs of our customers," Hoffman said. "With the anticipated growth of our businesses, through ongoing product development and the addition of recent acquisitions taking us into new markets, this investment will help to expand our technical capacity and further the innovation our customers expect. As we celebrate our Centennial next year, this project will help position us for the future and reinforce our commitment to innovation, our customers, and our employees."   The project is scheduled for completion next summer. Toro moved to its Bloomington location in 1952 when it opened a research and development facility. Company headquarters were moved to Bloomington in 1962. The last major addition to the facility came in 1997. The construction effort is being led by Minneapolis-based Ryan Cos. Visitor on hand for the groundbreaking included Minnesota Gov. Mark Drayton and Bloomington Mayor Gene Winstead.   The current headquarters combines more than 400,000 square feet of office, research and development and manufacturing space for almost 1,000 employees.
  • After three years of planning, the talk is over and work finally has begun on the expansion of American Lakes Golf Course.
    Jack Nicklaus, who has donated his design services for the nine-hole expansion of the course, was on hand Sept. 6 for the groundbreaking ceremony. Actual construction of the new nine holes will begin later this year.
    Located on the campus of the Veteran's Administration Puget Sound Healthcare System in Tacoma, Wash., American Lake is a modest nine-hole course that has one goal to provide healing therapy for veterans through golf. 
    "Our primary purpose is healing through the power of golf regardless of whatever wounds they have, mental or physical," said American Lake manager Bruce McKenty, himself a Vietnam War veteran. "And we take pride in that."
    The Friends of American Lake, a 501c3 organization that manages the course, has raised about $1.4 million of the estimated $5 million it will take to expand the nine-hole operation. A total of $600,000 already has been spent on installation of an irrigation pond that will be used to irrigate all 18 holes.
    "I never had the privilege to serve our country, but I have such a deep-rooted respect and appreciation for the men and women who have," Nicklaus said in a statement released by his North Palm Beach, Fla.-based company. "For what these men and women have given to us and for us the sacrifices of life and limb for our country you can count me in to help out in any way I can. Just to be asked to be involved, be it with programs like Patriot Golf Day or American Lake Veterans Golf Course, is a privilege."
    A glimpse around the course offers a quick reminder of the sacrifice veterans make every day while serving their country.
    At American Lake there are golfers with brain injuries who need the assistance of service dogs, amputees, double-amputees and those with spinal injuries or who because they are paralyzed from the waist down only can play from a specially designed golf cart with a seat that lifts them into a standing position to strike the ball or even putt.
    A former Army sergeant, 24-year-old Aaron Boyle is a double-amputee who lost his right arm above the elbow and right leg above the knee in September 2010 after he tripped a rig wired to two land mines and several homemade explosives near Kandahar, Afghanistan. In all, the explosion injured 10 U.S. soldiers.
    A native of the Tacoma area, Boyle grew up playing golf at American Lake. Today, as he undergoes rehab at the Puget Sound VA hospital, Boyle still plays at American Lake three or four times per week thanks to a prosthetic leg.
    "This place means a lot. It represents the opportunity to get out and function, but learn what your body can do and can't do," Boyle said. "It also lets you know that you're not the only one who has gone through something like this.
    "You don't realize how much golf brings people together. It's a great place to learn what you are capable of doing and to meet other people in a similar situation."
  • When it opens, Ocotillo Park Community Links will do so with the goal of attracting high-handicap players, not scratch golfers.   Designed by Andy Staples of Staples Golf Resource Group, city-owned Ocotillo Park will include a redesign of the existing 18-hole Ocotillo Park Golf Course in Hobbs, N.M., a new nine-hole executive course with a Starting New at Golf facility that offer age-appropriate instruction for entry level golfers.    Along with 27 holes, the property will additional elements such as walking trails, trail heads with rest areas and other outdoor spaces within the property that are designed to increase use of the facility by the non-golfing community.   City officials in Hobbs had been seeking ways to boost interest in the game and drive revenue at its money-losing municipal facility when it learned about Community Links, a growth initiative developed by Staples.    "This course is not unlike many older municipally owned courses across the country," said J.J. Murphy, Hobbs city manager. "The course is deteriorating before our eyes, and, people are just not playing golf like they did in years past. This concept provides a complete paradigm shift as to how the city's course will be viewed within the community and how it will be utilized by its residents."   Construction on the project is scheduled to begin late this year.   "Many courses are looking for reasons to upgrade their facility, but for a variety of reasons, aren't able to garner the support to do it," Staples said. "The concept of a Community Links gives a municipality a verifiable reason to invest in their facility. If it improves the life in a particular city and increases use in a deteriorating asset, why wouldn't they do it?"   Staples has designed more than 125 golf courses around the world since opening his firm in 2002. He implements a sustainable design philosophy in each of his projects, including elements that support water and fuel efficiency and require minimal maintenance input.
  • Recovery shot

    By John Reitman, in News,

    There is a saying that life is what happens while you're busy making other plans. No one knows that better than Pat Berger.
    When he left Michigan State in 1980 with a certificate in turfgrass management, Berger couldn't imagine a career path that included anything other than working toward becoming a golf course superintendent. Today, Berger, 60, is director of sports turf operations at the University of Arkansas, and reflects on the circumstances that took him from the golf course to the athletic field.
    "There were times I'd thought about changing professions," said Berger. "But I always told myself that I was a golf course superintendent."
    Oh, how things change.
    A series of family tragedies ultimately forced Berger from a career in golf and into sports field management 12 years ago so he could spend more time at home where he was needed, and are a sobering reminder that no job is more important than the job of being a husband and father.
    Until that point, Berger's career path appeared to be going in the direction of many superintendents before him and since.
    He had just completed an internship at Oak Hill Country Club and accepted a full-time position at the club on superintendent Dick Bator's crew where preparations were underway for that year's PGA Championship. Not even his wife Beverly's pregnancy with the couple's first child, Brent, was a match for preparing for a major championship.
    "I was at the hospital for the delivery," Berger said. "I kissed my wife goodbye and went back to work."
    Indeed, while the creation of life took a backseat to a young greenkeeper's career plans, the end of life for the child of a seasoned superintendent some 20 years later was a reality check that a job is not more important than family.
    It was about 2000 when Erika, the third of the Berger's four children, had taken ill with a rare eating disorder. A standout high school soccer player, Erika's symptoms included the inability to hold down food. Unlike other eating disorders in which the process is voluntary and forced, for Erika, regurgitation was involuntary and uncontrollable.
    The Bergers spent the better part of the next 10 years crossing the country from one hospital to another in pursuit of two things - a diagnosis and hope. They were able to get one. Eventually Erika was diagnosed with gastroparesis, a disease for which there is no known cure. She died Jan. 29, 2010, 12 days before her 25th birthday. 
    When the family's bout with Erika's illness began, Berger had just taken a job as superintendent at Four Hills Golf Club in Albuquerque, N.M. His family remained behind in Fayetteville, Ark., as he settled in. The news hit shortly after he had made the move.
    His supervisors at Four Hills were accommodating, and Berger returned to Arkansas as often as possible without compromising conditions on the golf course. As much as Berger appreciated the understanding of his bosses, he knew his place as a father was with his family.
    As Berger weighed the decision before him, he received a call from Arkansas turfgrass professor Mike Richardson, Ph.D., informing him the head groundskeeper's job at the University of Arkansas was open. The two had become acquainted during Berger's time at Texarkana Country Club from 1987 to 1999. Although Berger had been passed over for the Arkansas job once before, there was little to lose in applying a second time.
    "I had a decision to make. It was a pay cut to leave the golf course," he said. "But that is where the doctors were, and it is where my family was."
    Richardson went to the assistant athletic director charged with filling the head groundskeeper's position and recommended Berger.
    "When I came to Arkansas, he was the superintendent at Texarkana Country Club and was one of the guys that I connected with during my first few years here," Richardson said. "(He is a) smart, hard worker, innovative and just a passionate grass guy."
    Fortunately for Berger, he had better luck at the university the second time around. He spent the next several years honing managing what Richardson says are the best playing surfaces in the Southeastern Conference and being at home as much as possible for his daughter. The latter is something that probably never could have occurred had he remained in golf, where 70-hour and 80-hour weeks during the playing season are common.
    Watching his daughter's condition deteriorate took a toll on everyone in the family.
    "We have four other kids, and it affected the whole family," he said. "Our two youngest daughters (Erin and Elizabeth), they were the ones who saw the rapid deterioration from an athletic spark plug to someone who was very sick. They still ask 'why?' "
    That is a question Berger still cannot answer.
    Six months after Erika's death, Berger's wife was diagnosed with Stage 3 colon cancer.
    Thanks to an intense radiation program, Beverly, who is a nurse by profession, has been cancer free for a year, but is unable to return to work.
    "When radiation kills something, it doesn't just kill the cancer. It kills a lot of things," he said.
    Despite the challenges life has thrown his way, Berger feels he has been blessed by how some of the pieces of his life have fallen into place so that he could be part of what was transpiring.
    "I have been as lucky as anybody," he said. "But, I do look at things a little differently now."
  • The International Golf Course Equipment Managers Association is now accepting nominations for the 2013 Edwin Budding Award.   Presented by Jacobsen/Ransoms, the award is named for Edwin Beard Budding who is credited with the invention of the reel mower in 1830. The award recognizes innovators, technicians, educators, engineers, etc. that have gone above and beyond their normal day to day jobs and made a significant impact in the golf and turf business.   An award committee comprised of industry leaders and an IGCEMA member will select a winner. Click here to submit a nomination.   The winner will receive an all-expenses-paid trip to the Golf Industry Show or the British and International Golf Greenkeepers Association Turf Management Exhibition (alternates each year), free admission to the trade show, name engraved on the Edwin Budding Award, a keepsake trophy and recognition on the award Web site.    This year's award will be presented at BTME, which is scheduled for Jan. 19-24 in North Yorkshire, England.   Previous winners include Dana Lonn of The Toro Co., 2012; Wes Danielewicz of the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County (Ill.), 2011; Vollie Carr of Jacobsen, 2010; Eddie Konrad, Seneca College (Ontario), 2009; Eric Kulaas, Renaissance Vinoy Resort and Golf Club in St. Petersburg, Fla., 2008; Ed Combest, retired from Lake City (Fla.) Community College (now Florida Gateway College).
  • Spectrum Technologies and the USGA recently launched the TruFirm turf firmness meter. Based on technology developed by the USGA, TruFirm measure the firmness of turf and bunker sands, allowing golf course superintendents and sports turf managers to take appropriate actions to reach the desired firmness of golf course greens, fairways, bunkers, and other playing surfaces.   The USGA's primary objective for the development of the TruFirm is to provide championship-caliber playability by managing greens that are consistently firm and fast. By measuring the relationship between the compaction of the soil and the moisture level, greenkeepers are able to ensure healthy, aesthetically pleasing greens that offer exceptional playability.   The patented TruFirm system utilizes a hemisphere-shaped impact hammer that mimics the shape of a golf ball to better simulate golf ball impacts. The mass is dropped from a consistent height and the maximum turf penetration value is recorded and correlated to the surface firmness the lower the penetration value, the firmer the turf.   Matt Pringle, technical director for the USGA, has been working with firmness and compaction devices for more than nine years.     "The USGA is dedicated to advancing technology to improve playability by making better course decisions," Pringle said. "We decided to bring our technological innovations to Spectrum because of their turf industry knowledge, technology focus, and experience in developing affordable measuring devices."   Measurements taken by the TruFirm are instantaneous, saving time, and readouts are displayed on a highly visible screen.  In addition, logged data can be sent via Bluetooth to a mobile/handheld device for plotting specific greens or other surfaces using an associated smartphone app.   In other news, Spectrum Technologies recently launched a new version of the FieldScout GreenIndex+ app for turfgrass applications that allow users to measure the "relative greenness" of turf using a smartphone camera.   The GreenIndex+ Turf app quickly captures images of turfgrass from a smartphone, calculates the Dark Green Color Index and displays a visual rating.  Users can customize the visual rating calculation for different species of grass and specific plots of land.  Measurements can be compared to identify variability or trends in turf health across golf course greens and fairways, as well as other sports fields, providing valuable data for decisions regarding fertilization and irrigation.  Additional applications include lawn care and commercial turf for better nutrient management.  All data is logged and geo-referenced, and can be emailed to a personal computer for further analysis.   Earlier this year, the GreenIndex+ app received the coveted AE50 Gold Award from the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers (ASABE), an award that recognizes leadership in technological innovation throughout the world for the agricultural, food, and biological systems industries.
  • If there was such a thing as golf royalty, David Dudones might qualify as a member of the game's aristocracy.
      Dudones, 38, is the superintendent at North Jersey Country Club, but as a fifth-generation member of the Worthington family, his roots in the golf business run much deeper. Great-great-grandfather Charles Campbell Worthington, grandfather Ed Worthington Jr. and his mother, Janet, all were pioneers in the turf maintenance industry.   C.C. Worthington (1854-1944) is credited with developing the industry's first commercial reel mower, a technology that was sold to Jacobsen in the mid-1940s. He rubbed elbows with A.W. Tillinghast and even solicited the architect's professional services in the creation of Shawnee Country Club on the Delaware River in Pennsylvania.   In the club's early days, Worthington invited a group of tour professionals to Shawnee for a tournament. He suggested that they form their own association, and the PGA of America was soon born.   Ed Worthington Jr., C.C. Worthington's grandson and Dudones' grandfather, later led the company and eventually launched his own outfit, the Ed Worthington Co., a turfcare supply business he ran from the back of a truck. Ed's daughter (and Dudones' mother) Janet eventually took over operation of the company and herself is a former president of the New York State Turfgrass Association.   "He comes from a long line of turfgrass professionals dating back to his great-great-grandfather Worthington," said Frank Rossi, Ph.D., associate professor of turfgrass science at Cornell University, where Dudones earned a master's degree. "David has always been proud of his heritage and the tradition of being in the golf business."   While he has an industry pedigree that dates back more than 100 years, Dudones' experience in turf maintenance is equally impressive.   In his ninth season at North Jersey, Dudones prepped under such accomplished superintendents as Joe Alonzi at Westchester Country Club, Shawn Emerson at Desert Mountain and Don Szymkowicz at Engineers Country Club.    Despite his family's longstanding place in the golf business, Dudones came close to taking a different career path.   A biology major at the State University of New York at Cortland, Dudones had planned to become a high school teacher. He had a change of heart thanks to a summer job at Craigwood Golf Club in upstate New York. After three years at Cortland, he began studying turfgrass science at SUNY Cobleskill.   After graduating in 1997, Dudones was hired at Engineers and the next several years of his career went by in the blink of an eye.  In rapid-fire succession, he landed at Cornell in 1999 where he studied under Rossi, and earned a master's degree in turfgrass science. In 2001, with his graduate degree in hand, he went west to Desert Mountain in Scottsdale, where he stayed for a year before returning to Westchester, where he had interned in 1997.   The dizzying pace all was part of a grand plan.   "He had the most scripted career plan of anyone who has ever worked for me," Emerson said. "He knew the types of clubs he wanted to work at, and he knew how long he wanted to be at each one.   "He used me as much as I used him because he had a plan."   Indeed, Dudones soaked up as much as he could from his mentors.   "Shawn taught me attention to detail and how to motivate a staff. He motivated people. Of course, sometimes he motivate you with his right foot, too," said Dudones. In fact, he showed his appreciation for Emerson's mentoring skills by presenting him with a framed likeness of Hall of Fame football coach Vince Lombardi, who also was known as a masterful motivator. To this day, the picture hangs in Emerson's office.   "That was a great experience," Dudones said. "That's where I really learned how to water properly."   The desert climate proved to be a great environment to learn about irrigation. But in the post-911 world, Scottsdale also was too far from home, and Dudones headed back east as Alonzi's assistant at Westchester where he remained for three years before getting the job at North Jersey.   He learned more there in those three years than he thought was possible.   "Working three years for Joe was like working six somewhere else," he said.   "Joe taught me how to run a massive operation with almost unattainable expectations. He also taught me how to not let the daily grind beat you down. I learned about a lot of stuff there that isn't on the golf course, like don't tell your wife what time you're going to be home because you really don't know."   Learning under such leaders of the profession has helped Dudones achieve another career objective - to be a mentor to his own assistants, Addison Barden and Kyle DeNuys.   "I view myself as a leader and also as an up and comer in the industry," he said. "I try to live my life to be a leader on the golf course. I try to make those around me better and make myself better."   Some say if he's not already there, then he's awfully close.   "I think he's going to be one of the top-10 most highly regarded agronomists in this business," Emerson said. "He's an intense individual, he's focused and he has a calmness about him. He's at his most calm when things are going bad, things that you can't control. That's how you can tell who is a leader; they stay calm when times are difficult and that shows those under you that you are in control. Dave has that."   A true golfing superintendent, Dudones believes that it is critical to view the course from a customer's perspective.   Although he played more often before his own children's athletic events beckoned, Dudones still plays the course a few times each month, including at least once per month with some of his members.    "The best way to see the golf course is to play it," he said. "It should almost be required of the job.   "It's important to know what the members are talking about. It's a disservice to them and to you if you don't know what they are thinking and talking about. I think the guys in this business who are successful are the guys who play."   Success in this business, however, often comes at a price. And usually it is a superintendent's family at home who ends up paying the bill. Today, Dudones leans on wife Dana for support as he continues his career climb. The couple were married while Dudones was the assistant at Westchester, and they lived on the golf course. By now, she understands that long days during the summer and away from family are part of the territory.   "Anyone in this business who has had a successful run also has a wife who is very supportive," Dudones said. "In the summer, I'm here 70 to 80 hours a week. You need a strong understanding woman who gets that."   Still, Dudones tries to balance his professional and personal lives as much as possible, which includes occasional lunch dates in the office with his wife and the couple's three daughters. When the club hosted a fireworks display on the July 4th weekend, Dudones had to be on the property to make sure the course wasn't damaged. But by the time the celebration began, he and his family could enjoy the time together.   "Fortunately, I live less than 15 minutes away from the golf course," he said. "Guys who live 40 miles away don't have that chance."   Now that he has followed the family tradition - sort of - for a career in golf, Dudones couldn't imagine doing anything else.   "I enjoy the satisfaction you get when things are going right," he said. "It's satisfying to see a well-maintained golf course and a well-run operation. And being outside in nature, it's like being on a farm. You work it, you put in a long day and do the best you can. And I've always enjoyed the people, everyone from researchers, assistants, mentors to salesmen. It's rewarding."  
  • In recognition of the company's 150th year of doing business, Bayer's Environmental Science division is focused on giving back to its customers and the community through education for green industry professionals and outreach to public service organizations in need.
    To that end, Bayer ES is accepting applications for one of two Healthy Turf, Healthy Tomorrow Plant Health Scholarships to help superintendents further their turf education. 
    The Healthy Turf, Healthy Tomorrow Plant Health Scholarship program awards $2,500 to two superintendents who can use the funds to attend local, regional or national educational conferences, or to enroll in a continuing education program at a college or university. Deadline for applying is Oct. 4, and all applicants must be GCSAA members enrolled in Bayer's Accolades program.
    Also in recognition of the company's official anniversary on Aug. 1, more than 200 employee volunteers gave their time at Zuma's Rescue Ranch, a Denver facility that pairs rescued horses with at-risk children to promote life skills in the latter as well as improve their bonding and trust skills for both horses and children.
    Volunteers also helped provide labor and Bayer products in a beautification effort at the facility as well as construction and maintenance updates, including construction and restoration of landscape beds, garden gates and walkways. The team built and installed a pergola, a duck pond and a chicken coop as well as landscaped the facility's outdoor venue, cleaned stalls, seeded pastures, and painted Zuma's signs and indoor arena. The property was founded in 2004 with the mission to provide a sanctuary for voiceless humans and animals in the Denver area.
    Bayer was launched Aug. 1, 1863, when Friederich Bayer and Johann Friedrich Weskott started their dye factory in what is now the German village of Wuppertal. Within four years, the new start-up company had operations in Albany, N.Y., and Moscow. By 1892, Bayer had formulated its first synthetic insecticide to control nun moths. Seven years later, in 1899, the company has trademarked a name that today is a household phrase: Bayer Aspirin.
  • Rain Bird Services recently announced its beefed up training season with educational sessions scheduled for more than 90 locations nationwide throughout the remainder of this year and next.   All classes, including Rain Bird's Factory Trained Program and the Rain Bird Academy, are pre-approved by the Irrigation Association for continuing education units.   "Our training programs are very different from some of the other educational offerings in the industry today," said Robert Pfeil, Marketing Group Manager Services.  "Our classes are designed to train irrigation professionals on proven practices and techniques that can help them take their careers to the next level.  We emphasize professionalism and expertise; we are not trying to sell them products."   The Rain Bird Factory Trained Program teaches installation, operation and maintenance best practices for Rain Bird systems. Contractors who earn Installer,' Operator,' Technician' and Expert' designations through this program must re-test every three years to ensure that they are current with new technology and techniques.  Response to this relatively new program has been overwhelmingly positive.   Rain Bird Academy provides technical, college-level training for green industry professionals of all skill levels, helping them launch new careers or hone their skills in just days instead of weeks or months. Attendees can choose from five preparatory classes that can help them earn the following Irrigation Association certifications: certified irrigation auditor; certified irrigation contractor, certified irrigation designer, ceritified irrigation technician.   Individuals new to the industry can quickly learn how to install and maintain irrigation systems by attending Rain Bird Academy's Boot Camp. This four-and-a-half-day event is a hands-on necessity for beginners or those who simply want to acquire more tricks of the trade. Covering products from a variety of manufacturers, the camp includes classes on irrigation installation, technical skills, landscape irrigation design and efficient irrigation scheduling.
  • There is a difference between not having time to play golf and not making time to play golf.
    When he flips on the TV to watch a tournament, or reads about the ratings of televised golf, Andy Mears sees evidence that there are plenty of people who have an interest in the game, but, according to industry statistics, have quit playing or never started. Mears, the president and chief operating officer of Island Hills Golf Club in Centreville, Mich., believes factors such as time, difficulty, cost and a core audience that doesn't take kindly to newcomers all have conspired to divert occasional golfers and would-be players toward other activities.
    Mears wants to change that, at least in Centreville.
    Since 2011 patrons at Island Hills have had many options beyond playing a traditional 18-hole golf course. Five shorter routings within the 1999 Raymond Hearn layout, called Quick Courses, feature their own scorecard, and are designed to give golfers a chance to play without devoting five hours - or more - to a round of golf. The Quick Course concept is ideal for newcomers and high-handicappers as well as the scratch golfer who is challenged for time, Mears says.
    "We have to get people to understand that golf doesn't have to be played in traditional sets," said Mears, 52. "In an 18-hole round of golf, you leave your house, play, probably socialize a little bit, then you return home. Before you know it, you can be talking about a six-hour day.
    "During the past several years, there has been a huge adjustment in the way we think about our lives. We all have the same 24 hours in a day, but we've changed how we look at what we do in that time. For some people, six hours out of the day to play golf is fine. For most of us, that' s too much time."
    Island Hills owner Bob Griffioen came up with the idea for Quick Courses after reading about a seven-hole tournament at Jack Nicklaus's Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio. The Quick Course options at Island Hills include a five-hole course, two seven-hole routes and a 12-hole option. All routes, Mears says, begin on Nos. 1 or 10 and end on 9 or 18. Each route was chosen specifically to minimize the distance golfers must travel from green to tee, and all can be played for a fraction of Island Hills' rack rate. For example, the five-hole Quick Course, named Honeybee Cove, includes Nos. 1, 2, 3, 8 and 9, and golfers can play it for 15 bucks. Fees for the other Quick Courses increase slightly depending on the number of holes.
    There are few rules regarding the Quick Course program. Those playing the regulation 18-hole course always have the right of way on the tee, and play is not permitted on weekend mornings. Otherwise, ensuring that golfers play only the route they've paid for basically is left to the honor system. Next year, golfers playing a Quick Course will have a color-coded pennant on their golf car so traditional golfers and club employees can easily identify them.
    Many players have readily adapted to the concept and appreciate the opportunity to play at least some golf and do so in less time than it takes to play 18 regulation holes, while there are others for whom the idea has been a tough sell, says Mears.
    "Golf is a slow-adapting industry, including among those who play a lot of golf," he said. "For hundreds of years we've been playing 18 holes. Anything other than that is a strange concept to people. 
    "We want people to know they can get their fix in an hour-and-a-half."
    Like most people in the golf business, Mears is troubled by the numbers passed along each year by the National Golf Foundation. Trends he finds worrisome include the 6 million people who have left the game since an all-time high of 30 million people played golf in 2002, or the net loss of 516 18-hole equivalents since a steady diet of negative growth in new course construction began in 2006.
    Located between Chicago and Detroit in rural southwestern Michigan, Island Hills relies on city-dwelling tourists who are drawn to the region by Lake Templene, a 1,000-acre lake that is popular for boating, skiing and fishing. Although he acknowledges an oversupply of golf courses, Mears doesn't want his course to be the next statistic, so he and his staff go to great lengths to accommodate golfers. The Quick Course system is just one example.
    At Island Hills, there is no charge for the use of top-of-the-line rental clubs, nor is there a fee for lessons. And golfers can play for free after 4 p.m. on Sundays. Mears, who took his first job in the golf business at age 13, figures easing entry into the game for new golfers today might lead to loyal customers tomorrow, or the day after.
    "All I can control is here at Island Hills and getting people in our community to play and getting people outside the area to come to our course to play," he said.
    "We're not trying to make a dent in the bottom line with this. We're trying to get people to realize that golf can be part of their lifestyle, and it doesn't have to take six hours to do it."
    Since implementing the system, Mears says he has received phone calls from golf course operators around the country who are interested in adopting similar programs locally to drive interest. Many ask Mears whether the Quick Courses have increased revenue at Island Hills. Those people, he says, don't get it. The goal of the program is to create long-term interest in the game, not short-term revenue at the cash register.
    "We are here to help and to drive interest in the game and hopefully build some customer loyalty along the way," he said. 
    "The thought process is to get people engaged at some level, then the interest will come. We can't put our needs ahead of the needs of our customers. It doesn't work that way. I see too many who do that, and they can't see the forest from the trees."
  • BASF research scientists recently gave an early glimpse into what likely will be the centerpiece of the company's booth at next year's Golf Industry Show in Orlando, Fla.
    Xzemplar and Lexicon Intrinsic fungicides, both of which are awaiting EPA approval, have been in testing for the past five years, and both offer  control over a broad range of turf diseases, according to scientists discussing the new products at the annual American Phytopathological Society conference in Austin, Texas.
    Both products contain the active ingredient fluxapyroxad, while Lexicon also contains pyraclostrobin, the a.i. common to all products in BASF's Intrinsic line. Both also are SDHI class fungicides that work by limiting the respiration process in enzymes in the target fungi.
    Both products have been field tested by several university researchers.
    John Inguagiato, Ph.D., of the University Connecticut tested Xzemplar for control of brown patch on Colonial creeping bentgrass and dollar spot on Putter creeping bentgrass, both mowed at fairway height and both under heavy disease pressure. Xzemplar exhibited control of both diseases in his trial for a period of 21 to 28 days.
    "Last year, our dollar spot control trial on fairway turf was supposed to be a preventive fairway trial," Inguagiato said. "But infection occurred the day before we began our treatments, so it sort of turned out to be an early curative trial. 
    "It provided impressive dollar spot and brown patch control."
    According to BASF, trial results for Xzemplar showed excellent control against dollar spot at all rates and timings. And when compared against BASF's Emerald fungicide, Xzemplar fungicide provided faster dollar spot control in the first 14 days of the trials.
    In other trials, Lexicon Intrinsic showed 0 percent Rhizoctonia (brown patch) infection after 21 days, compared with the untreated control plot with 70.5 percent disease incidence.
    In a trial conducted on Baron tall fescue, Lexicon Intrinsic showed 1.8 percent summer patch infection after 21 days. When left untreated, the turf averaged 58.2 percent disease incidence.
    Bruce Martin, Ph.D., turfgrass pathologist at Clemson University, has been working with both products for about four years Crenshaw creeping bentgrass and TifEagle Bermudagrass cut to putting green height.
    In his trials, Lexicon Intrinsic and Xzemplar were effective at controlling a variety of diseases in cool-season turf.
    "Crenshaw creeping bentgrass is the acid test for dollar spot," Martin said. "When I want high disease pressure if I'm working with dollar spot I always go to Crenshaw. 
    "I was impressed with the results."
    The products' performance in Bermudagrass, at least in field testing, was what stood out most to Martin.
    He tested the products for control of diseases such as leaf spot, pink snow mold and pink patch on TifEagle putting greens and also incorporated Lexicon Intrinsic into a Bermudagrass fairway trial that concluded in January. Nearly eight months later he still can pick out the plots treated with the new BASF product.
    "Those are the results that surprised me," Martin said. "Those plots were disease free all spring.
    "They showed excellent disease control (on TifEagle greens), and that set them apart from anything I'd seen in Bermuda. Now, will it be consistent? I don't know. This is just one trial. 
    BASF says it expects both products to receive label registration from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency later this year and to be available for sale next spring.
  • A severe storm in late July caused enough damage to the Robert Trent Jones Jr. Course at Rock Barn Golf and Spa in Conover, N.C., that the course was closed temporarily. Rock Barn is scheduled to host the Champions Tour's Greater Hickory Kia Classic in October.
    The course received 9 inches of rain in 2.5 hours on July 27 and was left with severe flooding and damage throughout. The course was closed until Aug. 17, when it reopened as a 16-hole layout until the repairs are completed on two holes, according to a statement on the club's Facebook page.
    Two greens the 210-yard, par-3 third and the 405-yard, par-4 fifth suffered significant damage and will have to be rebuilt. Greens and fairways at Nos. 4, 13, 14, 16 and 17 along with the fairway at No. 5 had up to 3 feet water and silt in some areas, according to a letter the Champions Tour sent to players. The Tour's agronomist Jeff Haley has been to Rock Barn to access the damage.
    Also, 22 bunkers throughout the course will need to be rebuilt. A bridge from the 13th green to the 14th tee needs repairs, as does a roadway bridge through the housing development.  
    Plans are still on for the Champions Tour stop, scheduled for Oct. 18-20. (The NGA Tour's Terry Moore Ford Open, scheduled for Aug. 1-4 at the course, was canceled immediately.)
    This is not the first time flooding has hit a Champions Tour venue. In September 2011, En-Joie Golf Club in Endicott, N.Y., home to the Dick's Sporting Goods Open, was covered in 5 feet of water from the effects of a tropical storm and overflowing of the Susquehanna River that runs along the perimeter of the course. Because of the flooding and to allow the course to recover, the tour moved the 2012 event from June to August. In 2006, the course also flooded, forcing the final B.C. Open on the PGA Tour to move 2 hours north to Turning Stone Resort in Verona.
  • Remove them, or drag them and break them up?
    Aeration is a necessary evil in maintaining quality playing conditions, but as advantageous as it is, it also comes with plenty of downside. Golfers hate it because it can be messy and it disrupts play. Superintendents don't like it much either because removing them or breaking them up is a long, labor-intensive chore. And just what to do with cores after aerification is one of the age-old questions facing turf managers.
    Modern Aerofication Methods Inc. has a solution: Unleash the F1 on them.
    With a name that sounds like the Defense Department's latest fighter jet, the F1 is a core-removal tool that attaches to a bunker rake and eliminates the need for raking and hand shoveling of plugs from the putting surface.
    According to a
    demonstration by Arizona Golf Club superintendent Kirby Putt, an operator using the F1 at his club was able to remove 99 percent of all aerification cores from a 4,000-square-foot putting green in about seven minutes. The F1 collects the cores and dumps them in a pile on the collar for removal. 
    Developed by former mechanic and superintendent James Hill and distributed by Dynamic Turf, the F1 attaches to Toro's 5000 series bunker rake, the John Deere Hydro 1200 series as well as some Smithco models. It glides safely over the surface and can be used on heavily contoured greens.
  • Those walking the floor of the Golf Industry Show might notice an abundance of one product type or another in any given year. A few years ago it was turbine blowers; this year it happened to be turf brushes and brush systems.
    The Buchko Brush, the latest product innovation and introduction from CTRgolf, wasn't ready for this year's GIS in San Diego but has now joined the fray in the greens brush arena.  Designed by Jeff Buchko (inventor of the Jacobsen MagKnife) and Kenny Wilson (also a former product designer and engineer at Jacobsen), the Buchko Brush Conditioning System sets itself apart in several ways:
    Electric drive enables variable brush speed that can be adjusted according to turf conditions. The brush direction is reversible via a simple rocker switch in the event a counter-rotating (forward) direction is desired. It can be used independently of the mowing reel for use as a topdressing brush, or shut off when brushing is not desired. The brush fits between the front roller and the reel (where a groomer would normally go); the platform and drive system will be adaptable to future attachments like a vertical blade groomer. Three different brush densities are available for cool season, warm season and aggressive applications.
    "It's really the grooming brush for all grasses," said Buchko of the patent-pending brush system. "The soft brush is ideal for everyday use on cool season grasses and off-season use on warm-season grasses. The medium stiffness brush and controlled rotation speed is perfect for use on Bermuda or zoysia during periods of heavy growth. The 'Grass Kicker' as we call it is the stiffest brush for ultra-aggressive conditioning of heavy grasses."
    The brushes are distinguished by their color (black, white and green, respectively) and can be easily exchanged via a magnetic release on the non-motor side of the unit.
    The Buchko Brush Conditioning System is available now for Jacobsen Eclipse walk- and triplex greensmowers, and uses the on-board electrical supply on those units. A model to fit the Toro eFlex electric drive unit is coming soon, according to Buchko.
    For greensmowers with traditional mechanical or hydraulic drive systems, a 48-volt lithium ion battery pack is available to drive the Buchko Brush. The battery units must be plugged in to recharge at night, and will last for eight or nine greens when fully charged.
    Distribution is still being set up, but for ballpark purposes the Buchko Brush unit for mounting on electric mowers sells for $2000, while the model with optional battery pack will be in the $2500 vicinity.
    More info at ctrgolf.com.
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