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From the TurfNet NewsDesk

  • John Reitman
    There is no evidence that 19th century French novelist Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr ever visited Pittsburgh. It's also pretty doubtful he was thinking of the steel city when he coined his now-famous phrase (in French, of course) "The more things change, the more they stay the same."
    Those words certainly apply in part to Eric Wygant's situation at Shannopin Country Club. When Wygant took over as superintendent at the Pittsburgh country club 16 years ago, his maintenance budget was $687,000 - probably a pretty tidy sum in those days. Today, Wygant's budget has barely budged to $690,000.
    Keep in mind, golfer demands for exceptional conditions have not remained static during that time. Greens are faster now, bunkers and tees are in better shape, the fairway has a second cut, and he has had fewer workers with which to accomplish this.
    Not only have Wygant managed to pull off the near impossible over the past decade-and-a-half, he's improved staff morale in the process and he has members singing his praises.
    For his ability to pull a budgetary rabbit out of his hat for so long and produce one of the best conditioned courses in the Pittsburgh area, Wygant has been named one of 10 finalists for the 2014 TurfNet Superintendent of the Year Award, presented by Syngenta.

    Finalists are chosen by a panel of judges from a field of nominees based on the following criteria: labor management, 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 and dealing with extreme or emergency conditions.
    The winner will be named Feb. 26 at the Golf Industry Show in San Antonio. Previous winners include: Chad Mark (2013); Dan Meersman (2012); Paul Carter, CGCS (2011); Thomas Bastis, CGCS (2010); Anthony Williams, CGCS (2009); Sam MacKenzie (2008); John Zimmers (2007); Scott Ramsay, CGCS (2006); Mark Burchfield (2005); Stuart Leventhal, CGCS (2004); Paul Voykin (2003); Jeff Burgess (2002); Kip Tyler (2001); and Kent McCutcheon (2000).
    Employee morale already was down when Wygant arrived at Shannopin and had a staff of 20. Sixteen years later, with no money infused into the system, there was every excuse for morale to sink even lower, but it hasn't. That's a credit to Wygant's team-building skills as well as his ability to reorganize priorities and spread the money he does have around so it's spent as wisely as possible. Oh, and today he has a staff of 12, six of which are full time employees and six of which are seasonal.
    When it was time to rebuild bunkers, Wygant's crew did all the work themselves to save money. Today, they're not raked as often as they could be, and high-cut areas are mowed less frequently, but those are the tradeoffs that must be made to keep greens rolling at 13 (they rolled at 10 when Wygant started here) and adding a double-cut to the fairways.
    "We get used to it," said Wygant, 41. "We have tough skin, and this is a tough course, and Pittsburgh is fortunate to have it."
    The crew has bought in to Wygant's philosophy. Three members of his full-time crew of six have been at Shannopin since Jimmy Carter occupied the White House.
    To make the most of his budget-scrimping skills, Wygant shops far and wide to get the best deal on replacement parts, makes equipment last long beyond its useful life expectancy and completes course-improvement projects with his humble in-house crew. To raise additional funds he has published and sells informational greens fee booklets to golfers, with all proceeds going into a course-improvement fund.
    Members are sold, too.
    Wygant's nomination letter was signed by 15 members with a cumulative 374 years of history with the club.
    "He has accomplished so much with less, and no membership complaints, because he has developed a harmonious relationship with Shannopin board members and the entire membership over the years," wrote Shannopin member Gini Musmanno. "By fully explaining how and why he might scale back changing cup placements, raking bunkers, buying flags, etc., he has created support within the club."
    For Wygant and his crew, it's just a matter of doing what needs to be done.
    "It's just a matter of reorganizing how things are done. Everyone is cutting back on some things that aren't as noticeable," Wygant said. "We don't rake as much as we used to. In high-cut areas, we reducing mowing frequency, and we're converting out-of-play areas to wildflower areas.
    "We have to do the stuff that members will notice. The other stuff will get done in its own time.
    "It also means reorganizing the crew. We had 20 guys when I started in 2000. Now, we have 12. We have to be organized and have a routine."
  • Ask just about any golf course superintendent to name the easiest part of their job, and many will answer "growing grass". It's the other things that come with the job, managing time, managing others, working with outside agencies, working with in-house committees, that are such a challenge.
    Fred Gehrisch thrives on all those other things that come with the job. The things they don't teach in turf school.
    The superintendent at Highlands Falls Country Club in Highlands, North Carolina, Gehrisch manages the mountaintop golf course to impeccable standards, is always looking for non-agronomic projects to improve the club for its members, and volunteers his time and expertise to complete a variety of public service projects for the community surrounding the golf course.
    In the past several years, Gehrisch, 45, has completed a room dedicated to Highland Falls architect Joe Lee that serves as a history museum for the club and its members, planted trees throughout Highlands for the city, cleared a downtown lot to make room for a municipal park, managed hemlocks for the town's land trust, repaired its hiking trails, cleared debris so a local animal shelter could expand its operations, cuts firewood for the town to distribute to needy families, builds doghouses for a local charity.
    "The easy answer to why I do this is it's fun to keep challenging myself with other stuff," Gehrisch said. "Growing grass is easy, and I have a lot of experience at it. Likewise, I'm blessed with a great staff, and I give them a lot of leeway to take on the superintendent's role. That frees me up to do other stuff.
    "We don't ask for anything for it. The club likes that we do these kinds of things."
    For the ease with which he can grow grass at Highlands Falls, and for the great lengths to which he goes to improve the lives of those in the surrounding community, Gehrisch has been named as a finalist for the 2014 TurfNet Superintendent of the Year Award, presented by Syngenta.
    "Fred Gehrisch not only knows how to grow grass and manage a crew and a budget, he is also very attuned to the club members and probably the staff member who does the best job of seeing that members have reason to be proud of the club," said Highlands Falls general manager Jason Macaulay. "This is more than just the condition of the golf course. Our celebration of the history of the club and the accomplishments of Joe Lee, the golf course architect, was Fred's idea from the start. It was his vision that our members would have a much greater appreciation of the club if we could do a good job of presenting its history to them. He and I worked together closely on the project for a full year and I've got to say that Fred was the reason for the success of what we now call the Joe Lee Room and the dedication plaque recognizing Joe Lee that now graces our first tee. He is much more than a golf course superintendent in my mind."
    Gehrisch, with the blessing of his members, converted a little-used room in the clubhouse into a shrine dedicated to the club's history and Lee. When the project was finished, the dedication included a tournament to showcase the architect's handy work, and a dedication ceremony that included Lee's widow, Ginny, among many others. Two guests attending the event were so impressed by the festivities and the facilities that they joined the club.
    Gehrisch is able to perform so many extracurricular duties because of his ability to train and manage his staff.
    "As an assistant for Fred for the past six years, I have come to the realization that growing grass is the easy part of being a superintendent," said Josh Cantrell. "Making yourself and your staff available to the needs of the membership, whatever and whenever they may be, is the key to being successful in this industry. That's what separates the great superintendents from the average. Many times we are asked to do things that may be out of our comfort zones. Fred has changed my thought process in these instances. All too often I hear, ?That's not in my job description' or ?I don't get paid enough to do that.' Not with Fred. He has taught me to embrace these challenges and not to be afraid to try something new."
    Gehrisch is one of 10 finalists for the award. Finalists are chosen by a panel of judges from a field of nominees based on the following criteria: labor management, 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 and dealing with extreme or emergency conditions.
    The winner will be named Feb. 26 at the Golf Industry Show in San Antonio. Previous winners include: Chad Mark (2013); Dan Meersman (2012); Paul Carter, CGCS (2011); Thomas Bastis, CGCS (2010); Anthony Williams, CGCS (2009); Sam MacKenzie (2008); John Zimmers (2007); Scott Ramsay, CGCS (2006); Mark Burchfield (2005); Stuart Leventhal, CGCS (2004); Paul Voykin (2003); Jeff Burgess (2002); Kip Tyler (2001); and Kent McCutcheon (2000).
  • Bernhard reaches distribution agreement with Finch
      Bernhard and Co., manufacturer of blade sharpening systems for turf mowing machines, recently entered into a distribution partnership with Finch Services.   One of the Mid-Atlantic's leading distributors, Finch has six locations throughout Maryland and Pennsylvania, and serves customers across Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Washington, D.C., and West Virginia. Family-owned and operated since 1945, the company was named John Deere's Distributor of the Year in 2013.   Next-day delivery on more than 100,000 parts is a company hallmark. Its first-class service department and myriad financing programs on virtually all makes and models also contribute to Finch's well-earned standing as a one-stop shop for all maintenance needs.   Finch Services carries a large selection of Bernard inventory, including the Express Dual and Anglemaster models.   Hunter adds new synthetic turf irrigation system
      Hunter Industries recently released the new STK-6V, an enhanced version of its existing synthetic turf irrigation system to clean and cool synthetic sports turf.    The STK-6V was designed specifically to provide easier installation, simple maintenance, and to accommodate different types of playing surfaces, the company says. Its shorter vault design provides a connection to the mainline at approximately 24 inches to 30 inches deep, which the company says is a much more manageable depth for installation and requires less digging.   In the new model, the rotor hangs from an adjustable bracket within the vault for precise adjustment to meet grade, and adjustable stands support the manifold, eliminating the need to backfill the vault with gravel for support.   The STK-6V includes a new 3-inch galvanized ductile iron assembly with heavy-duty grooved fittings for ease of servicing. The isolation valve and point of connection for the quick coupler are now inside the vault and provided with the field-installed assembly, for a total top service solution. The vault also includes a drain valve for easier servicing and winterization. The core of the Hunter ST System features gear-driven long-range rotors, a heavy-duty manifold assembly, and low-pressure loss, slow-opening valves, with all components contained in a construction-grade vault for total top service and easy maintenance.   The STK-6V is configurable to accommodate synthetic turf over vault, non-infill tight turf over vault, running track, and concrete pad or walkway installations.   Residex names new turf director
      Residex, a distributor of professional pest-control and turfgrass-management supplies, recently hired David Helt as director of its turf division.   Helt, formerly with Direct Solutions, will be responsible for all sales initiatives in North America for the company's line of branded, generic, and proprietary turf products and services.    Residex is full-line distributor of turf, landscape, and pest control solutions that includes products from The Andersons, AP&G, Barenbrug, BASF, Bayer, Bell Labs, B&G Equipment, Civitas, Dow AgroSciences, FMC, MGK, Mitchell, Nisus, NuFarm, Pest West, SePro, Spring Valley, Syngenta, Turf Care Supply, Turf Fuel, Woodstream and Zoecon.
  • Golf course superintendents love removing trees that rob turf of precious sunlight and air movement. But promoting tree growth? It's difficult to find a superintendent who can get behind that movement. 
    Promoting a habitat friendly to the Oregon white oak, however, has become a passion for Joel Kachmarek, superintendent at Tacoma Country and Golf Club in Lakewood, Washington. The only oak tree species native to Washington, the Oregon white oak is being pushed out of its natural range by the aggressive Douglas fir. In fact, the Oregon oak is just one of many native species being pushed around by the "Doug fir".
    Dozens of species of flora and fauna are in danger of losing their habitat to the Douglas fir, an aggressive native species that first was found in British Columbia in 1791 and can grow to heights of nearly 250 feet.
    Kachmarek is removing Douglas firs from the grounds at Tacoma. He started with 17, including one that was an estimated 100 years old. His plans include taking out about 150 more over the next several years.
    "It's a new environmental push. We're killing trees to save trees," Kachmarek said. "We want to log out the Doug first because they are shading out everything else.?
    For his environmental efforts, as well as the way he managed a trying (and award-winning) renovation project, in which the architect died midstream, and more at Tacoma, Kachmarek has been named a finalist for the 2014 TurfNet Superintendent of the Year Award, presented by Syngenta.
    Built more than 100 years ago, the club was moved to its current location on Washington's coastal prairie in 1905. Generations before the club was founded, American Indians in the Pacific Northwest managed the lands through their own controlled burns. The fires kept the invasive fir at bay and allowed the Oregon white oak to flourish since mature specimens have a thick bark that is resistant to fire. This process provided habitat for game, on which the Indians relied for food and clothing.
    Since that practice stopped many years ago, the Doug fir has taken over the coastal oak prairie. For years, that included the golf course at Tacoma, which was built on that same coastal prairie. Through the generations, players there have grown accustomed to tree-lined fairways, even though the trees belong in the mountains, not in the prairies below.
    "About 200 species of plants and animals are on the verge of extinction due to loss of prairie. We want to save the oak, but our underlying motivation is to produce better golf turf," Kachmarek said.
    "We are going for more of the open prairie look now. That is freaking some people out."
    If the new look wasn't enough to make some folks at Tacoma sweat, a recent renovation project might have been.
    The restoration was drafted and initiated in 2012 by architect John Harbottle III. A Tacoma resident and member of the club, Harbottle seemed like a fitting choice for the project. The restoration was threatened that May when Harbottle died awaiting a flight at Los Angeles International Airport.
    "John and I were friends and we worked together on the design concept," Kachmarek said. "We wanted to take the golf course back to its golden age. The course had taken on a modern '80s look, and we wanted to take it back. That included changing from bunkers with manicured edges to classic-style bunkers with furry edges. We did six to show the members, but John died before the sand went in."
    Soon after, the club hired Nick Schaan of architect David McLay Kidd's DMK Golf Design, with strict instructions.
    "We hired him because he had worked with John," Kachmarek said. "We told him to finish it as if he were John Harbottle, not Nicholas Schaan." 
    Drafted as a multi-phase, multi-year project, the restoration instead was completed all at once after Harbottle's death. Kachmarek's staff served as a construction crew for about half the work for two reasons - to save money and maintain control of the project. Despite the many hurdles and challenges, the award was recognized by Golf Inc. as Best Renovation of the Year Under $1 million.
    "It was sad, it was tragic, it was everything you can imagine," Kachmarek said. "We were going to do 20 bunkers a year for three years. When John died, we decided to do it all in one sweep while his ideas are fresh in our minds. We had to convince the board to give us the whole nut at one time and adopt a new plan. 
    "To do all that and complete it within one year of John's death was astounding. And we did it for under $500,000. That was a monumental achievement, considering the circumstances involved in the project.
    "It was a typical bunker project with problems like no drainage. Now, they look amazing, and they play amazing, and the members are thrilled with them. It was stressful and gratifying all at one time."
    Kachmarek is one of 10 finalists for the award. Finalists are chosen by a panel of judges from a field of nominees based on the following criteria: labor management, 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 and dealing with extreme or emergency conditions.
    The winner will be named Feb. 26 at the Golf Industry Show in San Antonio. Previous winners include: Chad Mark (2013); Dan Meersman (2012); Paul Carter, CGCS (2011); Thomas Bastis, CGCS (2010); Anthony Williams, CGCS (2009); Sam MacKenzie (2008); John Zimmers (2007); Scott Ramsay, CGCS (2006); Mark Burchfield (2005); Stuart Leventhal, CGCS (2004); Paul Voykin (2003); Jeff Burgess (2002); Kip Tyler (2001); and Kent McCutcheon (2000).
  • Precise Path Robotics made a big splash in the golf business when its RG3 robotic greensmower burst onto the scene at the 2009 Golf Industry Show in New Orleans. Other than a few snippets here and there, we haven't heard much from Precise Path or New Orleans since.
      It appears that is about to change.   Last month, MTD Products, a Cleveland-based manufacturer of outdoor power equipment primarily for the residential and lawn and landscape markets, acquired Precise Path Robotics as well as Core Outdoor Power. The latter is a Montana-based manufacturer of gasless outdoor power equipment for both residential and professional markets.   Although Precise Path will remain in Indianapolis, benefits of the acquisition by MTD will span state lines, said Jeff Everett, director of golf products for Precise Path.   "This allows us to leverage their manufacturing expertise and design expertise," Everett said.    Products under the MTD umbrella include Bolens, MTD, Yard Machines and Yard Man. Until the acquisition of Precise Path, the company has no footprint whatsoever in golf turf management.   Precise Path Robotics was founded in 2004 as a private start up company called IndyRobotics.   Five years later, the RG3 debuted on the show floor of the Morial Convention Center in New Orleans. The GPS-guided mower created a significant buzz and has since been tested on dozens of courses around the country, sales have been slow.    Since 2012, the RG3 has been in use at The Bayou Club in Largo, Florida. Another customer recently placed an order, but only after learning of the acquisition by the larger and more-established MTD, Everett said, adding another four or so customers are expected to come aboard this year. He expects the size and staying power of MTD, which was founded in 1932, to help convince others to pull the trigger.   "One of the hardest problems for us is that people have been reluctant to make an investment in a company this small with no big name behind it," Everett said.    "We've run up against so many hurdles. Nobody wants to put their name, their reputation or frankly their jobs on the line behind a small company. In this business, we've seen too many of them come and go."   Those days not knowing whether it would be here tomorrow appear to be over for Precise Path. The company plans to announce specific details about future growth plans next month before the Golf Industry Show in San Antonio. Likewise, the RG3 is undergoing a minor facelift as well, an indicator that it isn't going away anytime soon.   "We are excited about the changes that are coming to the RG3," he said. "Hopefully, this will be interpreted as a new player bringing new innovation to the golf market."  
  • It's not uncommon for a superintendent to admit that golfer demands can make their job more challenging. For golfers themselves to concede such a thing is another matter entirely, but that's the case at Saucon Valley Country Club, where members demand much from Jim Roney, and they know it.
      When Saucon Valley green chairman Robin McCool sought support for Roney for the 2014 TurfNet Superintendent of the Year Award, presented by Syngenta, he called upon a host of Roney's colleagues, including USGA Green Section agronomist Darin Bevard. It would have been easy for McCool to bury or even discard what Bevard had written. Instead, he put it at the top of the list, almost like a badge of honor.   "Saucon Valley is a very unique club, and correspondingly, Jim has a very unique and demanding job," Bevard wrote. "It has been said that there may not be a more challenging job in the industry."   Roney, 43, oversees conditions on not one, not two, but three 18-hole courses and a six-hole layout at Saucon Valley, all of which must be at their best on a daily basis. The property encompasses 850 total acres and straddles two counties (and thus two different municipal governments). It also is a regular stopping point for USGA championships and qualifiers. And while members toss credit to Roney for his ball-juggling skills and agronomic expertise in producing top-flight conditions on three-plus layouts, he deflects praise to an engaged crew from which he demands much, such as volunteering at several professional tournaments each year, some as far away as California.    For his ability to maximize playability over such a vast area and under such demanding conditions, Roney was named a finalist for this year's Superintendent of the Year Award.   "The easiest way to describe it is we have three championship-caliber courses, and there are high expectations for each," Roney said. "We are constantly recruiting people: talent, interns, assistants. I call them nucleus employees. I try to assistants that they are superintendents-in-training. Everybody brings an intangible, and we try to empower people and give them rope. Accountability dictates how long the rope is."   Saucon Valley members recognize their property is special and that it can and should play a key role in supporting the golf industry locally, regionally and nationally. The site of many USGA qualifiers, the club was home to the 2009 U.S. Women's Open and the 2014 U.S. Amateur.   "Saucon Valley members always want to give back," said Roney, who has been at the property since 2005. "For the Women's Open, we had 65 volunteers (signed up) five months out. The Mid-Am is different. The Mid-Am doesn't get a lot of praise, and it was hard to get help. We needed 140 bodies for the tournament, and we pulled it off with 80. On top of that, another golf course here was still open for play."   Keeping everything open for play can be a challenge, especially during rain events as the property is located in a watershed, and several acres are prone to severe flooding.   According to McCool, as many as 23 holes were under water on several occasions during three separate tournaments in 2014. Roney has developed a flood-mitigation plan that typically has event the most severely affected holes open and ready for play in less than two days.   After he won the 2014 U.S. Mid-Am at Saucon Valley, golfer Scott Harvey said the greens were like putting on "pool tables."   "His understanding of championship preparation as well as the importance of meeting member expectations on a daily basis is unsurpassed in my experience," Bevard said.   With all the day-to-day challenges a property like Saucon Valley can present, Roney sees staff development among his greatest contributions to the industry. Former assistant Chad Mark of The Kirtland Country Club in Willoughby, Ohio, is, for another month anyway, the reigning TurfNet Superintendent of the Year.   He sends six to eight people from his crew each year to volunteer and hone their tournament-prep skills at events like the U.S. Open, the Memorial Tournament in Dublin, Ohio, and the PGA Tour's Northern Trust Open at Riviera Country Club near Los Angeles.   His philosophy often places assistants on the fast track for jobs elsewhere. And that means he spends a lot of time hiring and training. And that's OK.   "I don't have the luxury of keeping good people," Roney said. "I have a wonderful staff. And when you're recognized for having good guys, they're going to get opportunities."   Roney is one of 10 finalists for the award. Finalists are chosen by a panel of judges from a field of nominees based on the following criteria: labor management, 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 and dealing with extreme or emergency conditions.   The winner will be named Feb. 26 at the Golf Industry Show in San Antonio. Previous winners include: Chad Mark (2013); Dan Meersman (2012); Paul Carter, CGCS (2011); Thomas Bastis, CGCS (2010); Anthony Williams, CGCS (2009); Sam MacKenzie (2008); John Zimmers (2007); Scott Ramsay, CGCS (2006); Mark Burchfield (2005); Stuart Leventhal, CGCS (2004); Paul Voykin (2003); Jeff Burgess (2002); Kip Tyler (2001); and Kent McCutcheon (2000).
  • When Jorge Croda arrived at Southern Oaks Golf Club in North Texas less than two years ago, the course was, as one member put it, on the verge of destruction. Now, after Croda has been on the job for 20 months, those same members now say they've never seen the course in better shape.
      One might argue that destruction of the course located in the Dallas-Fort Worth area already had occurred. A video posted early in 2013 referred to the property in the opening frame as "Southern Weeds, formerly known as Southern Woods."   The video itself backs up those statements with images of knee-high weeds, wide swaths of in-play areas devoid of turf and upscale homes serving as a backdrop to this eyesore.   When Croda came aboard shortly thereafter, the owner (who had run out of money) sold the property, and the new owner injected money and new life into the property.   Less than two years later, thanks to Croda and his reinvigorated crew, Southern Oaks' members hardly can believe the difference.   "I have been intimately associated with the course evolution, ownership/management changes and the historic maintenance of (Southern Oaks)," wrote Joseph Durham, a member at Southern Oaks, in nominating Croda for the 2014 TurfNet Superintendent of the Year Award, presented by Syngenta. "I have seen the good, the bad and the incomprehensible, and finally the resurrection of one of the finest courses in the MetroPlex."   When Croda arrived at Southern Oaks, the problems there were far greater than just agronomic challenges. Dead turf and no turf were symptoms of a systemic problem of a property that included a lack of resources, lack of reliable equipment and a need for a little housecleaning.  
    "The equipment needed to be fixed, the irrigation system needed to be fixed when I arrived," Croda said. "I needed a new mechanic to fix the equipment. That was the most important thing, to get the equipment in this place running."   For his ability to bring Southern Oaks back from the dead, Croda has been named a Superintendent of the Year Award finalist.   "Two years ago, Southern Oaks was on the verge of complete destruction," Durham wrote.   "This became a death spiral that led to less and less resources available as fewer rounds were played because the facilities were continually deteriorating. Then came Jorge Croda. We all were amazed that he was able to keep the course playable and even improving with so few resources and very little help. He did this through sheer determination, pride and hard work. Through some ingenious use of these limited resources, we even saw some noticeable improvements.   "Then, a miracle of new ownership/management occurred resulting in the financial commitment to improving the condition of the course. Today, under Jorge's management, innovative ideas, extraordinary work ethic and artistic vision, SOGC is better than it's ever been."   Croda, 51, has been a head superintendent for 14 years, and has built a career out of taking distressed golf courses and rebuilding them into something golfers can be proud of.   "I have played the course since it opened up and have never seen it in better shape than it is now," wrote Les Beadle, director of golf at Cowboys Golf Club, in Grapevine, Texas. "The difference that has transformed the course from just a golf course that was struggling to a top notch golf course that you want to play is Jorge's expertise and skill. The most amazing of all is that he has done it in less than a year."   Key to the turnaround has been the crew, many of whom are new hires Croda trained. Since they played a key role in the rebuilding process, they also have more of a stake in the final product. Part of that new crew is mechanic Alejandro Berce, an associate of Croda's through the Pan American Golf Association.   "In a short period of time, he transformed this facility's once poor reputation to it being considered one of the premier courses in the area," wrote assistant GM Kim Bunch.    "Rather than focus on the problems, Jorge found and implemented solutions that placed this course among the top 20 in North Texas. Jorge's course management skills go well beyond the physical facility. He has implemented required education for employees, which teaches a strict code of conduct, and core values that include teamwork, interpersonal communications and wise decision-making.    "To Jorge, assuming a leadership role in the club reflects his passion for golf, and allows him to give back to the game that he loves."   Croda is one of 10 finalists for the award, which is sponsored by Syngenta. Finalists are chosen by a panel of judges from a field of nominees based on the following criteria: labor management, 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 and dealing with extreme or emergency conditions.   The winner will be named Feb. 26 at the Golf Industry Show in San Antonio. Previous winners include: Chad Mark (2013); Dan Meersman (2012); Paul Carter, CGCS (2011); Thomas Bastis, CGCS (2010); Anthony Williams, CGCS (2009); Sam MacKenzie (2008); John Zimmers (2007); Scott Ramsay, CGCS (2006); Mark Burchfield (2005); Stuart Leventhal, CGCS (2004); Paul Voykin (2003); Jeff Burgess (2002); Kip Tyler (2001); and Kent McCutcheon (2000).
  • It's not often that a golf course superintendent is paid to lie down on the job. Members at The Ford Plantation have grown accustomed to superintendent Nelson Caron doing just that since he started working at the course in Richmond Hill, Georgia.   The son of a research scientist who has won worldwide acclaim for research in such areas as Parkinson's disease, Caron attacks turfgrass management from a science-based approach.   "One day I was walking playing golf, and I noticed a body, lying prone on the green. Concerned, I hurried to the green to see what was the matter, only to find Nelson staring into a microscope at the turfgrass," wrote Dr. Bill Thompson, green committee chairman at The Ford Plantation, in his letter nominating Caron for the 2014 TurfNet Superintendent of the Year. "This was my first introduction to our new GCS, and as a physician I knew things were about to change at Ford."   For his many accomplishments at The Ford Plantation, Caron has been named one of 10 finalists for the TurfNet Superintendent of the Year Award, presented by Syngenta.   Caron, 38, maintains a collection of various types of field microscopes that he uses to scout for early signs of disease as well as quality of cut and plant density.  
    "You can really monitor secondary growth, which turns into primary growth," Caron said. "Then you can make adjustments to your cultural practices. It concerns people. They don't generally see people lying down on the job.   "We have to see if the bedknife is dragging and if the leaf is crisply cut. You can't really see that with the naked eye. Some say they can, but when you're mowing as low as we are, you have to take it to the next level."   Caron elevated the standards at Ford Plantation during a recent $7.5 million of the 30-year-old Pete Dye design. In fact, Dye, who vouched for Caron when Ford Plantation members were searching for a new superintendent seven years ago, came back to the Georgia coast to work on the redesign.   Even though Dye was the architect of record, make no mistake - Caron was in charge of the project from beginning to end.   "To get to rebuild a Pete Dye golf course with Pete Dye, who actually helped me get this job, and manage Pete Dye as the project manager, it actually did turn my hair gray," Caron said.   "There was not one part of this 140 acres that was not completely blown up and rebuilt."   Much of the impetus for the renovation project was to improve drainage and playability, because so much of the property is at sea level, or lower. And that can be a source for many challenges at a property in such close proximity to water. The project included leading permitting negotiations with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the preservation of nearby wetlands.   "Forty percent of the golf course is located at elevation zero. It's like managing a golf course in New Orleans," Caron said. "When you're at elevation zero, or even negative elevation, a 2-inch rainfall would put us out of business for three days."   Miles of new drainage and a new stormwater pump system underground at Ford Plantation has largely made rain-induced closings a thing of the past.   "The (renovated) course was designed to withstand an 8-inch rainfall in a 24-hour period," he said.   "Now this place is as dry as a bone."   The changes have been a hit with Ford Plantation members.   "On the club level, prior to renovation, every tournament was a challenge for our superintendent," Thompson wrote. "Less than an inch of rain would produce flooded bunkers, wet fairways and undesirable playing conditions.    "With Mr. Caron's arrival to Ford and the incredible work ethic of his team we began to have successful, fun club tournaments. Fewer days were lost to weather events. Our maintenance staff had to become construction staff as irrigation mainline breaks occurred several times a week and clogged or crushed drainage conduits had to be repaired. Over the course of several years the course improved dramatically and the members and guests raved about the playing conditions."   Caron said he could immediately see the member's relief when the course reopened in October.   "I could see on everyone's faces," Caron said, "that we hit a home run."   Caron is one of 10 finalists for the award. Finalists are chosen by a panel of judges from a field of nominees based on the following criteria: labor management, 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 and dealing with extreme or emergency conditions.   The winner will be named Feb. 26 at the Golf Industry Show in San Antonio. Previous winners include: Chad Mark (2013); Dan Meersman (2012); Paul Carter, CGCS (2011); Thomas Bastis, CGCS (2010); Anthony Williams, CGCS (2009); Sam MacKenzie (2008); John Zimmers (2007); Scott Ramsay, CGCS (2006); Mark Burchfield (2005); Stuart Leventhal, CGCS (2004); Paul Voykin (2003); Jeff Burgess (2002); Kip Tyler (2001); and Kent McCutcheon (2000).  
  • The golf course construction business might be stagnant in some parts of the country, but it's alive and well in some sections of Florida.
    Streamsong Resort east of the Tampa area announced plans to build a third course to complement its two highly acclaimed layouts.
    The proposed course, Streamsong Black, will be designed by Gil Hanse, who recently completed work on the Olympic course in Rio de Janeiro, site of golf's return to the Summer Games in 2016 after an absence of more than 100 years.
    Streamsong Black would join the Red course, a Bill Coore-Ben Crenshaw design that is ranked No. 29 on the Golfweek's Best Modern Courses list, and the Blue course, a Tom Doak layout that is No. 43. Both opened in 2012 to widespread critical acclaim.
    "Gil is a tremendously talented architect who approaches each project with a fresh, thoughtful perspective and a keen eye for the natural landscape," said Rich Mack, executive vice president of Mosaic Co., which owns Streamsong. "He is one of the best architects in the industry, highly gifted with sand-based sites and has an exciting vision for Streamsong Black."
    The Black course will be built southeast of the two existing courses on the remote site between Tampa and Orlando, as part of a 16,000-acre reclaimed phosphate-mining operation. The resort also features a 216-room lodge and three restaurants. Officials also announced plans for a second practice facility, clubhouse and restaurant to serve guests playing the Black course.
    "We're honored to be a part of such an amazing venue and to be able to develop a layout alongside Streamsong Red and Streamsong Blue, which were designed by the three architects I admire the most," Hanse said in a statement. "Streamsong is about an authentic golf experience, and the natural environment and landscape at Streamsong is simply like nothing we've experienced. It's one of the very best. To work with such a great piece of land and to showcase Streamsong Black alongside Bill, Ben and Tom's designs is a dream come true for a golf course architect. We view this as a huge opportunity for our team, and one that we're very excited about. I can't wait to get started."
    The course is projected to open in fall 2017.
  • Webster defines equilibrium as "a state in which opposing forces or actions are balanced so that one is not stronger or greater than the other."   Defining equilibrium as it relates to golf has proven to be a lot easier said than done. For most of the past decade, golf has been defined by too much supply and not enough demand. A business that once was guilty of promoting the "build a course a day" mentality, has been marked for nine years by a glut of course closures as players continue to flee the game at an alarming rate.   According to the National Golf Foundation, 42 golf courses opened in 2014, while 185 closed, for a net loss of 143 courses (in 18-hole equivalents). It's the ninth consecutive year in which more courses closed than opened. In that time, 501 new courses have been built, while 1,269 have closed, for a nine-year net loss of 768 (EHE).   Those closures, however dramatic they might appear, are not nearly enough, says Jim Koppenhaver of Pellucid Corp.
    According to Koppenhaver, golfers played about 451 million rounds (exact figures for December are not out yet). That's down 2 percent from 2013, and is the fewest rounds played since 440 million in 1995. It's way off the peak of 518 million rounds played in 2000.   "Supply absorption is still painfully slow," Koppenhaver said during the annual state of the golf industry talk he gives each year at the PGA Merchandise Show with Stuart Lindsay of Edgehill Golf Advisors. "I said six years ago we needed to take 300 or 400 courses out of supply each year for the next six years. We're taking about 140 out a year, so we still have a long way to go before we get back to equilibrium.   "At a net loss of 140 (facilities) a year, we're five years from equilibrium of 13,700 (golf courses)."   So, just how is this magical figure of equilibrium reached? Koppenhaver says the market is at its healthiest when there are 35,000 rounds available for the average golf facility. With the current supply-and-demand data available, that number comes in at around 31,000 rounds per EHE.   "There are two ways to change that; either you get rounds up, or you decrease the supply," he said. "Either we have to take 7 percent of the supply out of the market, or we have to find a way to get rounds demand up to about 500 million again."   According to industry statistics, there were 22.9 million golfers in 2013 (still the most recent data available). That is down nearly 1.2 million players from 2012 and almost 7 million since 2005.   Assuming that there is no rush of new players around the corner, and there is no reason to believe there are, the obvious answer is that more golf courses must go, and quickly.   "That's the common theme we've been saying for eight or nine years," Koppenhaver said. "Don't shoot the messenger."
  • Team Zoysia, as part of the ?Zoysia as a Game Changer' tour will offer, during this year's Golf Industry Show, an inside look at the construction of the Olympic Golf Course in Rio de Janeiro.   The event is scheduled for 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Feb. 23 at The Golf Club of Texas, and will feature a panel of experts involved in construction of the course in preparation for the 2016 Olympics in Brazil. As part of the event, attendees will tour Bladerunner Farms, reportedly the world's largest independently owned zoysiagrass breeding facility, as well as The Golf Club of Texas, said to be the first course grassed wall-to-wall with zoysiagrasses.   Zoysiagrasses have made tremendous inroads into Texas golf recently, and is grown on Bluejack National, Tiger Woods' first U.S. design near Houston; and Trinity Forest, a new Coore-Crenshaw design slated to be the new home to the PGA Tour's AT&T Byron Nelson Championship.   Experts speaking on the benefits of zoysiagrass will include: Milt Engelke, Ph.D., Texas A&M; Ambika Chandra, Ph.D., Texas A&M; Brian Schwartz, Ph.D., University of Georgia; Doug Petersan, Austin Golf Club; Ken Mangum, CGCS at Atlanta Athletic Club; and others. Team Zoysia is a group of producers, scientists, golf course superintendents, equipment manufacturers and distributors who promote the benefits and use of zoysiagrass.   The team speaking specifically on construction of the Olympic Golf Course, which is grassed with Zeon zoysia, will include: David Doguet of Bladerunner Farms; Neil Cleverly, superintendent at the Olympic Golf Course; and Marcelo Matte, the sod producer who grew and installed the grass.   The event is approved by GCSAA for 0.7 CEUs. Click here to register.
  • Jacobsen has named Caribbean Turf as its new sole dealer in the Dominican Republic. Caribbean Turf is a full-service turf equipment dealer based in the Dominican Republic with locations in Santo Domingo and Punta Cana.   Jacobsen dealer Tropicars will continue to serve as the company's distributor for the rest of the Caribbean region, and JACH USA will continue to serve as the Jacobsen dealer for all of Central America.   The news comes on the heels of other Jacobsen distribution updates, including a recent announcement that the Charlotte, North Carolina-based company is now serving customers directly in Virginia, Maryland, Washington, D.C., and a tiny slice of West Virginia.    Jacobsen will serve this region from two locations: one in Virginia and one in Maryland. Both locations will be equipped with fully stocked parts departments for both Jacobsen and allied equipment lines.     This announcement comes just weeks after Jacobsen announced the establishment of direct operations in Alabama, Georgia and Northern and Central Florida. The company says it believes it can better support customers in these regions by servicing them directly. Jacobsen will be increasing stocking levels in these areas and adding additional sales and service staff.   The company also recently established direct operations in the Western and Midwestern U.S. 
  • In response to constantly changing pesticide regulations, LebanonTurf announced a complete revitalization plan for its Emerald Isle Solutions foliar fertilizer product line. This plan includes the development of product updates centered on enhanced agronomic solutions for golf course superintendents and an overall expansion of the sales and marketing strategy.   When existing products are changed, tweaked or enhanced, they still have to comply with these changing regulations, the company says. Nitrogen limitations and phosphorus restrictions in several states also are being assessed to ensure maximum product availability throughout the country without compromising product efficacy and performance.   "A generation of superintendents has relied on Emerald Isle products to maintain their courses' year-round high performance," said Christopher Gray, brand manager - golf market at LebanonTurf. "Now it's time to make sure the next generation has the same tools available to deliver exceptional color and playability."   Emerald Isle Solutions products promote stress tolerance associated with drought, disease and wear throughout the growing season. As part of the revitalization plan, new university research will be conducted to help refine and improve the quality of Emerald Isle Solutions' products in the future.   Along with the product updates, new, co-branded agronomic programs have been developed featuring Emerald Isle Solutions and Country Club MD products to provide superintendents with specifically designed golf course fertility programs based on grass types and climate zones. These programs combine the benefits of traditional, slow-release granular applications with the spoon-feeding and controlled-growth benefits of foliar applications.  
  • It's been more than 15 years since Cushman entered the golf utility vehicle market with the Truckster. That's an eternity in the golf business. And since then, utility vehicles from several manufacturers have overrun the market.    A new utility vehicle from Jacobsen that is due to launch later this year promises a larger payload capacity and cabin area than previous Textron entries, and is based on years of research and development derived from input from hundreds of people who use such vehicles for myriad purposes every day.   More than two years in the making, the new Jacobsen Truckster XD offers what the company says is the largest payload capacity (3,550 pounds) in the turf industry and a roomier over-wheel cab that allows for a longer bed without increasing the wheelbase. Speaking of the bed, the Truckster XD features on that Fox says is thicker, perhaps as much as 75 percent thicker, than those found on older Cushman models. The product is still in testing, so specific details and technical specifications are being closely guarded until the product is available for purchase, probably in the second quarter. Beta vehicles will be on display at next month's Golf Industry Show in San Antonio, as well as the Sports Turf Managers Association Conference this week in Denver.   "This vehicle is based on input from more than 400 customers," said Jacobsen product manager Chris Fox.   "We went out and talked to them to understand their needs. We knew the answer to what they needed was not inside our factory. We had to get out and talk to them to find (that answer)."   Although the word Cushman arguably has become synonymous with utility vehicles regardless of manufacturer, competitors soon hit the ground running with their own entries into the market, arguably leaving the Cushman behind.   "It had a payload capacity of 2,850 pounds, which was the largest in the industry," Fox said. "Then, the Cushman was like the Blackberry. It was new, everyone loved it and had to have one. Since then, like the Blackberry, the Cushman has been leapfrogged."   Curious turf managers can see the Truckster in action on .   Fox and other folks from Jacobsen talked with turf managers about what they like and don't like about the Truckster as well as vehicles from other manufacturers. They also asked them to fill out a 15-20-page survey.   Needless to say, answers about what people like in turf utility vehicles and how they use them were quite varied.   "I can see a mower in use in Las Vegas or Florida, and I see all I need to see. Everyone mows the same way," Fox said. "But with a truck, any day a superintendent might use it for 10 different things. It's much more challenging to capture everything going on with a truck."   The new truckster promises a cab that is 60 inches wide where the operator sits. As a result, controls are not as cluttered. Location of controls has been changed many times throughout testing. Other aspects of the design, such as a tailgate latch, still are not finalized.   "That's the working end of the truck," Fox said. "People were not happy with our (old) design. It's robust, but it got beat up."   The new Truckster is going through a seven-stage design and production process, in which each segment of the business, from research to engineering to sales, is involved every step of the way.   "We are involving all departments all the way through," Fox said. "That way, if someone sees something that is not going to work, we can identify it as soon in the process as possible."
  • The Patent Trial and Appeal Board of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has upheld the validity of three dispersible granule technology patents owned by The Andersons.    The patents were challenged in response to a patent infringement lawsuit filed by The Andersons in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida against Enviro Granulation LLC, Plant Science Inc. and Harrell's LLC. The decision allows The Andersons' lawsuit to continue. The Board ruled that the petitions failed to establish a reasonable likelihood of prevailing in challenging the validity of the claims of any of the three patents.     The Andersons introduced its dispersible granular technology in 2004 under the brand name Contec DG.    Enviro Granulation manufactures a water-dispersible pellet fertilizer and sells it to Plant Science, which markets it under the name Tru-Prill. Harrell's distributes Tru-Prill to end users in the turf market. The patent-infringement suit was initiated in late 2013.
  • Rounds played dropped by nearly 8 percent in November, compared with the same month in 2013, virtually ensuring yet another lackluster performance in the golf industry.   November rounds dropped 7.7 percent, including 8.5 percent at daily fee facilities and 5.4 percent at private clubs, compared with the same period in the prior year, according to Golf Datatech's National Golf Rounds Played Report.   Play was down in 46 of 49 states participating in the survey, which does not include Alaska. The only states that saw a year-over-year increase in play were in the desert southwest: Nevada, where play was up 6 percent, Arizona (3 percent) and New Mexico (0.5 percent).   The biggest losses occurred in Indiana (45 percent); Minnesota (44 percent); Wisconsin (42 percent); Iowa, North Dakota and South Dakota (33 percent); Kentucky (30 percent); Maine, New Hampshire, Nebraska and Vermont (27 percent); Missouri (26 percent); Colorado and Illinois (23 percent); Connecticut (22 percent); Michigan (20 percent); Ohio (19 percent); Utah (17 percent); Massachusetts, Oklahoma and Rhode Island (15 percent); Arkansas (14 percent); Virginia (13 percent); New York (11 percent); Tennessee (10 percent).   The report includes self-reported data from 3,490 daily fee and private facilities nationwide (except Alaska) on rounds played in November 2014 and November 2013.   Weather might have played a role in November's downfall. In Indianapolis, the average daily high throughout the month was about 44 degrees, 8 degrees below the historic average for that time of year, according to the National Weather Service. In Westchester County, New York, the average daily high in November was 38, which is the norm. However, that is well behind the balmy conditions felt there last November, when the average daily high was 50 degrees.   With November's losses, year-to-date rounds played are 1.8 percent behind the first 11 months of 2013.
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