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From the TurfNet NewsDesk

  • John Reitman
    Looking back at his first job in the golf business, Chris Gray admits that he didn't know a bag of fertilizer from a bag of fungicide. But Odie Martin, a retiree who did almost everything at Angel Hill Golf Course in rural Rossville, Ind., did know the difference, and he was partial a granular fertilizer from LebanonTurf named Country Club. The results, Gray says, were exceptional putting conditions on push-up greens that were originally built by former Purdue turfgrass professor William Daniel, Ph.D.   Gray, the former superintendent and current marketing manager for LebanonTurf's professional products division, also acknowledges that not much about Country Club has changed since his high school days in the 1980s when he worked at Angel Hill - until now.   LebanonTurf is revitalizing its Country Club line with three new greens-grade granular fertilizers under the Country Club MD badge with a particle Size Guide Number of 80. The three new products are the first of many that eventually will carry the company's time-tested label, not all of which will be fertilizers.   Each of the new Country Club products (12-0-24, 18-0-18, 22-0-16) represents a homogeneous formulation of Meth-Ex, LebanonTurf's proprietary slow-release methylene urea, sea kelp meal and humic acids developed for maximum dispersion (thus the name MD) with minimal watering-in to deliver season-long feeding.   "With today's canopies, whether it be ultradwarf Bermudas, whether it be bentgrasses, everything's gotten tighter. There is less and less canopy space for fertilizer to drop into," Gray said during Lebanon's recent product launch. "It's critical that the initial size of the particle is small enough to accommodate that."   To date, Country Club MD is registered in 46 states, and LebanonTurf will begin officially taking orders Aug. 5.   Kelp meal and humic acids provide the biostimulus that provides the plant with stress protection, so that when the onset of stressful conditions occur it allows the plant to stay healthier longer and recover quicker when stress periods are over, Gray said.   "The stress protection is what sets us apart," Gray said.   With an SGN particle size of 100, the original Country Club line was a good fit for the way putting greens were managed in the 1980s and earlier. But new turf varieties with more densely packed canopies combined with lower heights of cut made smaller particle sizes a necessity. Instead of working their way down through the canopy to where they were needed, those larger particles can be picked up by mowers, golf shoes, golf balls and whatever else happen to track over them.   Other companies, primarily The Andersons, have since taken over the granular fertilizer market with products touting smaller granules that get to where they are needed most - beneath the turf canopy.   "The golf standard right now in the industry obviously is The Andersons' DG technology," Gray said.   "By all of our estimations, they have the lion's share of the market; anywhere from 60 to 70 percent of the greens grade business, and up until that time there wasn't a lot of work being doing done by Lebanon as far as a way to answer that call. We had to find a way to reposition or revitalize that Country Club line.   "Up to this point, the smallest Country Club product was 100 SGN. . . . Initially, we were running into issues with the 100 SGN it wasn't breaking down into small enough particles to get into these tighter canopies.   "It is important for us to have something that was going to allow us to compete in the same marketplace."   In dispersion testing, about 60 percent of the Country Club MD product dispersed with minimal watering-in, with about 50 percent of the material beginning to break down within about six minutes.   Former superintendent Tom Trammel used The Andersons' Contec DG with 75 SGN in preparation for some very high-profile events at the Doral Golf Resort in Miami. In fact, he was so impressed that he now reps for The Andersons since retiring as a superintendent and setting up shop as a turfgrass consultant in Vero Beach, Fla.   "It was the only granular product on the market that wouldn't wash off with the rain, get tracked off or was visible to the golfers," Trammel said.   "Doral has hosted six World Golf Championships, and I was there for all six. The Andersons was part of all of them for those reasons."   A year in the making, the new Country Club products have undergone intensive scientific testing on creeping bentgrass, ultradwarf Bermudagrass and Poa annua by researchers at the University of Illinois, University of Florida and Rutgers University, respectively.    The research phase included an exhaustive fact-finding mission by Tom Fermanian, Ph.D., of Illinois, who took a closer look at the benefits of sea plant extracts and humic acids because so little scientific information on them exists.    According to a survey conducted by Lebanon, about 60 percent of respondents said they recognize the benefits of sea plant extracts. However, few have pulled the trigger to incorporate it into their management program.   The company employed Fermanian to discover the effects of sea plants and humic acids on turf, finding out what they can do and, just as importantly, what they cannot do, Gray said.   According to the findings, kelp meal provides amino acids and aids in the dispersion process, while humic acid, another biostimulant, also helps in dispersion and acts as soil microbial stimulator and organic chelator that helps maximize a plant's systemic properties.   "Anything it didn't do, we don't make a claim for," Gray said. "We want to be accurate with that. We feel that there is too much information out, and a lot of it is not accurate.   "We knew that in addition to trying to help us get to the goal of achieving the best dispersion possible, now we've got some agronomic benefits we can tout as well. It's a win-win situation that like a lot of things we stumbled upon by accident."   Fermanian also performed a performance study, in which the Country Club MD products were tested head to head against The Andersons DG 17-0-17 at various application rates as well as the 18-3-18 composite version of Country Club. MD and the Andersons product consistently showed little mower pick up and enhanced visual turf quality, according to the study results.   The 22-0-16 version of Country Club MD also was tested in the field on cool- and warm-season grasses on at least 13 golf courses.   Matt Taylor, superintendent of the Riverside Course at Atlanta Athletic Club tested the 22-0-16 Country Club product from May 5-June 1 on the bentgrass greens (007-A1/A4 mix) on the practice facility putting greens at a rate of 0.75 pounds of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet.   Taylor said he was impressed by the quick flush of growth, green color, turf density and increased root growth.    "The overall appearance and healthiness of the greens were the best that I have seen in the six years that I have managed them," Taylor said. "However, due to the large amount of nitrogen applied, the firmness decreased and thatch levels increased quickly."   Research conducted on Country Club MD showed no signs of burn when applied to turf, an attribute Chris Carson confirmed when testing the 22-0-16 on a bent/Poa chipping green Echo Lake Country Club in Westfeld, N.J.   Although applied at the same rate of 0.75 pounds of N per 1,000 square feet, there was no flush of growth at Echo Lake, which Carson attributed to use of Primo. The particle size meant no pick up, but the dark color made it difficult to see during the application process, necessitating use of flags to avoid overlap.   "It did a decent job," Carson said. "(It was) hard to apply, (and showed) good color one month later."   Currently, greens grade fertilizers are the only new products under the Country Club MD umbrella, but plans are for the line to eventually include products with larger SGN for use on tees and fairways, as well as a foliar line. Other potential product entries in the future could include fungicides, herbicides, plant growth regulators and even seed.   "Our overall focus is to make sure that the Country Club brand is a complete line," Gray said. "Country Club MD is only one step, and is the first step toward that overall goal because Country Club MD is not a complete golf line right now. It is a fertilizer line, but it's just granular fertilizer in a bag.   "Our goal (is) trying to be a full line of one-stop shopping. . . . This product, the MD technology, is only the first step in moving forward with this. We think it's an important step.
  • After 18 months in development, Green Sweep Technologies launched The "Original", an innovative tool that the company — founded by long-time TurfNet member Patrick Sisk, CGCS — says helps golf course superintendents and sports turf managers incorporate sand and other topdressing material into the root zone in a way that is less invasive than traditional methods.
    Measuring 5.5 inches by 5.5 inches and weighing 10 pounds, The "Original" is designed to fit walk-behind blowers with rectangular output ports. It delivers topdressing material into the soil profile through a process called air-redirection technology, eliminating the need for brushes or mats. Air-redirection technology forces topdressing material into the desired location quicker and more efficiently than gravity, brushing or dragging with mats.
    The "Original" is manufactured from 16-gauge steel and features rounded leading and trailing edges to provide even greater protection for the turf surface. 
    At 24 inches in length The "Original" is large enough to make quick work of large-volume sand applications and small enough to get into the intricate details of putting greens, tees, infields and targeted micro-environments in a fraction of the time, says Green Sweep Technologies, a company created by turf managers to develop tools and solutions for other turf managers. 
    For more information, visit greensweeptech.com.
  • The deadline is rapidly approaching for an opportunity to apply for a coveted slot in this year's Syngenta Business Institute, a four-day professional business development program that provides attendees with graduate school-level business education in a compressed and interactive format.   Developed in conjunction with the Wake Forest University Schools of Business, the program supplements superintendents' management skills with a curriculum that includes financial management, personnel management, effective communications and negotiating skills delivered in an interactive series of seminars and workshops conducted by members of Wake's MBA faculty.   The Syngenta Business Institute is scheduled for Dec. 6-9 at Graylyn International Conference Center on the Wake Forest campus in Winston-Salem, N.C.   The application deadline is Aug. 20, and the program is limited to 25 superintendents.   To apply, superintendents must complete an application that includes an essay on why they believe they should be chosen to attend. All expenses, including airfare, hotel and meals will be covered by Syngenta.    For more information or to apply, visit www.greencastonline.com/SBI.
  • Turfco offers new solutions for overseeding
    With overseeding season quickly approaching, Turfco offers solutions to golf course superintendents with two products launched earlier this year.   The WideSpin 1550 topdresser offers a new hydraulic system and spinner design, allowing operators to switch between a super light to ultra-heavy applications; instantaneous width and rate control for topdressing tee boxes, greens and approaches; 20-percent larger capacity hopper; an optional electronic controller that automatically calculates the rate of the application and amount of material is needed.   The 1550 is available as an engine or hydraulic tow-behind unit or a hydraulic truck-mounted unit. All offer spreading widths from 15 to 4- feet and spreading ranges from as little as 0.08mm to more than 0.25-inches. All units are also available with manual or electronic control.   The TriWave 40 tow-behind overseeder offers Turfco's WaveBlade technology that creates clean square slits for optimal germination with decreased turf disruption; the ability to turn while seeding and to seed greens with steep sides and bunker surrounds; one-button control that lifts and lowers seeder so operators can spot seed quickly and move on to the next area; floating heads that follow the contour of the ground for effective seeding and a patented seed-delivery system; an optional electric lift and lower for trucks without hydraulics, allowing operators to hook up to any vehicle.   For more information, visit www.turfco.com.  
    Ewing restructures for improved efficiency
    Ewing has restructured its operation, including the appointment of three new vice presidents, to help the company achieve its goals of increased growth and greater efficiency.   New vice presidents include J.R. Richards, who will oversee operations in the Pacific Northwest, California and Southwest; Jay Riviere, who will head up the company's interests in the Rocky Mountain states, Midwest, and Texas; and Ray Murphy, who will head up operations in the Southeast, East Coast, and Florida.   Along with the vice presidential appointments, Ewing welcomed several new members to the company's regional management team, including Casey McWilliams, Pacific Northwest; Jake Ray, Arizona; Dave Northrup, New Mexico and El Paso, Tex.; Sean Wimble, Central Texas; Leon Garza, South Texas; Aaron Budimlija, Midwest; and Marshall Caudill, Southeast.   The appointments for the resulting branch manager position openings were fulfilled internally. The new managers include: Chris Bednarek in Tigard, Ore.; Hunter Williams in Chandler, Ariz.; Jake Sommer in Peoria, Ariz.; Herman Romero in Albuquerque, NM; Ray Salazar in Austin, Tex.; and Greg Stafford in Houston, Tex. Relocations included Ray Espinoza from Peoria to Deer Valley, Ariz.; Mike Falloon from Austin to Cedar Park, Tex., and Mike Alvarado from Houston to Friendswood, Tex.   For more information, visit www.ewing1.com.
    Bayer offers solutions via Twitter
    Bayer has launched a Twitter account for its turf and ornamental business that is focused on solutions for its golf course customers.   The site twitter.com/BayerGolf will share Bayer-related news and industry news stories.   Bayer also will share with superintendents expert advice to some of their most challenging issues from the company's Green Solutions team.   Magro joins Stevens Water
    Stevens Water Monitoring Systems recently named Carmen Magro, CGCS, vice president of business development and agronomy.   A former golf course superintendent, Magro has more than 20 years in of experience as an agronomist, including serving in a multitude of roles at Penn State University, as well as positions with Floratine, UgMO Technologies and Agronomy Management Solutions, the latter a consulting firm he had founded.   At Stevens, he will be responsible for helping the company advance its expertise in water-monitoring technology.   For more information, visit www.stevenswater.com.  
  • Breaking the mold

    By John Reitman, in News,

    Laurie Bland has been breaking down barriers throughout her brief career in turfgrass management.    Recently named the new head superintendent at Miami Springs Golf and Country Club in South Florida, Bland is a Hispanic woman taking on a man's world, and succeeding.   At the ripe old age of 26, Bland comes to Miami Springs after a five-year career at Doral Golf Resort in Miami, where she worked on several courses, including the famed Blue Monster, and prepped for numerous PGA Tour events. According to the GCSAA, there are just 60 women in the association with Class A or superintendent member status, but Bland's biggest challenge in battling stereotypes began long before she ever stepped foot on a golf course.   Growing up in what she called a traditional Hispanic household her mother is of Cuban and Spanish heritage Bland was expected to stay home after her high school days at Miami's Turner Tech Arts High School. Leaving home to attend college nearly 400 miles away to learn a man's trade definitely was not in her family's plan.   "I grew up in a family where no one left home. I was expected to get a job and stay here," said Bland. "In a Hispanic family you don't leave the nest."   Despite the challenges of where she's been, Bland is more focused on where she's headed.   She is trading valuable experience at one South Florida property with deep tradition (the Blue Monster has been a PGA Tour stop since 1962) to take over the challenges presented by another course that boasts a proud past, but now is in need of some TLC.   Miami Springs is a small town of 14,000 just north of Miami. The Thomas Martin-designed golf course that bears the town's name opened in 1923 and was the site of the Tour's Miami Open from 1924-1955. In recent times, however, the city-owned property has fallen into a state of disrepair that belies its heritage. And Bland will have to call upon all of that confidence and the agronomic skill she attained during her time first at Lake City, then Gainesville Country Club and finally Doral to whip Miami Springs into shape before the next South Florida golf season begins this fall.   "We have to get the grass growing again," she said. "There are so many areas that still need grass.   "We have a very short window to make it great."   Those who have worked with Bland in the past are not surprised by where she is now.    "Over the course of my 25 years, I have managed many superintendents, and Laurie has that intrinsic motivation, passion, hunger and desire to be a turf manager," said Tom Trammell, former director of agronomy at Doral. "She was with me for five years, so I spent a lot of time with her. She was always confident and didn't allow herself to be rattled."   That determination came in handy when she told her parents she was intent on breaking the traditional mold reserved for her and instead carving her own path in life. Her focus was trained on a career in turfgrass science ever since a class field trip from Turner Tech to what then was called Lake City Community College in north-central Florida.   At that time, she'd never been on a golf course before, or even knew that it was possible to earn a living managing one. She was captivated that day at Lake City by a demonstration that today she could do blindfolded.    "They showed us how to change a cup. It's funny. That is so rudimentary now," said Bland. "But to us it was fascinating that you could do that and put the cup back into the ground and not be able to tell where the old cup was."   From that moment she knew she wanted to be a superintendent. What she didn't know was whether the door would be open for her. As it turned out, it was left ajar far more than she could have hoped.   "I asked (LCCC instructor John Piersol) how many women do this, because I didn't see many there," she said. "I think he said there had been something like two women in the last two years. So, I asked if there were any scholarships, and what was the likelihood that a woman like me would even make it in this profession."   There is no questioning that even at age 26 Bland has paid her dues during her short career. In fact, she made a significant sacrifice before she took her first class at Lake City.   "I was determined to leave the nest, and I had plenty of friends who were willing to let me sleep on their couch," she said. "My mother was against it, but she told me that if I was going to prove myself I'd have to do it on my own. I think she gave me $20, and I hitchhiked to Lake City and slept on a couch for the first year. After a while, my mom saw I was serious and that I wasn't going to back down."   What Bland learned on the job was that hard work, determination and leadership skills were blind to gender. And so was Marriott, which granted her a scholarship to continue her education at Lake City.   In exchange for scholarship assistance recipients must complete an internship at a Marriott Golf property, and that opened a lot of doors for Bland.   A 2008 Lake City graduate, she worked alongside men as an intern at Gainesville Country Club and has supervised them since her days at Doral (a former Marriott property), where she was an assistant on the Blue Monster before being named superintendent of the Jim McLean Course for two years beginning in July 2011.   "During her time at Doral, she has been promoted to different positions on several of the courses giving her the opportunity to gain skills in managing different courses with their own unique microenvironments and challenges," said David Robinson, senior director of golf grounds for Marriott Golf. "With each new challenge she rose to the occasion and excelled. She was able to improve course conditions each and every time."   Admittedly, Bland cannot do everything a man can do. She can't heft 100-pound bags off pallets, but even in a job historically reserved for men, there are other ways in which she can perform as well as or better than any of her male counterparts.   Her Hispanic heritage and the open corporate culture at Marriott helped her pave her way.   "I've always had to work hard. No one could see a woman working alongside 80 men," she said. "Latin men felt this wasn't a job for women. I had to prove myself over and over. Because I'm Hispanic and bilingual, I'm able to communicate to them that not all women are the same.   "I can't do everything a man can do, but men now understand and respect that I can do this and that I'm educated to do this."
  • Sod webworms are a common pest in cool-season putting greens in late summer. However, recognizing the damage they cause often can be confused with stress caused by other factors such as disease, heat or drought.   It's important for professional turfgrass managers to recognize the signs to correctly diagnose the problem when sod webworms make their presence known.   Bobby Walls, Ph.D., of FMC Professional Solutions offered some tips to help superintendents tell the difference between damage from sod webworms and damage from heat and drought stress.   According to Walls, sod webworm larvae are easy to recognize for those who know what they are looking for. They vary in color from gray or light green to tan or brown, and they reach a length of about 1 inch.   Areas of damaged turf materialize as small brown patches that often run together into larger and irregular-shaped areas of damaged turf. The pest burrows into tunnels in thatch during the day and emerges at night to feed, attacking the leaves and stems of turfgrass plants just above the crown. This nighttime feeding ritual of the sod webworm explains how damage occurs before the pest is detected. The presence of large flocks of birds, namely starlings, gathering in the turf to feed is another indicator of sod webworm presence.   The most severe damage typically occurs in July and August, according to information from Purdue University.   A soap drench solution of two tablespoons of liquid detergent per gallon of water is an effective way to flush and monitor sod webworm movement.    The recommended threshold for sod webworms, according to Walls, is 10-15 worms per square yard. Other researchers indicate higher threshold levels of several dozen, with 10-30 pests per square yard being enough to attract birds looking for a free meal. An information sheet from Purdue sites threshold levels of four to six pests per square foot.   According to John Deere Landscapes, popular control methods include endophytic turfgrasses. Some products such as chloronicotinyl and spinosad-based insecticides can be used preventively when the pest is still in the larval stage. Products like pyrethroids, such as those with the active ingredient bifenthrin, can be effective curative controls.
  • Deere goes mobile with parts platform

    John Deere has launched a mobile version of its parts Web site that allows customers easier access to much-needed parts. 
    By visiting jdparts.deere.com from a smart phone or tablet customers can view equipment parts information from nearly any location. 
    Like its desktop counterpart, the mobile version allows customers to quickly access parts information, pricing, availability and order parts online. Customers can search by parts catalog, model number, part number or keyword to locate the appropriate parts and attachments.
    For more information, visit jdparts.deere.com.

    Lebanon tabs Bially as new product manager

    LebanonTurf recently named Paul Bially as product manager for its biostimulant division.
    Bially brings years of turf industry experience to LebanonTurf, including prior service with Aquatrols and Precision Labs in which he worked extensively with surfactants and other specialty products. 
    Most recently, he worked as a sales and technology specialist for Lamberti USA managing the company's line of surfactants, polymers and pigments.
    For more information, visit www.lebanonturf.com.

    Hunter controllers earn EPA nod for saving water

    Hunter Industries' AC-powered controllers that are paired with Solar Sync sensors will carry the WaterSense label for professional turfgrass managers interested in getting the most for the least from their irrigation systems.
    Controllers to carry the WaterSense label will include X-Core, Pro-C, I-Core and ACC lines. Hunters' controllers are the only in the industry to carry the label granted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
    Water Sense is an EPA partnership program that recognizes products that perform as well or better than their less-efficient counterparts, are 20 percent more water efficient than average products in their category, realize water savings on a national level, provide measurable water savings results, achieve water efficiency through several technology options, are effectively differentiated by the WaterSense label, and obtain independent, third-party certification.
    For more information, visit www.hunterindustries.com, or www.epa.gov/watersense.
  • When it comes to golf course architecture, few if any course designers have left an imprint as longstanding as that of Donald Ross. His name is attached either as the architect of record or for restoration efforts to as many as 400 golf courses.
    Golfweek, TurfNet's sister property, is offering Ross fans, or those interested in knowing more about his contributions to the game, a three-day symposium at the home of one his most renowned creations - Pinehurst No. 2. The event will showcase the accomplishments of Ross as well educate attendees on how to implement classic architectural concepts into restoration and renovation work.
    Donald Ross and the Art of Golf Architecture Restoration is scheduled for Nov. 10-12 at Pinehurst Resort in North Carolina.
    Scheduled speakers include Golfweek's Bradley Klein,; architects Tom Doak, Tom Fazio, Rees Jones, Scott Pool and Ron Pritchard; Bob Farren, CGCS, director of golf course maintenance and grounds at Pinehurst; Pete Garvey of Idle Hour Country Club in Lexington, Ky.; Jim Mrva of Monroe Golf Club in Rochester, N.Y.; Larry Hirsch of Golf Property Analysts; and Paul Wold, former green chairman from the Country Club of Rochester (N.Y.).
    The event includes a round of golf on the Pinehurst No. 2 layout.
    For more information, visit www.golfweek.com.
  • Anyone unsure of Brian Sjögren's work ethic could have learned all they needed to know after an impromptu safety meeting recently at the central Californian golf course where he has worked for more than 20 years.
    The meeting was called as a ruse to assemble the crew at Corral de Tierra Country Club to discuss safety issues over lunch. A wrinkle in the program came when Sjögren, 58, was awarded the TurfNet 2013 Technician of the Year Award, presented by Toro. Shortly after the gathering adjourned the crew went back to work, including Sjögren who had been busy with a multitude of tasks, including rebuilding mowing reels. In his rush to get back to the shop, he'd left his award on the table where he and co-workers had been eating lunch just minutes before.

    "Did he forget it? I'm not surprised," said superintendent Doug Ayres as he looked down and gathered up the Golden Wrench Award to return it to its rightful owner.

    Sjögren is a self-taught mechanic who can fix or make just about anything, a brute with vendors over pricing, an amateur civil engineer who designs and builds bridges and a wildlife enthusiast who enjoys the company of wild birds that have nested inside the maintenance shop and eat from a feeder erected in a flower bed outside its doors.
    Sjögren was selected from a list of three finalists that also included Jonothon McGuigan of Fox Meadow Golf and Country Club on Canada's Prince Edward Island and Ed Greve of Highland Woods Golf Course in Hoffman Estates, Ill.
    TurfNet has been presenting the award annually (almost) to a golf course equipment manager who excels at one or more of the following: crisis management, effective budgeting, environmental awareness, helping to further the careers of colleagues and employees, interpersonal communications, inventory management and cost control, overall condition and dependability of rolling stock, shop safety and work ethic.   Previous winners include Kevin Bauer, Prairie Bluff Golf Club, Crest Hill, Ill. (2012); Jim Kilgallon, The Connecticut Golf Club, Easton, Conn. (2011); Herb Berg, Oakmont (Pa.) Country Club (2010); Doug Johnson, TPC at Las Colinas, Irving, Texas (2009); Jim Stuart, Stone Mountain (Ga.) Golf Club (2007); Fred Peck, Fox Hollow and The Homestead, Lakewood, Colo. (2006); Jesus Olivas, Heritage Highlands at Dove Mountain, Marana, Ariz. (2005); Henry Heinz, Kalamazoo (Mich.) Country Club (2004); Eric Kulaas, Marriott Vinoy Renaissance Resort, St. Petersburg, Fla. (2003). No award was given in 2008.  
    Since Ayres arrived at Corral de Tierra eight years ago, he has undertaken one giant project after another. In that time, he has accumulated a vast inventory in turf maintenance equipment that must be operational on a moment's notice.

    "We do a lot of projects here, and if something breaks down, we need to get it back out here quick," said assistant superintendent Rick Smith. Having somebody like Brian who is a good troubleshooter is huge. He can figure things out pretty quickly and get it back out on the golf course."

    Sjögren has been working on cars since his days as a student at nearby Pacific Grove High School. He started working on Volkswagens and his parents' cars, before graduating to more complex projects.

    His career in the golf business began 29 years ago when he was mowing greens and raking bunkers at Quail Lodge and Golf Club in Carmel Valley. He also spent a two days each week helping the club's mechanic in the shop and filled in when the tech was on vacation.

    Since then, he has become an integral part of the team at Corral de Tierra.

    If a project requires a specialized tool that has yet to be invented, Sjögren will build it. He also maintains a lean inventory that includes only the most oft-used parts. If he doesn't have what he needs, he scours the Internet for the best price, even if, in some cases it means having something shipped from around the world.

    He also manages a biodiesel-production program in which he makes about 40 gallons of fuel per week from used cooking oil he gets from the Corral clubhouse as well as from nearby Pasadera Country Club.

    In 2012, that program yielded about 2,000 gallons of biodiesel produced at a cost of 90 cents per gallon, vs. the $4-plus per gallon rate for standard diesel fuel, resulting in a savings of about $6,000 in fuel costs, Ayres said.

    The program has been so successful that the Toro Workman Ayres uses to get around the course has never used anything but biodiesel concocted by Sjögren.

    Sjögren's contributions to the maintenance operation at Corral de Tierra, located between Monterey and Salinas, go far beyond rebuilding mowers, grinding reels, ordering parts and managing an inventory of $2.4 million in machinery and equipment. He also plays an active role in planning and managing many of these projects, helping take them from the drawing board to completion.

    "In order to accomplish all the massive projects and changes over the last eight years, I have counted on Brian to help think out innovation solutions to all my problems," Ayres said.

    Help from assistant technician Mario Gonzalez frees up Sjögren to take on some of Corral's bigger projects.

    In the recent past, Sjögren has helped design and build bridges able to withstand mower and tractor traffic, a skill he learned on-the-job at Corral de Tierra. In fact, he'd built several bridges at the club before Ayres arrived on the job. When his new boss didn't like the design of one of the bridges on the course, Sjogren altered the design, copying from a vehicle bridge he'd seen at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park.

    The only problem for Sjögren was that the railings were too heavy and caused the bridge to sway, a problem rectified by the addition of buttress supports.

    "After that, it was fine," Sjögren said.

    The modular design also means that if individual parts of the bridge fail in the future, it can be dismantled in piecemeal fashion and repaired without deconstructing the entire bridge.

    "With the first bridge we did at No. 3, there are some imperfections. Someone else might not notice them, but I can see them," Sjögren said. "But after the first one we did, each one got better, looked better and was done faster each time.

    "We've always been good about doing projects over the years, but since Doug has been here we've taken on big projects. And it's been good experience. People now are more likely to go headlong into a project where before they might have been more hesitant."

    Sjögren went above and beyond the call of duty of any equipment manager in 2011 when he and Ayres inspected the clubhouse after they received a call from someone saying they could smell natural gas outside the building near the club's No. 9 green.

    Closer inspection revealed a 1-inch hole in a gas line. Exhaust fans left on in the clubhouse were sucking the gas out of the building where gravity was at work, causing the fumes to settle down over the golf course.

    While the pair were inspecting the line, a spark ignited the gas, causing a huge flash that enveloped his superintendent's head.

    "Doug was in shock for a while, I could tell," Sjögren said. "We high-tailed it out of there and hit the fire alarm.

    Actually, Sjögren made a stop along the way, warning members in the club's fitness center to get out.

    "The gas had been on all night," Ayres said. "If the exhaust hadn't been on, the whole building would've blown at some point."

    Both emerged relatively unscathed, save for some singed eyebrows on Ayres' face and what he described as a glowing complexion that resembled a sunburn.

    "There was supposed to be an emergency on-off valve, but there were no signs and we couldn't find. When we eventually did, the handle was missing," Sjögren said. "We were pretty lucky. Someone from the fire department told us we should buy a lottery ticket."
  • Waite leads 3 superintendents to win in John Deere Pro-Am
    Talk about global appeal. Leading the winning team at this years John Deere Classic Superintendent Pro-Am was PGA Tour professional and New Zealand native Grant Waite. He was joined by Jason Manfull of Crow Valley Golf Club in Davenport, Iowa; Rich Hohman, president of Kitson and Partners, Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., and Ben Tilley of Headland Golf Club in Queensland, Australia. The winning team emerged from the 28-team field with a net 54. Held July 8, the event is conducted annually in conjunction with the PGA Tours John Deere Classic at TPC Deere Run in Silvis, Ill.
    Representing John Deere in the winning group was Rob Jeske, general manager of corporate business for the company's agriculture and turf division.
    Rich Hohman of Kitson and Partners; Rob Jeske general manager of corporate business for John Deere Agriculture and Turf; PGA Tour player Grant Waite; Ben Tiller of Headland Golf Club; and Jason Manfull of Crow Valley Golf Club won this years John Deere Classic Superintendent Pro-Am at TPC Deere Run.
    Bayers Tribute Total OKd for use on zoysia
    The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has approved Bayers Tribute Total herbicide for use on Zoysiagrass.
    With the active ingredients foramsulfuron and thiencarbazone-methyl, Tribute Total is labeled for control of 55 varieties of grassy and broadleaf weeds, including creeping bentgrass, ryegrass, crabgrass, goosegrass and dollarweed.
    Bayer Environmental Science launched Tribute Total in May 2012 for use on Bermudagrass.
    Tribute Total can be tank mixed with pre-emergent and other post-emergent pesticides, and should not be applied within eight weeks of overseeding.
    For more information, visit www.backedbybayer.com.
    Simplot acquires some seed varieties from Scotts
    The J. R. Simplot Co. and the Scotts Co. recently finalized an agreement to transfer several turf seed programs, including Sea Spray Seashore paspalum, from Scotts to Simplot. Scotts has been communicating to customers and partners that as part of their divestiture from the professional seed market, they have been looking for a suitable partner to take certain programs. 
    Other seed programs included in the deal include three Kentucky bluegrasses; Midnight, Midnight II and Midnight Star.
    Along with these programs, Simplot also welcomes Gordon Zielinski who will manage the paspalum program and perform other duties. Zielinski was formerly a director of Pure-Seed Testing Inc., and the CEO of Turf Seed Inc., and most recently worked with Scotts as director of international seed sales.  
    In other news, Jacklin Seed by Simplot named Katie Dodson senior turfgrass scientist.
    She will conduct research trials that help demonstrate the benefits of Jacklin turf seed varieties.
    For more information, visit www.simplot.com.
  • It's beginning to seem like a lifetime ago when gains in rounds played dominated golf industry news in 2012.   Year-over-year rounds played are down every month this year, including 5.5 percent in May, according to Golf Datatech's National Golf Rounds Played Report that surveys 3,530 private and daily fee facilities nationwide. The drop marked the sixth consecutive month in which play was down compared with the same month the previous year, according to Golf Datatech.   The last month in which play was up was November 2012, when participation jumped 2.6 percent.   Although play was down overall nationwide, there was an increase in demand in 18 states, including Hawaii, which led the country with a 7.3 percent bump in participation.    Year-to-date rounds played are down 12 percent nationwide, compared with the first five months of 2012. Dailey fee and private facilities both are feeling the pinch, with year-to-date play down 11 percent at public access facilities and 16 percent at private clubs.   The biggest losses in May were felt in the northern plains states, including North and South Dakota (down 31 percent), Iowa (24 percent) and Kansas (20 percent).    The news could have been much worse. Golf playable hours, a statistic compiled by Jim Koppenhaver's Pellucid Corp. that measure of the total number of daylight hours compared with factors that influence play such as precipitation, humidity, daylight variances, etc., were down 3 percent for May. The year-to-date measure for golf playable hours is down 17 percent compared with the first five months of 2012, according to Pellucid.
  • In an era in which some golf course operations scrutinize how nearly every penny is spent, a host of decisions made in an effort to save money now, can be costly long-term mistakes.
    Larry Hirsh, whose firm Golf Property Analysts provides brokerage and consulting services for golf courses, said there are many decisions made by cost-conscious owners and operators that blow up in their faces.
    The biggest problem I see with member-owned clubs is that everyone wants to be a champion of saving money, Hirsh said. And they do so to a fault. Its not all about cost.
    Hirshs list of top mistakes clubs make in the name of cutting costs includes: allowing facilities to deteriorate, cut costs to diminish quality, ignore member satisfaction, limit golf course maintenance, allow food quality to slip, reduce service, failure to reinvest in the club, emphasize cost over value, incur too much debt, resist change.
    Clubs are about value, Hirsh said. I was a member at club that refused to make the club better and move forward. As a result, it failed.
    Cutting corners can affect golf course maintenance, particularly because turf maintenance typically represents the largest chunk of a clubs budget.
    Hirsh said clubs in financial straits often look to golf course operations because they fall into a trap of thinking that effects of cutting expenses a little will go unnoticed.
    To help superintendents avoid the pitfalls of the decisions of cost-cutting members, Gary Grigg, CGCS, a former superintendent and now vice president of Grigg Brothers Foliar Fertilizers, speaks regularly on the need for a program-based budget.
    It is critical in order to meet golfer expectations as well for job security for the superintendent that the golf maintenance budget includes expectations for course maintenance along with a corresponding cost for each task required to produce those conditions, Grigg said in a TurfNet University Webinar.
    Grigg recalled from his days of managing multiple courses that each had different levels of maintenance, yet all had one thing in common.
    Every course had membership that wanted their course to be the best, Grigg said.
    Most want more than they are willing to pay for."
    The key to success for any course and its greenkeeper, Grigg said, is creating club buy-in of the budget process. That means learning what conditions on the golf course are most important and what the club is willing to spend. Only then can superintendent and members sit down and figure out what the club can get for its money.
    Its not your budget, its their budget, Grigg said. Most want the best. You need to find the best they are willing to pay for.
    And when that buy-in means making cuts to the budget, it is up to the superintendent to inform them that doing so will mean cutting into maintenance practices, too.
    They have to understand if they cut money from your budget that they are taking money out of your programs, Grigg said. And if theyre taking money out of their programs, then their approved standards might not be met.
    Those who fail to convince the club of the importance of written stands run the risk of constantly trying to hit a moving target, one that changes depending on who is judging the work of a superintendent.
    Written maintenance standards establish expected results and a baseline of acceptable conditions. They have a place in all golf operations regardless of size or stature.
    In his Webinar presentation, Grigg borrowed a line from Jon Scott, agronomist for Nicklaus Design.
    The quicker you can develop and publish a written standard document for any club, rich or poor, private or public, the more likely the expectations will match the resources. The biggest problem I see today in my maintenance consulting work is expectation levels are not being managed well enough, and they almost always exceed the resources available to the superintendent. This inevitably leads to conflict and loss of credibility. The end result is usually a change of superintendents.
    Hirsh agreed every superintendent and club need to reach agreement on a maintenance plan.
    When membership is down and the board wants to cut costs, they look at the maintenance budget because it is so large, and they think they can cut a little there and no one will notice, he said. Every golf course needs a written maintenance plan, and we can help them make one. In the written plan, when the board cuts the budget, it is incumbent on the superintendent to show them what is going to happen when they make those cuts. Are you going to rake less often, mow less, raise height of cut? When the board says theyre going to cut $50,000, the superintendent has to show them the specs of what that is going to mean. That is Job One.
    Even a set of agreed-upon maintenance standards is not enough to stop budget cuts in times of economic concern. When the board or an owner/operator decides to make cuts to the maintenance budget, there is a right way and a wrong way to handle the news.
    Don't say no, I cant do that, Grigg said. If you have a program-based budget lay down the management plan and your standards policy and say 'which programs do you want me to eliminate or cut, because I'm going to have to cut that money out of programs, and how is this going to affect our standards policy?'
    Many courses are adjusting budgets without adjusting standards. Standards have to adjust to the means, and the best way to do that is to have a written document that everyone can read and understand. Not everyone may agree to it, as there will always be dissenters. Many think that all they have to do is just impose a smaller number and superintendents will rise to the occasion, or they will someone else who can.
  • Family affair

    By John Reitman, in News,

    One of the common complaints golf course superintendents hear is that they don't spend enough time with their families.   That's not the case with Eric McPherson, superintendent at Omaha Country Club, site of the U.S. Senior Open. McPherson still spends plenty of time at the course, as many as 100 hours per week in the run up to this year's Open. The thing is his wife, Stephanie, who is the office manager in the OCC maintenance shop, spends a good deal of time there each week as well often as many as 50 hours per week.   "When I came here, they really wanted me to be outside and get the golf course into shape," said McPherson, who has been at OCC since February 2011. "I really needed someone inside to help me achieve all I needed to achieve. She does everything in here, and it's one more way for us to spend more time together."   An advertising professional by trade, Stephanie McPherson has been her husband's office manager for the past 10 years, when Eric was superintendent at Point Judith Country Club in Narragansett, R.I.    It's only fitting that one of her accounts in the advertising business was Border's, because she also proofreads and edits every piece of communication that leaves the shop.   "She has very good proofreading skills," McPherson said. "Nothing goes until she sees it first."   Stephanie McPherson also is the volunteer coordinator for the championship, making sure that the dozens of people coming onto the property to help keep the course in top shape are credentialed and have accommodations and transportation while in town.   A graduate of Michigan State University's turfgrass management program, McPherson, 40, has a great deal of tournament prep experience. Before Omaha Country Club and Point Judith Country Club, he worked from 1998-2003 at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md., the last three years of which he spent as superintendent of the Blue Course, site of the PGA Tour's AT&T National.   But his greatest accomplishment in the golf business is assembling the championship crew he has in place at OCC, including assistant superintendents Spencer Roberts, Jeffrey Thoman and Jarod Kalin, as well as equipment manager Randy Strohfus. Together they've produced a course worthy of a national championship, and for that McPherson is grateful.   "I think this course has surprised a lot of people," McPherson said. "People come here and they don't expect this much changing terrain. The course is firm and fast, and it plays longer due to the elevation changes.   "Everything has come to fruition here. We have a great staff. My job now is to figure out what they want to do and help them get to that next level and help them succeed and keep our members happy."
  • Participants at three First Tee chapters will learn first hand what it is like to be a golf course superintendent.   Careers on the Course is a summer initiative made possible by John Deere that introduces teens in the program to golf course management and the science of agronomy. Developed in conjunction with the PGA Tour, the program will be in place throughout the summer at TPC Sugarloaf near Atlanta in July and Cog Hill Golf and Country Club, Chicago, in August. The program kicked off last month at TPC Boston. It will be expanded into additional markets in the future.   "The Careers on Course program builds on the leadership development activities already taking place in The First Tee while providing participants with the opportunity to better understand the business of golf course maintenance," said James M. Field, president of John Deeres Worldwide Agriculture and Turf Division.   Deere announced in February that it would contribute $1 million over five years to The First Tee, a non-profit youth organization that uses golf as a platform to teach life and leadership skills and provide character education programs for young people.     Participants in the Careers on Course program learn from professionals who work at PGA Tour golf courses partnering with The First Tee. Students will learn the work required to present a well-manicured, environmentally safe and playable course. In addition, participants will also receive an introduction to club operations. The program curriculum was developed in conjunction with the PGA Tour.   In 2014, select participants will be invited to the Deere and Company World Headquarters in Moline, Ill., and TPC Deere Run in nearby Silvis, Ill., to learn about business operations and other career opportunities.  
  • There is a great deal of hoopla surrounding the preparation for a major golf championship and deservedly so. The amount of work required of a superintendent, staff and volunteers is immense, especially in the face of grueling conditions, as was the case at this year's rain-soaked U.S. Open at Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pa.   Relentless rains made the final run-up to the tournament a daunting task for Merion's Matt Shaffer and his crew. The rain hasn't stopped since Justin Rose hoisted the trophy in mid-June, making a return to normal playing conditions equally challenging. And unlike Open week, there aren't a lot of volunteers around to help.   Many of the challenges before, during and after the Open are a direct result of a rainy June that will go down in the history books as one of the wettest months ever in the Philadelphia area.    A total of 10.56 inches of rain fell in June in Philadelphia, marking the wettest June ever for the city, and the sixth wettest month on record since 1872. It also was fourth time in the past 10 years that 10 or more inches of rain have fallen in any month in Philadelphia, the others being August 1873 (11.79 inches), September 1882 (12.09 inches), August 1911 (12.10 inches), September 1999 (13.07 inches) and August 2011 (19.31 inches).   At Merion, 7.2 inches fell in the first two weeks of June, including 3 inches in one day the week before the tournament. An additional 3.5 inches has fallen since, complicating the comeback from this year's national championship.    That June deluge resulted in washouts prior to the Open on Merion's East Course, suspended play on Day 1 and accelerated turf growth around the property, making mowing a challenge. The constant pressure of one downpour after another also beat clippings into the turf canopy.    Getting the course back into shape for members is tough enough. Doing so between showers on an already-soaked golf course borders on ridiculous.   "All the equipment is returned, our buildings are back to normal and we have had some really rainy weather, so the staff is well rested," Shaffer said.   "I would think by next year this time it will look as though nothing has happened. We have a great membership, and I think they are so excited about playing golf again that they will be patient with rough grass."   Playing surfaces in some areas around Merion indeed are thin and in need of repair and much of the infrastructure required to conduct last month's national championship still is in place including on Merion's West Course, which was used primarily as a staging area for hospitality tents and spectator viewing.    "Everything (on the West Course) is good here, except the gravel roads and the first fairway that had bleachers on it for three weeks. But all the other 17 holes are open," Shaffer said. "All the tents and bleachers are not down yet, and none of the TV towers are down, but they assured me in another week I will be amazed."   The East Course greens, even on the flood-prone 11th hole, came through mostly unscathed. The exceptions are Nos. 2 and 6, which, Shaffer said, will require about 60 plugs each.    "Which is nothing at all when you think we resodded 45,000 divots last year," Shaffer said.   Cut to a height of .093 inches, the 90-10 bent-Poa surfaces are now being mowed at a member-friendly .103 inches.   Approaches took the biggest hit on the golf course.   Shaffer has hit those areas with solid tines twice already, but the beating they took throughout the tournament, including double mowing daily, has made core aeration a must. The constant rain has made that task impossible so far, Shaffer said.   Patron walkways in the fairways (80-20 bent-rye mix) have been pressure washed and reseeded. Most are on the mend, but some of the hardest-hit areas continue to lag behind. The same can be said for out-of-play areas where recently cast seed has yet to germinate, Shaffer said.   Some of Shaffer's more challenging times have been in the rough areas, where rain resulted in rapid growth through the tournament, and impaired Shaffer's ability to get the mix of grasses (bent, fescues, Bermuda, rye and even some weeds) down to desired tournament heights of 4 to 5 inches. Continual rain since has made getting them down to a member-friendly 2.5 inches equally tough.   Although the return to normal has been a challenge, what matters most to Shaffer is that the hard work by his crew and volunteers, and himself, combined with a tight, tough Merion layout provided a national championship that club members can be proud of.   "All in all, even though the weather was a challenge, it turned out to be an extremely successful U.S. Open for the club, and all the members are extremely excited, so I too am very happy," he said. "I did it for them. I think future championships at Merion are a better bet than when I got here, and I think we had a little something to do with that."
  • He might be gone from the turf business in an official capacity, but Peter Dernoeden, Ph.D., doesnt appear to be going anywhere any time soon.   Dernoeden, 65, a widely published turfgrass pathologist serving the industry for more than 30 years, retired this week from his position at the University of Maryland. Although he no longer is working out of his College Park office, he said he hopes to continue his work as a consultant after he and wife Kathleen relocate to Delaware.   A native of the Philadelphia area, Dernoeden earned bachelors and masters degrees from Colorado State University. He joined the Maryland faculty in 1980 shortly after earning a doctorate in plant pathology from the University of Rhode Island. Two years later he started the schools turfgrass field day, which has grown into one of the industrys most highly regarded annual research events.    "Peter Dernoeden is one of the top turfgrass pathologists in the world. He has had a major and very positive impact on turf managers not on in Maryland, but throughout the U.S. and abroad," said Rutgers turfgrass professor Bruce Clarke, Ph.D. "He has been a dedicated mentor to his students, a tremendous asset to his colleagues, and a friend to everyone in the industry. His departure leaves a very big void in the scientific community. I will miss seeing him at professional meetings and wish him the very best in his retirement."   Dernoeden, whose areas of expertise include weed and disease management in turf as well as development of integrated pest management strategies, is a prolific writer. He authored or co-authored several books on various turf management topics, including Turfgrass: Biology, Use and Management (American Society of Agronomy, 2013), which he co-authored with John Stier, Ph.D., Brian Horgan, Ph.D., and Stacy Bonos, Ph.D. He counted his work at Maryland on etiology, epidemiology and management of dead spot, spring dead spot, patch diseases, dollar spot and Pythium-induced root dysfunction among his most important work.   He served turf managers in Maryland through extension work and reaches others outside the state through his vast amounts of peer-reviewed research.   "Dr. Dernoeden's retirement will leave a large hole to fill in turfgrass pathology. Superintendents not only in the Mid-Atlantic but around the world have come to rely on the insight that Pete has brought over the years in managing healthy turfgrass," said Mike Giuffre, director of greens and grounds maintenance at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md. "Pete was always there to support superintendents in maintaining healthy turf to meet the expectations of the golfing public. He tirelessly made field visits to golf courses to help whenever called upon.  His work in the field of pathology is second to none, providing insight to superintendents on turf diseases, their life cycles, cultural controls as well as chemical controls. Pete brought to the table a unique combination of a thorough knowledge of disease pathogens and course conditioning practices. He used this knowledge to provide common sense approaches to managing turfgrass diseases."     When reflecting on his career, Dernoeden credits Jack Butler, Ph.D., and Noel Jackson, Ph.D., formerly of Colorado State and URI, respectively, with helping him along the way.   "They were my mentors and helped me greatly," Dernoeden said by email. "(I) had a lot of support from the Maryland Turfgrass Council, Mid-Atlantic and Eastern Shore of golf course superintendents, USGA, as well as ag. chemical companies like Syngenta, BASF, Bayer, Dow and others."   Cornell University associate professor and fellow URI graduate Frank S. Rossi, Ph.D., said Dernoeden helped him in the formative years of his career, and that his dedication to tirelessly assisting others was a result of working under Jackson.   "Pete did a lot of important work. He was always very busy, but he always found time to return my phone calls," Rossi said. "He helped me a lot in my early days.   "Pete held himself to high standards because Noel held all of us to those standards."
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