Jump to content

From the TurfNet NewsDesk

  • John Reitman
    The Toro Co. recently was named one of several winners of the Water Sense Partner of the Year awards.
    The awards, which were announced Oct. 7, are presented annually by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that “help consumers and businesses save water, energy and money by producing and promoting water-efficient products, homes and programs.”
    One of 28 award recipients across three categories, Toro was named a winner in the Water Sense Excellence category.
    According to the EPA: "The Toro Company has continued its tradition of promoting WaterSense and water efficiency, winning another Excellence in Outreach and Training Award for its work in 2019. Throughout the year, Toro showcased its WaterSense-labeled products at 35 home expos and trade shows, reaching several thousand homeowners and industry professionals. Toro conducted several training sessions in a variety of locations to educate attendees on water management trends, share best practices, demonstrate WaterSense labeled irrigation products, and provide hands-on product experience.
    "Toro once again sponsored the Irrigation Association's E3 Program that provides scholarships to professional irrigation students; the program awarded students a record number of scholarships last year. The Toro Company also continued its sponsorship and production of the weekly WaterZone radio program focused on outdoor water efficiency best practices and products. Since the show has been available on iHeart Radio, it now has up to 19,000 listeners per month!"
    WaterSense honored The Toro Company as Manufacturer Partner of the Year in 2016 and an Excellence Award winner in 2017, 2018 and 2019. 
    Since the program was initiated in 2006, winners of the award have helped their partners save 4.4 trillion gallons of water and $87 billion, according to the EPA.
  • Better late than never.
    When Yale Golf Course in New Haven, Connecticut, did not open last spring during the early days of the pandemic, it appeared, at least by many of the photographs circulating at the time, that it might never open again. The course was closed as part of the university’s response to the pandemic, and photographic images seven months ago showed a course not ready for play even if it were open.
    Ranked by some as the top college golf course in the country, Yale Golf Course finally opened Sept. 28 with a new general manager - and no superintendent.
    Between the time when the course closed 11 months ago and the Covid outbreak in late winter, Yale lost longtime superintendent Scott Ramsay, CGCS, who left for The Country Club of Farmington in Connecticut, as well as then-general manager Peter Pulaski.
    New general manager Peter Palacios told the Yale News that one of his priorities over the offseason will be to hire a new superintendent.
    The Yale campus was shuttered in mid-March, which included closing the golf course, which the university traditionally treats as part of the overall university infrastructure rather than a standalone golf entity. All employees across all sectors of campus operations were sent home. According to Vicky Chun, the athletic director at Yale since July 2018, what she described as a "skeletal crew" was permitted to stay on and work a minimal number of hours to maintain the golf course.
    "Once the university made the decision on the Spring semester due to the COVID-19 pandemic, nearly all of our staff joined our students in a remote setting," Chun told TurfNet by email in July. "In keeping the health and safety of our employees at the forefront of our decisions, a skeletal crew worked at both the Yale Golf Course and Yale Bowl fields. Even though the golf course grounds crew was skeletal, we did receive permission to add additional hours to their schedule."
    Yale is ranked No. 49 on Golfweek's list of Top 100 Classic Courses, and No. 1 on the publication's list of Top 30 Campus Courses. Getting the course there and keeping there always made Ramsay work extra hard for his lofty Superintendent of the Year status, and he has said in the past that it was always a challenge to unwind years of neglect that occurred before he arrived in New Haven in 2003.
    The club, which is subject to flooding, recently completed a $400,000 drainage project, and was well on its way to marked improvement until Ramsay, the 2006 TurfNet Superintendent of the Year, left for the Country Club at Farmington and the coronavirus closed campus.
    "The Yale Golf Course is one of numerous athletic facilities that we are extremely proud of and have plans to improve," Chun told TurfNet. "When I started as Director of Athletics, I immediately recognized the importance of the course and we pushed its improvement where it was better maintained this last year as compared to the recent past. I have had many discussions with alumni who are excited about the direction the course is headed in terms of improvements. A strategic plan has been started to bring the course back to its glory. We were on our way until COVID-19 hit."
  • Matt Henkel, who sought out alternative treatments at Duke University (above), says he is going to beat brain cancer. Supposedly, everything happens for a reason. At least that is what we are told every time life deals us a bad hand. If anything, at least it helps rationalize hardship and adversity. After all, the reason for the misfortune du jour often is not so obvious, making the "God has a plan" explanation the only thing standing between us and despair.
    How else could anyone possibly explain why a 41-year-old man with a wife and three young children is in the battle of his life against an aggressive form of brain cancer?
    Matt Henkel, general manager and superintendent at Prairie View Golf Club, a public forest preserve property in Byron, Illinois,, was diagnosed with brain cancer 12 years ago. After several surgeries and radiation treatments, he was cancer-free for four years until his annual check-up last fall when doctors discovered a grade 4 glioblastoma that has left the family feeling gut-punched, unsure of the future and asking "why".
    Glioblastoma, according to the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, is a common and aggressively growing form of brain cancer for which there is no cure. Even with aggressive treatment, recurrence is virtually certain, making a long-term prognosis grim. The average length of survival is 15-18 months, and the five-year survival rate is about 10 percent.
    While those statistics might appear cold in print, the Henkels already are quite familiar with them.
    "Why has this happened? I don't know. I have to believe there is a reason," Matt's wife, Cammie, said. "This is just a chapter in our story. We don't know the ending yet. Some time down the road we might find out why this is happening. I know there will be a reason, we just don't know it yet. I'm not going to question it; I'm just going to go along for the ride."
    After nearly a dozen surgeries to remove cancerous tissue and relieve fluid pressure on his brain, cancer is gone for Henkel - again. He has been cleared by doctors to return to work on a part-time basis, giving him a much-needed dose of normal life, however small it may be. 
    In the face of recent good news, Matt and Cammie know the historic prognosis for people with this diagnosis. It is sometimes difficult to hold on to hope due to that nagging realism. Coming to grips with your own mortality tends to do that to a person. Still, Henkel, who has sought out experimental trials at Duke University and UCLA, holds out hope that he will be the one who bucks the trend, that maybe the reason he is going through this is so he can survive his ordeal and be an inspiration to others. Even his assistant said the only reason he got back into the business after a short stint in sales was because of Henkel's character.
    "I'm going to beat this," Henkel said.
    "Since last Halloween, I've really had to work at keeping my head in the right spot. I'm remaining hopeful."
    After all, he has much to live for.
    The experience has made for some difficult discussions with their children, son Ashton (15) and daughters Claire (13) and Mara (8).
    "It's hard with the children. Nobody can understand it until they are put through it," said Cammie, a first-grade teacher at Mary Morgan Elementary in Byron. 
    "We've sat them down and talked to them. They know what the situation is, and we're very proud of how they are handling it. They've had to grow up fast. The dynamic has changed a lot in the last 11 months."
    Restrictions resulting from the pandemic actually have provided the Henkels with a valuable opportunity. One they did not waste.
    "One positive take during Covid has been six months of family time that we couldn't get back," Cammie said. "It gave us time together that we wouldn't have had, and we didn't miss out on anything, because whatever it was was canceled anyway."
    Henkel's ordeal is something no one should have to go through, and it is no experience for children either. 
    It was early in 2008 and Henkel was getting ready for another golf season at Prairie View when something in his head just didn't feel right.
    It started with fatigue and exhaustion that Henkel initially dismissed as the flu. That was in March. But it wasn't the flu. Those symptoms escalated over the next couple of months to include neck pain and headaches. He finally went to the emergency room at Katherine Shaw Bethea Hospital in Dixon, Illinois. Doctors there told him he had strep throat, but that was wrong, too, and things continued to worsen. That's when Cammie demanded doctors perform a CT scan.
    The news was not good.
    "The doctor said 'there's something on your brain. We're going to admit you and do an MRI tomorrow,' " Henkel said.
    With the realization that this was no longer just a headache or a case of the flu, things suddenly started to get very real for the Henkels, who have been together since their days as high school sweethearts in Amboy, Illinois.
    "We were just a young married couple," Cammie said. "The news wasn't real until we heard 'cancer,' and that set it all into motion." 
    The hospital in smalltown Dixon, the boyhood home of Ronald Regan, was hardly the place for Henkel to deal with this, so doctors there recommended either Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, or the University of Wisconsin. Considering he probably would be making the trip multiple times, Henkel chose a few extra miles on the road to Madison, Wisconsin over Chicago's traffic.
    After all, one headache at a time has been more than enough.
    "Being young and naive with two kids under 2 years old, we didn't know the severity of it until we were sitting across from a team of doctors telling him he will be having brain surgery," Cammie said. "Then it was very real and there are so many emotions that run through your head."
    After 11 surgical procedures to remove tumors, scrape away malignant cells and to insert and remove shunts to relieve fluid pressure on his brain; radiation treatments; chemotherapy; and a staff infection, Henkel deserved a break.
    In 2014, there were signs he might have beaten cancer. At that time, he had been seeing doctors in Madison every three months for a fresh MRI to make sure the cancer had not returned. It was then when his surgeon suggested annual visits over quarterly.
    "That was scary, but he's a neurosurgeon, so I trust him," Henkel said.
    "So, in 2015, nothing; 2016, nothing; 2017, nothing; 2018, still all clear."
    Just when Henkel was thinking this awful mess might be in his past, he was reminded last October what a soulless monster cancer is.
    That was when the headaches and dizziness returned. He had trouble focusing when working on the computer and finding his place when reading. Things were bad enough that he called his neurosurgeon and asked to move up his annual visit to Oct. 31.
    When he arrived in Madison and had the MRI, Henkel did not need a doctor to tell him something was wrong.

    "When I go for a scan, I usually have an appointment with the doctor immediately following," he said. "When I went to the exam room and it was 45 minutes before he came in, I knew something wasn't right. He came in, and I could tell by the look on his face."
    He can still hear the words from his neurosurgeon, Dr. Azam Ahmed: "It's grown back, and it's big. I can't let you leave the hospital. You have to have surgery as soon as possible."
    The diagnosis was a glioblastoma, a fast-growing form of brain cancer for which there is no cure. Even after surgery, recurrence is almost certain. But that did not stop Henkel and his doctors from trying.
    After surgery on Nov. 1 and another MRI to determine whether there were any cancerous cells remaining, the surgeon wanted to go back in the following day to remove more matter. 
    "I asked him 'what would you do?' " Henkel said. "He said he'd do it, so we did it. He felt confident that he got 100 percent of the visible tumor."
    Ten months later, Henkel remains cancer free, but he has not been without his problems.
    Early in the process, doctors determined that chemotherapy likely would not help his cancer and would be used only as a last option. After the surgery in November, Dr. Ahmed told him "it's time to play the chemotherapy card."
    The road back also has meant more radiation - a month's worth to be exact. 
    "I didn't tolerate that second wave of radiation nearly as well as the first," Henkel said. "I was sick from Day 1 all the way through it.
    More headaches last winter revealed a fluid buildup asserting pressure on his brain that required shunts to relieve the pressure. 
    "The headaches came right back," he said. "And I was sleeping 20 hours a day."
    A staff infection in September that affected his central nervous system was the latest among an assault of challenges.
    Naturally, Henkel has not been able to spend much time at the golf course since the GBM was diagnosed. Even without the cancer, the radiation, chemo, fluid on the brain and a dangerous infection together have been enough to keep him at home.
    "The cancer hasn't really knocked him down until recently," Cammie said. 
    "Going to the golf course was the one thing that always made him happy."
    Mike Brown, Henkel's assistant for the past three years, has been holding down the operation in his absence. Brown, who prepped under Sam MacKenzie at Olympia Fields near Chicago, came to Prairie View after a short career in sales at J.W. Turf in Elgin, Illinois. When the job at Prairie View opened, he jumped on it because he knew Henkel and he knew his reputation.
    "I always told myself I wasn't going to get back into it unless it was the perfect situation, and this was it," Brown said. "He is the salt of the earth, and he works harder than everyone else.
    "I've learned a lot of agronomic practices from him, but what I've really learned from him is how to treat people."
    To that end, Henkel already has lobbied for Brown to be promoted to head superintendent.
    "He's still the superintendent," Brown said. "We're not doing that.
    "I'm not going to let him do too much. He's going to be like an advisor. Getting back to work is going to mean some sense of normal for him, and he needs that."
    Although their situation is horrible, the Henkels have discovered they are not alone.
    Jaron McCracken, who is from Henkel's hometown of Amboy, also is battling brain cancer. Henkel realizes his purpose might include helping McCracken through his experience.
    "We're in this together," Matt said. "We're going to be the two who beat it and watch our kids grow up."
    Cammie has gotten involved with cancer groups and helps others in a similar situation deal with their anxiety, fear and grief.
    "Everyone is here for a reason," she said. "I've tried to help others.
    "I've known others, since Matt's first diagnosis, who have died. The initial diagnosis is scary, but he's still here, he's still working and he's still giving others positivity."
    And just maybe it helps answer that question: Why?
    "The reality is it just sucks," Cammie said. "We know what happens with GBM. My bar isn't set very high for reality. It scares me. We treat every day as a blessing."
  • A camera upgrade project will allow enthusiasts to take a closer look at eagles that nest annually at The Bear Trace at Harrison Bay in Tennessee. For the past decade, The Bear Trace at Harrison Bay, a state park golf course near Chattanooga, Tennessee, has become synonymous with an education and outreach effort that has helped introduce curious onlookers around the world to the private lives of bald eagles.
    Thanks to cameras placed atop a tree more than 100 feet in the air, the Harrison Bay Eagle Cam project allows people everywhere to view the nesting and parenting habits of eagles that return each year to the same nest. 
    This year, state officials are partnering with HD on Tap, a California technology company, to upgrade the infrastructure that has made the park and the golf course known around the world with bald eagle conservation.
    "They are pioneers of eagle cams," said Bear Trace golf course superintendent Paul Carter, CGCS. "When they detailed their plans, it was like 'Oh my! We never thought of anything like that!'
    "It is the next level of eagle cam technology. We've been playing in the minor leagues for so long. We're looking to move up to the major leagues now."
    Eagles first showed up in 2010 at Harrison Bay, and those environmental programs came to the forefront a year later, thanks to fundraising efforts through The Friends of Harrison Bay, when park officials first installed a camera that peered into a nest. That technical set up has been updated several times. 
    The current upgrade will include two treetop cameras capable of panning and zooming in and out, one stationary camera and a fourth on the ground. The system will be operated and monitored from HD on Tap’s offices in Del Mar. The cost is about $13,000, and the state park system is committed to paying for it through private donations and corporate partnerships. 
    "That sounds like a lot of money, and it is," Carter said. "But we've spent $5,000, $6,000 and $7,000 before and never had anything like this."
    Time is a critical piece to the eagle cam project. The male and female have been coming and going making repairs to the decade-old nest. Eagles are protected by several federal laws, and all work to the camera project must be completed before the female settles in to lay her eggs, which usually occurs in late November, with hatchlings emerging in early to mid-February.
    "It usually happens during GIS," Carter said. "I'm usually in a meeting or at a dinner when my phone starts blowing up with pictures."
    The project has been an important piece to Harrison Bay's outreach efforts for a long time.
    When two eagles arrived in 2010, they were named Elliott and Eloise by Carter's daughter Hannah, who was 8 years old at the time. Hannah is 17 today and a senior in high school. Elliott is still coming around every year, but Eloise died two years ago. A new female, named Athena by those who watch the live stream, is on the nest today. 
    The property has become synonymous with eagle conservation and education. To that end, in 2015, Carter introduced himself at the Syngenta Business Institute as the superintendent of the golf course with the eagle cam project. Industry colleagues who did not immediately recognize his face or name, knew about the eagle cam project at The Bear Trace at Harrison Bay near Chattanooga, Tennessee, and quickly put 2 and 2 together.
    "Ohhhh" many uttered while visibly shaking their heads in acknowledgement.
    The Bear Trace is certified by Audubon International's Cooperative Sanctuary program and was the 2013 recipient of the Environmental Leaders in Golf award, presented by Golf Digest and the GCSAA.
    "This program has been a game-changer for us," Carter said. "As a state park property, we don't have money for marketing. The eagle cam allows us to do that. Without the eagle cam, I doubt we win that Golf Digest award.
    "People have come from all over to see it in person. It has brought us worldwide recognition and attention. I don't mind being known as the 'eagle cam guy.' It's better than being known as the guy who lost all his greens in one year."
  • Jack Nicklaus hits the first tee shot at American Dunes Golf Club in Grand Haven, Michigan, which will help provide funding for scholarships for family members of wounded and deceased veterans. Photo by Carlos Monarrez/Detroit Free Press The pandemic has done little to slow the progress of one of a project near and dear to one of the game’s most iconic players.
    Onlookers this week were able to take a sneak peek at the American Dunes Golf Club renovation project in Grand Haven, Michigan. The course is scheduled for a grand opening next spring and proceeds will benefit the Folds of Honor program that helps provide scholarships to members of military families.
    Opened in 1965, Grand Haven Golf Club was designed and built on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan by the father-and-son architecture team of Bruce and Jerry Matthews. 
    Nicklaus took on the task of redesigning the course that will serve as a living tribute to the armed forces and all who have served by being an avenue for raising funds to provide scholarships to the spouses and children of wounded or deceased veterans. The Folds of Honor program was founded by Maj. Dan Rooney, a PGA professional and a pilot in the U.S. Air Force Reserves who served two tours in Iraq . The program has awarded more than $130 million in scholarships since its inception more than a decade ago.
    "That's all to spouses and children of those killed, injured or disabled," said Rooney.
    Dr. John Rooney bought Grand Haven in 1988. Two decades later, Rooney’s son, Maj. Dan Rooney, a PGA professional and a pilot in the U.S. Air Force Reserves, started the Folds of Honor program there in 2008. The newly renovated course will be a fundraising tool to support the scholarship program through a series of tournaments held in conjunction with the annual Patriot Golf Day. Nine holes opened this year, with the remaining nine to be unveiled in the spring.
    This week, Nicklaus and wife Barbara were on hand for the unofficial opening.
    Rooney and Nicklaus have known each other for years, and the latter has been a supporter of Folds of Honor since its inception. The two met in 2017 at The Bear's Club in Jupiter, Florida, where Rooney shared his vision for Grand Haven's legacy in the Folds of Honor program. During that meeting, Rooney shared how he wanted his family’s legacy to include helping serve those who have served their country. Nicklaus offered his design services and those of his team at his North Palm Beach, Florida firm that has designed or renovated more than 400 golf courses in nearly 50 countries.
    Nicklaus has a history of helping veterans and other charitable organizations through golf. 
    A decade ago, Nicklaus donated design services to redesign and expand American Lake Veterans Golf Course on the grounds of the Veterans Administration Puget Sound Healthcare System in Lakewood, Washington. 
    When North Palm Beach Country Club, a city-owned course about a mile down U.S. 1 from Nicklaus’s Florida home, needed a makeover, he charged the town $1. 
    The Memorial Tournament held at Nicklaus' Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio, has raised more than $30 million for charity since the inaugural event in 1976. He also has been a longtime supporter of the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis, a fundraising and research initiative by the University of Miami that targets spinal cord and brain injuries.
  • Going back to her days of competing on the boys high school golf team, Kelly Lynch is accustomed to being the only woman in the room in a man's world. It is a role that Lynch has played throughout her career as a golf pro, golf coach and in the seed industry, and she's fine with that.
    "I've earned my seat at the table, and I've never taken it lightly," Lynch said. "I knew I was a trailblazer, and it was a privilege to be there. 
    "In my younger days, I was the token female, and I learned a lot. It was a privilege to be at the table and learn how to be heard in a room of men. It came through years of learning to advocate, communicate and building bridges."
    Today, Lynch, a regional manager with Pure Seed in Oregon, is passionate about helping other women in the golf industry find their seat at the table, too. 
    A PGA professional and former men's and women's golf coach at Eastern Washington and Gonzaga universities, Lynch learned early on that golf was a male-dominated industry. What she found on the green side of the industry even surprised her.
    "The PGA had few females. When I came to the turf side, there are no females," Lynch said.
    "Women are rare, and they are on islands most of the time. I want to engage them, empower them and encourage them."
    And Lynch is not alone.
    Several years of initiatives that include events like Syngenta's Ladies Leading Turf and Bayer's Women in Golf, have helped women in the turf business build networking connections and have provided an avenue to career-development education designed specifically for women. They also have helped lay the foundation for promoting careers in turf to more women, but the $64,000 question is "what's next?"
    One answer is to expand the circle to include more decision makers.
    "We have to evolve to that next level," said former USGA Green Section director Kim Erusha (above right). 
    "That is where we need to get to; multiple groups of people in one room. Those discussions need to be in a broaders sense of how do you work with each other."
    A likely starting point for that next-level cooperation is at the professional association level, something the golf industry has plenty of.
    "It becomes a matter of who do we hire? Who do we promote?" said Renee Geyer, West Golf Course superintendent at Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio. "Those are the people who have to take it to the next level. These companies, like Bayer and Syngenta, that's kick-started this movement; now, it is up to local associations, state associations and clubs to get involved from a business perspective."
    Before that is likely to happen, many women acknowledge there are other barriers to overcome, namely proving they belong.
    "To me, this isn't really a gender issue. Not only as a woman, but I think everyone has to show your value to your employer," said former USGA Green Section director Kim Erusha. "Are there times I have been pushed aside because of my gender? Yes, but you have to be persistent in pursuit of your goals. 
    "Life is not all rainbows and ponies. Part of this comes down to crap just happens. I can deal with any challenges out there, but they are there unfortunately, and it is discouraging. But that's part of life and you just have to figure out how to work through it.
    "You have to be the driver of your own future."
    Still, there is the impression that women often have to work harder to prove themselves in a man's world. Whether men accept that or view it as urban legend, it's true, and women know it. And although they don't agree that they should have to do more to prove their worth in the industry, it is a burden they embrace, partly because they can and partly because they know it makes them better.
    "What we all realize is that we all made it in a male-dominated world," Lynch said. 
    "People say that women have to work twice as hard as men, and I did that. That doesn't make it right. We have a problem, and we have work to do. People have to understand that we have to address these things. This is a symptom of a broken cultural system."
    Lynch makes a great point.
    Golf is widely recognized as a game propped up by men. That is especially true in turf. The game struggles to attract women and minority players. The turf industry faces the same struggles at its highest levels.
    Whether it is equal pay, equal opportunity or equal respect, there will be no wholesale changes for women industry wide until that culture changes.
    "To me, industry associations need to be aware and continue to weave that philosophy into the day-to-day messaging. It can't just be here is the special event of the day, and then move on," Erusha said. "We have to get to a point where that is normal procedure. It has to be part of our day-to-day fabric of what we do."
    Geyer (right) has attended two of Bayer's three career-development events, including last year in North Carolina and this year's virtual event.
    She gives as much as she receives from her new network of colleagues. 
    "I never thought I would get to walk into a room with 49 other women," she said. "It's incredible. I said 'they get me, this is my tribe, these are my people."
    Like Erusha, she said working to prove yourself is more about being a professional than being a female professional.
    "We have to continue to do what we have been doing, which is quality work," Geyer said. "Women have as much of a place in this business as men."
    Until that culture undergoes a sea change, Initiating change will require doing more and relying on others to help educate an industry. And for those who do not want to help move the industry forward?
    "I have had to realign myself with people who get it, because it is not my job to fight that battle alone," Lynch said. 
    "We have to educate those who can hear, and if they can't hear, you move on to someone who can, so we find a place where we get to do that."
  • BIGGA, the Carolinas GCSA and more than 30 other chapters are teaming up to redefine distance education this year. For those who think traditional education in the turf industry has been redefined in Covid era, you ain't seen nothin' yet.
    Nearly three dozen golf course superintendent associations across the United States and the British International Golf Greenkeepers Association are partnering in a marathon online education conference this fall devised in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Using a tailored Zoom platform, Conference Comes to You presents 30 two-hour seminars – scheduled one a day – over 30 days starting November 2.
    Registration in the program presented by the Carolinas Golf Course Superintendents Association opens at 10 a.m. Friday, Sept. 25 at www.conferencecomestoyou.org.
    The online conference, which has a week off over Thanksgiving, takes the place of the Carolinas GCSA’s annual conference and trade show in Myrtle Beach, which is the largest regional event for superintendents in the U.S.
    As official partners in Conference Comes to You, participating chapters earn discounted pricing for members – $40 rather than $70 – and will receive a share of each member registration fee. Each attendee also has the chance to share in $30,000 of guaranteed cash prizes ranging from $100 to $2,500. Members qualify for one entry with each seminar they take.
    Participating chapters include: Alabama, Calusa, Central Florida, Central Ohio, Connecticut, Eastern Shore, Everglades, Florida, Florida West Coast, Georgia, Gulf Coast, Hawaii, Heart of America, Hi-Lo Desert, Louisiana-Mississippi, Met GCSA, Miami Valley, Mid-Atlantic, Minnesota, New England, New Jersey, North Florida, Northern California, Palm Beach, Rdige, Rocky Mountain, Seven Rivers, South Florida, Southern California, Southern Nevada, Suncoast, Tennessee, Treasure Coast, Wisconsin and Virginia.
    "We're thrilled to have so many chapters joining us. This platform benefits everyone involved, and the more people who participate the more benefit there will be for everyone," said Carolinas GCSA president, Brian Stiehler, CGCS, MG at Highlands Country Club in Highlands, North Carolina.
    "We see many visitors from across the country and overseas at our traditional conference and show each year. So, in these extraordinary times, when we can’t be face to face, it made sense for our conference to go 'see' them."
    Stiehler stressed his association's gratitude for the financial backing of dozens of industry partners, including longtime education partner, Syngenta, and prize package partners, John Deere Golf, Revels Turf and Tractor, Greenville Turf and Tractor, Toro, Smith Turf and Irrigation, Jacobsen and TSP Turf.
    "This is an incredible show of support from companies we have worked with for years and in many cases, generations," Stiehler said. "That they have stepped up to help superintendents continue their professional development in times like these speaks volumes."
  • The Bayer/Monsanto Roundup story has as many twists and turns as a country road.
    Bayer recently settled thousands of Roundup lawsuits as part of an $11 billion settlement, according to published reports. The news came about a month after a golf industry professional claimed the weedkiller caused his cancer and just days before an attorney close to the case was sentenced to two years in prison after being convicted of extortion. It is, after all, 2020.
    Close to 200,000 people have or are expected to file suit claiming that glyphosate, the active ingredient in the weedkiller Roundup, caused their non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. At the heart of the glyphosate debate are conflicting reports by the World Health Organization and the EPA. In 2015, the WHO concluded that glyphosate was a "probable" carcinogen. The EPA, on the other hand, has said that there is no evidence indicating that glyphosate causes cancer based on the results of more than 800 tests and studies. 
    The recent settlements for $10.9 billion include 15,000 lawsuits in which plaintiffs blame Monsanto's weedkiller for causing their non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, according to reports. Bayer, which acquired Monsanto in 2018, already has settled about 30,000 cases and faces as many as an additional 125,000 suits that have yet to be filed, according to reports. 
    The most recent settlement comes about a month after a golf professional in the Spokane, Washington area filed suit claiming that Roundup caused his cancer. On Aug. 3, Gary Lindeblad filed suit against Bayer and Monsanto, saying it caused his cancer.
    According to the lawsuit, Lindeblad "sprayed Roundup on a regular basis" beginning in the 1970s. He was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins lymphoma in 1999. He has since incurred "significant economic and non-economic damages," according to the suit.
    Lindeblad worked for 31 years at the Indian Canyon Golf Course. Most recently, he has worked at the Kalispel Golf and Country Club.
    On Sept. 21, Tim Litzenburg, the Virginia lawyer representing a plaintiff who won a $289 million verdict in the ongoing litigation against Bayer, was sentenced to two years in prison after he was convicted on extortion charges. 
    Litzenburg was charged in December with extortion after threatening to "to inflict substantial financial and reputational harm" against two unnamed companies unless he was paid a $200 million consulting fee, according to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia.
    According to court documents, Litzenburg suggested in October 2019 that the unnamed Company 1 could avoid future costs associated with litigation, reputational damage and a drop in stock prices if it hired him as a consultant for $200 million. 
    The document said that Litzenburg and an unnamed accomplice would steer prospective litigants away from the Roundup case as part of the deal. According to the complaint, Litzenburg called his $200 million consulting fee "fair" and promised to unleash a public relations "nightmare" against the companies involved.
    The criminal complaint stated that Litzenburg also agreed to steer complainants away from Company 2. Those unnamed companies were believed to be Bayer and Monsanto, but a spokesperson for Bayer said last year that was untrue.
  • Cultural practices, like aerification, have been delayed or even canceled at some courses this year as facilities capitalize on increased play to drive revenue. Photos by Andrew Jorgensen via Twitter For some reason, it is getting harder and harder every day to distinguish between a silver lining and a storm cloud, or a glass that is half full and one that is half empty.
    For almost two decades, the golf business has been defined by how many people were leaving the game. In a nutshell, there are nearly 10 million fewer players today than there were in 2002; there are more than 2,000 fewer courses and golfers are playing almost 70 million fewer rounds than they were 20 years ago.
    In many corners of the country, golf rounds are not a problem during the pandemic. According to Golf Datatech, which measures rounds played at private and daily fee courses nationwide, year-over-year rounds played were up nearly 20 percent in July compared with the same month last year. Rounds played in July were up in every state except Hawaii.
    For many, this summer has been a case of "be careful what you wish for."
    Even as some services, namely food and beverage, have been slow to return during the pandemic, golf has brought casual players back to the course in droves and superintendents across the country have reported seeing scores of new players.
    Superintendent Joe Wachter credits the Covid-19 golf boom for helping keep the lights on at Glen Echo Country Club in St. Louis. Like every place, the club has lost a lot of money from canceled outings and weddings, and stands to lose more in the fall. Since opening in the spring during the pandemic, about 800-900 rounds a week have been played at this 1901 James Foulis design that was the site of Olympic golf during the 1904 Summer Games. After a brief dip in play in late July and early August, play is ticking up again at the end of the season.
    "A lot of people put their clubs away after Labor Day, but not so much this year," Wachter said.
    "The most important thing for us is that all this play has kept us all employed."
    There is such thing as too much of a good thing.
    The Chattanooga golf market was a mixed bag in the early days of the pandemic. Courses in the city limits were closed. The Bear Trace at Harrison Bay, a state park golf course outside of town, was closed as were all state-owned facilities. All other courses outside the city limits were open for play.
    Now, The Bear Trace, which was closed for about a month early in the pandemic, is getting all the rounds it wants - and then some. With 12-minute tee times and single riders in golf carts, up to 170 rounds a day are played at the state park course along the banks of the Tennessee River.
    No golfers can tee off after 4 p.m., thanks in part to the single rider policy.
    "Otherwise, those guys (in the cart facility) would be here until dark-thirty just cleaning carts," Carter said. 
    "When I look at a tee, I see four or eight carts sitting there, and of course they play Follow the Leader. We're warm-season grass, so it's not affecting us yet, but those courses with cool-season grass are getting worn out. We haven't seen the damage yet, but it's there. The golf course, with single riders, is taking another year's worth of abuse."

    The result, thatchy, spongy greens, is nothing a good aerification can't cure. That will have to wait.
    "We usually aerify in late July or early August. We close and go Monday to Friday. It really helps us. Those five days are it; we don't do anything else the rest of the year, but we're not going to close to aerfiy this year," Carter said. "We had to give it up to keep the cash register open to make up for the month we were closed. The damage is something only a superintendent can see - spongy greens, some scalping. We'll get that back next year."
    In place of a traditional aerification, Carter and his team have been performing some pretty aggressive verticutting and punching smaller holes with 1-inch tines to remove at least some thatch.
    The tiny tines disrupt only about 1 percent of the surface area, but is better than nothing when closing for traditional aerification is not an option.
    "You're not really pulling anything," Carter said. "You're just trying to keep some holes open and manage thatch."
    There are a couple low-lying holes at Bear Trace that Carter has to keep closed throughout the winter to prevent damage that doesn't often show itself on warm-season grass until spring. The increased play and absence of aerification might necessitate closing a couple more.
    Carter's story is one that has been told throughout the country this year - too much play, but too much money to close for needed cultural practices.
    "One of the biggest limiting factors we are hearing about is all the play is wearing out the grass," said Joe Rimelspach, turf pathologist and program specialist at Ohio State University. "Many places haven't been able to core or aerate, because the course has found out that they can make more money with all the play."
    Glen Echo has benefitted from a cooperative agreement that grants golf privileges to members of the Missouri Athletic Club, a non-golf athletic club.
    "I've seen a lot of new faces this year that I don't recognize as regular Glen Echo members," Wachter said. "That has really helped drive revenue.
    "We're seeing more women and more couples this year."
    Andrew Jorgensen manages 81 holes in Florida for On Top of the World Communities, including 54 in Ocala and 27 in Clearwater.
    All of the courses managed by OTWC closed in March and began to reopen throughout April. Early spring typically is not the best time to be poking holes in mostly TifDwarf and Tif Eagle greens, but this has been anything but a typical year.
    "Normally, April is not the best time for aerification. Recovery is slower, but after doing it now, I'm all for it mostly for selfish reasons," Jorgensen said. "The weather was good. It was 75 when we did it, not 95, so it wasn't unbearable. Recovery did take longer, but we'll never be able to do that again.
    "At first, we didn't know if we were going to be closed for two weeks or all summer. We bumped up aerification to early in April and stayed closed for two weeks after that before reopening. We knew we would be ridiculed for shutting down right after reopening for aerification. By doing it in early April, we just stayed closed."
    The Florida heat and humidity has done little to keep golfers away even throughout the summer.
    "There has been a lot of increased play and increased traffic,"Jorgensen said. "I know a lot of guys who are pushing off aerification because they are packed and the cash register keeps ringing."
    With so many holes of golf available, Jorgensen has the luxury of closing courses and moving players around to keep up with cultural practices. That's a luxury not everyone has.
    In Chattanooga, there is no end in sight, at least not yet anyway. The Chattanooga Lookouts baseball team was grounded when all minor league play was canceled in June, movie theaters are only now beginning to reopen. Golf has been there for experienced players and newcomers alike almost through the duration of the pandemic.
    "We're going as long as the weather's good," Carter said. 'People are playing. There's nothing else to do. 
    "It's either golf or go fishing or go take a hike at a state park.
    "If we were on our normal nine-minute tee times with two people per cart and not closing it off at 4 o'clock we could be 250 rounds a day."
  • Bayer's digital flipbooks offer solutions for superintendents across the country.  During a time when getting reliable information from a trusted source has been made just a little more difficult, Bayer is trying to make it easier for turf managers to find the information they need to do their jobs every day.
    Bayer and its Green Solutions Team recently launched its digital flipbooks guide of agronomic resources that are specific to geographic regions nationwide.
    The new digital flipbooks feature agronomic recommendations by adaption zone. Each booklet was developed based on the specific diseases, insects and weeds indigenous to a given zone. Each booklet contains specific recommendations on how to control the pests in that zone, including diseases, insects and weeds. Recommendations include product solutions, solutions, timings and rates based on the level of pest pressure, and each booklet includes contact information for area representatives and Greens Solutions Team members.
    Geographic zones are:
    Tropical Zone
    Northern Zone
    Transition Zone
    Mountain West Plains Zone
    Southwestern Zone
    Mid-Central Zone
    Pacific Northwest Zone
    Gulf Atlantic Zone
  • By now, Tom Samples must know just about every inch of every road in Tennessee. As a turfgrass extension specialist at the University of Tennessee since he earned his Ph.D. at Oklahoma State in 1985, Samples has spent much of the past 35 years traversing the state from Knoxville to Memphis and everywhere in between.
    University employees, including Samples, have been prohibited from traveling on UT business since March. It is a common theme heard around the country as university extension specialists are not able to travel in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. As a result, Samples and many of his colleagues around the country have had to reinvent their craft and how they help turfgrass managers diagnose and manage problems on golf courses, sports fields and lawns.
    "My objective as a statewide turfgrass specialist is still the same even if I can't travel," said Samples (pictured at right). "If I do not change the way I deliver information, then I'm not doing my job."
    In the past six months, Samples has been online for more Zoom meetings than he can count, the volume of emails in his inbox each day has increased exponentially, and he has spent a lot of time trying to diagnose diseases and pest problems from cell phone photos.
    For golf course superintendents, play is up at many facilities and increased activity translates there is added stress on the turf. 
    "I try to respond to all emails within 24 hours, but the volume has picked up. Some I'm not getting to until 48 hours," Samples said. "Superintendents and sports field managers understand this is new for all of us."
    Whether this new version of extension work will be permanent or whether site visits will return is anyone's guess, but one thing is certain, there will be no one-size-fits-all solution.
    At Michigan State University, classes all are online this semester. Still, Kevin Frank, Ph.D., is able to work from his office in East Lansing, but he can't visit a golf course superintendent he might pass on his way to campus each day.
    "It certainly is different," Frank said. "The only turf I have seen in person are research plots, my lawn and the two or three golf courses I play.
    "By far this is the least amount of travel I've ever done since I was a grad student. I can't remember when I've seen so few golf courses. The two or three I play locally, that is my reference point. I have no reference point beyond that."
    Most of Frank's extension work also is limited to Zoom or FaceTime, phone calls and photos sent by email.

    Joe Rimelspach (left) says delivery of some soil samples submitted during the pandemic have been delayed by weeks. As a result, he suggests sending samples to the OTF research facility. Photos by John Reitman "The biggest challenge is you can't enlarge some photos taken by phone. They're low resolution and if you enlarge them, they get pixelated," he said. "Identifying basic diseases by photos is not that hard. The hardest thing is stress from traffic or water. People tell me 'it's dead or dying. What caused it?' How long of a list do you want me to go through? I can't always tell you for certain. A lot of what we can do remotely is limited by the technology of the person sending it in."
    Joe Rimelspach says he and Todd Hicks are facing many of the same challenges at Ohio State. 
    Although the research lab is open and the turf pathology department is accepting soil samples, delivery through the university mail system has been delayed, sometimes by weeks, so Rimelspach has been telling turf managers to send them instead to the Ohio Turfgrass Foundation research facility.
    "We've had to figure ot what we can do and not do," Rimelspach said. "On the extension side, we are adapting with the restrictions we had. We've received an exemption to keep the diagnostics lab open.
    "We normally receive samples in the building, but the carriers couldn't get into the building so they are getting sent to central mail. It has taken as much as two months to get things, so people have to get it to me directly. I am accepting samples at the OTF building and at home.
    "When I can get my hand on samples we can get things done. We have to avoid the university shipping and receiving department."
    Like everyone else, Rimelspach also is looking at plenty of iPhone photos submitted through email or text and chatting with people through Zoom and FaceTime.
    The good news, if there is any, he said is at least turf managers and extension researchers have the chance to share information in ways they could not before.
    "We're fortunate to have these tools," he said. "If this had happened 20 or 30 years ago, this would all be much different."
    Tennessee's Samples agreed. He has embraced technology that allows him to stay in touch with people across the state, but unlike so many others, he has been working from his office every day to try to stay in a routine.
    "This has forced me to become more modern in how I share information," Samples said. "It has forced me into areas I was not previously comfortable with.
    "But, I'm still getting a lot of 'what is this?' questions. We're still open, and we're still answering the phone."
  • Many superintendents say bunker management demands a disproportionate amount of time and resources. Photos by John Reitman Typically, the golf industry chokes whenever the economy hiccups. That has not been the case this year as a global pandemic has crushed business, devastated the economy and sent record numbers of people to the unemployment line. In fact, during the past six months of doom and gloom, golf has been one of the feel-good stories emerging from the pandemic. 
    Golf courses everywhere have been busy, really busy, and they have looked a little more rustic since superintendents removed many of the accessories in an effort to minimize touch points and the potential to spread the virus between players and employees.
    Not only does the removal of accessories eliminate dozens of places where funk can transmit from one person to another, some superintendents say it gives a golf course an unspoiled appeal and makes daily maintenance easier in the face of all this extra play.
    And while golf courses are really, really busy this year, anything that can make the crew's job easier is probably a good thing, at least for now, but how long will they disappear. Superintendents say that golfers can develop an odd attachment to inanimate objects like ballwashers and memorial benches, so don't expect accessories to disappear forever.
    "Course accessories are a huge maintenance headache," said Fred Gehrisch, CGCS at Highlands Falls Country Club in Highlands, North Carolina. "We have to sand and stain our wood signs every winter. All the wood posts that our ball washers and trash receptacles are attached to have to be painted every year. Just like the bunker rakes, most accessories have to be moved to weed or mow around and that costs time and efficiency. I've always accepted that as part of our job, but boy, do the hours add up just moving things. All in all though, the extras just take away from the beauty of the course."
    This movement of less is more has not fallen on deaf ears. 
    "Accessories have been an easy target for a while," said Matt Pauli, director of marketing for Standard Golf, which manufactures and distributes a line of golf course accessories. 
    "Covid has been an excuse to take them off."
    The complaint many superintendents have is accessories get in the way, they are a drain on the staff and the budget, and they detract from the course's aesthetic appeal.
    "In my opinion, golf for many years went the other way. Every where you looked you saw accessories that were not needed," said Rick Tegtmeier, CGCS at Des Moines Golf and Country Club in Iowa. "Many little golf courses used these as vehicles for advertising and for memorials. "
    Accessories companies quickly responded to the pandemic and the challenges facing golf course superintendents with no-touch products to make things easier for golfers and employees to minimize chances to spread the virus. No-touch options like ball risers and foam inserts for cups mean golfers don't have to pull flagsticks to retrieve their golf ball. Portable, no-touch grips allow golfers to safely use bunker rakes without actually touching the handle.
    "This isn't just about selling products," said Dan Brown, sales and marketing manager for Par Aide. "Golf is very popular right now. It's outdoors. It's easy to distance from others. We understand that (Covid) is real, and we truly want to help make the game as safe as possible."
    Gehrisch appreciates how removing accessories helps streamline workflow. Aesthetically, he also believes in addition by subtraction.
    "I'm a minimalist when it comes to accessories," he said. "The least amount of accessories on the course the better."
    "All in all, the extras just take away from the beauty of the golf course."

    In the bunker or out? Or back in the shop? Where do bunker rakes belong? The low-hanging fruit for many superintendents appears to be bunker rakes.
    Superintendents say they get in the way and golfers don't use them correctly - if at all.
    "As far as bunker rakes, we all hate them," Tegtmeier said. "The USGA could never tell anyone 'should they be in or should be left out of the bunker?' We hate to mow around them and the golfer hates to hit them. So, not having them this year has made both parties happy. I do think you will see them again."
    Like most golf courses, Kanawha Club in Manakin-Sabot, Virginia removed as many touch points as possible. In that time, there has been a sea change at the club in how bunkers are viewed. Superintendents must dedicate a disproportionate amount of resources to maintaining bunkers. Rededicating those resources elsewhere during the pandemic is a trend that has caught on at Kanawha.
    "Since Covid started, we've had to remove all touch points," said Paul Van Buren, the club's golf course manager. "We've also had a transition from perfectly maintained bunkers to just declaring them hazards again. If golfers aren't going to use rakes, why have them out on the course? Inevitably, someone is going to have to move them - the bunker raker if they're in the bunker, or the mower if they're out of the bunker. No rakes? No problem - for anybody."
    Par Aide's Brown also is a very good golfer. I've played golf with him at the Great Waters Course at Reynolds at Lake Oconee (formerly Reynolds Plantation) in Georgia, and he is a bomber with a lot of game. The marketing side of him wants to see accessories back on golf courses. The golfer side of him believes at least some of them are necessary.
    "Whether it is a $5 Nassau or the club championship, consistency is a key, and nobody wants to make the determination on what to do with a poor lie in an unraked bunker," Brown said. 
    "I can come up with a lot of ways that the game has evolved. And bunker maintenance is one of them. For 99 percent of us, an unraked bunker makes an already-hard game more difficult."
    Whether bunkers should be unkempt and viewed as true hazards or maintained to the point that PGA Tour players use them as a bailout option around slippery greens is a hotly contested debate. What accessories - including rakes - return to the golf course and when is, obviously going to occur on a course-by-course basis and likely will be determined by those with a paygrade much higher than the superintendent.
    "We have not put out a bunker rake or a ball washer. I do not think you will see either of those go out this year," Tegtmeier said. "Next year, I am going to budget for underground trash cans and try not to have anything vertical on the tee set up. We do have benches out for the walking golfer but do not sanitize them."
    Regardless of one's feelings about accessories. It's hard to imagine a future without ballwashers and some of the other things that until March have been commonplace on golf courses.
    But bunker rakes; what about bunker rakes?
    "I think bunker rakes will go back out," Tegtmeier said. 
    "I do think you will see them again."
    With Hurricane Dorian bearing down on The Bahamas just last summer, Matt DiMase didn't give much thought to leaving. 
    The superintendent at The Abaco Club on Winding Bay, DiMase could have ridden out the storm with his wife and kids in the safety of the family home in Ocala, Florida.
    But he didn't.
    DiMase rode out the storm, brought the devastated golf course back from the dead and played a key role in a humanitarian effort to help members of the club, his employees and members of his Bahamian community. His selflessness earned him the honor of being named the recipient of the 20th annual TurfNet Superintendent of the Year Award, presented by Syngenta. 
    "For us, this is a job, but for our members, this club is their investment," DiMase said when he received the award at the last Golf Industry Show from Syngenta turf market manager Stephanie Schwenke (pictured above). "I told my team we can stay and protect their property, or we can abandon ship and who knows what will happen. . . . I didn't want to leave. I wanted to stay because of the people."
    Nominations for DiMase's successor are now being accepted. Although it's hard to imagine anyone going through a more trying experience than what DiMase faced in 2019, there has been much about 2020 that has been hard to believe.
    A panel of judges will select five finalists and ultimately the winner from the list of nominees. In a year that will be defined by a global crisis and one in which people starved for outdoor recreation have flocked to courses around the country, the nominations should be plentiful.
    Criteria on which nominees are judged include: 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.
    Click here to submit a nomination. Deadline for nominations is Dec. 1. Typically, the winner receives two slots on the annual TurfNet members golf trip, but with travel up in the air for the foreseeable future, an alternate prize (that has yet to be determined) will be awarded to the winner.
    Previous winners include: Matt DiMase, The Abaco Club on Winding Bay, Cherokee, Great Abaco, Bahamas (2019); Carlos Arraya, Bellerive Country Club, St. Louis, MO (2018); Jorge Croda, Southern Oaks Golf Club, Burleson, TX, and Rick Tegtmeier, Des Moines Golf and Country Club, West Des Moines, IA (2017); Dick Gray, PGA Golf Club, Port St. Lucie, FL (2016); Matt Gourlay, Colbert Hills, Manhattan, KS (2015); Fred Gehrisch, Highlands Falls Country Club, Highlands, NC (2014); Chad Mark, Kirtland Country Club, Willoughby, OH (2013), Dan Meersman, Philadelphia Cricket Club (2012), Flourtown, PA; Paul Carter, The Bear Trace at Harrison Bay, Harrison, TN (2011); Thomas Bastis, The California Golf Club of San Francisco, South San Francisco, CA (2010); Anthony Williams, Stone Mountain (GA) Golf Club (2009); Sam MacKenzie, Olympia Fields (IL) Country Club (2008); John Zimmers, Oakmont (PA) Country Club (2007); Scott Ramsay, Golf Course at Yale University, New Haven, CT (2006); Mark Burchfield, Victoria Club, Riverside, CA (2005); Stuart Leventhal, Interlachen Country Club, Winter Park, FL (2004); Paul Voykin, Briarwood Country Club, Deerfield, IL (2003); Jeff Burgess, Seven Lakes Golf Course, Windsor, Ontario (2002); Kip Tyler, Salem Country Club, Peabody, MA (2001); Kent McCutcheon, Las Vegas (NV) Paiute Golf Resort (2000).

    The fate of the college football season is anything but certain. The first few games of the season have been played, but how long it will last and whether there will be bowls and a playoff are anyone's guess. 
    TurfNet's coverage of preparations for the 2020 Rose Bowl serves as a reminder of how special college football and its traditions are. 
    "TurfNet tackles the Rose Bowl" is one of three TurfNet projects recognized for writing excellence at the virtual edition of this year's Turf and Ornamental Communicators Association annual conference.
    The blog, which was produced by news and editorial director John Reitman and daughter Lauren and was sponsored by Brandt, focused on the efforts of former Rose Bowl field superintendent Will Schnell, Miguel Yepez (Schnell's former assistant and newly anointed successor) and their team to prepare the world's most famous playing field for the 2020 game between Oregon of the PAC 12 and Wisconsin of the Big 10.
    Coverage included agronomic practices leading up to the game, painting (A LOT of painting), the inventor of collapsible goal posts (who also volunteers on the game-prep staff) and the camaraderie and family atmosphere among the staff and members of the Brandt team that make this group so special.
    Click here to read more about our Rose Bowl coverage and go to our instagram page to see the scads of photos from game week.
    A total of 16 posts with more than 17,000 views earned a first place and Gardner Award (best in category) in the New Media-Blog category at this year's TOCA conference. Reitman also earned a first-place mention in the Editorial-Opinion category for “Where's the bottom for golf? It's a game of wait and see” which takes a deep look into the economics of a golf market in decline - at least in decline prior to the pandemic era.
    TurfNet's Jon Kiger also earned a Merit Award in the blog category for the “Women in Turf” series sponsored by Foley that included contributions from Peter McCormick and Reitman.
    The Turf and Ornamental Communicators Association is a 200-plus member association comprising editorial, advertising and marketing professionals working in the green industry. The association's annual meeting, originally scheduled for Denver in the spring was held this week in a virtual format.
  • The surrounding neighborhood drains a lot of water into Smith Creek and onto Bellerive Country Club, including several feet during an August rain event (above). Floodwater also inundated the maintenance shop (below right). Photos courtesy of Carlos Arraya When a storm swept through Missouri in early August, it was something straight from a bad dream.
    Two years removed from a major championship, Bellerive Country Club was coming off a two-step greens rebuild project when Mother Nature unleashed her wrath. 
    The front nine, rebuilt first, opened in the spring along with a few back nine holes that were ahead of schedule. The remaining back nine holes were opened to members on Aug. 7. The following day, up to 7 inches of rain dumped on parts of St. Louis, and it seemed like every inch was channeled Bellerive's way. 
    Dubbed by meteorologists as a 500-year flood, the event transformed Smith Creek that bisects the property into a raging river that Carlos Arraya, CGCS, Bellerive's director of agronomy and assistant general manager, says left the maintenance facility and much of the golf course under 5 feet of water. 
    An adjacent home where the club houses interns also was flooded. Three interns who had been staying there were able to get out safely and have been relocated to extended-stay facilities off site.
    When the flood waters receded two days later, the golf course was covered in silt from the creek, bunkers were washed out and nearly all of the club's equipment was damaged, destroyed or washed away.
    "We didn't even have a shovel or buckets to begin removing silt," Arraya said. "We had to make a run to Lowe's.
    "I've endured hurricanes, including three back-to-back-to-back. When they were gone, you still had equipment. We don't have anything."
    The only piece of mechanized equipment that was not affected was a front end loader parked at the sand pit awaiting aerification that was to begin the following Monday.
    What has ensued has been an exercise in neighbor helping neighbor during a time of need and how to communicate up to keep members informed during a tragedy.
    "I wiggle my way into the boardroom, I'll stay late or after work and I will speak to everyone I can," Arraya said. "I have to stay in front of them."
    Indeed, golfers at Bellerive have endured a lot. First the front nine, then the back were closed for a greens rebuild last year. The year before, the course was the site of the 100th PGA Championship, and in 2016 and '17, parts of the course were closed as needed to protect greens during times of stress in advance of the tournament. 
    After the rebuild, nine holes, then 12 were opened in the spring. The remaining holes on the back nine were not scheduled to open until September. The opening was moved up to August 7 when the grow-in went better than expected. For a brief one-day period all 18 holes were open. It was the first time that had happened since last year's club championship.
    "I feel so badly for them," Arraya said. "This is the fifth summer that they haven't had the golf course open totally unimpeded. It's been brutal."
    A month later, the comeback continues. All mowing and spraying equipment has been rendered useless and the shop is off limits due to insurance issues.

    After the floodwater receded, the damage in Bellerive's shop was catastrophic. A two-decade-old study by the Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District showed that anywhere from 8 percent to 17 percent of rainwater in the surrounding neighborhood ran onto the golf course in 2000. Twenty years later, construction and more impervious surfaces are bringing even more water onto the property. Areas on the golf course that once were immune from flooding now lie in a 100-year floodplain - including Bellerive's maintenance facility.
    "We have to build a new shop, but we have to move it," Arraya said. "We can't build it here. We have to get it out of the floodplain."
    Erb Equipment, the local John Deere dealer, has helped out with mowing equipment, and Bill Maynard of MTI Distributing (Toro) has helped mow fairways with one of his company's units.
    Arraya still lacks the equipment - and time - needed for fall applications, and he can't make any long-term decisions on a fleet until those insurance issues are resolved.
    "Fall applications for weed suppression, pre-emergent fungicide applications, we can't do that. We don't have the equipment, and we're already behind," he said. "We have more nutsedge and Bermuda in low-lying areas where the water sat. Weed pressure is significant. Along the creek banks there are exotic weeds I haven't even identified yet."
    Arraya and his team have concentrated their resources on short-mow areas. And members have been understanding of the challenges that lie ahead. The process, Arraya, said, is not unlike the phases of grief.
    "When you see the devastation, you wonder 'why us?' " Arraya said. "The members have been great and asked right away 'what can we do to support you?' They are feeling anger, disappointment and now acceptance and moving forward. I don't think they understand the long-term implications. We have to lead them on that path."
    Arraya has built a career defined by leadership, and that is why he has been on the fast track at Bellerive, elevating from superintendent to director of agronomy and now assistant general manager in three years.
    "This is not all about growing grass," he said. "We are showcasing leadership.
    "They definitely don't teach you this in school."
  • Although classes are in session at the University of Florida, extension education for turgrass professionals from researchers like Billy Crow, Ph.D., (center) will be virtual in an October research forum. The way people consume information is changing so rapidly during the pandemic that virtual field days that were unheard of just months ago already are becoming passe.
    With research facilities peppered across the state from the Panhandle to Fort Lauderdale, the University of Florida turf team can cover a lot of research topics with a wide range of appeal. With in-person field days all but canceled everywhere this year, the UF team dismissed the idea of a true virtual field day. When they take to the 'Net in October to update viewers on their ongoing research projects and findings, they balk at the idea of calling the event a virtual field day.
    Tabbed as the inaugural Turfgrass Research Forum, the event is scheduled for Oct. 14, and will replace traditional events at the university's main research farm in Citra, the West Florida Research and Education Center in Jay and the Fort Lauderdale Research and Education Center in Davie.
    "We've already had three field days whacked this year," said UF professor Bryan Unruh, Ph.D., who also is the associate director of the West Florida Research and Education Center. "We thought about jumping on the virtual field day bandwagon, but we thought we don't need another virtual field day. We are calling this a research symposium. It will be a 30,000-foot look into our research projects rather than digging down into the weeds."
    The event, which will be held on the Microsoft Teams platform, will include research updates from Unruh, Jason Kruse, Ph.D., Kevin Kenworthy, Ph.D., Adam Dale, Ph.D., Phil Harmon, Ph.D., Billy Crow, Ph.D., Laurie Trenholm, Ph.D., and Marco Schiavon, Ph.D. Topics that will be covered in the free event include entomology, nematology, plant pathology, disease management, turfgrass breeding and sports turf management.
    The format will be quite different for Unruh, who as the turf extension agent for the state spends more than 100 days per year on the road speaking at chapter meetings, helping superintendents diagnose problems and develop solutions on golf courses statewide and presenting at traditional field day and research events. Click here to register.
    "The downside is that 111 nights on the road is too many. I've done a lot of soul-searching since March about why I would want to do that," Unruh said. "I am a servant to the industry, and I have a passion for what I do, but there is a cost to 111 nights on the road both personally and professionally."
    Delivery of research projects has become the norm this year as the pandemic has canceled most if not all in-person events, including Gnat Fest, the annual field day event at UF's West Florida facility, and the annual university field day at the main research farm in Citra.
    "You don't get the personal engagement and the dynamic (atmosphere) that you have in person at field plots," Crow said. "The benefits are that we can do it. Better virtual than not at all."
  • Create New...