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From the TurfNet NewsDesk

  • John Reitman
    It was built for stroke-play tournaments, and nearly four decades after opening it's ideal for match play, too.   Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio, is the House that Jack Built near his hometown of Columbus. Back in 1966, when he first walked this ground 20 miles northwest of downtown, it was farm country with many more horses and cows than people. Even when it opened in 1976 as home to PGA Tour's Memorial Tournament, spectators heading up there encountered no traffic, no lights and no real-estate development. That's all changed now, with Muirfield Village the centerpiece for expansive, upscale real estate. Though so skillfully has Nicklaus kept the homes out of view you'd never know they line these fairways.   The routing, which Nicklaus did with a Salvador Dali-esque, non-golfing landscape architect named Desmond Muirhead (1923-2002) is ingenious. For all the rolling terrain of the land, you never have an obscured view of a landing area and you barely ever play an uphill shot until the 18th approach. The trick they did was simply to route the holes so that the uphill climbs come between holes, as you go from green to next tee. So you always see your landing zone on tee shots and approaches, and crowds on a course that can easily handle 40,000 spectators also have ideal vistas.   It all sets up for what should be a very engaging Presidents Cup. Much of the credit goes to veteran superintendent Paul B. Latshaw. Imagine the pressure of perennial PGA Tour scrutiny and with Jack Nicklaus functioning as your green chairman. The conditioning is usually spotless, literally. It's likely there won't be a single white line anywhere denoting ground under repair. Par for the course is a very balanced 36-3672 of returning nines, with yardage set at 7,388. That clocks in at a 76.3 rating / 149 slope. Of course this week slope doesn't matter, since nobody's getting any shots in the matches.   Your basic opening Nicklaus hole from the 1970s and 80s, a distinct fade drive to a generous fairway, and then a short iron (when it opened it was a middle- to long-iron) in to a well-bunkered green. The putting surfaces here are not expansive on average 5,000 square feet. They demand precision, reward well-struck shots played from the fairway and don't allow you to work the ball in from the side of the green surrounds. The bentgrass greens are groomed to within about one-tenth of an inch of their life, with Stimpmeter speeds around 13. It's a matter of starting the ball on line and letting it roll out. The faster these greens are, the better the American team will do.   No. 2: Par 4, 455 yards
      The first test: a very tight feeling tee shot, thanks to a straight, unbunkered fairway with nothing visually to shape a shot with and a very large caveat running the length of the right side: Do not hit it in the creek. Three-woods off the tee will predominate here, especially Thursday afternoon and Saturday morning with alternate shot/foursomes, where the rule of thumb is simply to avoid heroics and put your teammate in good shape for the next shot.   No. 3: Par 4, 401 yards
      There's nothing duller in match play than a forced lay-up hole with no viable options. That's the case here on this par 4 with a creek that runs the left side of the fairway and expands into a pond exactly at what would be the far point of the drive zone to form a forced-carry hazard. There's no advantage at all in hitting driver and it's safe to say nobody will all week; this is strictly a lay-up off the tee because the narrow, elongated green will not hold an approach shot hit without spin. The important point is to approach from the fairway. Even with the rough cut back a little to about 3 inches a bit less than during The Memorial Tournament there's little ability to control this approach from the rough and no advantage to hitting it longer than 260-270 yards off the tee short of two fairway bunkers right and that water left. It's also unlikely that PGA Tour officials will move the tees up for better-ball play or Sunday's singles matches. That's because there's no fairway beyond the water short of the green and no safe place to miss the green that would warrant risking driver off the tee.   No. 4: Par 3, 200 yards
      A strong par-3, with a green that falls away slightly from the line of play, and one that encourages a draw off the tee (except from Phil Mickelson).   No. 5: Par 5, 527 yards
      A severe dogleg right, one that demands a very precise high fade that gets around the tree-lined corner without running through into the far rough. A creek bisects the hole, creating a fairway-bailout to the left on the second shot that only seems to come into play for players who have to chip out from rough. Otherwise, this hole can be reached in two by all the players in the field, though it really demands two well-placed shots traveling left-to-right, the second one (into the green) ideally played very high and coming down soft. With water coming up tight to the front left of the green, it's not a putting surface that plays well for a draw shot, since the elevated putting surface nudges everything left sometimes into water, or, if hit strong, over the green to a falloff at the rear. This will be an exciting hole in Sunday's singles matches. During the better ball, it would be smart if any team suffering doubts about their position plays its first approach safely short and right, leaving the second player on the team to go for broke.   No. 6: Par 4, 447 yards
      This strategy on this hole is set up by a large greenside bunker, which helps set up a divided putting green that falls away on each side from a central spine. The ideal drive will be on the side of the hole where the hole is cut, whether left or right, though in any case, the landing area off the tee is well bunkered on both sides, effectively narrowing down a 30-yard-wide fairway.   No. 7: Par 5, 563 yards
      An elegant long hole that unfolds right-to-left on the tee shot, then rolls back the other way on the second. It's also a case of an interrupted hole, with the fairway ending 40 yards short and giving way to a heavily grassed swale. The only way to get to the green is through the air, whether on the second shot or the third. A large, very deep bunker protects the entrance to the green; it's a common landing area for second shots and not a bad place from which to play. With the green tipped from right to left and one of the shallower ones on the course, it's also hard to hold with a long shot unless the ball comes in very high and soft.   No. 8: Par 3, 185 yards
      Downhill, to a green popped up slightly above its surrounds, most of which is sand. At 43 yards deep and with two distinct tiers, the green can play anywhere from a 9-iron to a 6-iron on a calm day.   No. 9: Par 4, 412 yards
      It's fascinating to see a golf course like this that presents a premium on driving the ball well, yet also offers five holes without a fairway bunker. That's because the shaping here, to a slightly crowned landing area, makes players all too aware of the impending tree canopies on both side to the point where on this slight dogleg right it's possible to get blocked out on the near side of the fairway, or at least to have to hit a heckuva cut shot to reach the green. As for spectator-friendly golf, the putting surface here occupies the stage of a vast viewing platform that makes for quite a scene. It can be especially dramatic for shots coming up just a tad short that find the pond fronting this green a hazard which induces players to overplay their approaches and wind up long, with a difficult recovery back to the green.   No. 10: Par 4, 471 yards
      Left-to-right twice here, on the tee shot from an elevated platform fronting the clubhouse grounds and then again to a green that's well bunkered short right and long left. This is one of the very few steadily uphill holes on the course, one that readily divides the field into those who can carry it 285 yards off the tee (and thus past the little upslope crown in the fairway), leaving themselves a short iron in; and those who cannot carry it that far and find themselves hitting a long iron in.   No. 11: Par 5, 567 yards
      This is wonderfully complex hole, a double-dogleg (left, then right) that engages a creek crossing such that the water is in play on the tee shot, second shot and approach in. The green is very shallow, set diagonally a perched above that creek and one very busy front central bunker. Let's just say that the only way to get here in two is hit a long draw of the tee and a very high, cut second shot in. It's the kind of hole that breeds a lot of overly cautious play short of the green leaving a wedge in. That's not a bad option, especially in alternate shot and singles matches.   No. 12: Par 3, 184 yards
      Nicklaus named the course in honor of the Scottish layout where he won his first Open Championship (in 1966), but it's evident throughout, especially on this par-3, that he was actually more inspired by the strategy and land plan of Augusta National. This downhill par 3 sets up as a version of the famed short 12th hole where they play the Masters, except there's more going on vertically here due to the more intense topography. That said, the green is angled the same way, and the genius of the hole is that if you hit it perfectly equal to mid-green and pull it you're long left and in sand; and if you hit it equal to dead center but push it you're in water. The trick here is judging the wind, no easy matter when the tee shot plays out of tree-lined chute to a massive amphitheater, where evidence of the wind above the tree line might not manifest itself in any movement on the ground. Restraint here is a virtue, especially when the hole is cut back right near the edge of doom. And risky play here can extract severe punishment. A player on Sunday coming in three-down who wants to play aggressively (i.e., desperately) is more likely to walk away four down rather than two.   No. 13: Par 4, 455 yards
      The calm before the storm. This is the simplest hole on the course, your basic dogleg left around a fairway bunker 285 yards out on the left (also the bunker that bears the scars of heavy-handed shaping). The second shot is downhill to a green that absolutely screams for a high draw and that is the site of probably more close approach shots than any other hole on the golf course.   No. 14: Par 4, 363 yards
      When this hole debuted, it single-handedly revived the art of the short par 4. It offers a split fairway-landing area and the temptation of a carry of 280 yards past a creek to a fairway opening shot of the green. That will prove a tempting target for long hitters in the better ball matches Friday and again Saturday afternoon. For long hitters in Sunday's singles matches it might also prove seductive, though the risks are considerable, thanks to a thin-waisted green that cants sharply from its well-bunkered left down to a looming creek sheer on the right side. If, as is likely, the tees are moved up to bring the front of the green within range of 325 yards off the tee during four-ball and singles matches, expect some fireworks here as well as some water works (which is why the hole tends to play over par).   No. 15: Par 5, 529 yards
      Reachable, but maddening. At 529 yards, the par-5 15th is always the easiest hole at Muirfield Village. But the hole still carries considerable risk for a player trying to force a good score on another one of the five unbunkered fairways but this is the tightest, most tree-lined fairway. The ideal landing area off the tee falls away on both sides into woods. It's common to see players lay up with a second short in front of a creek that crosses the fairway100-yards short of the green. By contrast, the bold, long approach play is a high cut, from 220-250 yards out, to an elevated green tipped away from the line of play. It's a hole that demonstrates Nicklaus' respect for the par 4 and 1/2 championed by Augusta National. And it's the kind of hole that will make Muirfield Village an ideal setting for match play.   No. 16: Par 3, 201 yards
      It's an understatement to call Muirfield Village a work in progress, Nicklaus keeps tinkering to improve things, though in the vase of his latest major renovation, at this par 3, he ended up with a hole that looks and feels way too much like the 16th at Augusta National. It's also the hole where Tiger Woods pulled off a miraculous recovery from greenside rough to make birdie in the final round of his win here in 2010. The key here is simply do not hit it left. The green plays well for a draw, and smart players use the slope.   No. 17: Par 4, 478 yards
      The landing area off the tee here is uncommonly large, but so is the expanse of surrounding sand from four bunkers that squeeze a drive that wanders. Small wonder that many players give up distance off the tee for control, even when that leaves a tough shot to an elevated green that's deeply bunkered front and back. This is one of those holes that make you realize if you needed reminding of how good these guys are.   No. 18: Par 4, 480 yards
      Too bad so few matches tend to get to the 18th hole. The one big change at Muirfield Village from normal tournament play for The Presidents Cup will be use of a just-completed back tee on this home hole. A new way-back launch pad stretches the hole to 480 yards and will make it more likely that players will need a driver to get to a proper position in the fairway. In the past, they've steered safely left of a massive gaggle of bunkers down the entire right side, but in so doing their lay-up has kept them short of a creek that elbows in from the left. Now, with driver in hand, players will have to worry about staying short of the creek. If they lay back, they're asking for a second shot of 200-plus yards uphill to a very tightly contoured green. Odds are that at least one-third of those playing the 18th hole will be down by a hole and needing a win. That means they'll be playing aggressively, with a driver. That should make this hole exciting. And it comes down to the final day, it'll also make that tee shot nerve-wracking.   - Bradley S. Klein, Golfweek
  • The path to environmental sustainability at Cantigny Golf Course is a journey for superintendent Scott Witte, CGCS, not a destination.   Located within the 500-acre Cantigny Park in Wheaton, Ill., the golf course has been a Certified Audubon Sanctuary property since 1993. And Witte has been active ever since enhancing Cantigny's environmental profile.   Subsequent conservation efforts since Witte became superintendent in 1995 include establishing a butterfly trail, monitoring fish populations in Cantigny's pond, promoting habitat for native songbirds, as well as purple martins. For the past four years, Witte, a self-proclaimed ambassador of golf's environmental opportunities, has been keeping bees, thousands of them, on the property in manmade as well as natural hives as part of a project he calls the Cantigny Bee Barometer.   Promoting a healthy bee population doesn't make the fairways at Cantigny any faster or the greens any more receptive to approach shots. But just like providing what Witte calls "world class golfing conditions" for golfers, providing a safe and healthy environment for bees is the right thing to do for both the insects and the Cantigny complex.   "The project could provide a barometer of the overall health of our environment," Witte said. "A healthy habitat should equal healthy bees. I've made it my mission to prove that world class golf conditions can coexist with honeybees, if both are managed correctly."   Keeping bees also provides a revenue stream through the sale of honey and wax products that keep the program self-sustaining. That revenue stream also helped Witte to recently share his passion by using proceeds from his operation to provide much-needed equipment to the bee club at a high school in Africa.   "Why do there have to be boundaries on outreach?" Witte asked. "It's exciting to connect with kids from another part of the world and expand what we're doing."   Cantigny Park is located on the grounds of the former home of Chicago Tribune magnate Robert R. McCormick, who died in 1955. Prior to his death, McCormick operated an experimental farm on the grounds, and the Tribune regularly published articles on the subject. Since his death, the foundation named in McCormick's honor has operated the property as a horticultural classroom designed to provide educational and recreational opportunities for the people of Illinois.   The course achieved Audubon status in 1993 under former superintendent Tony Rzadzki. Witte began expanding those efforts, partly at the behest of others.   Shortly after he became superintendent he institute a program of installing more than 60 bluebird nesting boxes throughout the golf course and park. The boxes also have been adopted homes of other small songbirds such as wrens, chickadees and swallows. Each year, more than 250 new fledglings are hatched in those boxes.   Cantigny has since implemented a program in 2004 designed to help alleviate the plight of the purple martin. A highly social creature that lives in large colonies, purple martin populations have dwindled in recent years because of non-native predatory starlings that raid martin nests for food, as well as sparrows that overrun the martin's natural nesting areas. As a result, according to the Purple Martin Conservation Association, populations have sunken by as much as 80 percent in some areas.   Helping purple martin populations recover in the Cantigny area was the idea of Ray Feld, an enthusiast who decided while driving past the golf course that the property was perfect habitat for the plighted bird. Feld contacted Witte about establishing a colony at the golf course and volunteers his time to oversee martin populations there as well as at two other sites in Chicago's western suburbs.   As a result of Witte's efforts, Jeff Reiter, Cantigny's media relations professional, conducts monthly bird walks through the park, with each session beginning with a primer on purple martins, their plight and an up-close look inside an active nest (the social martin is not intimidated by human interaction).   Witte similarly got the idea to keep bees at the suggestion of a friend, John Bozonelos.   Like just about everything he does, Witte jumped into beekeeping head first, which requires he don a protective suit when managing the hives. The experience has proven to be a positive one not only for the bees, but for Witte as well.   "(Bozonelos) sparked a passion in me," Witte said. "The first time I set up a hive, I was overwhelmed with the calming effect of thousands of bees swarming. Truth be told, I've surpassed the skills of my mentors, because I love it so much."   Witte maintains about 10 hives on the property, including several near the main entrance to the golf course. He also oversees three natural hives on park property, which have been a source of anxiety for some golfers who sometimes approach him requesting he kills the bees and destroy the hive. Instead, he now is on a local call list to safely capture swarms and remove bee colonies from residential areas. When he does that, he reestablishes those colonies at Cantigny.   He has partnered with the U.S. Department of Agriculture on its Bee Aware campaign that records management practices with hopes of one day creating a database that will help beekeepers develop and maintain a set of best management practices just like turf management BMPs, Witte said.   With the honey he and honeycomb he gets from the bees, Witte makes lip balm, beeswax candles and honey that are sold both in the golf course pro shop and the park's gift shop He uses the proceeds to maintain the Bee Barometer project, and continue his honeybee outreach efforts.   Recently, he was approached by Susan Hagberg about expanding his outreach efforts overseas. Hagberg is president of Wild Goose Chase Inc., a migratory bird management program that counts Cantigny among its clients. Hagberg's son works for the EDP Trust which oversees the Awutu-Winton school in Africa, and when she learned of the school's bee club asked whether there was a way Witte could help the students in the quest to learn more about bees and the benefits of pollinators.    Witte was eager to help, and sent three bee suits and smokers to the bee club at Awutu-Winton Senior High School in Ghana, which is located on Africa's west-central coast. Witte has since been besieged with thank-you letters from the grateful students on the other side of the world.   "They are badly undersourced. Who knew that a few bee suits and a couple of smokers would turn into this great relationship with these gracious and ambitious students?" Witte said, who is in discussions with school officials on other ways to promote the students' interest in beekeeping.   Witte promotes environmental stewardship because he believes it is the true future of the game and the industry. He cites a Golf Digest survey in which more than 70 percent of respondents indicated that they prefer to play golf on a course the utilizes native elements rather than one surrounded by houses. His enthusiasm influences how he manages the golf course, and influences not so much what he applies, but where he applies it, being careful not to apply some insecticides near flowering plants that attract pollinators and actively seeking chemistries touted as bee-friendly.   "I want to prove that world class golf conditions and nature can be in harmony with each other," he said. "We pride ourselves on that. We have a saying here 'it's you, the golf course and Mother Nature.'    "Moving forward, I see attitudes like that shaping the future of golf."
  • The deadline to complete staff training for compliance with the Occupational Safety and Healthy Administration revised Hazard Communication Standard is quickly approaching.    OSHA's Hazard Communication Standard, which has been in place since 1983, has been revised to align with the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.    The new system is designed to provide a common and coherent approach to classifying chemicals and communicating hazard information on labels and Safety Data Sheets (SDS), formerly known as Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS), the labor department says.   The new standards will include new labels with new product identifiers, signal words, pictograms that describe the threat with universally accepted images, hazard statements, precautionary statements and full contact information for the manufacturer, distributor or importer.   SDS training must include information on the newly formatted, 16-part SDS template. In that template format, the new SDS labels will include: Section 1 is always product identification, Section 2 hazard identification,  Section 3 composition/information on ingredients, Section 4 first aid, Section 5 fire-fighting measures, Section 6 accidental release measures, Section 7 handling and storage, Section 8 exposure controls/personal protection, Section 9 physical and chemical properties, Section 10 stability and reactivity, Section 11 toxicological information, Section 12 ecological information, Section 13 disposal considerations,  Section 15 regulatory information, Section 16 other information.   Under the OSH Act, employers are responsible for providing a safe and healthful workplace. OSHA's mission is to assure safe and healthful workplaces by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education and assistance. OSHA requires all training be completed in a manner and language that employees understand, including making accommodations for those with limited or no reading skills. Training must be completed by Dec. 1, as some products already are utilizing the new system, according to OSHA.   Chemical manufacturers must be in compliance with all facets of the rule by June 1, 2015, and distributors cannot ship product with old labels after Dec. 1, 2015. Employers have until June 1, 2016 to have updated labeling posted in the workplace and complete any training for newly identified hazards.
  • Summers with above-average amounts of rainfall often result in areas of Kentucky bluegrass that turn yellowish. The cause, other than that the problem appears to be linked to too much rain, is unknown according to university researchers.   Scientists at the University of Nebraska noted the problem in late summer in 2011 and again this year. The symptoms arise in Kentucky bluegrass only, but not all cultivars, and manifest when soil temperatures are at their peak.   What researchers there are sure of is that the chlorotic conditions appear to affect only young leaves, leading them to conclude that the off color issue is not linked to nitrogen deficiencies. According to information on the Penn State such symptoms could be related to deficiencies in nitrogen or iron, and note that applications of iron sulfate or chelated iron typically result in greening of turf within a matter of a few hours.   In yellowing Kentucky bluegrass in Nebraska, researchers noted no lesions on the leaf blades, and conclude with colleagues in Pennsylvania that iron deficiencies might be to blame.   The problem appears to mostly aesthetic with no noticeable long-term effects on turf health.   Researchers suggest reducing irrigation and improving drainage, including increased aerification in affected areas and avoid use of fungicides, herbicides or insecticides on visually stressed areas until the symptoms have disappeared. 
  • News and people briefs

    By John Reitman, in News,

    Profile completes plant upgrades

    Profile Products recently completed the final phase of a yearlong upgrade to processing equipment at its manufacturing facility in Blue Mountain, Miss.
    This investment allows for expansion of production capacity for its line of erosion control products for the sports turf, golf and agriculture markets.
    Earlier this year, the company launched an online video resource library at Profileevs.com that includes product demonstrations, application instruction guides and technical video segments.
    Deere expands distributor network

    John Deere has added two distributors to its nationwide network of suppliers for professional turfgrass managers.
    Potestio Brothers, already a John Deere Gold Star Dealer, will support golf courses in Colorado golf courses. The distributor has made significant investments in parts staff, as well as six mobile service vehicles.
    Belkorp Ag, LLC will now serve the California region with its acquisition of former John Deere dealer Mid-Cal Tractor. With the acquisition Belkorp now has eight locations throughout the Central Valley and the North Coast regions, and Mid-Cal's golf staff will now be a part of the Belkorp team. Belkorp owns Big Sky Golf Course in British Columbia.
    Underhill to acquire KALO 

    Underhill International has entered a partnership agreement with KALO, a supplier of adjuvants and surfactants for professional turf managers.
    KALO turf and ornamental products will be sold and marketed exclusively by Underhill International under the co-branding agreement.
    Founded in 1932 and based in Overland Park, Kan., KALO has been a pioneer in the development of water management soil wetting agents, tank mix adjuvants, water-conditioning agents, as well as other specialty products for turf and agriculture.
    Valent names two territory managers

    Valent Professional Products recently named Jim Crockett and Nancy Voorhees as territory managers for the company's Southeastern and Western regions, respectively.
    Crockett, who will be based in Auburn, Ala., will be responsible for Valent's Southeastern region, which comprises Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, Tennessee and the Florida Panhandle.
    He most recently served as a horticulturist at Auburn University and has worked in a leadership capacity at a number of major turf and ornamental companies during his career. He was vice president of operations at Color Spot Nurseries, the largest nursery in the United States, and national sales manager and director of horticultural sales for Cleary Chemical Corp.
    Voorhees will be based in Half Moon Bay, Calif., and cover the Western region of Arizona, California, Hawaii and Nevada.
    She spent the past 24 years with Target Specialty Products as a distributor sales representative and, most recently, as the company's landscape business manager.
    For more information about Valent products and regions, visit www.valentpro.com.
    Winfield buying Matrix Turf

    Winfield Solutions LLC has entered into a purchase agreement to acquire assets of Matrix Turf Solutions LLC.
    Winfield has a portfolio that includes fertilizers, insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, wetting agents, colorants and seed. Matrix Solutions, which is based in Syracuse, N.Y., offers a similar portfolio that includes aquatics management, erosion control and soil conditioning products. 
    WinField has 80 service centers across the country and more than 75 sales representatives in golf course management, lawn and sports turf management, pest control, aquatics, ornamental and vegetative management markets.
    WinField also recently announced it has entered into a purchase agreement for the acquisition of the professional products business assets and inventory of Wilco-WinField JV, which primarily services the turf and ornamental segments in the Pacific Northwest.
    Both acquisitions are scheduled to be complete by September 30.
  • As one of a handful of women golf course superintendents, June Blake is an outsider in what clearly remains a mans world.   Still, the 33-year-old Blake, who since July 2012 has been superintendent of nine-hole Forest Park Country Club in Adams, Mass., believes that dedication and passion for her craft should be enough to prove she belongs.   Part of me likes to think that I dont have to go out and prove myself every day. I try not to look at it that way, said Blake, 33. I like to think that hard work will pay off no matter what field you are in even if you are the minority of the group.   Results on the golf course dont hurt either.   Our greens are the best theyve ever been, said Forest Park manager Bruce Cardin. I play a lot of golf, and they are the best in the county. They dont play second fiddle to anybodys.   Blake did not grow up playing golf, but as a three-sport star in high school, she always spent a lot of time outdoors. When she sought her first part-time, summer job during her high school days, an uncle who had crewed on a local golf course told her to consider a similar vocation. Blake, who never was one to work indoors, jumped at the chance to avoid afternoons and weekends that consisted of flipping burgers and making fries.    I needed a summer job, and there werent a lot of options, said Blake, now the superintendent at Forest Park Country Club, a nine-hole facility in Adams, Mass. Most jobs were at fast-food restaurants or things like that. And that wasnt going to work for me.   And she never dreamed that those summers mowing turf and raking bunkers at Wahconah Country Club in her native Dalton, Mass., would one day become a career opportunity.   That summer job continued throughout Blakes high school years and during summers home from Western New England University in Springfield, Mass., where she was studying business management. When she realized after graduation that jobs in that field werent as fulfilling as working outside, she abandoned pursuit of an office job for a return to the golf course.   Without a formal turf career, Blake continued to learn the intricacies of turf management first at Crestview Country Club in Agawam, and during her second stint at Wahconah.    She credits folks like former Wahconah superintendent Mike Gunn who hired her the first time in 1998 and his successor, Jeremy Stachowicz who re-hired her, for her on-the-job training.   Ive learned everything there from weeding to mowing, then stepping up to bigger equipment, she said. I worked closely with Mark Reardon, who is a great mechanic and taught me a lot. Over the years, Ive gathered a lot of information there that has helped me get to where I am today.   Her lack of a turf degree didnt seem to be much of a hurdle for the committee that interviewed and hired her.   Sometimes book smart is not the only thing you need to be successful in this business, Cardin said. Every course is different, and she is doing a fantastic job.
    Its not clear how many women superintendents there are nationwide, but GCSAA counts only about 60 among its membership.   Although she acknowledges she is in the minority, Blake doesnt view herself as a pioneer.   I knew it was going to be tough because there are not a lot of women in this industry, she said. But if you love it and have a passion about it, there is no reason why women cant go out and succeed.   I just dont think a lot of women realize there is an opportunity out there because its always been men in this business.
  • Just when superintendents are getting used to their new soil moisture meter -- the FieldScout TDR 300 from Spectrum Technologies seems to be the favorite -- along comes another tool designed for turf use that combines moisture sensing with conductivity and temperature measurement along with on-board GPS and WiFi.   The new POGO® (for "Poke and Go") from Stevens Water Monitoring Systems, Inc. (formerly Leupold-Stevens) is a handheld probe that measures moisture (% volumetric water content), temperature (degrees C and F) and conductivity (EC in dS/m).     Carmen Magro, CGCS, well-known to many in the industry as a former superintendent, former director of the Golf Course Turfgrass Management Program at Penn State, musician and industry consultant, is heading up the POGO program as Vice President, Business Development / Agronomist for Stevens.   "It is widely accepted that measuring soil moisture without salts is not nearly as useful as measuring them together," Magro said. "So we combined those capabilities along with temperature measurement and GPS positioning data in POGO.  Now a superintendent can accurately and instantly measure moisture, EC and temperature together to help identify key stress on turf which moisture measurements alone can't detect."   "Using POGO, dry spots or wilt spots can be easily identified as truly dry spots, or really salt-induced stress," he continued. "With that information, one can determine and map distribution uniformity of all three variables in any particular zone or area, and then make irrigation adjustments, hand-watering applications, nutrient applications and stress-relief applications as needed, in real time."  
    "Using POGO, dry spots or wilt spots can be easily identified as truly dry spots, or really salt-induced stress..."
      The POGO interfaces via WiFi with a custom app for iPhone, iPad, iPod or Android device. A turf-specific app will be released in October.   The user inserts the probe end of the POGO into the soil, selects the correct soil type from the menu, and taps the Sample button on the screen of the Apple/Android device. The app will display soil temperature, conductivity and dielectric permittivity on-screen for immediate viewing. The user also has the option to log with time and date stamp all sensor measurements to a file with optional GPS location coordinates also recorded. Saved data can then be easily sent via email as a CSV file for further analysis.   "Putting this all together, a superintendent can now easily establish baseline values of the turf performance and conditions he or she desires," Magro continued.  "Then they can easily monitor conditions with daily measurements and quickly make decisions as needed to maintain desired conditions."   "Compared to other moisture sensing units, the difference is that the POGO does it all for you. There is no need for add-on GPS units or even software to use the POGO. Unlimited data storage, share anywhere right from the app and analyze instantly through the app. To top it off we offer a 5 year warranty. This is the superintendent coming out of me. I need to know this is going to help me and be able to withstand the wear-and-tear of daily use on the golf course," Magro said.  
    "This is the superintendent coming out of me. I need to know this is going to help me and be able to withstand the wear-and-tear of daily use on the golf course..." - Carmen Magro
      The POGO utilizes the Stevens Hydra Probe II sensing technology that has been deployed over 10 years by the USDA and is used by NASA for ground truthing of satellite-based soil imaging. Stevens is the environmental sensor supplier for NOAA, the USDA and the NRCS in the US as well as agricultural agencies and governing bodies around the globe.   The POGO has an anodized aluminum housing (available in multiple colors) that contains a rechargeable battery pack that powers the Hydra Probe. An LCD screen indicates battery voltage.   Retail price is $1995.  More information here.  
  • Calm after the storm

    By John Reitman, in News,

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

    By John Reitman, in News,

    There is a saying that life is what happens while you're busy making other plans. No one knows that better than Pat Berger.
    When he left Michigan State in 1980 with a certificate in turfgrass management, Berger couldn't imagine a career path that included anything other than working toward becoming a golf course superintendent. Today, Berger, 60, is director of sports turf operations at the University of Arkansas, and reflects on the circumstances that took him from the golf course to the athletic field.
    "There were times I'd thought about changing professions," said Berger. "But I always told myself that I was a golf course superintendent."
    Oh, how things change.
    A series of family tragedies ultimately forced Berger from a career in golf and into sports field management 12 years ago so he could spend more time at home where he was needed, and are a sobering reminder that no job is more important than the job of being a husband and father.
    Until that point, Berger's career path appeared to be going in the direction of many superintendents before him and since.
    He had just completed an internship at Oak Hill Country Club and accepted a full-time position at the club on superintendent Dick Bator's crew where preparations were underway for that year's PGA Championship. Not even his wife Beverly's pregnancy with the couple's first child, Brent, was a match for preparing for a major championship.
    "I was at the hospital for the delivery," Berger said. "I kissed my wife goodbye and went back to work."
    Indeed, while the creation of life took a backseat to a young greenkeeper's career plans, the end of life for the child of a seasoned superintendent some 20 years later was a reality check that a job is not more important than family.
    It was about 2000 when Erika, the third of the Berger's four children, had taken ill with a rare eating disorder. A standout high school soccer player, Erika's symptoms included the inability to hold down food. Unlike other eating disorders in which the process is voluntary and forced, for Erika, regurgitation was involuntary and uncontrollable.
    The Bergers spent the better part of the next 10 years crossing the country from one hospital to another in pursuit of two things - a diagnosis and hope. They were able to get one. Eventually Erika was diagnosed with gastroparesis, a disease for which there is no known cure. She died Jan. 29, 2010, 12 days before her 25th birthday. 
    When the family's bout with Erika's illness began, Berger had just taken a job as superintendent at Four Hills Golf Club in Albuquerque, N.M. His family remained behind in Fayetteville, Ark., as he settled in. The news hit shortly after he had made the move.
    His supervisors at Four Hills were accommodating, and Berger returned to Arkansas as often as possible without compromising conditions on the golf course. As much as Berger appreciated the understanding of his bosses, he knew his place as a father was with his family.
    As Berger weighed the decision before him, he received a call from Arkansas turfgrass professor Mike Richardson, Ph.D., informing him the head groundskeeper's job at the University of Arkansas was open. The two had become acquainted during Berger's time at Texarkana Country Club from 1987 to 1999. Although Berger had been passed over for the Arkansas job once before, there was little to lose in applying a second time.
    "I had a decision to make. It was a pay cut to leave the golf course," he said. "But that is where the doctors were, and it is where my family was."
    Richardson went to the assistant athletic director charged with filling the head groundskeeper's position and recommended Berger.
    "When I came to Arkansas, he was the superintendent at Texarkana Country Club and was one of the guys that I connected with during my first few years here," Richardson said. "(He is a) smart, hard worker, innovative and just a passionate grass guy."
    Fortunately for Berger, he had better luck at the university the second time around. He spent the next several years honing managing what Richardson says are the best playing surfaces in the Southeastern Conference and being at home as much as possible for his daughter. The latter is something that probably never could have occurred had he remained in golf, where 70-hour and 80-hour weeks during the playing season are common.
    Watching his daughter's condition deteriorate took a toll on everyone in the family.
    "We have four other kids, and it affected the whole family," he said. "Our two youngest daughters (Erin and Elizabeth), they were the ones who saw the rapid deterioration from an athletic spark plug to someone who was very sick. They still ask 'why?' "
    That is a question Berger still cannot answer.
    Six months after Erika's death, Berger's wife was diagnosed with Stage 3 colon cancer.
    Thanks to an intense radiation program, Beverly, who is a nurse by profession, has been cancer free for a year, but is unable to return to work.
    "When radiation kills something, it doesn't just kill the cancer. It kills a lot of things," he said.
    Despite the challenges life has thrown his way, Berger feels he has been blessed by how some of the pieces of his life have fallen into place so that he could be part of what was transpiring.
    "I have been as lucky as anybody," he said. "But, I do look at things a little differently now."
  • The International Golf Course Equipment Managers Association is now accepting nominations for the 2013 Edwin Budding Award.   Presented by Jacobsen/Ransoms, the award is named for Edwin Beard Budding who is credited with the invention of the reel mower in 1830. The award recognizes innovators, technicians, educators, engineers, etc. that have gone above and beyond their normal day to day jobs and made a significant impact in the golf and turf business.   An award committee comprised of industry leaders and an IGCEMA member will select a winner. Click here to submit a nomination.   The winner will receive an all-expenses-paid trip to the Golf Industry Show or the British and International Golf Greenkeepers Association Turf Management Exhibition (alternates each year), free admission to the trade show, name engraved on the Edwin Budding Award, a keepsake trophy and recognition on the award Web site.    This year's award will be presented at BTME, which is scheduled for Jan. 19-24 in North Yorkshire, England.   Previous winners include Dana Lonn of The Toro Co., 2012; Wes Danielewicz of the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County (Ill.), 2011; Vollie Carr of Jacobsen, 2010; Eddie Konrad, Seneca College (Ontario), 2009; Eric Kulaas, Renaissance Vinoy Resort and Golf Club in St. Petersburg, Fla., 2008; Ed Combest, retired from Lake City (Fla.) Community College (now Florida Gateway College).
  • Spectrum Technologies and the USGA recently launched the TruFirm turf firmness meter. Based on technology developed by the USGA, TruFirm measure the firmness of turf and bunker sands, allowing golf course superintendents and sports turf managers to take appropriate actions to reach the desired firmness of golf course greens, fairways, bunkers, and other playing surfaces.   The USGA's primary objective for the development of the TruFirm is to provide championship-caliber playability by managing greens that are consistently firm and fast. By measuring the relationship between the compaction of the soil and the moisture level, greenkeepers are able to ensure healthy, aesthetically pleasing greens that offer exceptional playability.   The patented TruFirm system utilizes a hemisphere-shaped impact hammer that mimics the shape of a golf ball to better simulate golf ball impacts. The mass is dropped from a consistent height and the maximum turf penetration value is recorded and correlated to the surface firmness the lower the penetration value, the firmer the turf.   Matt Pringle, technical director for the USGA, has been working with firmness and compaction devices for more than nine years.     "The USGA is dedicated to advancing technology to improve playability by making better course decisions," Pringle said. "We decided to bring our technological innovations to Spectrum because of their turf industry knowledge, technology focus, and experience in developing affordable measuring devices."   Measurements taken by the TruFirm are instantaneous, saving time, and readouts are displayed on a highly visible screen.  In addition, logged data can be sent via Bluetooth to a mobile/handheld device for plotting specific greens or other surfaces using an associated smartphone app.   In other news, Spectrum Technologies recently launched a new version of the FieldScout GreenIndex+ app for turfgrass applications that allow users to measure the "relative greenness" of turf using a smartphone camera.   The GreenIndex+ Turf app quickly captures images of turfgrass from a smartphone, calculates the Dark Green Color Index and displays a visual rating.  Users can customize the visual rating calculation for different species of grass and specific plots of land.  Measurements can be compared to identify variability or trends in turf health across golf course greens and fairways, as well as other sports fields, providing valuable data for decisions regarding fertilization and irrigation.  Additional applications include lawn care and commercial turf for better nutrient management.  All data is logged and geo-referenced, and can be emailed to a personal computer for further analysis.   Earlier this year, the GreenIndex+ app received the coveted AE50 Gold Award from the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers (ASABE), an award that recognizes leadership in technological innovation throughout the world for the agricultural, food, and biological systems industries.
  • If there was such a thing as golf royalty, David Dudones might qualify as a member of the game's aristocracy.
      Dudones, 38, is the superintendent at North Jersey Country Club, but as a fifth-generation member of the Worthington family, his roots in the golf business run much deeper. Great-great-grandfather Charles Campbell Worthington, grandfather Ed Worthington Jr. and his mother, Janet, all were pioneers in the turf maintenance industry.   C.C. Worthington (1854-1944) is credited with developing the industry's first commercial reel mower, a technology that was sold to Jacobsen in the mid-1940s. He rubbed elbows with A.W. Tillinghast and even solicited the architect's professional services in the creation of Shawnee Country Club on the Delaware River in Pennsylvania.   In the club's early days, Worthington invited a group of tour professionals to Shawnee for a tournament. He suggested that they form their own association, and the PGA of America was soon born.   Ed Worthington Jr., C.C. Worthington's grandson and Dudones' grandfather, later led the company and eventually launched his own outfit, the Ed Worthington Co., a turfcare supply business he ran from the back of a truck. Ed's daughter (and Dudones' mother) Janet eventually took over operation of the company and herself is a former president of the New York State Turfgrass Association.   "He comes from a long line of turfgrass professionals dating back to his great-great-grandfather Worthington," said Frank Rossi, Ph.D., associate professor of turfgrass science at Cornell University, where Dudones earned a master's degree. "David has always been proud of his heritage and the tradition of being in the golf business."   While he has an industry pedigree that dates back more than 100 years, Dudones' experience in turf maintenance is equally impressive.   In his ninth season at North Jersey, Dudones prepped under such accomplished superintendents as Joe Alonzi at Westchester Country Club, Shawn Emerson at Desert Mountain and Don Szymkowicz at Engineers Country Club.    Despite his family's longstanding place in the golf business, Dudones came close to taking a different career path.   A biology major at the State University of New York at Cortland, Dudones had planned to become a high school teacher. He had a change of heart thanks to a summer job at Craigwood Golf Club in upstate New York. After three years at Cortland, he began studying turfgrass science at SUNY Cobleskill.   After graduating in 1997, Dudones was hired at Engineers and the next several years of his career went by in the blink of an eye.  In rapid-fire succession, he landed at Cornell in 1999 where he studied under Rossi, and earned a master's degree in turfgrass science. In 2001, with his graduate degree in hand, he went west to Desert Mountain in Scottsdale, where he stayed for a year before returning to Westchester, where he had interned in 1997.   The dizzying pace all was part of a grand plan.   "He had the most scripted career plan of anyone who has ever worked for me," Emerson said. "He knew the types of clubs he wanted to work at, and he knew how long he wanted to be at each one.   "He used me as much as I used him because he had a plan."   Indeed, Dudones soaked up as much as he could from his mentors.   "Shawn taught me attention to detail and how to motivate a staff. He motivated people. Of course, sometimes he motivate you with his right foot, too," said Dudones. In fact, he showed his appreciation for Emerson's mentoring skills by presenting him with a framed likeness of Hall of Fame football coach Vince Lombardi, who also was known as a masterful motivator. To this day, the picture hangs in Emerson's office.   "That was a great experience," Dudones said. "That's where I really learned how to water properly."   The desert climate proved to be a great environment to learn about irrigation. But in the post-911 world, Scottsdale also was too far from home, and Dudones headed back east as Alonzi's assistant at Westchester where he remained for three years before getting the job at North Jersey.   He learned more there in those three years than he thought was possible.   "Working three years for Joe was like working six somewhere else," he said.   "Joe taught me how to run a massive operation with almost unattainable expectations. He also taught me how to not let the daily grind beat you down. I learned about a lot of stuff there that isn't on the golf course, like don't tell your wife what time you're going to be home because you really don't know."   Learning under such leaders of the profession has helped Dudones achieve another career objective - to be a mentor to his own assistants, Addison Barden and Kyle DeNuys.   "I view myself as a leader and also as an up and comer in the industry," he said. "I try to live my life to be a leader on the golf course. I try to make those around me better and make myself better."   Some say if he's not already there, then he's awfully close.   "I think he's going to be one of the top-10 most highly regarded agronomists in this business," Emerson said. "He's an intense individual, he's focused and he has a calmness about him. He's at his most calm when things are going bad, things that you can't control. That's how you can tell who is a leader; they stay calm when times are difficult and that shows those under you that you are in control. Dave has that."   A true golfing superintendent, Dudones believes that it is critical to view the course from a customer's perspective.   Although he played more often before his own children's athletic events beckoned, Dudones still plays the course a few times each month, including at least once per month with some of his members.    "The best way to see the golf course is to play it," he said. "It should almost be required of the job.   "It's important to know what the members are talking about. It's a disservice to them and to you if you don't know what they are thinking and talking about. I think the guys in this business who are successful are the guys who play."   Success in this business, however, often comes at a price. And usually it is a superintendent's family at home who ends up paying the bill. Today, Dudones leans on wife Dana for support as he continues his career climb. The couple were married while Dudones was the assistant at Westchester, and they lived on the golf course. By now, she understands that long days during the summer and away from family are part of the territory.   "Anyone in this business who has had a successful run also has a wife who is very supportive," Dudones said. "In the summer, I'm here 70 to 80 hours a week. You need a strong understanding woman who gets that."   Still, Dudones tries to balance his professional and personal lives as much as possible, which includes occasional lunch dates in the office with his wife and the couple's three daughters. When the club hosted a fireworks display on the July 4th weekend, Dudones had to be on the property to make sure the course wasn't damaged. But by the time the celebration began, he and his family could enjoy the time together.   "Fortunately, I live less than 15 minutes away from the golf course," he said. "Guys who live 40 miles away don't have that chance."   Now that he has followed the family tradition - sort of - for a career in golf, Dudones couldn't imagine doing anything else.   "I enjoy the satisfaction you get when things are going right," he said. "It's satisfying to see a well-maintained golf course and a well-run operation. And being outside in nature, it's like being on a farm. You work it, you put in a long day and do the best you can. And I've always enjoyed the people, everyone from researchers, assistants, mentors to salesmen. It's rewarding."  
  • In recognition of the company's 150th year of doing business, Bayer's Environmental Science division is focused on giving back to its customers and the community through education for green industry professionals and outreach to public service organizations in need.
    To that end, Bayer ES is accepting applications for one of two Healthy Turf, Healthy Tomorrow Plant Health Scholarships to help superintendents further their turf education. 
    The Healthy Turf, Healthy Tomorrow Plant Health Scholarship program awards $2,500 to two superintendents who can use the funds to attend local, regional or national educational conferences, or to enroll in a continuing education program at a college or university. Deadline for applying is Oct. 4, and all applicants must be GCSAA members enrolled in Bayer's Accolades program.
    Also in recognition of the company's official anniversary on Aug. 1, more than 200 employee volunteers gave their time at Zuma's Rescue Ranch, a Denver facility that pairs rescued horses with at-risk children to promote life skills in the latter as well as improve their bonding and trust skills for both horses and children.
    Volunteers also helped provide labor and Bayer products in a beautification effort at the facility as well as construction and maintenance updates, including construction and restoration of landscape beds, garden gates and walkways. The team built and installed a pergola, a duck pond and a chicken coop as well as landscaped the facility's outdoor venue, cleaned stalls, seeded pastures, and painted Zuma's signs and indoor arena. The property was founded in 2004 with the mission to provide a sanctuary for voiceless humans and animals in the Denver area.
    Bayer was launched Aug. 1, 1863, when Friederich Bayer and Johann Friedrich Weskott started their dye factory in what is now the German village of Wuppertal. Within four years, the new start-up company had operations in Albany, N.Y., and Moscow. By 1892, Bayer had formulated its first synthetic insecticide to control nun moths. Seven years later, in 1899, the company has trademarked a name that today is a household phrase: Bayer Aspirin.
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