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From the TurfNet NewsDesk

  • John Reitman
    When Larry Pakkala, CGCS, resigned his last post as a golf course superintendent five years ago, he swore it would be his last . . . unless he could work for a single owner of a private club.   Pakkala had pretty much given up hope of that ever happening. Then, when he wasn't looking, that dream job appeared just a few minutes down the road from his Connecticut home.   After trading the profession he'd known for 40 years for an industry sales position, the 60-year-old Pakkala in January was named superintendent of Silvermine Golf Club in Norwalk, Conn.   "I said I'd never get back in it again unless I found the right spot. This is the right spot," Pakkala said.    "This is not your regular country club."   Silvermine is a 27-hole layout built on 98 acres by John Warner. Opened in 1959, the course still is owned by Warner and his siblings, Billy and Kitty. It has no green committee and no chairman, just owners.    Pakkala, who still works as territory sales manager for New Jersey-based Plant Food Co., accepted the Silvermine post with the understanding that he would be on the job for just a few years while he trains longtime assistant Chris Vitali to take over and waits for his wife, Carole, a local school administrator, to retire. When the latter happens, the couple plans to relocate to their winter home in Longboat Key, Fla.    "Before I accepted the job, I met with the staff and told them my No. 1 goal was to give them the tools they need to succeed, then step down," Pakkala said.   "I'm going to be here three or four years training the staff to come into 21st century maintenance practices."   Pakkala has made his presence known immediately.   "The attention to detail and the playability of the golf course have improved dramatically," said assistant professional Matt Noel.    "The course was nice before, but Larry has taken it to another level."   Pakkala will continue to serve Silvermine as a consultant after he retires. So, the club will continue to benefit from his experience for years to come, whether it is long-distance advice given from a Florida beach, or in person during trips north in the summer.   "I'll be on call forever," he said. "My deal includes lifetime membership, so I'll be here playing golf in the summer and helping the club bring back members."   Noel said a key to Pakkala's success is that because he plays a lot of golf he can see the course from a player's perspective.   "He understands what it takes to make this place into a gem. And that is what it is," Noel said.    "The greens used to Stimp at about 8. Now, they're about 10. And that's as fast as we can get them with the slope we have. A 10 here is really like an 11 or 12 because of the slope. If they were any faster, you wouldn't be able to putt on them."   Despite the unique situation at Silvermine, Pakkala hardly has an open checkbook for course maintenance. In fact, it's anything but a sky's-the-limit operation.   Before Pakkala arrived, membership levels in recent years had fallen from 400 to 350, give or take, due to a combination of a lagging economy and faltering playing conditions. Membership levels, like course conditions, are on the rebound.   "We've gotten it to another level. But the next level from here is very expensive," Pakkala said. "The course is up to snuff. It's as good as I can get it on the budget I have. In fact, it's in damn good shape.   "We've already gained some new members. Our goal is to put this course on the map. The prognosis here is for a good future."  
  • Just about every golf course maintenance facility has one - an old farm tractor that, thanks to the skill of a wily equipment manager, defies time.   While every contemporary red, green or orange mowing unit produced today comes with manufacturer-installed rollover protection that includes a roll bar and seat belt, some of those old agricultural-style tractors that many golf courses still rely upon might lack that same protection.   A recent incident in the Pittsburgh area is a reminder that all pieces of mechanized equipment used on golf courses, regardless of age, must be in compliance with current safety standards, and that any superintendent who has an old tractor that hasn't been retrofitted with contemporary safety features should have his mechanic do so immediately.   On June 10, 66-year-old Dennis Miller was killed when he fell off a farm tractor and into the reels of an open seven-gang unit he was towing at Cherry Wood Golf Course in Apollo, Pa.   Bell Township Police and the Westmoreland County district attorney's detective unit said, according to published reports, that Miller was mowing a flat area near the 14th hole at Cherry Wood when the front of the tractor he was operating tilted upward, ejecting him from the seat and back into the gang unit while it was in operation. It was not known whether the machine had a seatbelt, but if it did Miller must not have been wearing it. It also was not known whether the tractor was equipped with an operator-presence switch that disables the unit when the driver is not seated. When contacted by TurfNet, Det. Thomas Horan of the district attorney's office declined to provide further information.   Rollover protection, including a roll bar and seat belt, is required on all mowers weighing 882 pounds to 1,323 pounds with a lateral or longitudinal stability angle of less than 30 degrees and all mowers weighing more than 1,323 pounds, according to the American National Standards Institute and the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute. Agricultural tractors with an output of 20 hp or more also require rollover protection, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The exceptions are low-profile tractors as well as those used to tow large agricultural implements, such as harvesting equipment, that would prevent rollovers, according to OSHA. Farm tractors are not required to be outfitted with an operator-presence switch, according to the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers.   Miller had been working on the course for about an hour when a co-worker discovered his body about 3:50 p.m., police said. There were no golfers in the area at the time.
  • Garret Bodington was introduced to golf the way many young boys are by sneaking onto the course after hours or between foursomes and playing a few holes without the burden of green fees. He quickly became hooked on the game after his first few forays onto Sakonnet Golf Club in Little Compton, R.I. Given his zeal for the game, it wasn't long before he became involved in more legitimate concerns at the club, like working in the cart barn and eventually managing the golf shop before launching a career as a golf course superintendent.    Cart barn to pro shop is an unorthodox route to becoming a greenkeeper, said Bodington, now superintendent at Sebonack Golf Club in Southampton, N.Y. But it's one that has served him well in the run-up to this year's U.S. Women's Open that began June 27 at Sebonack.   "At a young age I learned how to interact with members," Bodington said. "That experience was invaluable and really formed who I am."   A graduate of the University of Rhode Island, Bodington, 40, has been at Sebonack since construction there began in 2004. Before becoming a head superintendent he worked at some of the country's most famous courses, including Augusta National Golf Club and Bethpage Black, where he worked the Masters (1997-99) and U.S. Open (2002), respectively.   Bodington also volunteered with the USGA at last year's U.S. Open at The Olympic Club in San Francisco. There he worked alongside USGA officials on the Stimpmeter team, helping provide the world's best players with consistent putting conditions throughout the championship.   For the U.S. Women's Open, patrons and TV viewers will experience a golf course that Bodington says captures the best of classic and modern-era architecture.   Built along the environmentally sensitive Peconic Bay, Sebonack is the result of a collaborative effort between architects Tom Doak and Jack Nicklaus. The course evokes the classic-era look associated with Doak's layouts as well as the high risk-reward options common to Nicklaus designs. Bodington said it reminds him of another team effort that revolutionized the game. (Click here for a hole-by-hole rundown of the course.)   "I like to compare this combination to (the Augusta National tandem of) Alister MacKenzie and Bobby Jones," said Bodington, who oversaw construction of Sebonack. "This course has Tom Doak's look and routing combined with Jack Nicklaus's strategy.   "We took a minimalist approach and tied the golf course in so that it looks like it has been here a long time. We wanted people to enjoy the natural beauty of the course with the bay in the background. It's a beautiful spot and I'm glad that people will get to experience what I see every day."
  • Creating a buzz

    By John Reitman, in News,

    Going green has been en vogue in the golf business long before sustainability became a public relations buzzword.   As managed out-of-play areas on courses around the country give way to wild flowers there are more big-picture benefits to going native outside the ropes than just reduced mowing frequency and saving water. Ongoing research at the University of Kentucky shows that establishing the right plantings can help resuscitate dwindling bee and butterfly populations as well, making establishment of wildflowers not only environmentally sound from a turf management perspective, but also a responsible part of any restoration program that includes native areas.   Wildflower areas can help revive dwindling bee populations and also can provide needed sanctuaries for migratory butterfly colonies that are losing habitat for a variety of reasons, according to UK entomologist Dan Potter, Ph.D., and graduate assistant Emily Dobbs, who have adopted a European program aimed at helping these insect populations.   Started in the United Kingdom in 2003, Operation Pollinator involves establishing nectar-producing plants that are beneficial to native bee populations that have been on the decline around the world since the 1990s.    Potter, recipient of the 2010 USGA Green Section Award, wanted to bring the program to Kentucky, and Dobbs volunteered to make it part of her master's research. What started as a side project for Dobbs has transformed into a passion with plots established at UK's A.J. Powell Research Center as wells as on five golf courses around Lexington.   "It's no longer a side project," Dobbs said. "It's become my favorite part of my master's project."   Dobbs worked with Sharon Bale of UK's horticulture department and Diane Wilson of Applewood Seed Co. in Colorado to develop a list of 27 nectar-producing perennials that are native to Kentucky as well as other parts of the transition zone. Dobbs has developed three mix programs as she continues to zero in on the best mix to promote bee and butterfly activity on golf courses, parks and horse farms throughout Kentucky and the rest of the transition zone.    "We're still working on what is the best mix," Dobbs said. "It doesn't do us much good if we include a flower that doesn't attract more than one specie of bee."   Scott Bender, CGCS at Marriott Griffin Gate Golf Club in Lexington said the Operation Pollinator plot located between the Nos. 2 and 8 greens has generated interest among some of his golfers thanks to signage that marks the area.   "That gave us a story to tell," Bender said.    "Our philosophy here is that any time we can showcase something that is positive for the environment and it doesn't detract from our golfers' experience, then we're going to do it."   For superintendents who believe establishing a butterfly and bee garden might take more time and resources than they can afford, Bender said: "It requires almost no time or resources, and the area, we barely touch it, and it's easy to establish. For me, it was a no-brainer."   Although Dobbs' work is still in the experimental phase, the research is producing positive results with several species of bees, both social and solitary, as well as butterflies and moths among the regular visitors to her plots.   The cause or causes of declining bee and butterfly populations is not fully understood by researchers, but some blame some of the pesticides used to control insect pests on golf courses.   Some chemical classes, particularly neonicotinoids that are used in agricultural production as well as turf and ornamental protection, have come under heavy scrutiny for alleged non-target effects on bees and other insects. Although no peer-reviewed studies in the United States have linked neonicotinoid use to declining bee populations, the European Union in April voted for a two-year restriction on some pesticides within that chemistry class.   What researchers do know is that something is causing a spike in bee mortality and reproductive rates as well as a problem called colony collapse disorder. The latter is a phenomenon in which the bees lose the ability to effectively forage for pollen and find their way home to the colony. Dobbs said that neonicotinoid use since the 1990s, along with parasitic pressures and habitat loss are coming together to affect bee populations.   "It's a very complicated issue, and I don't think anyone really knows what is causing colony collapse. I do know that the belief in the academic community is that several things are combining to create a perfect storm, such as habitat loss and fragmentation, pesticide use and parasitic pressure," Dobbs said.    "Any one of those things alone wouldn't be enough to take down a bee colony, but when they're all happening at the same time, the bees can't withstand that."   Whatever, the cause for declining populations of bees and butterflies, there are many who share Dobbs' passion for helping protect them.   Since being implemented in the United Kingdom 10 years ago, Operation Pollinator plots have been established on more than 2,000 sites across 15 countries, with some bee populations increasing by 600 to 1,200 percent across Europe, according to Syngenta, which helps support the program worldwide.   It is Dobbs hope that once her research is completed that others will be able to put it into place throughout much of the transition zone. The flowers in her study also are native to many other states, including Alabama, Indiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee and Virginia.   Marriott Golf will be replicating the program at some of its other courses, Dobbs said.    "Hopefully after this year, the experimental part will be done and anyone can pick out a wildflower mix and put it out wherever they want to," she said.   "And it's not just for golf courses. This can go into any area schools, gardens, horse farms. I'm receiving a lot of feedback from those who are interested and want to use it as an educational tool.    "In different areas it might take some tweaking. I don't think you can lay this down in Montana and get the same results, but the backbone of the project has been laid down, and it should be pretty straightforward to adapt a mix we've created."
  • For golf course superintendents who maintain rolling terrain Jacobsen recently launched an updated version of its AR-522 rotary mower.   With Jacobsen's SureTrac four-wheel drive traction and weight transfer control, the AR-522 is a five-gang unit specifically designed for mowing undulating green and tee complexes as well as intermediate rough areas.   "The hilly and contoured roughs of golf courses are just as challenging for superintendents as they are for golfers," said Rachel Luken, product manager for Jacobsen. "The peaks and valleys of these areas can be very difficult to maintain and as a result, cut quality can vary greatly. By enhancing the climbing and ground-following capabilities of the AR522, we've made it easier for superintendents to get a superior after-cut appearance on their contoured rough areas."   Jacobsen engineers equipped the new AR522 with the SureTrac parallel-cross-series traction system, the same system that's on Jacobsen's new LF510 and LF550/570 fairway mowers. The SureTrac system automatically transfers power where needed to provide superior performance on hills. The AR522 also features an advanced weight transfer system that allows for balancing of the machine's weight between the traction unit and decks for optimal traction and ground following in varying terrains.    The AR522 also is equipped with Jacobsen's TrimTek decks that feature a downdraft blade for mulching capabilities. The decks' three-tiered opening distributes clippings evenly for an attractive after-cut appearance. The TrimTek deck also gives users the ability to mulch or discharge, depending on their needs.    "Even though golfers don't want to play out of the rough, they still expect them to look good," said David Withers, President of Jacobsen. "The new AR522 helps give our customers better-looking roughs, especially in their contoured and hilly areas."   The AR522 contour rotary mower will be available in July. 
  • When it comes to golf course architecture, few if any course designers have left an imprint as longstanding as that of Donald Ross. His name is attached either as the architect of record or for restoration efforts to as many as 400 golf courses.
    Golfweek, TurfNet's sister property, is offering Ross fans, or those interested in knowing more about his contributions to the game, a three-day symposium at the home of one his most renowned creations - Pinehurst No. 2. The event will showcase the accomplishments of Ross as well educate attendees on how to implement classic architectural concepts into restoration and renovation work.
    Donald Ross and the Art of Golf Architecture Restoration is scheduled for Nov. 10-12 at Pinehurst Resort in North Carolina.
    Scheduled speakers include Golfweek's Bradley Klein,; architects Tom Fazio, Rees Jones, Scott Pool and Ron Pritchard; Bob Farren, CGCS, director of golf course maintenance and grounds at Pinehurst; Pete Garvey of Idle Hour Country Club in Lexington, Ky.; Jim Mrva of Monroe Golf Club in Rochester, N.Y.; Larry Hirsch of Golf Property Analysts; and Paul Wold, former green chairman from the Country Club of Rochester (N.Y.).
    The event includes a round of golf on the Pinehurst No. 2 layout.
    For more information, visit www.golfweek.com.
  • E-Z-GO goes high-tech with TXT vehicle
    E-Z-GO recently launched its newly redesigned TXT golf car.   The TXT combines classic golf car style with a host of new features designed to simplify operation and improve the customer golf experience.   The TXT features larger cup holders, larger seatbacks, increased bagwell capacity.   The golf care also has increased dashboard storage capacity to accommodate an iPad or other mobile tablet.  An optional dashboard-mounted USB port compatible for use with range finders and mobile devices is available.    From a performance perspective the vehicle has more durable front struts, and an optional front bumper is constructed to withstand impacts of up to 5 mph.   For more information, visit www.ezgo.com.
    Underhill offers manufacturer-specific head markers
      Grund Guide by Underhill International recently expanded its line of golf sprinkler head yardage markers.   Underhill, which recently bought Grund Guide, offers the markers that affix to sprinkler heads for most manufacturers, including Toro, Rain Bird and Hunter.    The markers with engraved manufacturer designations can be specified with bright and easy-to-read yardage numbers.   The company also offers anodized aluminum fit-over discs and universal tags, polycarbonate snap-in custom-fit OEM upgrades and lid-molded recess markers with engraved inserts.   For more information, visit www.underhill.us.   Hunter wants to send you to the Irrigation Show
    Hunter Industries is offering a free trip to this year's Irrigation Show. Details are available at hunterindustries.com/smartirrigation.   While on the Hunter Web site, users also have the opportunity to join the discussion about smart irrigation and share photos of their best conservation-focused projects for a chance to win a trip to this year's show, scheduled for Nov. 6-7 in Austin, Texas.    Visitors also can watch a new in-depth video about retrofitting existing irrigation systems with water-saving products and practices and try out the Hunter Water Savings Calculator.   Dow offers online product training
    Product training is available online for professional turf managers who want to brush up on Dow AgroSciences Turf and Ornamental products and services. This three-part, interactive course provides key insights on pre-emergent and post-emergent herbicides and applications, as well as insecticides and fungicides.   Each course takes approximately 30 minutes to complete and includes educational training followed by a 20-question quiz.    Participants can learn the many benefits of pre-emergent herbicides for golf courses and athletic fields, brush up on the difference between selective and nonselective post-emergent herbicides and learn about disease and insect control and prevention in a variety of settings.   For more information, visit www.DowProvesItTraining.com.    Valent names new VP
    Valent USA Corp. recently named Eric Johnson, Ph.D., as its vice president of technology.   Johnson, who has led a wide range of business and technology initiatives during a three-decade career in global agriculture that includes the past 29 years with Monsanto, will oversee all research and development functions and all regulatory activities for Valent.   While at Monsanto, Johnson was recognized for advancements in innovative technologies in crop protection and biotechnology.   He will be based at the company's headquarters in Walnut Creek, Calif.   For more information, visit www.valent.com.  
  • By now, anyone who is not familiar with research out of Michigan State that quantifies the effects of reduced mowing frequency and increased lightweight rolling on bentgrass putting surfaces no doubt has had their head buried in a bunker.   With the number of annual bluegrass putting greens under management, it seemed odd to researchers at Oregon State that similar studies never had been performed on Poa. That's why the team of Brian McDonald, Tod Blankenship, CGCS, Rob Golembiewski, Ph.D. and Tom Cook set out to see if golf course superintendents managing annual bluegrass could benefit from a similar program, i.e., if they could roll more and mow less and still produce conditions similar to putting surfaces that were mowed daily.   In fact, the research team had three hypotheses in their study that was conducted in 2008-09: 1. that mowing four days per week and rolling daily could produce green speed within 6 inches of surfaces that were mowed daily; 2. using plant growth regulators could help increase green speeds as well as maintain them from morning to afternoon; 3. green speeds will increase more with use of a heavy roller vs. a lightweight roller.   They determined, McDonald said, that acceptable green speeds could be maintained with a program of mowing four days per week and rolling daily, a regimen that on bentgrass not only produced acceptable putting conditions, but improved turf quality as well. Plots in the Oregon State study, while indicating acceptable putting conditions with a rolling/mowing program, did not experience any turf damage due to rolling or increased turf quality, McDonald said.   Plots were maintained at 0.15 inches, admittedly not putting green height. Subsequent studies, the results of which have not yet been published, examined mowing and rolling programs at lower heights of cut, McDonald said.   "The 0.150 mowing height was a necessary compromised resulting from needing to start the trial so soon after the green was built," McDonald wrote via email. "Preferably, we would have chosen 0.125 inches or maybe even 0.115. In 2011 and 2012, we looked at three mowing heights 0.100, 0.125 and 0.150. We hope to get this published late this year, or early next year."   The researchers tested examined five programs mow daily, no rolling; mow daily, roll three days; mow daily, roll daily; mow four days, roll daily; alternate mow and roll daily with plant growth regulators and without and with a lightweight roller (845 pounds) and a heavy roller (1,140 pounds).   They were able to produce putting conditions within 6 inches of those produced by mowing daily with a program of mowing four days and rolling seven days. Use of Primo helped produce faster green speeds in the first year of the study, but was not significant in year two, McDonald said. Primo also did not help maintain green speeds into the afternoon.   Use of the heavier roller resulted in increased ball roll distance across all mowing programs alternating mowing and rolling daily in the first year of the study, but not the second, a differential the researchers attributed to unevenness in the newly constructed test green.   The greatest ball roll distance (11.2 feet) was achieved through a program of mowing and rolling daily, but the difference between that regime and mowing four days per week and rolling day, which produced a morning ball roll distance of 10.8 feet at a mowing height of 0.15 inches.   "The take-home message are: first you don't need to mow every day unless you are trying to achieve super-fast green speeds," McDonald wrote. "Secondly, if you are trying to achieve really fast green speeds, try to achieve it first with higher heights of cut and more (frequent) rolling."   Even on annual bluegrass.
  • Nearly 50 years ago, Ted Smith Jr. started a company with one product, a multi-purpose vehicle called the Red Rider utility truck.   During the next several decades, Smith molded his modest start-up into Smithco, a multi-million dollar manufacturing and engineering company that distributes turf care products to athletic fields and golf courses around the globe.   Smith died June 10 at his home near Philadelphia. The turf care industry pioneer was 98 years old.    Smith officially retired just a few years ago from the business he started in 1967, but remained active in company affairs, according to Smithco vice president Bill Kenney.   A native of Radnor, Pa., Smith is remembered not only as a successful businessman and entrepreneur, but also for his enthusiasm in making his business a success by helping customers fulfill their needs.   Today, Smithco's portfolio has grown to include utility vehicles, greens rollers, aerators, bunker rakes, sweepers, sprayers, field conditioners and lining vehicles. The company's headquarters still is located in Wayne, Pa., with manufacturing facilities in Kansas and Wisconsin.   The company's Web site touts "products with new ideas and technology that will make caring for your turf easier, more efficient and safer. . . . brought to you by a family of experienced professionals who care about the quality and reliability of the products they build."   Survivors include wife Helen Hannan Smith, sons Ted Smith III (Rose), Donald Smith (Joan), daughter Cynthia Sharpe (Bill), 10 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.
  • Finally.   During a news conference Wednesday at the U.S. Open at Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pa., USGA president Glen Nager unveiled a pace-of-play public-education campaign designed to combat one of the most significant threats to the game.   As the saying goes, the first part is admitting you have a problem. Nager noted four major factors affecting slow play: golf course design, golf course setup, player management and player behavior.   How bad is it? A recent study by the National Golf Foundation found that:   > 91 percent of serious golfers said they are bothered by slow play and say it detracts from their golf experience;   > more than 70 percent believe pace of play has worsened over time;   > half acknowledged that they walked off the course due to frustration over a marathon round of golf.   "We must stop simply complaining about poor pace of play and instead mobilize the golfing public to demand action on real potential solutions to the issue," Nager said in his prepared remarks.   The five new public-service announcements borrow the iconic line "While we're young" from the character portrayed by Rodney Dangerfield in the movie "Caddyshack," and feature the likes of Tiger Woods, Arnold Palmer, Annika Sorenstam, Paula Creamer, instructor Butch Harmon and film star/director Clint Eastwood.   "It's the language of golf and the language of golfers," Nager said. "It's a device designed to cut through golf's cultural conformity. The purpose of these spots is not to lecture but to relate; not to admonish but to wink."   Woods, in a news release, said: "Pace of play is a big issue. Rounds of golf take too long, and no one enjoys it. This campaign is lighthearted, but it also shows that we need to pick up the pace of the play."   The PSAs direct viewers to a newly created website (www.usga.org/whilewereyoung) that asks golfers and golf course managers to sign a pledge to improve pace of play. Those who do will be guided through an educational program developed in partnership with the PGA of America, LPGA and Golf Course Superintendents Association of America to provide accurate, practical information that offers potential solutions to reduce the amount of time it takes to play a round.   Nager said there is industry-wide concern, and that 20 golf organizations met this week to discuss ways to best unify the industry's approach to improving pace of play. For now, the USGA test center is spearheading an analysis of key factors known to influence pace of play and developing a pace-of-play model based on USGA-led research and quantifiable data, which Nager said should be complete later this summer.   The USGA-led initiative is the most aggressive effort yet to address concerns of slow play that plague the game.   "The reason we're launching this public-awareness campaign is because poor pace of play is driving recreational golfers from the recreational game," Nager said. "They have other things to do with their leisure time."   Nager concluded by underscoring the initiative's theme: "Let's fix pace of play 'while we're young.' "
    - Adam Schupak, Golfweek  
  • There are times when it is difficult to ignore the link between weather and golf rounds played. April was one of those times.   Year-over-year rounds played were down by nearly 15 percent in April, according to Golf Datatech's monthly report that solicits information from more than 3,700 private and daily-fee facilities nationwide. And in each section of the country where rounds were down compared with April 2012, there was either an accompanying dip in the average temperature or increase in precipitation, or both.   For example, rounds played were down by 41 percent in the country's mid-section, where the average temperature was down by 10 degrees and precipitation was up by 16 percent compared with April 2012. In the coastal southeast, rounds were down by nearly 5 percent even though temperatures were relatively unchanged compared with the same month last year. Rainfall amounts in that region, however, were up by 56 percent.   The only area of the country showing an increase in rounds played was the Pacific coast (up 2 percent), where coincidentally the average monthly temperature was flat and precipitation was down by 32 percent.   Play was down in 44 states (excluding Alaska, which is not included in the survey). The greatest losses were in Minnesota, where play in April was down by 70 percent. Other double-digit losers were North Dakota, South Dakota (58 percent); Wisconsin (51 percent); Colorado (41 percent); Illinois, Iowa (33 percent); Arkansas (30 percent); Kansas (28 percent); Idaho, Michigan, Montana and Wyoming (27 percent); Indiana, Missouri (26 percent); Nebraska (25 percent); Oklahoma (24 percent); Louisiana (23 percent); Ohio 19 percent; New York, Tennessee (17 percent); Mississippi (16 percent); Georgia, West Virginia (14 percent); Alabama (12 percent); Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island (11 percent).   The biggest gains were in made in California and Oregon, where play was up by 4 percent compared with April 2012.   The 14.8 percent downward trend in rounds played in April marked the fifth straight month of decreased play, dating back to December 2012. Year-to-date rounds played are down by roughly the same margin 15.1 percent, according to Golf Datatech.
  • "The most important job in golf." That's the label given to golf course dogs in one of Randy Wilson's TurfNet videos.   Each year, superintendents list the reasons their dogs are so important in their quest to manage day-to-day golf course operations. They keep geese and other nuisance animals on the run, provide reliable companionship throughout the day and are effective at running PR interference against overzealous golfers. As one superintendent said of his dog: "My members think more of him than they do of me."    Every year since 2002, the TurfNet Superintendent's Best Friend Calendar has highlighted 14 golf course dogs for their tireless contributions to golf courses across the country and around the world. If this describes your golf course dog, then nominate your canine friend for a place in the 2014 TurfNet Superintendent's Best Friend Calendar, presented by Syngenta.   A panel of judges will select the 14 dogs for the calendar, including the cover and December 2013. Images should be taken horizontally at your camera's highest resolution setting. Also, try not to center your dog in the frame, as left or right orientation often can result in a more dramatic photograph. Nomination deadline is July 31.   To nominate your dog, email HIGH-RESOLUTION photos to Laura Salinas and be sure to include the dog's name, age and breed; photographer's name; owner's name, phone number, email address; and the name of the golf course where the owner and dog both work.   
  • Projects come fast and furious at Corral de Tierra Country Club.   From sandcapping fairways to renovating ponds to building waterfall features from scratch, nearly everything is done in-house, which requires not only a lot of equipment, but equipment that runs correctly all the time.   That need has led to a strong relationship between superintendent Doug Ayres and Brian Sjogren, equipment manager at the course in Monterey, Calif.   "Like any other superintendent, I come in in the morning and say 'we're going to do this today.' And then he's scrambling to get three aerifiers together or other implements hooked up to tractors," Ayres said. "Many times its spur of the moment. For example, we just found out we have to build a bocce ball court and have it open by Father's Day. My requests of Brian are usually that I need all these things yesterday, but I'll give you five minutes to have it done. And it always gets done."   For his ability to keep Corral de Tierra's inventory in perfect working order under extreme conditions, Sjogren was named one of three finalists for the TurfNet 2013 Technician of the Year, presented by Toro. Also named as finalists were Jonothon McGuigan of Fox Meadow Golf and Country Club on Canada's Prince Edward Island and Ed Greve of Highland Woods Golf Course in Hoffman Estates, Ill.   Along with his duties at Highland Woods, Greve also is responsible for upkeep of equipment at not one, not two, but four other golf courses and a practice facility in the Cook County Forest Preserve portfolio managed by Billy Casper Golf.   Finalists were chosen by a panel of judges, and the winner will receive the Golden Wrench Award as well as a spot in an upcoming Toro Service Training Academy session at the company's headquarters in Bloomington, Minn.   TurfNet has been presenting the award annually (almost) to a golf course equipment manager who excels at one or more of the following: crisis management, effective budgeting, environmental awareness, helping to further the careers of colleagues and employees, interpersonal communications, inventory management and cost control, overall condition and dependability of rolling stock, shop safety and work ethic.   Previous winners include Herb Berg, Oakmont (Pa.) Country Club (2010); Doug Johnson, TPC at Las Colinas, Irving, Texas (2009); Jim Stuart, Stone Mountain (Ga.) Golf Club (2007); Fred Peck, Fox Hollow and The Homestead, Lakewood, Colo. (2006); Jesus Olivas, Heritage Highlands at Dove Mountain, Marana, Ariz. (2005); Henry Heinz, Kalamazoo (Mich.) Country Club (2004); Eric Kulaas, Marriott Vinoy Renaissance Resort, St. Petersburg, Fla. (2003). No award was given in 2008.   Ed Greve
      A former superintendent, Greve has one assistant and two seasonal mechanics assisting him in equipment upkeep at the Billy Caldwell, Chick Evans, Edgebrook and Indian Boundary courses as well as the Harry Semrow Driving Range.   Among Greve's greatest assets, said Highland Woods superintendent Dan Stahl, are his willingness to teach others about proper equipment use and maintenance and his unyielding need to know why parts and equipment fail.   "He has to know why something fails so he knows if he can prevent it from happening again or if it's a design flaw," Stahl said. "It just bugs him to no end when something fails.   He also enjoys sharing his passion with others within the golf operation.   "He enjoys teaching people how to take care of equipment. He explains why you have to do certain to make the equipment last longer," Stahl said.   "With him, I know things are going to be fixed and they're going to run properly."   Resources are scarce in the Forest Preserve, so instead of new equipment, many implements are passed down from Highland Woods to other courses in the operation. The good news is that Greve already is familiar with many of the hand-me-down pieces. The bad part is that many are nearing what should be the end of their useful life.   Thanks to Greve, most have many years yet to go.   Finn McGuigan
      Known around the course simply as Finn, McGuigan plays a unique role at Fox Meadow where he is equipment manager and assistant superintendent.   That dual role can be a handful when a catastrophe, such as ice damage that occurred at Fox Meadow four years ago, necessitates the resodding of 50,000 square feet of bentgrass putting greens, a process that Finn helped oversee as the club's assistant.   His ability to fix rather than replace equipment helps superintendent Paul MacCormack stay within budget. And because Fox Meadow's equipment is in such good shape when it reaches the end of its useful life cycle, it consistently has high resale value. Distributors often marvel at the condition of the club's equipment, MacCormack said.   "Any wise superintendent will tell you they are only as good as the crew that makes it happen," MacCormack said in his nomination of Finn. "For me, having Finn as both my assistant and head technician gives me the peace of mind and confidence that we can tackle anything."   He has developed and implemented a shop-wide recycling program, that includes disposal of used machine oil, which is used as heating fuel by a local John Deere dealership, according to MacCormack.   But before any new member of the Fox Meadow staff is permitted to operate anything first they must go through an extensive training session with Finn that includes a two-hour shop tour with stops at the first-aid and eyewash stations, training video, training on each piece of equipment and, get this, a test afterward.   Brian Sjogren
      At project-heavy Corral de Tierra, Sjogren maintains a fleet of equipment and mechanized tools valued at about $2.4 million. A testament to his ability to keep all of it in like-new condition is a Ford tractor that Ayres says dates to the early 1970s.   "It's hooked up to a trailer right now," Ayres said. "We use it all the time. We have some newer ones, but it out competes some of them, so we have to keep it around."   During the past two years Ayres has spent $300,000 on new mowing equipment. That Ayres has spent more than a quarter of a million on new machinery is a testament to Sjogren's skills, considering the equipment that is being replaced was bought piecemeal between 1989 and 1996.   "I know when I buy new equipment that it's not on a five-year rotation, it's on a 15-year rotation," Ayres said. "And I know it's going to be maintained.   Sjogren also has a knack for concocting equipment from recycled parts. Among the pieces he's built is a custom trailer from the bed of a cannibalized Gator utility vehicle. When fertilizer drift led to corrosion and rust in parts of the spray rig, Sjogren eliminated that problem when he built an extender from a tow bar, excess hose and a nozzle that now delivers product 12 feet behind the rig. A gas-powered air compressor welded to a tow bar doubles as a pneumatic staple gun during bunker liner installations and an air pump to inflate tires on the golf course, and yet another similar set up with a hose attached to the motor's exhaust system is used for gopher control.   "It obviously works," Ayres said. "We could've thrown that engine away, but he's repurposed it, and it's working."
  • With Memorial Day and the 69th anniversary of D-Day behind us and Independence Day rapidly approaching, BASF is remembering America's servicemen and women by supporting the Wounded Warrior Project. And it needs your help.   BASF is asking golf course superintendents to take a digital photograph holding an American flag on their golf course. For each photo it receives through July 31, BASF will donate $100 (up to $20,000 total) to the Wounded Warrior Project.    Submissions can be viewed at www.basfturftalk.com/honor-america.   All submissions should be sent to HonorAmerica@PadillaSpeer.com.   The Wounded Warrior Project military personnel by raising funds to provide services to veterans and active service members who have incurred a physical or mental injury, illness or wound related to their military service since Sept. 11, 2001, and their families.
  • When it comes to environmental stewardship, Rain Bird is willing to put its money where its customers' mouths are.   The manufacturer and provider of irrigation products and services is going to award $2,000 worth of irrigation products to one lucky recipient that applies for Green Site designation through the Groundwater Foundation.   The Groundwater Foundation was founded in 1994 as a way to educate users on the need to conserve water. Part of that mission is the formation of the Groundwater Guardian Green Site program that encourages managers of green spaces, including golf courses, athletic complexes, parks and schools, to implement, measure and document groundwater conservation practices.   Anyone who manages or maintains a green space can apply for the Green Site designation by completing a survey and application. The foundation the online application and awards points based on a site's current practices related to chemical use, water use, pollution prevention and water quality. Sites that earn a minimum of 70 percent of the total applicable points receive the Green Site designation.   Groundwater Guardian Green Sites can use the Green Site logo to document and promote their efforts in water conservation. These sites also receive from the foundation a monthly newsletter and public recognition of their stewardship efforts.   "As strong advocates for responsible water use, Rain Bird appreciates the excellent work that the Groundwater Foundation does each day to ensure sustainable, clean groundwater for future generations," said Alex Nathanson, brand manager for Rain Bird Corp. "We hope our involvement will help inspire many more green sites to become part of this very worthwhile program."   Deadline to applie for Green Site status is Sept. 16.
  • After extensive field testing, BASF has launched Pylex herbicide for weed control in cool-season turf.   With the active ingredient topramezone, Pylex is labeled for post-emergent control of more than four- dozen grassy and broadleaf weeds, including Bermudagrass and creeping bentgrass in Kentucky bluegrass, tall fescue, fine fescue and perennial ryegrass on golf courses, athletic fields and sod farms.   It also is effective on other grassy weeds such as crabgrass and goosegrass as well as broadleaf weeds like dandelion, ground ivy, oxalis and more.   Topramezone has been used for weed control in corn and other agriculture applications for years. Pylex, which was used in field trials last year, received label registration from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in December.   Its systemic action attacks weeds by inhibiting the plant's ability to complete photosynthesis.   In other news, BASF also launched its Siesta insecticide for fire ant control.   With the active ingredient metaflumizone, Siesta is a sodium-blocker insecticide formulated from corn grit and soybean oil. It is effective as a broadcast treatment to control foraging ants as well as those on the mound.   Siesta is best applied in when temperatures are above 60 degrees Fahrenheit when ants are active, which is typically in early morning or late afternoon. It should not be applied in wet conditions or within 12 hours of anticipated rain events or scheduled irrigation.  
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