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From the TurfNet NewsDesk

  • John Reitman
    Managing water use helped produce two different tournament experiences in consecutive weeks at Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio. Photos by PGA Tour via Twitter The PGA Tour had two main goals when it decided to pitch its tent on the same golf course in Dublin, Ohio for two straight weeks: maximize player safety by limiting potential exposure to Covid-19 and somehow coax two very different tournament experiences out of Muirfield Village Golf Club for the Workday Charity Open and last week's Memorial Tournament.
    Although three players who made the cut tested positive for Covid-19 and played the weekend as singles, Muirfield director of grounds Chad Mark and his team, along with PGA Tour agronomist Thomas Bastis had a plan to first ease players into the Muirfield experience for the Workday event held July 9-12, then provide a firmer, faster course for the Memorial Tournament mostly by managing rough and water. 
    The results of their work showed with a 10-shot differential on the leaderboard. Collin Morikawa survived a playoff with Justin Thomas to win the Workday at 19-under-par, while Jon Rahm, who sits atop the World Golf Rankings, won the Memorial with a four-day score of 9-under.
    The weather didn't hurt. During the Workday, the average daily high was 87 degrees and about an inch of rain fell in the Columbus area, according to the National Weather Service. A week later, the average high each day was 91 degrees, with weekend temps in the mid-90s. A brief shower and a lightning delay during the final round of the Memorial was too little too late to rescue players from Muirfield's slick putting surfaces.
    "We set out with the Tour to put on two different events. If the weather hadn't cooperated, we probably couldn't have done that," Mark said. 
    "We had a green, lush PGA Tour event the first week, and the second week was more like a championship. We dried it down and firmed it up and put minimal water on it. You could see the results when you see the different scores and the different strategies by the players. It could have been boring to play here two weeks in a row, and it wasn't, and I think that is what was cool about this."
    Rough was topped off at 3.5 inches the Monday of the Workday event and irrigation was turned off. Because conditions in central Ohio were so hot and dry, the grass didn't grow much. By Sunday, it had reached about 4 inches. The following day, the rough was trimmed down as needed to a uniform 4-inch height. 
    "We weren't going to let it get out of control," Mark said. "By the end of the (Memorial) week, there might have been some stragglers out there over 6 inches, but we didn't mow all the rough after the Monday of the Workday."
    The Muirfield team also didn't double-cut for the Workday until the weekend, but did so and also rolled twice a day every day during the Memorial.
    "We increased the intensity of our night work, and really pulled back on the water," Mark said.
    "We hydrated the golf course on the Sunday of the Workday while Collin and Justin were still on the golf course. There was nothing overhead on the rough for three weeks. Our staff did a good job on hoses touching up what needed water and not overwatering anything. By the end of the week, my staff saw what little water could be put on and that the turf would respond if you needed it to. We had it on the edge and our guys learned how to to water and keep things on the edge for a championship."

    Muifield was identified as a two-time host when the Memorial Tournament, originally scheduled for early June, was postponed due to stay-at-home orders in place in response to Covid-19. The event was moved to July 16-19 when the British Open, scheduled for Royal St. George's, and the PGA Tour's corresponding Barbasol Championship in Nicholasville, Kentucky, both were canceled.
    There also was a hole in the PGA Tour schedule the week before the Open Championship and the Barbasol, a slot reserved for a future event that eventually will be held in Northern California. Holding two events in consecutive weeks at the same location was seen as a benefit by limiting travel and contact points for players during the virus and made sense for a Tour trying to get on its feet this year.
    Still, two tournaments in two weeks on the same course is a lot to ask. 
    Meetings - mostly in the dark and in the parking lot because of the virus - began at 4:30 a.m. daily. For three weeks, Mark and assistants James Bryson and Adam Daroczy were at the course from that 4:30 a.m. start until about 10 p.m.
    "Our staff did an incredible job," Mark said. "They pulled it off, and that shows how dedicated they are."
    A scheduled greens renovation that started literally with sod being removed on the front nine during final round play, allowed Mark and Bastis latitude with decisions on water.
    "We didn't water after the tournament on Sunday, and we didn't touch anything up on Monday," Mark said. "As we drove around Monday, the greens were fried, that's how on the edge we were. 
    "Not having to turn the golf course over to members after the tournament made it easier to do some of that stuff."
    What makes the dual tournament feat more impressive is that both events were staged with minimal outside help. Superintendents rely heavily on volunteers to ensure nothing is missed during a Tour event, much less two of them in consecutive weeks. Mark's team of 45 grew to only 52 for the Workday and 64 for the Memorial. Typically, he recruits 35-40 volunteers just for the Memorial.
    That might sound like a lot of people, but when running two tournaments in two weeks, you need a lot of people..
    "There were sacrifices made. We reminded the Tour guys that there were things we can't do because we didn't have the numbers," Mark said. "As Covid goes away, I'm going to look at the numbers we've traditionally had during the Memorial."
    And if the Tour ever needs to go back-to-back in a single location again?
    "No, no, no. Not next year," Mark said. "Our greens will be too new. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. We proved we can go a lot farther with the golf course than we thought we could. I'd do it again, it's what we all do this for - to prove yourself. But not next year."
  • Rounds played at Bayou Oaks at City Park in New Orleans help fund a variety of projects to assist the local community continue its slow comeback from Katrina. Sense of community runs deep in New Orleans. That might be obvious to those who live here, but probably not so much to those who don't. Any doubts likely were swept away 15 years ago when Hurricane Katrina erased more than 1,800 lives across the Gulf Coast, but failed to destroy hope.
    Although it happened so long ago, Katrina still is a defining moment here, and its effects are still evident all over town. Ask anyone who either rode out the storm or returned shortly afterward how high the water was in their home, and they can still tell you. They can still describe the scenes and the stench. 
    A local public golf course that opened a dozen years after Katrina is playing a critical role in rebuilding a New Orleans neighborhood that was among the hardest hit in the city.
    The recently opened South Course at Bayou Oaks at City Park is a city-owned course designed by Rees Jones that is affiliated with the PGA Tour's TPC network and managed by a non-profit agency. The Bayou District Foundation that operates the course uses revenue from the property to fund a host of redevelopment projects in an at-risk neighborhood that local leaders say has transformed from one of New Oreleans' most-crime ridden communities to one of its safest.
    It is a responsibility that the turf operations staff at Bayou Oaks takes seriously. Look them in the eye, and you can see it in their faces; talk with them, and you can hear it in their voices.
    Bayou Oaks superintendent Ryan McCavitt has been in New Orleans for four years. An Illinois native, he missed Katrina, but he's hardly an outsider. He has deep roots in central Louisiana. Earlier in his career he was superintendent at Oakwing Golf Club in Alexandria, and his wife is from Marksville. He knows what Katrina's legacy means around here.
    "After Katrina, everything here was pretty much ruined," McCavitt said.
    "The Bayou District Foundation is spearheading rebuilding the hardest-hit neighborhoods in New Orleans, specifically the Gentilly area.
    "I love telling the story of what is happening here."

    Among the projects that receive funding from Bayou Oaks are two schools in the nearby Gentilly neighborhood. In the days, weeks and months after the storm, New Orleanians largely were left to fend for themselves to begin picking up the pieces of their lives and putting to rest loved ones who had lost theirs.
    Although Tiger, Elvis, Cher and LeBron need not a last name to be recognized, the most widely known single-name entity in this town is still a blowhard named Katrina.
    A municipal golf course that was hit equally hard by Katrina and needed a hand to recover is an unlikely hero in this story.
    City Park has been a staple of the New Orleans golf community since 1902, but was all but destroyed 15 years ago by the hurricane. The golf complex was rebuilt with FEMA dollars as well as state and local funding thanks to the work of city leaders who had a vision that revenue generated by the golf operation could help lift up the surrounding community in New Orleans' Gentilly neighborhood through the non-profit Bayou District Foundation. That vision includes new schools, affordable housing and healthcare facilities for those in need.
    Course conditions are paramount to ensure golfers and money keep coming through the door to help fund the foundation's outreach initiatives 
    "For myself, being part of the Bayou District Foundation was a big selling point for me coming down to New Orleans," McCavitt said. "I've built four golf courses now throughout my career. The opportunity to move back to Louisiana and be part of something like the Bayou District Foundation and rebuilding after Katrina just checked all the boxes for me."
    Katrina might be a tiresome topic elsewhere, but it remains a big deal in New Orleans.
    In the early morning hours of April 29, 2005, Katrina made landfall in Buras, Louisiana, south of New Orleans near the Mississippi River Delta before laying waste to the Crescent City over the next several hours. Levees protecting the city - much of which is below sea level - from the Mississippi that flows through downtown, were breached in dozens of locations.
    Katrina left New Orleans looking like a war zone. Homes and businesses were destroyed. The lucky left well in advance or at least survived the aftermath. Many others were not so fortunate. The images in the wake of the storm were horrifying: bodies floating in the water, or abandoned on the sidewalk. By the time floodwaters receded weeks later, the storm was blamed for more than 1,836 deaths in Louisiana and Mississippi. The bodies of many others never were recovered.
    A longtime member of McCavitt's crew who evacuated to Atlanta, said his home had 8 feet of water in it when he returned. For two years he paid rent on a home he lived in and a mortgage on a flooded home under repair.
    Gentilly was an easy target when Katrina overwhelmed the levies that protect the area from the surrounding canals leading to Lake Pontchartrain. Equally hemmed in by Bayou St. John to the East, the Orleans Canal to the West and the lake to the North, City Park and its golf operation was hit just as hard.
    Once home to four golf courses, City Park now has two. The original North Course, built in 1902, was home to the city's PGA Tour event, now known as the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, from 1936 through 1962 when the tournament moved to Lakewood Country Club and later English Turn Golf and Country and finally to its current home at the TPC of Louisiana in nearby Avondale. The North layout was restored and renovated several years ago, the new 7,300-yard Jones-designed South Course was built on the site of the former East and West layouts, and the fate of the old south course location today remains uncertain. 
    A year after the hurricane, a group of the city's public and business leaders decided something had to be done to save their city. Together, they formed the Bayou District Foundation to help revitalize the city's Gentilly neighborhood. 
    East of the city's more famous French Quarter, Central Business District and Uptown neighborhoods, historic Gentilly was hit especially hard by Katrina. Bayous and canals run through the area to massive Lake Pontchartrain, making Gentilly and City Park easy targets.
    Bringing the area back has been a slow and steady process that continues today. 
    At the center of that project is Bayou Oaks, the multi-agency project that helped fund construction of 685 housing units at the Columbia Parc apartment complex, a collection of 685 housing units, the Educare New Orleans early learning center, the KIPP Believe K-8 charter school and the St. Thomas Community Health Center. And there are plans for a 25,000-square-foot grocery store and pharmacy. Profits from the golf operation help support those initiatives.
    "The Bayou District Foundation has done a lot for the community; they've built apartments that are affordable and two schools," said Evan Meldahl, the newly minted winner of the 2020 TurfNet Technician of the Year Award, presented by John Deere (pictured here). "The money is going toward good things in the community."
    The blueprint for this plan to rebuild the Gentilly area is East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, where philanthropist Tom Cousins who founded the East Lake Foundation that is the cornerstone of redevelopment efforts in the surrounding neighborhood. Cousins, former owner of the NBA's Atlanta Hawks, even helped civic leaders in New Orleans establish the Bayou Oaks District Foundation.
    As many as 150,000 rounds a year once were played at City Park. After Katrina, City Park golfers scattered. Many left town and those who came back found other places to play. Since completion of the new South course, players have been coming back in droves.
    Even throughout the coronavirus period, Bayou Oaks has been jammed, with up to 9,000 rounds a month played there despite New Oreleans' infamously hot and humid climate.
    Although New Orleans is not among the country's great golf destinations, it has something big in its favor as it continues its long, slow road recovery from a life-altering event that occurred nearly two decades ago - the people who lived through it and who want to see their community and their golf course succeed.
    You can see it in their eyes, and you can hear it in their voices.
    TurfNet editor John Reitman is a former resident of Louisiana
  • This year's Women in Golf by Bayer will be a virtual event. After last year’s inaugural Bayer Women in Golf event in North Carolina was so successful, some folks from Bayer were wondering as the summit counted down how they would follow up in 2020 with something unique.
    No problem.
    This year’s Women in Golf event, scheduled for Sept. 16-18, will be a virtual, online event thanks, of course, to the coronavirus.
    Last year’s event, held at two Bayer facilities in the Raleigh, North Carolina area, attracted 50 women in the turf industry from across the U.S. and Canada for a series of career-development and networking opportunities.
    This year’s event will open Sept. 16 with a keynote speaker and previous attendees. The second day will include a half-day of professional development with panel discussions from industry leaders and a resume-building session. The following day will include Women in Golf alumnae and professional development seminars. Susan Hite, a career-development coach who spoke at last year's event, will return. The final day will conclude with a virtual happy hour, which should be a hit with attendees since such an attractive segment of the program is network building.
    Click here to apply for a slot in this year's virtual event.
  • Largely neglected throughout the virus quarantine, Yale Golf Course in New Haven, Connecticut, will remain closed through August. Photos by Anthony Pioppi From staff reports
    The pictures out of Yale Golf Course since spring have been, to say the least, pretty shocking. Images of unkempt greens, unmowed turf, weed-filled bunkers and patches of brown that until just a few weeks before were lush and green and awaiting golfers stand in stark contrast to Yale's historic place among the country's elite golf courses.
    Among those images, the most startling to golfers was a sign indicating that Yale, widely considered to be the best university course in the country and a regular fixture on top-100 lists, would remain closed through August.
    The course in New Haven, Connecticut was designed nearly 100 years ago by Seth Raynor. Conditions there this year have left members eager to play the layout wondering why it has been, for the most part, neglected when golf courses throughout the rest of Connecticut are open for play.
    "I can understand the frustration that some alumni and members may be feeling, however, I am in year two of my time at Yale working on a 40-year problem mixed in with a global pandemic," Yale athletics director Vicky Chun said via email. "I applaud our grounds crew and staff working directly with the course and I'm excited to hire a general manager and superintendent who will lead us into the future.
    The story of Yale Golf Course in 2020 is like most everything else this year, a complicated matter with no easy answers.
    The Yale campus was shuttered in mid-March, which included closing the golf course, which the university traditionally treats as part of the overall university infrastructure rather than a standalone golf entity. All employees across all sectors of campus operations were sent home until further notice. According to Chun, the AD at Yale since July 2018, what she described as a "skeletal crew" was permitted to stay on and work a minimal number of hours to maintain the golf course.
    "Once the university made the decision on the Spring semester due to the COVID-19 pandemic, nearly all of our staff joined our students in a remote setting," Chun said via email. "In keeping the health and safety of our employees at the forefront of our decisions, a skeletal crew worked at both the Yale Golf Course and Yale Bowl fields. Even though the golf course grounds crew was skeletal, we did receive permission to add additional hours to their schedule."

    Complicating matters was the departure of superintendent Scott Ramsay, CGCS, in early March, two weeks before the shutdown. Ramsay, the 2006 TurfNet Superintendent of the Year, had been at Yale since 2003. Yale is a union campus, and even if Ramsay had stayed, the university's collective bargaining agreement with the employees union likely would have prevented the superintendent, a management position, from working on the golf course during the shutdown.
    General manager Peter Pulaski also had left Yale earlier this year. Once a GM is hired, that person will set about the task of hiring a superintendent. Until then, Ramsay's former assistant Matthew Golino is in charge. The rest of the staff finally was permitted to return to the course full time in early July.
    Yale is ranked No. 49 on Golfweek's list of Top 100 Classic Courses, and No. 1 on the publication's list of Top 30 Campus Courses. Getting the course there and keeping there always made Ramsay work extra hard for his lofty Superintendent of the Year status, and he has said in the past that it was always a challenge to unwind years of neglect that occurred before he arrived in New Haven in 2003.
    The club, which is subject to flooding, recently completed a $400,000 drainage project, and was well on its way to marked improvement until Ramsay left for the Country Club at Farmington and the coronavirus arrived in his place.
    "The Yale Golf Course is one of numerous athletic facilities that we are extremely proud of and have plans to improve," Chun said. "When I started as Director of Athletics, I immediately recognized the importance of the course and we pushed its improvement where it was better maintained this last year as compared to the recent past. I have had many discussions with alumni who are excited about the direction the course is headed in terms of improvements. A strategic plan has been started to bring the course back to its glory. We were on our way until COVID-19 hit."
  • Thanks to the coronavirus, the Myrtle Beach Convention Center will be a lonely place this fall after the Carolinas GCSA announced its Conference and Show will be replaced with an online education event this year. Covid-19 has claimed another victim.
    As a result of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the Carolinas Golf Course Superintendents Association will replace its annual Conference and Trade Show with an online event centered on education.
    "This is a sad day for our association, but it is the right thing to do," says Carolinas GCSA president, Brian Stiehler, CGCS, MG from Highlands Country Club in Highlands, NC. "The health of our members and the many industry partners who support them is our primary concern."
    Since its inception in 1962, the Carolinas Conference and Show has grown into the largest regional gathering of golf course superintendents in the country, attracting some 2,000 attendees to Myrtle Beach, SC every November. The three-day event features a golf championship for more than 350 players, nearly 30 education seminars and a trade show with around 200 companies covering more than 100,000sq.ft. of exhibition space at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center.
    "Clearly, this is a major blow for our association and our members in many ways," Stiehler says. "But it is also a blow for all of golf in the Carolinas because Conference and Show is like an in-person Google for what worked and what didn't work on golf courses in the previous 12 months. There is an incredible amount of information, tips and solutions that won't be passed around this year because we cannot come together as we normally do."
    The decision to cancel comes after the 1,800-member association surveyed members, industry partners and educators to discern their likely participation in a traditional Conference and Show in the current health climate.
    "Not surprisingly, a significant percentage of people had serious concerns," Stiehler says. "And it wasn't just superintendents. Some companies aren't letting their representatives travel and the same is true for many of the university scientists and researchers who lead our seminars."
    In the meantime, the association is working to deliver formal education via online platforms this fall. This ongoing education is necessary for superintendents to keep up to date with the latest research findings and to maintain various licenses.
    "I'm confident we will be able to provide access to high quality education, just in a different format and perhaps over a longer period than the traditional show dates," Stiehler says. "Trust me, like superintendents always do, we will make the most of this challenge and look forward to coming back with a great Conference and Show next year."
    Stiehler draws some of his optimism from the fact that golf in the Carolinas has remained open for play despite the virus.
    "Our members and the golf industry at large should be very proud that we have been able to keep courses open throughout this time," he says. "We said we could do it safely and we have. I want to thank our governors and our legislators in both states for putting that trust in our industry. As a result, the game has provided a critical outlet for many people and saved a lot of jobs."
    - Source: Carolinas GCSA
  • Jamie Worsham (center) of Beard Equipment, a Baton Rouge John Deere distributor, and Ryan McCavitt (right),  director of golf course operations at Bayou Oaks at City Park, congratulate 2020 Golden Wrench winner Evan Meldahl. Photos by John Reitman It often is said that the business of golf turf is one of relationships. That might sound cliche and even corny, but as it relates to Ryan McCavitt and Evan Meldahl, it also happens to be true.
    Shortly after taking on the task of building a new golf course at City Park in New Orleans, McCavitt, the director of golf course operations at Bayou Oaks, needed a new equipment manager. He turned to Meldahl, a former colleague with whom he had worked in the Chicago area.
    "I told him I needed a mechanic, someone I could trust," McCavitt said. 
    Trust and relationship management never has been part of the criteria for determining a winner of the TurfNet Technician of the Year Award presented by John Deere. Deciding factors historically have included principles such as managing money and crises, shop neatness and ability to keep equipment in top operating condition. After Meldahl received this year's award on Wednesday, July 8, it might be time for an update.
    Trust, indeed, has been a big deal for both McCavitt and Meldahl, especially at Bayou Oaks. The task they would undertake together, building a new Rees Jones-designed course on the site of a multi-course property pretty much wiped out 15 years ago by Hurricane Katrina, is about much more than just golf. 
    The new South Course, which opened in 2017 on the site of the park's former East and West courses, is the centerpiece of an urban revitalization project that includes involvement from local, state and federal agencies. Revenue from operations helps fund the Bayou District Foundation that is overseeing revitalization of the city's Gentilly district. Those efforts include projects like affordable housing, schools, an emergency clinic for area residents and other services.
    Pumping golfers through the system at Bayou Oaks is imperative and requires a coordinated effort to ensure conditions there continue to attract players. The course, which is affiliated with the PGA Tour's TPC network, is owned by the City of New Orleans and is managed by the Bayou District Foundation. Clearly, there are a lot of eyeballs on Bayou Oaks, and Meldahl fully understands the role he and his colleagues play in helping ensure its success and the impact it has on the local community.
    "The dedication not only to his craft, but the people he works with sets him apart," McCavitt said. "Not only does he care about the product we are producing and the experience for the golfer, but the people he works for, the management group he works for; he really cares about the people and being in this special situation giving back to the community, and working for the Bayou District Foundation really takes it to a whole new level of giving back and giving a greater purpose to his career. He embraces that and wants to be part of that."
    Meldahl was chosen by our panel of judges from a list of three finalists that included Doug DeVore of Desert Mountain in Scottsdale, and Brandon Hoag of Glens Falls Country Club in Queensbury, New York.
    Criteria on which candidates are judged include: crisis management; effective budgeting; environmental awareness; helping to further and promote 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. 
    As the winner, Meldahl received the Golden Wrench Award from TurfNet as well as the opportunity to further his education as an equipment manager either by volunteering at next Year's Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, or attending a training session at the John Deere factory training center in Morrisville, North Carolina.
    Meldahl had no idea he had won the award until Wednesday.
    "I found out a few weeks ago that Ryan had nominated me," Meldahl said. "Just to have your work noticed was enough, but to be a finalist, wow, I was blown away. Now, to win? I was just really surprised. I never expected this."
    Meldahl had been helping care for his mother when McCavitt offered him the Bayou Oaks job. Shortly after Meldahl accepted the job and moved from Illinois to New Orleans, his mother died.
    "This was a good opportunity," he said, "and she told me she didn't want anything to stand in the way of that opportunity."

    Click the image to watch more about the Tech of the Year award by John Deere. For the next two years, until a new maintenance facility was built at Bayou Oaks, Meldahl worked first in a tent and then a structure that today serves as the cart barn. Both lacked the room and things Meldahl needed to do his job correctly, like air movement and a lift, and in the case of the cart barn a concrete floor. 
    Conditions were especially brutal in the summer.
    "I never thought about leaving or going back (to Illinois)," Meldahl said jokingly. "But I did ask myself 'what have I gotten myself into?' "
    That trust factor always lingered in the back of McCavitt's mind. Nominating him for the Golden Wrench award seemed like a small gesture to repay that trust and show that it works both ways.
    "Evan has been a big part of my golf life and my personal life, and there is not enough I can do for that man for the effort he has put in to further this golf course and my own career," McCavitt said. "Coming from Illinois to New Orleans and taking a gamble on me, it's a small thing I can do to pay back and show him I appreciate him and what he brings to the operation."
    Previous winners include (2019) Dan Dommer, Ozaukee CC, Mequon, WI; (2018) Terry Libbert, Old Marsh Golf Club, Palm Beach Gardens, FL; (2017) Tony Nunes, Chicago Golf Club, Wheaton, IL; (2016) Kris Bryan, Pikewood National Golf Club, Morgantown, WV; (2015) Robert Smith, Merion Golf Club, Ardmore, PA; (2014) Lee Medeiros, Timber Creek and Sierra Pines Golf Courses, Roseville, CA; (2013) Brian Sjögren, Corral de Tierra Country Club, Corral de Tierra, CA; (2012) Kevin Bauer, Prairie Bluff Golf Club, Crest Hill, IL; (2011) Jim Kilgallon, The Connecticut Golf Club, Easton, CT; (2010) Herb Berg, Oakmont (PA) Country Club; (2009) Doug Johnson, TPC at Las Colinas, Irving, TX; (2007) Jim Stuart, Stone Mountain (GA) Golf Club; (2006) Fred Peck, Fox Hollow and The Homestead, Lakewood, CO; (2005) Jesus Olivas, Heritage Highlands at Dove Mountain, Marana, AZ; (2004) Henry Heinz, Kalamazoo (MI) Country Club; (2003) Eric Kulaas, Marriott Vinoy Renaissance Resort, Sarasota, FL.
  • Chris McIntyre does not know where he would be without the help of a former boss who took a chance on him almost 15 years ago, and he wants to help give direction to others from at-risk communities. A hundred dollars does not go as far as it once did, but for one aspiring superintendent, it made all the difference in the world.
    Chris McIntyre did not have a lot growing up in Green Bay, Wisconsin. While many in town went to watch the Packers on Sundays, McIntyre's family knew only poverty. He did not learn how to manage money, mostly because he never had any. In 2005, he found a part-time job on superintendent Mark Storby's  crew at Oneida Country Club, an unlikely landing spot for an African American kid from the other side of the tracks.
    When McIntyre's world threatened to come crashing down around him, it was his boss who reached out and gave him a hand in the form of a hundred bucks and a place to stay. More importantly, the gesture helped McIntyre realize his new line of work was more than a job, it was joining an extended family that included people who did not look like the person he saw in a mirror. Today, McIntyre believes it is his responsibility to pay forward his good fortune and do for others what his former boss did for him. His vision is to start a program that introduces turf management to kids from at-risk communities to help give their lives meaning, purpose and direction.
    "I think diversity in the crew opens up other cultures to the world. My goal is to start a program and bring in at-risk minorities as employees," McIntyre said. "Black, Hispanic, Puerto Rican, white, I don't care. I want to bring them in and teach them life skills. You grow as a person because of relationships with other people.
    " Here at Cantigny, we have white people, black, Hispanic, Mexican. We have someone from Ireland and London. We talk and have conversations about different cultures.
    McIntyre gets emotional thinking back to that day where his life changed. He loved his new line of work. Like most in the business, he was drawn by working outdoors and helping create something beautiful out of a piece of land. But just a year into his new job, it nearly stopped as quickly as it started.
    "One day I went to the golf course and told Mark that it would be my last day, because I was homeless and had nowhere to go," McIntyre said. "Mark gave me a hundred dollars and told me to get a hotel room and please come back to work the next day and we'd figure it out."
    Storby saw something in McIntyre besides the obvious. He saw that although McIntyre looked different than most people in this business he had something to offer and simply walking away from the golf course would be a wasted opportunity for both parties. So, Storby and his wife opened their home to McIntyre until he was able to get on his feet. Today, McIntyre, who has since earned a certificate in turfgrass management from Des Moines Community College in Iowa and a two-year degree from Penn State, is the assistant superintendent at Cantigny Golf in Wheaton, Illinois.
    "He opened his door and his home to me. His family is my family," McIntyre said. "He didn't just mentor me on the golf course. He mentored me in life. He gave me an opportunity that a lot of men with my background don't have. You have to give credit where credit is due."
    Although different opinions and ways of doing things can positively impact the golf course, promoting diversity in the workplace, whether it is golf or otherwise, sometimes is just about doing the right thing, creating awareness and sharing strengths and overcoming our weaknesses.
    "Diversity within the industry can open our eyes to being better people," McIntyre said. "I was horrible with money. Part of that is because I grew up on welfare. The value of saving money was not there. Working around white people has helped me learn life skills."
    Even in college, things did not come easily for McIntyre. He already had 10 years of experience on golf courses when interning as a student at Penn State. He watched as his white colleagues were given opportunities to learn how to operate every piece of equipment on the property as he performed the same task over and over each day.
    "It was frustrating to see 19- and 20-year-old interns learning everything, and there I was every day with a rake in my hand. A one-year guy was on the spray rig before a guy with 10 years of experience and the same education," he said. "I kept asking myself 'Why is this happening?' I don't know, maybe I was just that good at raking bunkers. Unfortunately, I have to think it is because of what I look like."
    Of course, not all places are the same, and McIntyre does not face those same hurdles at Cantigny in suburban Chicago where he has been an assistant to director of agronomy Steve Kuretsky for the past two years. 
    Cantigny was carved from land once owned by Robert R. McCormick, the one-time owner and publisher of the Chicago Tribune, and today is owned by the McCormick Foundation. In one of the country's great golf cities, Cantigny would be a plum job for anyone wishing to be a superintendent. 
    "It was his personality. He is very outgoing and positive," Kuretsky said. "He still has some things to learn, but he's willing to learn. We needed someone who could exude that positivity to the crew."
    Working at Cantigny has been a perfect match for McIntyre, too.
    "I am really happy here. I want to be a superintendent, but I know I'm not ready," he said. "They have invested in me and Steve is teaching me. This is the right opportunity for me."
    His vision of introducing kids from a variety of backgrounds to potential career opportunities in the golf industry serves a dual purpose: it casts a wider net and promises to help solve golf's labor challenges, and it gives a hand up, not a hand out, to those who desperately need one.
    "Chris has some life lessons he can share with others," Kuretsky said. "This place is special, it's not just a job. We want to make it a family. We are trying to groom leaders here and make this place and this industry better."
    McIntyre believes his vision can help accomplish those goals.
    "It's not about golf, it's about life. Life is much bigger than what we do on a golf course," he said. "I want to bring kids into a place where everything is positive and show them that there is some positive in this world. It might take time, but it will happen."
  • Tyler Bloom is dedicated to helping superintendents build sustainable recruiting strategies for long-term labor solutions. If it seems like you're constantly struggling to find and retain talent, it might be that not all of the blame lies with the applicants. It might be time to refine your search process.
    Finding solutions to some of golf's most pressing issues, like those related to labor, requires a unique way of thinking. Solving golf's labor issue, says former superintendent Tyler Bloom, is the result of a formula that includes matching the right applicant with the right job at the right golf course under the right superintendent. It's a process Bloom calls workforce development, and he is willing to stake his future on it.
    "It's more than compensation. It's about making (employees) feel like they are part of something bigger," said Bloom. "It's about designing a workplace culture that includes defining and setting goals. It's about training and spending time with people, and getting them involved with associations and educational opportunities. You have to make people feel like they are part of a solution."
    Bloom, 33, had been superintendent at Sparrows Point Country Club in Baltimore for six years, but he has been working on the side to help superintendents find new jobs and new employees for much longer. His services are in such high demand that in April, he resigned from Sparrows Point and moved his family back to his native Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania, to pursue helping superintendents build teams. Teams that last more than a single golf season.
    "I started getting calls from superintendents three years ago about workforce development," said Bloom, the principal of TBloom LLC. "Finally, I thought 'I need to start a true business model and see where this goes. This is the perfect time to reframe my career."
    In his new venture, Bloom uses the Predictive Index talent-optimization tool to help superintendents develop a sustainable workforce development model by creating a workplace culture focused on developing staff then identifying the right candidates to fill those positions.
    Bloom developed a template for attracting labor when he was superintendent at Sparrows Point. He worked with the Baltimore public school system to identify potential employees.
    "The golf course was around five high schools," said Alicia Fales, supervisor of the school to career transition program for Baltimore public schools. "He developed a training process and put them to work. He also participated in our career-development activities and mock interview process for students. 
    "I think he had 15 interns from our program through the years."
    This spring, he was working on a program just like that with Paul Stead, superintendent at Kennett Square Golf Club in Pennsylvania when the virus hit.
    "We have a pretty serious labor situation," Stead said. "He was starting to lay the groundwork for his high school internship program. We were just starting to get that off the ground. He already had contacts for all the high schools in a 10-mile radius. He was very organized in showing us how we could move forward.
    When he was an assistant superintendent at Sunnybrook Golf Club in Pennsylvania, Bloom started helping superintendents update resumes and prepare for job interviews. 
    One might wonder how a 25-year-old assistant who had never been a head superintendent felt qualified to help experienced greenkeepers manage their careers.
    "I started it out of necessity as a side hustle, because I needed to make some extra money as an assistant," Bloom said, laughing. 
    Internships at Merion, Southern Hills and Muirfield under names like Matt Shaffer, Russ Myers and Paul B. Latshaw, respectively, certainly helped, as did a stint at Oakmont for John Zimmers.
    "I was fortunate that I had some excellent mentors. I was exposed to a lot at an early age that helped me relate to people," he said. "Pretty soon, it took off on a referral basis. It just happened naturally."
    Bloom warns that his company is so much more than a quick fix for short-term staffing needs.
    "You have to understand that if leadership personalities are misaligned, or your business strategies and how you treat people are misaligned, then you're wasting your time with me," he said. "If you’re not going to follow my recommendations, then I don’t feel like I can bring the value I am capable of delivering, which is how to build a sustainable recruiting process."
  • Civility and meaningful dialogue? On social media? Good luck. Twitter via @UKCats247 It's not you; it's me.
    Anyone who watched TV during the ‘90s no doubt will recognize that paradoxical phrase that was made popular by the Seinfeld character George Costanza whenever he wanted to break off a romantic relationship that just wasn't clicking for him.
    In an attempt to spare the feelings of some hapless woman, shallow George would give her the "It's not you; it's me" routine as an excuse to break up.
    I am here today to do the same with social media, Twitter specifically. But unlike with George Costanza, this time, it really is you.
    At the root of George’s issue was that any woman - other than Marisa Tomei - never stood a chance to measure up to his superficial standards, which often included a woman having a head of "thick, lustrous hair" despite the fact that he himself was balding. As he tried to soften the blow by taking the blame for the failings of the relationship, George truly believed the woman's deficiencies were the cause of the breakdown. The irony, of course, was that George, despite the shortcomings he saw in others, was himself the real problem.

    It's not you; it's me. Via Youtube Social media can be a useful and educational tool when used by those with a maturity level exceeding that of 8-year-old Eric Cartman. I use it to communicate news and webinar information relating to TurfNet, stay up to date with trends in turf management and to stay current with my true passion - college sports. 
    If you want meaningful discourse on social media, you best come armed with thick skin and an abundance of patience. As useful as Twitter can be, it also is a minefield beset with traps laid by trolls spreading misinformation and lies with the intent of swaying public opinion - often under the cloak of anonymity. And too many people today, especially those under 30, take what they see and read on social media as gospel. It's the result of a void now filled by 24-hour cable news. Rather than a true, objective news source, we get entertainment and opinion from both left and right, not facts. As someone who has spent parts of five decades in the news business, I can honestly say the media today have abandoned us.
    In a presidential election year, one in which the incumbent is a polarizing personality, social media is on overload. Everything is politicized by both sides when the prize - the White House for the next four years - is so great. Masks are politicized. The decisions made by public officials to keep us safe during a crisis are politicized. Whether you want football to return in the fall is politicized. 
    This year has been unlike any other. It is impossible to overstate the mental health effects of a pandemic, the quarantine that accompanied it and the economic uncertainty that has followed. Nearly 11 million people worldwide have tested positive for the virus and a half-million have died as a result.  The mental stress and fatigue it has caused, however, has affected hundreds of millions if not billions of people across the globe.
    When I talk to real, live people - which is mostly on the telephone these days - I was getting the sense that the virus was helping us all put things into better perspective. That we appreciated family, friends and relationships, all the things that really are important in life, and were becoming a little more kind to others than we were before the quarantine.
    Social media is a cold reminder that the world still is filled with a lot of misguided hate and anger, and the media iterpretation is presented in a way not to supply us with facts, but to sway our opinions. That's not news, that's propaganda.
    Just recently, a friend sent me a text stating that his wife told him that the disinformation on Twitter was making him too grumpy and that he should consider a break from it, or she might consider a break from him.

    Even Cartman has rules for social media use. Via Youtube Clearly, there is no guidebook on how to use social media or how to navigate your way through it. We're all left to write our own. For now, that means backing away, other than helping manage the TurfNet account. It means liberal use of Twitter's blocking function. 
    As a communications junkie, I believe words are important. Say what you mean and mean what you say were sage words of advice when I was in journalism school. The motto of the E.W. Scripps Co., the mass media outlet for which I once worked, was "Give light and the people will find their own way."
    In other words, give people the facts and they will form their own opinions. That is the rock that journalism was founded upon. Sadly, those words don't mean much today. The media today is, at its best, comprised of talking heads spouting opinions. At it's worst, it includes anyone with a cell phone, tablet or laptop who can publish anything, any time, even if it is factually incorrect, misleading or malicious in intent. Ethics have taken a vacation.
    One of my Twitter rules is self-imposed restraint on posting too much personal information. Most of my private life is not for public consumption, I respect my family too much for that. Besides, when push comes to shove, I know you don't care anyway. That doesn't stop some, including a few in the turf world, from going overboard on sharing of personal information, and even using social media as a virtual therapy session to air every personal demon.
    Indeed, the "look at me" mentality can be overwhelming.
    Like my friend who was given an ultimatum by his wife, I do not care what anyone's opinions are of the virus, or the protests. I do not care what people think about the president or his presumptive opponent. All I want are facts, and I'll form my own opinions. And I've blocked and muted more than 300 users to prove it. And I promise not to try to sway your opinion either, with the exception of asking people to disengage from spreading misinformation.
    So, for now, Twitter, I'm sorry, but we have to go our separate ways. It's not you; it's me. Well, OK, this time, it really is you.
  • With the Covid-19 pandemic alive and well, naturally many people are beginning to think about next year's Golf Industry Show in Las Vegas.
    The GCSAA is currently exploring a handful of options that vary depending on what the conditions are in seven months in Las Vegas and throughout the rest of the country.
    Those options include:
    > Scenario One (low threat): Business as usual.
    > Scenario Two (minimal threat): Live event in Las Vegas with social distancing and large-gathering restrictions in place.
    > Scenario Three (moderate threat): Hybrid with a live event in Las Vegas and virtual event options.
    > Scenario Four (substantial threat): An all virtual event.
    > Scenario Five (significant threat): Event postponed or canceled.
    We talked this week with GCSAA chief executive officer Rhett Evans about these various scenarios, the timeline for decision-making and other issues associated with the show ... and the virus.
    Q: We have read through your contingency plans for the Golf Industry Show. Are you confident the Golf Industry Show will take place, and if so, in what format?
    A: "I'm confident it's going to happen. In terms of what scenario it takes place in is to be thought through, meaning a physical show as it has been in the past is highly unlikely. That's not going to happen. A physical show with modifications, such as social distancing, the governor of Nevada yesterday in his press conference announced that masks are now mandatory in all public places. They are seeing increased cases for the last four weeks. We have an uphill battle, but fortunately we have seven months, and a lot of things have changed in just the last two months, for good or bad. I'm confident we are going to have a show, but I don't know what that show will look like, and that is why we are working on all five of these scenarios."
    Q: We have heard you are polling members in August about their interest and concerns about the show. Is that still your plan?
    A: "Yes, and we're probably going to do two of those. Because things change so quickly. We'll do one in August to see where everyone is at with their travel restrictions, or their comfort level; share with them where we're at with the venue, what would be required, I think that's fare to tell everybody you have to wear a mask, or in the classrooms you have to be 6 feet apart, there would be no major social gatherings. Whatever that status is in August, we'd let them know and they'd tell us they were good to go, or were not. And if a vast majority or large group is not going to come, then we'll pull the lever and go into a virtual setting.
    "If it's looking like a lot of people are still on the fence, we're going to do a follow-up survey at the end of September, first of October, and that would be kind of our drop-dead time. At that point, we'd have to have a go or no-go decision if we're going to go physical, have a hybrid show or go virtual."
    Q: How often have you reached out to vendors, and what is the feedback you have received from them?
    A: "We have a group called the Industry Advisory Council made up of a cross section of exhibitors from big to small, and we're taking their pulse on this. Right now, we have some significant companies, including some large ones, such as Bayer for example, that have a global travel ban on their company and have announced that they are not exhibiting in 2020 for the rest of the year. Having said that, as we go into 2021, they are looking into January to reassess that, so were in that window, and since our show is not until February 2021, they are all still moving forward as planned primarily because we have guaranteed that if you get your booth and select it and we do not do a show, everybody will be 100 percent completely refunded, so everyone is moving forward knowing that things could change, and more than likely, they will."
    Q: You've said that vendors would be refunded their deposits if the show is canceled, but if under a worst-case scenario it is impossible to hold next year's show, is the GCSAA on the hook to lose any money?
    A: "It's a bit of a complicated situation the way that the contract is worded, and the way these things typically get negotiated. If there a reasonable opportunity for us to host the show in Las Vegas, for example meaning there is not a government mandate that you cannot have a group of people over 45, or let's say they move it to 100, or whatever that number is, if those are not in place and we have a history of our event being much larger than that, our attorneys have said that we would have a very good chance of utilizing that as for force majeure, where we would be able to get out of our contract. In talking with the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Bureau and the hotels, they are very aware of that and are working diligently to make that work. They certainly want you to keep that event and keep it in the city, even if it is at a later time. That's problematic for us. Once you get past that February window, and get into the golf season, it doesn't work for us, so we would have to cancel the show."
    Q: What would a virtual Golf Industry Show look like?
    A: "Obviously these things have come a long way. We've watched or participated in a half-dozen to a dozen demonstrations. They are much more complex than a Zoom call, or Skype call. They do a good job of getting you in the moment. Meaning let's take the General Session for example, you're virtually walking into a ballroom or auditorium. It's really a visual virtual production; the curtain opens, in comes your speaker and the session begins.
    "The other thing is they've done a good job of creating a community. One of the things we value in those physical settings with our education is for our members not only to learn in a classroom setting, but following that to interact with the instructor to ask questions, to talk to that superintendent sitting next to you. In a virtual setting, you think once it's over, it's over, and I'm not going to be able to experience that, but there are ways to build communities for you and I to interact on that platform. So, we are in the beginning stages of that. We have an RFP out, and we have narrowed it down to four vendors we are looking at, and we believe even if we go physical, this will provide an opportunity for those who still may be in the vulnerable category, or are just never able to attend the show, and we know not all of our members have the means to go, so, we think this in the future will give folks the ability to experience education and even the networking and the tradeshow component as well - there are virtual booths in which you align customers with vendors where they can see product demonstrations and they can have that dialogue with a vendor."
    Q: We know the Golf Industry Show is the GCSAA's largest generator of revenue. In a worst-case scenario of a canceled show, how do you make up that kind of lost revenue?
    A: "The show is our largest revenue source. Memberships dues are second, and sponsorships is a close third, but the show creates the fuel that feeds our programs, whether it's advocacy, whether it's government affairs, environmental programs, etc., so obviously we've got to figure out a model that produces and fills that void. So, we believe if we cannot have a physical show that the virtual capabilities and the education offerings that we can do on that platform, while they certainly won't be as robust as being physical, but we do believe we'd be able to make up quite a bit of that lost revenue. Having said that, I think we've done a pretty good job over the last decade-plus in our reserve fund, and we and our board of directors, and this was probably 10 years ago, established a rainy day fund … realizing that, hey insurance isn't going to cover everything, we've got insurance for a natural disaster, but we didn't have insurance in our rider for a pandemic - not many people were thinking there was going to be a global pandemic - we went ahead and set aside enough reserve funds to cover a year's worth of show loss. So, worst-case scenario, if we did not do a show, were not able to do a virtual one and could not make up any of the revenue, we would still be able to move forward with all of the services and programs in 2021.
    "Now, that would give us another year to figure things out, but if this thing goes in a different direction and we're unable to do a show in San Diego, we'd be having a different discussion."
  • Superintendent Leasha Schwab (in red) has developed a culture at Pheasant Run Golf Club in Ontario where all men and women on her staff are equal, including Gemma Rawson, Nick Klipina and Julia Cuccia (left to right). Photo courtesy of Leasha Schwab Creating a more diverse workplace in the golf industry is not part of a plan developed by a multi-association ad-hoc committee, nor is it a result of a bullet point plan on an academic's PowerPoint presentation. At least not at Pheasant Run Golf Club in Sharon, Ontario.
    In the case of Pheasant Run, superintendent Leasha Schwab has created an inclusive workplace where everyone is held to account by how they perform their job rather than how they look while doing it.
    By now, many in this business know Schwab and what she is about. She created the Ladies Leading Turf movement that launched at the 2018 Golf Industry Show in San Antonio as a networking and professional development group focused on increasing career opportunities for women in the field of golf turf management. It has become one of those grassroots movements that everyone wants to be part of when it convenes annually at GIS.
    What people might not yet know about Schwab is how she runs her own shop at Pheasant Run.
    Schwab does not just talk a good game every winter at GIS. She knows talking about creating opportunities for others and actually doing so requires putting your money where your mouth is, and Schwab is all about that. Promoting a welcoming workplace for people of diverse backgrounds is the overriding philosophy in the shop at Pheasant Run.
    Schwab readily admits her line of work can be a tough place for women. Throughout her career in golf, which has spanned more than a decade, she has endured inappropriate comments from men in person, on the golf course and online, and she created Ladies Leading Turf three years ago in the wake of a case of online sexual harassment. She was at a stable place in her career, but couldn't help but wonder how she might have reacted to such advances when she was younger, so she wanted to be a voice for other young women who might face a similar situation.
    "I wanted to create a space for young women because I felt like if I was a young woman of 18 I might have just left the industry," Schwab said. "Men who I am close with, and who are mentors, convinced me that because there is one bad apple you shouldn't give up."
    Although LLT gives Schwab a platform to help women around the world, she knows that change happens at the grassroots level.
    "The message (with LLT) is changing in a way that I don't necessarily agree with," she said. "I think a lot of people are trying, but I think the rah, rah, rah women movement just makes a lot of men roll their eyes."
    She might have a point. The Ladies Leading Turf movement, which is held in partnership with Syngenta, will require buy-in from men - and a lot of them - for women to be viewed as equal off and on the golf course. So far, that is not happening on a grand scale. At least not at GIS. That message might sting, but it's true.
    When a panel of speakers took to the dais at the most recent LLT event at this year's Golf Industry Show in Orlando to discuss career development for women, the number of men in the room could be counted on two hands, yet one needed a calculator to tally the number of men who found their way to free food and alcohol at the subsequent networking event just a few doors away.
    "We have to be careful what kind of message we are putting out there," Schwab said. "I started to take a bit of a step back, and in turn that created a bit more space for me to think about how I wanted to elevate the young women who I have directly with me every day. So, I've been trying to consider that maybe the best way to start a movement is just by doing it right at your front door. Yes, it's great to do stuff for other people, and I try to mentor people when they call me, but I think that it's important to give each woman who needs it a bit of confidence to go where she wants."
    To that end, the women who work on Schwab's crew are trained to do everything men do, from the smallest task to operating the largest piece of equipment in the shop.
    Gemma Rawson, 20, is in her second season at Pheasant Run. Her family lives on a farm near the golf course, so physical labor is nothing new for her. In fact, the physical demands of the job, along with a boss with whom she could identify, are what drew her to the golf course for summer employment while she goes to college.
    "We live on a farm near the golf course, so I am into manual labor," Rawson said. "I liked the idea of having a female boss."
    She believes it is easier and more genuine for a female superintendent to establish a welcoming culture like the one in place at Pheasant Run.
    "I think that is really important. If I had gone through the things she went through, I probably would have given up and walked away," Rawson said. "I never thought I'd work on a golf course, but she encourages us to do more."
    Although a career in golf is not in her plans now, Rawson, who is studying at the University of Guelph to be a researcher in the field of neuroscience, said she loves working outdoors for a boss who goes out of her way to establish a positive workplace culture, so you never know what the future might hold.
    "The other girls I work with and I talk about that all the time," she said laughing. "Leasha has ruined us for the future, because we love working here so much."
    It's not as if Schwab has to recruit women to fill out her staff. Girls hear about Pheasant Run by word of mouth, including 19-year-old Bronwen Belbeck, who is in her second year at the club. 
    Belbeck said she never envisioned working on a golf course, until a friend who works there told her how much she liked it.
    "Leasha teaches us, and empowers us," Belbeck said. "I'm fully for that.
    "I never thought I could do this. I didn't think I could drive a tractor, and I come from a family of farmers. . . . She's taught me that I can do this, and it feels awesome."
    While Schwab and assistants Chris Mitchell and Michael Smyth and assistant/mechanic Nick Klipina train everyone at Pheasant Run on every job on every piece of equipment, there are other things that women at the club need to know.
    "What I try to teach young women, a lot of women when they are in this atmosphere where men can be a bit off-putting, possibly a bit aggressive, the way these young girls think they need to show their strength and leadership is through aggression," Schwab said. "I always try and caution young girls on that because, first, you can't do all the same things men can do. You just can't, and you will be put into a box and called a bitch and that's it. Second, you just lose all your leadership ability when you try and meet someone with aggression. It adds to what they are doing, and they win right away. I think a lot of women get stuck in that, where they feel like they have to fight so hard, and you really don't have to, Just keep your head high, do your job and be kind. That's not to say I put up with much; I don't. I have pretty clear boundaries, which I think are important as well."
    The crew at Pheasant Run is an eclectic mix, with girls no older than 22 and some of the men on staff for many years. Yet somehow, everyone gets along, said Klipina, 22.
    "Everyone keeps an open mind, and nobody ever puts anybody else down," he said. 
    "Leasha is an amazing leader. I wouldn't want to work for anyone else."
    Although her efforts are noble, Schwab knows her work is only beginning.
    "Being a woman in golf, it's almost like a right of passage to put up with a bunch of bullshit," she said. "The world is changing and the only people who are going to be successful are those who change with it. More women want to be in this business, and it is happening organically. Women typically wanted nothing to do with this business, because of how they are treated by men. It's going to take time to make changes across an industry. But here, I try to facilitate a culture that has none of that, a culture where people don't feel uncomfortable."
  • Doug DeVore of Desert Mountain in Scottsdale, Brandon Hoag of Glens Falls Country Club in Queensbury, New York, and Evan Meldahl of Bayou Oaks at City Park in New Orleans, are the three finalists for this year’s TurfNet Technician of the Year Award, presented by John Deere.
    The winner will be profiled in the coming weeks on TurfNet and will receive the Golden Wrench Award and the opportunity to volunteer at next Year's Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, or admittance into a training session at the John Deere factory training center in Morrisville, North Carolina.
    Criteria on which candidates are judged include: crisis management; effective budgeting; environmental awareness; helping to further and promote 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.
    Click on the links below to read about each finalist.
    Doug DeVore, Desert Mountain, Scottsdale, Arizona
    Brandon Hoag, Glens Falls Country Club, Queensbury, New York
    Evan Meldahl, Bayou Oaks at City Park, New Orleans, Louisiana
    Previous winners include (2019) Dan Dommer, Ozaukee CC, Mequon, WI; (2018) Terry Libbert, Old Marsh Golf Club, Palm Beach Gardens, FL; (2017) Tony Nunes, Chicago Golf Club, Wheaton, IL; (2016) Kris Bryan, Pikewood National Golf Club, Morgantown, WV; (2015) Robert Smith, Merion Golf Club, Ardmore, PA; (2014) Lee Medeiros, Timber Creek and Sierra Pines Golf Courses, Roseville, CA; (2013) Brian Sjögren, Corral de Tierra Country Club, Corral de Tierra, CA; (2012) Kevin Bauer, Prairie Bluff Golf Club, Crest Hill, IL; (2011) Jim Kilgallon, The Connecticut Golf Club, Easton, CT; (2010) Herb Berg, Oakmont (PA) Country Club; (2009) Doug Johnson, TPC at Las Colinas, Irving, TX; (2007) Jim Stuart, Stone Mountain (GA) Golf Club; (2006) Fred Peck, Fox Hollow and The Homestead, Lakewood, CO; (2005) Jesus Olivas, Heritage Highlands at Dove Mountain, Marana, AZ; (2004) Henry Heinz, Kalamazoo (MI) Country Club; (2003) Eric Kulaas, Marriott Vinoy Renaissance Resort, Sarasota, FL.
  • Although stay-at-home orders around the virus were a source of uncertainty, the plan at the Minikahda Club in Minneapolis was to get ready for play - whenever that might be. Photo by Minikahda Club via Twitter The picture has not been a pretty one for golf during the better part of the last two decades. Shifting demographics, cultural and generational differences have resulted in a steady decline in popularity during the past 15 years, resulting in a net loss of about 8 million players.
    When the economy goes in the dumper, golf usually is not far behind. In fact, it often precedes it. So, when the country - and the world for that matter - went on lockdown in March, many likely thought the virus signaled a death knell for golf. In some respects, that assumption was correct, as several courses already experiencing financial hardship closed.
    When Golf Datatech released its monthly rounds-played report for April, the story it told was predictable considering many courses were shuttered and people were advised to stay home save for activities like going to work or the grocery store. Rounds played for the month were down 42 percent compared to April 2019.
    Jim Koppenhaver, principal of Pellucid Corp., wrote in April that the losses for the month "likely represent the 'as bad as it gets' scenario based on more states/courses opening starting 5/1 as well as restrictions on operations being relaxed."
    Although Koppenhaver predicted better times ahead in May, it is doubtful even he could have foreseen what was to come.
    Rounds played were up - a lot - everywhere. It seemed - and this is an obvious and intentional oversimplification - like a lot of those 8 million people lost since 2006 came back. Although Golf Datatech's report for May is not due for another couple of weeks, it is pretty obvious that numbers are going to be way, way up.
    Courses that had laid off workers in March were caught off guard when golfers flooded back to the course. 
    Bayou Oaks at City Park, a city-owned 36-hole facility in New Orleans, was completely rebuilt after being wrecked 15 years ago by Hurricane Katrina. With a new Rees Jones-designed golf course that opened in 2017, the property relies heavily on outings and tournaments for revenue, much of which it contributes to the Bayou District Foundation that is dedicated to helping the community in New Orleans' Gentilly neighborhood. With many activities canceled due to the virus, it would not have been a stretch in March to paint a bleak picture for Bayou Oaks as well as the foundation it serves. 
    That painting better have been in watercolor.
    The course never closed, throughout the virus and play has been steady, in fact, in May it was downright crazy.
    More than 9,000 rounds were played just in May over Bayou Oaks' 36 holes.
    "With everything closed, I think people thought 'Why not go outside and play golf?' It was the safest thing you could do" said Bayou Oaks superintendent Ryan McCavitt. "We saw a lot of people who haven't played in a while, or who had never given it a shot until now. Hopefully, golf takes something that was negative and turns it into a positive."

    Ken Nice, director of agronomy at Bandon Dunes Resort, took advantage of the downtime due to the virus to catch up on cultural practices. Photo by Bandon Dunes Resort Jeff Johnson, superintendent at Minikahda Club in Minneapolis recalls the angst and uncertainty when golf - and so much more - closed in March in Minnesota.
    "No one knew how long it was going to go on or what all of this meant," Johnson said. "My thought was to just get the golf course ready to open, whenever that was. The quarantine didn't hurt us too much, it was still too cold. The week after Easter (April 12), it was still in the 20s."
    Johnson was able to keep a skeleton crew on board and brought back his team on April 17. 
    Since then?
    "Everybody's been busy around here," Johnson said. "Private and public."
    Naturally, expectations were a little different among the members at Minikahda, most of whom were just happy to have the chance to play. The course was regressed in 2018, and didn't open for play in 2019 until June 25.
    "They didn't get a chance to play the course last spring, and they didn't get to play first thing out of winter this year," Johnson said. "They were just happy to have the chance to play."
    For the first time since it opened in 1999, Bandon Dunes closed in April due to the virus. With half of his staff still in place, Ken Nice, director of agronomy at the six-course property on Oregon's Pacific coast, took advantage of the downtime for some cultural practices he otherwise would have to squeeze in.
    "We have a 12-month season. We never shut down," Nice said. "Since we didn't have golf, this gave us an opportunity to do some things we normally wouldn't be able to do. We were able to aerify and do some other things that are normally too disruptive to golf."
    The resort, which is scheduled to host this year's U.S. Amateur in August, reopened May 11 and has been busy ever since.
    Nice estimates daily play has increased by about 50 percent since reopening.
    "Golf, it seems to me, is doing better than a lot of industries," he said. "It has a lot of selling points: open space, fresh air and it's not congested."
  • Muirfield Village Golf Club director of grounds operations Chad Mark and his team are ready to take on two PGA Tour events in two weeks in July, including the first professional golf event with fans. File photos by John Reitman  
    For the past few weeks Chad Mark has done little more than work, eat and sleep, but mostly it has been work. And it is going to be that way for at least a few weeks longer. That is the price one pays when getting ready for something few if any of his colleagues will ever have to face - two PGA Tour events - on the same golf course in consecutive weeks. One will have fans, one will not.
    The Workday Charity Open is scheduled for July 9-12 and will be held without spectators. The Memorial Tournament will follow July 16-19 and will be the first professional golf tournament since March to have fans.
    "I haven't been home before 8 o'clock in weeks," said Mark, director of grounds operations at Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio. "I go from home to work, and from work to home. That's about it. When we're done here, I have to go do PGA Tour Radio next."
    Two golf tournaments in two weeks, in Ohio, in July, including the first to allow fans since the world went into hiding three months ago, all on a layout owned by Jack Nicklaus. 
    Although the circumstances are unique, the person in charge of pulling it all off is uniquely qualified, Nicklaus said.
    "The back-to-back tournaments at Muirfield, if anyone was going to handle it, I think it's in the hands of the right person," Nicklaus said.
    If there is pressure on Mark, who has been at Muirfield since 2017, it sure isn't showing.
    "When I told our staff before the announcement was made, because I wanted them to hear it from me, we were out in the courtyard, and you could see the excitement in the younger guys. And you could almost see the jaws drop in the guys who know what it takes to put on a tournament," Mark said. 
    "Sure, you know you have to perform, but the staff is pumped about it. We have so many good people on this staff, and that is what is going to get us through this."
    Muifield was identified for double-duty when the Memorial Tournament, originally scheduled for the first week of June, was postponed due to stay-at-home orders in place in response to the Covid-19 virus. It was moved to July 16-19 when the British Open, scheduled for Royal St. George's, and the PGA Tour's corresponding Barbasol Championship in Nicholasville, Kentucky, both were canceled.
    There also was a hole in the PGA Tour schedule the week before the Open Championship and the Barbasol, a slot reserved for a future event that eventually will be held in the San Francisco area and will be associated with NBA star Steph Curry. Holding two events in consecutive weeks at the same location limits travel and contact points for players during the virus and made sense for a Tour trying to get back on its feet.
    Mark and his team provide Muirfield's members and their guests with tournament-like conditions on a daily basis, and he is more than up to the task of pulling off the Tour's doubleheader, said the club's owner.
    "First of all, Chad is a very, very good superintendent, and he understands that this is a club that the members like to use the course also," Nicklaus said. "Meaning, he tries as hard to prepare the golf course for the members every day as he does for the Memorial Tournament, which is very important to me and I think very important to the members.
    "He doesn't get flustered. He takes on a lot and is very calm about it. I think he has great confidence in his abilities to do things."
    The new leadoff event will be sponsored by Workday Inc., a financial management software company. The Memorial's title sponsor is Columbus-based insurance giant Nationwide, and its beneficiaries include Nationwide Children's Hospital and the Nicklaus Children's Healthcare Foundation.
    A scheduled renovation project that will begin the Monday after the Memorial and includes new greens, tees and fairways as well as new irrigation, probably didn't hurt the PGA Tour's chances to sell the idea to Muirfield and Nicklaus. In hindsight, the visibility of the course and its owner coupled with Mark's enthusiasm and ability (he was the recipient of the 2013 TurfNet Superintendent of the Year award) make the club in suburban Columbus the perfect venue for such an undertaking.
    "Golf is like every other sport, they're looking for ways to keep players in one spot, because there is a whole deal with getting players to different cities and getting testing," Mark said. "The Tour threw it out there to (Memorial Tournament director) Dan Sullivan and (Muirfield general manager) Nicholas LaRocca. I think if we weren't closing the week after that it never would have gotten legs. The stress from two PGA Tour events in July might not have been the best thing to do, but the fact we are closing down and building new greens as soon as we are done with the Memorial, we talked about it more. Obviously, Jack had to say it was OK, and I think his view is that if it helps the Tour, helps keep players safe, helps our charities and helps everybody involved, then it's good for golf and that was good enough for him."

    There will be no grandstands at Muirfield for the Memorial Tournament in July. Allowing fans, even on a limited scale, in the gates at Muirfield required approval even Nicklaus could not grant.
    On June 5, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine approved a request from Muirfield to allow at least some fans for this year's Memorial as long as the club adheres to safety and social distancing protocols in response to the virus. The tournament will be limited to 8,000 fans who must wear masks and submit to daily temperature readings. There will be no grandstands, and all points of sale will be cashless.
    The PGA Tour has held two made-for-TV events so far and returns to tournament play this week at Colonial. There will be three other events before Tour players descend on central Ohio, but all will be without fans until the Memorial, which is likely to be the first major U.S. sporting event with spectators. The last golf tournament held with a gallery was the Arnold Palmer Invitational in early March. Professional golf and virtually everything else came to a halt the following week in response to the coronavirus.
    Since the news broke in late May that Muirfield would host back-to-back tournaments, Mark and assistants James Bryson and Adam Daroczy have been hard at work to develop a work schedule that makes the most of their staff of 45 that includes 22 turf school graduates or interns and a limited crew of volunteers.
    "We have a good plan to keep the guys fresh and go into this so we can rotate people and give them days off and have a good Memorial," Mark said. "I'm more worried about my guys than I am about the golf course."
    There will be no grandstands when fans return to golf next month at the Memorial Tournament.
    The back-to-back events will be the first of its kind in golf since 2014 when the U.S. Open and U.S. Women's Open were held in consecutive weeks at Pinehurst No. 2.
    Unlike 2014, when the U.S. Open was played first, Muirfield's marquee event will be played after the Workday tournament.
    Since Roger Maltbie won the inaugural event in 1976, the Memorial has developed a reputation for providing conditions, including fast greens and tall rough, that rival those found in the U.S. Open. This year's schedule will allow Mark and his team to Tour conditions for the Workday event and conditions the following week that the Memorial has become known for. Neither event, he said, will get the short shrift.
    "The meetings we are having now, and the discussions I'm having with our agronomist from the Tour and the rules official from the Tour are all positive and in an effort to protect what the Memorial brand is and to have a great Memorial," Mark said. "It's not that we're not going to give the first tournament all we've got, but the Memorial is different from other Tour events. Week to week, the greens are going to be significantly higher than they are at other Tour events and the other part is we have longer rough. A lot of players come to play the Memorial with fast greens and long rough and it's two weeks ahead of the U.S. Open, and it was a great prep for that."
    He also knows providing Memorial-like conditions for two consecutive weeks would result in stressed greens for Muirfield's signature event and hole locations week to week that would be eerily similar.
    "If we were that fast for Week 1, we know we would stress some things out. The Tour needs different hole locations for Week 1 so it's not the same tournament two weeks in a row," Mark said. "We're going to have to lower target green speeds quite a bit. We'll come down almost 2 feet from the Memorial for Week 1 so we can utilize hole locations that quite frankly we can't use during the Memorial because the greens are so fast it would be too hard. So, we'll slow down greens and hopefully that will help the greens from getting too far away from us."
    The day after the Memorial concludes, LaBar Golf Renovations will begin a restoration project that includes rebuilding all greens and tees, new irrigation and new fairways.
    But what about those infamous Memorial-like green speeds that can approach 14 on the Stimpmeter? Can Mark and his team reach those conditions? In Ohio? In August?
    "Oh, we'll get there," Mark said. 
    "There would be a lot more pressure on us if we had two tournaments and had to let members play the rest of the summer, and I wouldn't want them to suffer with bad conditions. But, we don't have to have the course open after the tournament."
    "All of us sometimes get into trouble, because we're all so into what we do. I wondered if this was even feasible. The staff is pumped about, so we developed a plan to knock both out of the park. But, me being me and Jack being Jack, are we going to be satisfied holding the greens back? I'm going to have to hold myself back."
  • Members at Sharon Heights Golf and Country Club in California have been appreciative of what Josh Lewis and his team were able to do when the golf course was closed for nearly two months. Photo by Josh Lewis via Twitter If Tom Cook ever taught a class at Oregon State on how to manage a golf course when a virus sweeps the globe, Josh Lewis never took it.
    The superintendent at Sharon Heights Golf and Country Club in Menlo Park, California, Lewis said managing his staff and the course in the shadows of Stanford University has been a new experience.
    "I must have slept through that class on how to manage a golf course through a global pandemic," Lewis said. "I have no idea how to do this. There is no playbook. There is no right or wrong. I'm trying to be as educated as possible in my decision making."
    As the golf industry navigates through various stages of reopening depending on location, stay-at-home orders because of the virus meant different things in different areas, and thus reopening has been just as different. What seems to be the same just about everywhere, however, is a golfer base enthusiastic about returning to play and equally understanding about any limitations they might encounter on the golf course. 
    Sharon Heights was among the first golf courses in San Mateo County to close when it shuttered its doors on March 13 until May 3 when public health officials said it was OK for golf courses to reopen. 
    Like all of us who were inundated with conflicting and inconsistent information in the early days of the stay-at-home period, Lewis had no idea what the future would bring, or how long the course would be closed.
    "From the minute it escalated and became a serious deal, the club moved swiftly and responsibly in shutting down," Lewis said. 
    "It was like a triage unit: What were our priorities? Our priorities were our people and we have to make sure we take care of them. We are surrounded here at the club by smart people who understand the economy and business better than most people on the planet, and soon it became evident that there was going to be significant health and economic impact."
    Maintaining the golf course was left to Lewis, two assistants and an A.I.T. with staggered schedules to limit exposure to each other.
    Plotting a path forward in a vacuum of reliable information came through, as often is the case with superintendents, conversations with other superintendents.
    "We phased everything in with longer tee time spacing to manage traffic and there was a commitment to make sure we were in compliance with county mandates," Lewis said. "We had a text chain of 15 or 16 superintendents asking each other how we interpreted these mandates. We wanted to be able to stay ahead of things as they came down."
    When the course reopened, players were happy to play and less concerned with perfect conditions.
    Members were playing 160-170 rounds a day at Sharon this week, a number that is nearly double the average for this time of year, Lewis said.
    "Our members get it. They have been very supportive," he said. "There was a lot of communication about what we had been doing and what we were not doing. Credit to the staff, we were still able to overdeliver on what they were expecting. We didn't have everything done, but we were good down the middle, and they were appreciative of that and surprised what we had gotten done under the conditions."

    Throughout the spring, Vero Beach Country Club in Florida has faced what superintendent Shane Wright described as 'record play.' Photo by Shane Wright via Twitter Unlike most golf courses across the country, Vero Beach Country Club in Florida never closed throughout the various stages of the virus. Stay-at-home orders in Florida were implemented on a county-by-county basis. Indian River County, where Vero Beach is located, along with Martin and St. Lucie counties comprise Florida's Treasure Coast, which got its name when a fleet of Spanish galleons carrying gold wrecked offshore during a storm in 1715.
    Unsure how the virus would affect play, the Vero Beach CC cut superintendent Shane Wright's  allotment of labor hours from 650 per week to 400. That didn't last long.
    Many of the club's seasonal residents from northern locales, who often stay in Florida until mid- to late April, have yet to leave, said Wright, himself a native of Middletown, Ohio. As labor was cut in anticipation of a decline in demand for rounds, play actually rose 30 by percent.
    Golf courses in the area were so full, Vero Beach CC members could not bring guests, Wright said. Daily fee courses along the three-county Treasure Coast were so busy they temporarily limited play to county residents, who were required to show proof of residency because so many golfers were streaming north from Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties, where courses were closed, a fact confirmed by Dick Gray, superintendent at PGA Golf Club in Port St. Lucie.
    Fortunately for Wright, cuts to labor were made in March, before Bermuda growth kicked in.
    "Expectations were reduced," Wright said. 
    "We have Chicago members who haven't gone home. People are playing golf like it's going out of style.
    "Normally we get in season about 90 to 105 rounds (per day). We're consistently getting 135 to 150 rounds a day without guests. We were breaking records for play into May."
    Wright is still down four bodies and because of increased play he has had to delay or postpone offseason summer projects.
    "We have more work and less people," Wright said. "That's what superintendents do. We're always adapting. It's what we do on a daily basis."
  • Glen Albert Brandt was the quintessential entrepreneur and a true pioneer in the field of liquid fertilizer. 
    In 1953, he founded the company that eventually became Brandt, a leader in the agricultural and turf fertilizer markets, and that in 2014 acquired Grigg.
    Brandt died June 7 in Springfield, Illinois. He was 94.
    A native of Farmingdale, Illinois, Brandt was preceded in death by his wife, Peggy, and parents Albert and Margaret. Survivors include sisters Evelyn Brandt Thomas and Shirley Brandt Hagen, son Rick (Kristie) and daughter Terri Gustafson (Tom), four grandchildren, many nieces, nephews and cousins and special care giver, Janet Zeigler. 
    He founded the forerunner to Brandt 67 years ago when at age 27 he began custom-applying anhydrous ammonia for local farmers.
    Before his days as an entrepreneur, Brandt briefly attended Springfield Junior College in his native Illinois before enlisting in the U.S. Merchant Marines in 1944. He returned home after three years of service to help his father farm and soon after was drafted into the Army in 1950. After serving two years in the infantry in Korea he received an honorable discharge and returned to Pleasant Plains to continue farming with his father.
    Starting in 1953, he led a line of companies that would become Brandt Inc. From Brandt & Gardner Gas Station to Brandt’s Fertilizer Service to Brandt Chemical Co. to Brandt Consolidated Inc., He presided over the company’s rapid growth and set a vision for the future. In 1986, at age 60, he stepped aside as CEO of Brandt’s Fertilizer Service and Brandt Chemical Co., to serve as chairman of the board. In 1990, Brandt oversaw the formation of Brandt Consolidated Inc., the company that became Brandt Inc. in January.
    G.B., as he was known by his friends, was an active leader in the agrochemical industry. He served as the president of the National Fertilizer Solutions Association in 1972. The NFSA later spawned the Fluid Fertilizer Foundation, before becoming part of the Ag Retailers Association. In 2000, BRANDT was named Ag Retailer of the Year by the Ag Retailers’ Association and Ag Retailer magazine. In 2007, the ARA gave Glen its prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award.
    in 2015, G.B., along with sister Evelyn, was named the Illinois State Ag Ambassador. A patron of the Memorial Medical Center Foundation, charter member of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation and a member of the development committee for Lincoln Land Community College, G.B. was always visible and charitable toward his community. He was also a licensed pilot. In his youth he was a founding member of the band Boogie Woogie Brandt and the Barrelhouse Boys.
    G.B. remained active in the agricultural business that bears his name until his passing. He was a vocal member of the Brandt Board of Directors, serving as a consultant the past several years. In addition, he was heavily involved in a number of other related Ag companies as an owner and a board member including Springfield Plastics, TradeMark Nitrogen and Precision Tank, which is now part of Precision Build.
    Memorial donations may be made to The Brandt Foundation, or mail to Brandt Global Headquarters, 2935 S. Koke Mill Road, Springfield, IL 62711.
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