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John Reitman

By John Reitman

SBI application period open through Aug. 13


John Cunningham (left) and Jim Pavonetti are locked in a negotiation dual at SBI 2015. Bill Davis, Ph.D. (below) leads a session at SBI 2017. Photos by John Reitman

By the time John Cunningham, CGCS, attended the Syngenta Business Institute in 2015, he already had been promoted to director of agronomy and assistant general manager at Bellerive Country Club.

SBI helped round out the skill set needed for the evolving role of today's business-savvy superintendent who wants to take their managerial talent to a new level, like Cunningham, who today is the general manager at Aronimink Golf Club near Philadelphia.

030119sbi3.jpg"Golf course superintendents are truly responsible for running a business. Having the opportunity to attend three days of business classes focused on the many challenges we face as superintendents was unbelievable," Cunningham said during SBI. "Spending time with other superintendents was beneficial and walking away with best management practices, tools and solutions to help some of these problems was awesome."

Superintendents hoping for the same experience can now apply for the this year's edition of the Syngenta Business Institute. An intensive three-day program developed in partnership with the Wake Forest University School of Business, SBI is designed to grow the professional knowledge of golf course superintendents and assist them with managing their courses. In its 11th year, the program is scheduled for Dec. 3-6 in Winston-Salem, North Carolina and provides graduate school-level instruction in financial management, human resource management, negotiating, managing across generations and cultural divides, impact hiring and other leadership- and professional-development skills.

About 25 superintendents will be selected to attend this year’s program. Application deadline is Aug. 13.

"Superintendents work hard to make sure their turf is conditioned to perform at its best and recover quickly from stress," said Stephanie Schwenke, turf market manager for Syngenta. "But we know the turf is not the only thing they are managing. Every day, they make important business decisions and are responsible for leading their teams. At Syngenta, we don’t want to just provide products that help them take care of their turf. We want to continue to offer opportunities like SBI, where they can learn skills that will help them grow professionally and improve their golf courses." 
Since its inception, more than 250 superintendents have graduated from SBI, and many recently attended a reunion event at the Golf Industry Show in San Diego. Over the years, they have continued to praise the program for its effectiveness and impact on their careers.

"The reason I came is because this deals with things that are outside of our wheelhouse," said Jim Pavonetti of Fairview Country Club in Greenwich, Connecticut, when he attended in 2015. "Making greens great is what we do, but managing boards and owners, those are the kinds of things we can improve upon."

The deadline to apply is Aug. 13. Selected participants will be notified in October.

Edited by John Reitman