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John Reitman

By John Reitman

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Superintendent of the Year finalist: Matt Crowther

Since Matt Crowther, CGCS, arrived on Martha's Vineyard 20 years ago, golfers at Mink Meadows never cease to be amazed at the conditions he can provide with minimal inputs at this nine-hole layout in Vineyard Haven, Massachusetts. To that end, chemical salesmen wish they had half the relationship with him that environmentalists do.

 
 
M3103ce01f6d5f0e9be222354ad023815-.jpgink Meadows member John Verret said there was a time before Crowther's arrival that Mink Meadows was more like a goat track than a golf course, but no more.
 
"He could grow grass on cement," Verret said Crowther's agronomic skills.
 
While greens and tees are managed in what Crowther called a "traditional" manner, fungicide apps in the fairways are practically an afterthought (instead, he uses bacteria found naturally in the soil), and insecticide use occurs less than infrequently.
 
"Initially, I was spraying preventively the first few years, but since then I've all but eliminated fungicide sprays," Crowther said.
 
Annual bluegrass weevil might be the Northeast's major pest problem, but Crowther keeps apps to a minimum, typically limiting his exposure to the perimeter of the fairways in hopes of creating a buffer that thwarts the pest's advance onto the golf course.
 
This year, he plans to spray for white grubs, which attract skunks looking for an easy meal. Although that might be a pretty traditional practice for many superintendents, it will be Crowther's first insecticide application for grubs in a dozen years. 
 
617665b7b4762aaee05aff3dd763157b-.jpg"It makes you feel good not spraying chemicals all over the place," he said. "But, it's disheartening on September 1 when the fairways look good, then on September 15 when it looks like someone came through with a Rototiller."
 
He even has switched from granular fertilizers to liquid in response to new local fertilizer regulations that went into effect last year.
 
It hasn't been difficult to get buy-in from members, many of whom also are in tune with the environmental philosophy that prevails on the island.
 
"Matthew has been at Mink Meadows golf course since 1995," wrote Mink Meadows member Richard Barbini. "When he arrived the course was a simple 9-hole course on a resort island. His environmental stewardship and professional skills have transformed the course to be considered one of the best in the area. No small feat considering these other courses have far greater resources."
 
Nowhere is that disparity in resources between Mink Meadows and some of its competitors felt than in its irrigation system. While many of the components have been upgraded through the years, much of the piping is left over from the 1990s and the main line was installed in 1936.
 
Member George Santos has seen the good and the bad at Mink Meadows since he was a caddy there in the 1960s. Crowther brought a new level of professionalism to the course when he started there in 1995.
 
"For years the course was pretty rough with a partial irrigation system that was manually operated. In addition, the equipment to maintain the course was old and outdated," Santos wrote in his nomination letter. "Matt was involved in putting in a new fully automated system.
 
"Matt Crowther has been an asset to the club since the day he started at Mink Meadows."
 
Crowther's signature also is evident at just about every ballfield on Martha's Vineyard. He began coaching when his son, now 24, began playing baseball and soccer on the island 20 years ago and he noticed what poor condition the fields were in.
 
"The field was just clumps of fescue and dirt, and the ball bounced all over. I wanted to help fix the field and ended up on the board of Friends of Vineyard Soccer," he said. "Then, when he started playing baseball, I saw how all those fields were in horrible shape, and I worked on all of those, about six or seven fields."
 
The culmination of that work was the formation of Vineyard Baseball Inc. and Vineyard Baseball Park that is home to the Martha's Vineyard Sharks of the Futures League featuring college players focused on a career in professional baseball.
 
"Matt is the go-to guy for every field project on the island, including the high school football and baseball fields and every little league park out there," Verret said. "He is always there to help."

 

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