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Peter McCormick

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About Peter McCormick

  • Rank
    Maestro
  • Birthday 07/04/1954

Profile Information

  • Club/Course/Company
    TurfNet
  • Location
    Cornwall, VT and Campobello, NB, Canada
  • Interests
    Learning to play the guitar and keyboard, cooking, reading, Boston Bruins hockey, dogfather (3 currently), my wife of 42 years (Patty) and daughters Colleen (37) and Erin (34), our summer home in the Maritimes.

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  1. In this episode of Turfgrass Hotline, Frank Rossi and Lee Butler chat about a warm, wet start to the season during the COVID lockdown, and how both warm- and cool-season grasses struggle with rooting issues from nematodes to take-all! A lively discussion about Asco-whatta? Leaf spot and brown patch in tall fescue. It’s a great day in the Carolinas! Recorded June 23, 2020. Presented by DryJect, Intelligro/Civitas and Plant Food Company.
  2. The roller coaster that is the Spring season in the Midwest did not disappoint. In fact, the BEST snow mold year, says Dr. Paul Koch of the University of Wisconsin-Madison... and now summer patch samples, Pythium root issues in areas that are very wet (like Iowa), and using dollar spot model to justify new fairway grasses. Whew! Lot of ground covered with this Badger! Recorded June 23, 2020. Presented by DryJect, Civitas/Intelligro and Plant Food Company.
  3. In this Turfgrass Hotline Transition Zone Edition, Frank Rossi chats with Dr. Lee Miller of the University of Missouri about cool weather issues on zoysiagrass, Pythium root rot, and dollar spot pressure. Recorded June 16, 2020.
  4. In this episode of the Turfgrass Hotline Pacific Northwest, Frank Rossi chats with the newly minted Dr. Clint Mattox of Oregon State University. Among the overall growing season update, topics include the always present microdochium patch, yellow patch, anthracnose, Poa annua, fine fescue and cultivation research from the lone research center in the PNW! Recorded June 16, 2020.
  5. Thank you, Jon. I usually write my columns pretty much off the cuff, but I slept on this one four or five times. Sensitive topic that deserved getting it right. All of us have opportunities every day to be a little better, do a little more for others. The world would be a much better place if we did.
  6. Racism in the golf turf industry? Say what? Yagottabekiddinme. Of course I jest. There is no racism in golf turf. That’s because, for all intents and purposes, there is only one race in golf turf management. In salaried positions (superintendents and assistants, and we might as well include suppliers, academics and the media as well), we are 99% white... and 99% male. Those figures are my guesstimates, but if these things are tracked somewhere — and what isn’t — I doubt I'd be more than a point or two off. A short spin around the trade show floor at GIS would easily confirm that, but maybe we should just say 95% to be safe. Either way, it's high. Way high. And thank goodness for the professionalism and good humor of Willie Pennington over a very long career at BASF to Illustrate and contrast the point. Women have received a lot of overdue press and recognition in recent years, but their numbers are still relatively small. Before we get sidetracked by that discussion, let's keep the focus on race rather than gender. It would be difficult to conjure another industry with such lopsided demographics. Apparently veterinarians, farmers and lawyers come close. My neighbor, a white insurance executive whose wife is of mixed race, tells me the insurance industry is way up there, too. That said, it would be equally difficult to find another industry as stand-up as this one, where community cooperation and mutual support trump competition every time and assholes are usually squeezed out before they even get a foothold. Nonetheless, golf turf management lives in a lily-white bubble. Not by design, intent or any form of discrimination of our own doing, but by trickle-down from the history of the game at large, still perceived by many as the cliche of “played by old, rich white men in ugly pants”. On that end of the equation, the private clubs that have traditionally been the financial backbone of the industry have not always been particularly welcoming to people of color. That continues to change, of course, but is the root of the funnel of people leaning toward golf or turf as a career being overwhelmingly white. Most of us got into this end of the business not from any great love of grass or green spaces or machines with blades and engines, but due to a love of the game. We played as kids, maybe caddied, somehow found ourselves in a summer job wiping clubs and saying Yessir, or with a weedeater in hand and discovered the game that way. Ironically, I’m the exception to all of that. I like grass and machines and the beauty of golf courses but stepped on a golf green for the first time in my late twenties. After masquerading as a golfer sporadically for about ten years midlife, I also discovered that I have no use for the game. But that’s just me. If one doesn’t have that early exposure to golf, chances of being attracted to working in the business and following the requisite educational path are greatly reduced. This is being partially addressed by the First Tee and First Green, both of which get kids onto the golf course to at least experience it, but those inroads are small. Beneath the salaried positions of management, staffing does become more diverse. Superintendents in many parts of the country rely on Latino/Hispanic workers as mainstays of seasonal staff and often go to great lengths to jump through hoops of bureaucratic red tape to get them. Welcomed and well taken care of (in contrast to agriculture), many are returnees, relatives and referrals eager for the job and the opportunity to work hard and send money back home. (I've often wondered about the difference between Hispanic and Latino, so Googled it. Hispanic refers to people who speak Spanish and/or are descended from Spanish-speaking populations, while Latino refers to people who are from Latin America. So there you go.) With labor supply one of the biggest challenges facing superintendents today, most would like to have more Latinos than they are able to find or legally hire. Yet there may be a pool of unemployed black men and women nearby that for various reasons goes untapped. Admittedly, golf simply isn’t on their cultural radar. There may be general disdain among blacks for the thought of grooming the playgrounds of those rich, old white guys (The Man). Given similar wages, their comfort zone may be more at McDonald's than the country club. Even if hired by a golf course, they then face the prospect of being a very small minority in a mostly white setting. OK for some, I suppose, but likely not OK for more. * * * It would be difficult to imagine a scenario that would bump the Covid-19 pandemic off the top of the news cycle, but the recent killing of George Floyd under the knee of police in Minneapolis (and Ahmaud Arbury and Breonna Taylor, among too many others before that) did just that. The resurgent Black Lives Matter protests have been swift and spreading (not unlike the coronavirus itself, I guess), and continue today, over two weeks later. This has all happened before, of course, and one can only hope that this time will be different, that change will come and be lasting. It's time. All lives should matter. Each of us gets only one. But I can't help but recall the momentum for gun control after the Parkland shootings, when those passionate young survivors crisscrossed the country appealing for change. Before that there was Sandy Hook, Las Vegas, Pulse/Orlando, and on and on... and nothing has changed. At least the #BlackLivesMatter movement doesn't have the NRA and the politicians in it's pocket to contend with. As an aside, while there can be no justification for the misguided policing in Minneapolis, it has occurred to me that in recent years police across the country seem to be continually on edge and quicker with the trigger, and I blame that on the gangs and the handguns. Get rid of the guns and suddenly things would relax a bit. In my opinion, of course. * * * Looking at the big picture of racial inequality and discrimination, we in the golf course industry are really not part of the problem... but the associations and all of us as individuals can and should be part of the solution. As an industry, we can promote and recruit among minorities and make sure the welcome mat is out should they walk in the door. Establish training and apprenticeship programs for staff-level jobs, on the course and in the shop. Offer advancement opportunity to those who demonstrate the desire. Perfect. As individuals, we should look in the mirror and take stock with an honest assessment of ourselves regarding attitudes and behaviors toward others, including people of color. I have long lived by the notion that a problem recognized is half solved, and we can all do better, in our own albeit small ways, to not contribute to the almost daily further debasement of our societal mores and values. We need to reverse the slide, and this is as good a time and reason as any to start.
  7. In this first episode of the Turfgrass Hotline for 2020, Frank chats with Rich Buckley, Director of the Diagnostic Clinic at Rutgers University. Rich and Frank discuss the impact of early growth regulation in response to the Covid-19 pandemic on plant stress and pathogens. Snippets on Pythium root rot, annual bluegrass weevil larval damage and using predictive models for dollar spot management programs that are less reliant on fungicides. Rich and Frank cover a lot of ground in less than 15 min! Recorded June 8, 2020. Presented by DryJect, Intelligro/Civitas, and Plant Food Company.
  8. The current pandemic has invigorated public interest in being out in green space and golfers anxious to get back out and play. In this episode of Frankly Speaking, Frank Rossi and Parker Anderson of Greener Golf explore the science behind our desire for being on the golf course, the conflict with the public regarding community use of the space, and returning to golf. Frank has a mindfulness chat with Paul MacCormack as things begin to open up, and a new book review segment with Chris Tritabaugh chatting about Minnesota native Thomas Friedman’s Thank You for Being Late. Presented by DryJect, Civitas, Plant Food Company and the Greenkeeper App.
  9. In this episode of the TurfNet Renovation Report, host Anthony Pioppi chats with Dean Sparks, golf course superintendent at Davenport (IA) Country Club about the ongoing improvements being performed in-house under the annual guidance of architects Ron Forse and Jim Nagle. Presented by Golf Preservations and The Andersons.
  10. Thank you, Cleve. I hope you're doing well out of the golf business.
  11. Seems like I'm stuck in a pattern here of writing about people who we've recently lost. A month ago Walter Montross, then Ken Melrose, and now Dave Heegard. The hits just keep coming. If you're among the hundreds (if not thousands) of turf guys who swung through Farmlinks during the Pursell days in the early 2000s, no doubt you met Dave Heegard. I had been to Sylacauga twice, once prior to the golf course and lodge being built, and of course the second after. The latter visit was when I met Dave, who was more or less the hospitality officer or smiling face or make-sure-the-guys-have-a-good time person. And that he did well. Time frames become fuzzy as the years go by, but this must have been post-2000 as that year was when I decided to stop pretending to be a golfer. I was clearly in the minority (read that as "only one" in the group) not interested in playing golf. Even though he was a good golfer and would have enjoyed the day on the course, Dave noticed and asked me, "Want to catch some fish?". So he and I climbed into a small boat and floated around one of the ponds at Farmlinks for a couple of hours. Lesson #1: Keep your plans flexible, and adapt to suit others when needed. If there's any scenario better for getting to know someone than spending four hours sharing a cart during a round of golf, it's wetting a line in the quiet of a bass pond. I'd say "catching fish" rather than "wetting a line" if we both caught fish. Dave caught the fish — many fish — while I watched. Not by design, but that's how it turned out. He put on an absolute bass-catching clinic, while not making me feel small about not catching any (yup, none). There's Lesson #2: Never make people feel small. Not my photo and not in Alabama, but you get the idea... A Minnesota native and graduate of UMN, Dave had worked for Scotts in Ohio prior to joining Pursell, and made his home in Columbus, OH. He switched gears in 2008 to become VP of Sales and Marketing for Lebanon Seaboard Corp, aka Lebanon Turf. To the best of my recollection Dave continued to maintain his home in Ohio while "commuting" to Alabama for Pursell and later to Pennsylvania while working for Lebanon. That's a lot of travel, but home must have been important to him (or perhaps more likely, his wife). Lesson #3: see the second part of Lesson #1 above. In the years since, Dave and I saw each other mostly at GIS save for one media event Lebanon held at Cooperstown one year. For whatever reason, I always made a point of sliding by the Lebanon booth at GIS and finding Dave. If he was busy or not around, I'd come back. When our eyes connected he would always get up, excuse himself from his conversation, and head my way with a glint in his eye, a warm smile and a strong handshake. As if I meant something to him (hey, maybe I did), and was more than a peripheral person in his life (perhaps I was). Lesson #4: Make people feel special, especially those who may feel on the fringe. Dave would have been 70 next month. According to Gary Neyman, our "informed source close to the situation", Dave was diagnosed with cancer last year, and since then had a heart attack and a stroke. That's cruel. He recently had a bad fall and was hospitalized, developing a lung infection in the process. "He seemed to beat that and was improving to the point that he was taken out of ICU last Saturday. He was okay at a midnight check but at 4 AM he had to be taken back to ICU, where he died," Gary told us. Not sure if COVID-19 was at play, but no matter, a rough way to go. I feel very fortunate to have spent those few hours in quiet conversation with Dave, one on one. It's a special talent of "people persons" to be able to impact casual acquaintances that way. Dave Heegard was most definitely a people person. And man, could he catch fish.
  12. I was saddened yesterday to hear of the passing of Ken Melrose, past president/CEO/chairman ("executive emeritus", if there were such a thing) of the Toro Company. I write this not as a factual obituary (I'll leave that to John Reitman), eulogy or even memorial, as I did not know him beyond several casual handshakes back in the late '80s/early '90s when I was in the peripheral Toro family. It's mostly a recollection of observations made as I watched him from afar. Ken Melrose did well for himself while doing good for Toro, it's employees and stockholders. He steered Big Red through some turbulent times (in his early years, a snowblower glut during a snowless winter almost sank the ship, back when Toro was primarily a consumer goods company) and led the charge to a leadership position in the professional and commercial turf and irrigation markets. Toro steadfastly remained independent, resisting the mergers and acquisition offers from potential suitors who no doubt came a-callin'. Toro stock has done magnificently during Melrose's watch and those of Mike Hoffman and Rick Olson, his successors on Lyndale Avenue in Bloomington. I have never been terribly motivated by money, but one of the few regrets I have in life is not buying Toro stock back in the day. A few thousand shares of TTC would no doubt cushion my looming retirement a bit, as I'm sure it has for most of the folks I knew at Toro and who have subsequently retired well. So Ken Melrose made a lot of money, as he should have. But unlike those who gather it in and squirrel it away, or spend it on lavish homes and lifestyles, from my standpoint Ken viewed his personal wealth as "seed and fertilizer" to help ideas germinate and people flourish and grow. His personal mantra was servant leadership, which went down through the ranks of Toro employees but also the golf industry (and others) as well. A few things stick out in my mind. His foundation established in 2002 a needs-based scholarship fund for dependents of Toro employees, and a few years later he helped establish the Melrose/Hoffman Employee Critical Need Fund, sort of a Wee One Foundation for Toro employees experiencing economic hardship. I'm sure it is appreciated this year. Within the golf industry, he was early in on the First Tee (1998) and last year the First Green. Beyond those, his $1 million gift in 2012 to GCSAA to endow the Melrose Leadership Academy sends up to 20 superintendents each year who couldn't otherwise afford it to attend GIS. He gave another $1 million to GCSAA in 2019 to create the Melrose Equipment Management Endowment to support the educational development of equipment technicians, again by sending them to GIS. I love the last two. Superintendents from lower-budget facilities and equipment techs, both with an unfortunate history at times of being overlooked or ignored. The little guys. Outside of golf, in 2019 the Melrose Family Foundation donated $18.7 million to a Twin Cities health care facility to fund advanced care for individuals with eating disorders, and just two months ago donated $3 million to the local Animal Humane Society (AHS) to fund a new campus in St. Paul — more "little guys". In this day and age of vacant leadership and questionable ethics, one can only applaud and appreciate Ken Melrose for being who and what he was, without pretense or ego. I, for one, greatly admired the man.
  13. In this first episode of Frankly Speaking for 2020, Frank Rossi chats with Jim Koppenhaver (Pellucid Consulting), Stuart Lindsay (Edgehill Golf Advisors), Jamie Robb (superintendent at Marine Drive Golf Club, N Vancouver, BC), and Craig Cochran (supt at Van Patten Golf Club, Albany-area, NY) about the impact of COVID-19 now and moving forward on the golf economy, the game and golf course operations from the dining room to putting surfaces. Presented by DryJect and Intelligro/Civitas Turf Defense.
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