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Jon Kiger

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About Jon Kiger

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    Director of Sales and Membership
  • Birthday 04/07/1963

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    Atlanta, GA

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  1. Jon Kiger

    Let’s Do This!

    Welcome to the TurfNet Members Trip to Ireland blog for 2018. We’re starting early to allow the blog to explain the details of the trip. We also want allow for additional participants/sign ups in the wake of one of the most difficult seasons in which to maintain turfgrass. Have a look and consider joining us on a “trip of a lifetime.” Dates: Thursday, October 11th (Leave the US) and return Saturday, October 20th, 2018. You are welcome to extend the trip on the front or back end on your own. History: This is the tenth TurfNet members trip overall and our fifth visit to Ireland. Trip Philosophy: Relax, enjoy yourself, have fun, get along. You’ve earned it. Especially this year… Links Courses to be played (year established): Royal Portrush Golf Club (1888) - Host of the 148th Open Championship in 2019 The Island Golf Club (1890) County Louth Golf Club – Baltray (1892) Rosapenna Golf Club (1893) – Laid out by Old Tom Morris Portmarnock Golf Club (1894) Castlerock Golf Club (1901) Ballyliffin Golf Club (1948) Portmarnock Hotel and Golf Links (1996) You will find virtually all these courses in the rankings of top courses to play in Ireland. We will also meet our superintendent/greenkeeper hosts at each course and when possible meet their staff and tour their facilities. Test your bunker shots with the many revetted bunkers on Ireland’s links courses (photo: The Island Golf Club) Where we stay: We plan our hotels so they are evenly distributed around the areas we are playing. This means we never have a really long bus ride to get to or from the golf course. Specifically, we’ll stay in the following hotels/towns: Dublin: Portmarnock Hotel & Golf Links and Grand Canal Hotel Carlingford, County Louth: Four Seasons Hotel & Spa Derry, Northern Ireland: Bishop’s Gate Hotel Rosapenna, County Donegal: Rosapenna Hotel & Golf Resort Aerial view of the stunning Rosapenna Golf Club - laid out by Old Tom Morris. A lucky rainbow over the Rosapenna Hotel - our home on Thursday night. Wake up and tee it up on Friday. Ground Transportation: We will once again engage Matthews Coach Hire to provide our daily transportation around Ireland. The coach bus is leather-trimmed and has a bathroom on board. They did an outstanding job ensuring our comfort, safety, and enjoyment when we were last there in 2015. Are non-golfers or partial golfers welcome? Yes! If you’re first reaction when you look at this trip is, “there’s no way I’m going to Ireland and leaving my wife at home” we’re happy to explain that there is a separate program for any non-golfers on the trip. We have the coach bus all day so while the golfers are on the links, the non-golfers use the coach to visit local historic and heritage sites. These side trips are flexible and the driver will take cues from the group as to the number of places to visit and the pace of the trip overall. If there are specific interests for any non-golfers (shopping, art, history, gardens, etc…) we are happy to work those stops in as well. If someone would like to play some golf but not every day, they are welcome to sign on to the Tee/Tour package – roughly half the golf and half the tours. Any golfer is welcome to join the daily tour due to fatigue, rain, injury or other considerations. The quaint village of Carlingford in East Ireland. Flights: Since participants are attending from different parts of North America, we don’t have a set pair of flights for the group trip. The package rate for the trip doesn’t include airfare so you are free to book your own best deal with the airline you prefer to use. Just make sure you arrive into Dublin Friday morning October 12th no later than 10 AM and don’t plan to leave Dublin before Saturday morning October 20th. A number of discount carriers have entered the US to Ireland market, which has generally brought prices down in recent years. Pay attention to additional charges for checked luggage and sporting equipment/golf bags. Package price: Golfer Double Occupancy: $2600; Non-Golfer Double Occupancy: $1700. Other prices are on the attached flier: ireland_2018_v2.pdf Other expenses: You are responsible for lunches, most dinners, optional caddy fees ($60-$80/round), evening beverages, and any souvenirs you want to buy. $100-$150 per day is a good range depending on your caddy use and the amount of items you plan to bring home, but everyone is different in that regard. Final opening thoughts: We’ve designed this trip to make it especially memorable on many levels. The golf is first rate, the pace is reasonable but not exhausting, and the hotels are very comfortable. By playing these courses you’ll likely gain insight as to how you may wish to tweak the way you manage your course back home. The trip is turnkey. Like what you see? Sign up, book your flight, show up and enjoy! No need to confirm hotels, tee times, car rentals (other side of the road!) etc… I can’t tell you the number of people who see our trip blog and tell me, “I wish I had gone on that Ireland trip!” We hope you’ll consider joining us and bringing a friend or relative! Special Thanks to Syngenta and IVI SandTrapper for their sponsorship and support of the trip. Have questions? Contact me at JKiger@turfnet.com or 1-770-395-9850. Old Tom waiting for your photo op at Rosapenna.
  2. Jon Kiger

    Your legacy is now...

    Took your comments about photos on hard drives to heart. I had removed the hard drives from two long since retired desktop PCs. Just had the photos harvested from them and moved onto a portable drive we can access. Not only was it amazing to see how much smaller the photos were by today's standards, but the images are priceless.
  3. With two or three days of education in the books, the pace of BTME turned to receptions and special dinners. Tuesday evening was BIGGAs Welcome Reception in historic Royal Hall. A capacity crowd pushed attendees to the upper reaches of the balcony for the first time. The event was hosted by BBC Morning Show personality Naga Munchetty. Her passion for golf was combined with typical British wit which kept the audience both engaged and laughing. While some industry award events become bogged down with long speeches, the presentation of BIGGAs many awards was fast-paced and efficient. Of particular interest on the awards front was TurfNet member Brian Stiehler, CGCS (HIghlands Country Club, Highlands, NC), who was the only BIGGA member to receive his Master Greenkeeper (MG) designation in this cycle. BIGGA also has a category of awards for Young Greenkeepers. The Young Greenkeeper of the Year was 25 year old Alistair Morrison of Durness Golf Club in the far Northwest of Britain. He is the sole greenkeeper at the club in the village of 300 people. Brian Stiehler, CGCS MG, right, receives his Master Greenkeeper certification from Les Howkins, BIGGA chairman. On Wednesday afternoon TurfNet hosted our second annual reception at BTME at the Majestic Hotel. This is our opportunity to connect with our many friends in the UK and around Europe. Trip participants are also encouraged to invite any other BIGGA members they may have met in Harrogate during the week. As the photos here attest, we attract a Whos Who in golf course maintenance from around Europe. We were thrilled that BIGGA CEO Jim Croxton, Chairman Les Howkins, and current President Chris Kennedy joined us. On Wednesday evening thoughts turned to the universal concerns of Golf and the Environment. STRI hosts a dinner for their Golf and the Environment awards and we were dispatched to different tables around the special events space at The Crown Hotel. Hearing of these initiatives from courses with much smaller staffs inspired many TurfNet members to redouble their efforts back home. Our friends at Carnoustie Golf Links won Environmental Golf Course of the Year. Having visited Carnoustie before BTME in 2017 and during the TurfNet 2017 Scotland trip we were delighted to see their many environmental initiatives receive this preeminent award. Longtime friend-of-TurfNet Jose Milan, center (Turf & Ornamental Global Market Manager at Bayer) with l-r Drew Barnett, Scott Bordner, and Todd Fyffe at TurfNet "Beer & Pretzels UK-Style". Dr. John Dempsey, frequent webinar presenter and Twitter personality, with Sean Tully. Bruce Williams of GRIGG makes a point to Scott Pavalko at the TurfNet reception. Tony Girardi with more long-time friends-of-TurfNet, Gloria and Phil Cowen of VinylGuard. The entire TurfNet group with Jim Croxton (BIGGA CEO), Les Howkins (BIGGA Chairman) and Chris Kennedy (BIGGA President
  4. Tuesday represented the first chance to visit the trade show at BTME. Booths (called "stands" in the local vernacular) are generally smaller at this show than at GIS. As you'd expect, the major mower manufacturers have larger stands in order to display multiple pieces of equipment, but still small by US standards. In addition to a number of European suppliers there were a few American companies. The group was delighted to catch up with Phil and Gloria Cowen from VinylGuard. They were jumpstarting sales in the UK by exhibiting and enlisting a new distributor there. Phil and Gloria Cowen at the Vinylguard stand. This was also the day that many of the "free sessions" took place on the education front. TurfNet members attending BTME received a bundle of thirteen hours of paid education and unlimited free education -- quite the bargain when compared to similar conference in the US. Drew Barnett, Arron McCurdy, and Chuck Barber between Free education sessions. Arron McCurdy and Sean Tully at the Syngenta stand A standalone Foot Golf hole that requires no digging from our friends at Tacit Golf Sean Tully at the Baroness booth Harrogate is known as a spa town. A couple of members of the TurfNet party checked into the Harrogate Turkish Baths for massages and a session in their steam/sauna rooms. The Baths have been restored to their mid-1800's grandeur. The "plunge pool" at the Harrogate Turkish Baths.
  5. After a full day of education at the Queens Suite in the Harrogate Conference Center, the TurfNet group met for dinner and drinks at an Italian restaurant near our apartments. Being five hours ahead of the US can make it challenging to watch American football. The second game (Vikings/Eagles) started at nearly midnight. A bar called The Den served as TurfNet Viewing HQ as it did last year. Penn State's Mike Fidanza and other Americans in town for BTME also found their way to The Den. Brian Moore and Alan FitzGerald with Penn State's Dr. Mike Fidanza. Despite the late night out, the TurfNet group met for breakfast just up the street from our apartments at Starling Independent Coffee Shop and Brew Pub. The Starling opened an hour early at 8 AM to accommodate our group and the presentation of our BIGGA membership kits by a BIGGA staffer. We were delighted that BIGGA CEO Jim Croxton and BIGGA Chairman Les Howkins arrived to do the honors. BIGGA CEO Jim Croxton meeting with the TurfNet group over breakfast. They were keen to point out that all services to BIGGA members were available to us, even as International members. Jim shared his vision for the conference week just started and the year ahead, emphasizing BIGGAs mission to encourage members to take better care of their mental health. Breakfast was served efficiently and by 8:45 we were headed to Monday's education sessions. The largest session that day was the Turf Managers Conference in the Majestic Hotel. This all day conference features six speakers (about an hour + each) and a lunch break at the midway point. The sessions are usually mixed 50% technical talk and 50% business and personal well-being topics. Scott Bordner chats it up with other TN group members during a break in the education. By Monday we could also observe the load-in of large equipment for the trade show that started Tuesday.
  6. Everyone arrived back from the Manchester City match Saturday night and most took in a great tribute band at The Cavern Club as our final activity in Liverpool. Our minibus arrived at 6:00AM for our two and a half hour trip from Liverpool to Harrogate, where BIGGA's Continue to Learn education series awaited us. Our package with BIGGA included 13 hours of paid education for each attendee, much of which was scheduled between Sunday and Tuesday, when the many free sessions kick in. The BIGGA programming staff and our own Eleanor Geddes back in Atlanta helped everyone pre-register for the classes they would attend. Printing off badges was fast and efficient and from an environmental standpoint each badge is provided without the standard plastic badge holder. Alan Fitzgerald, Scott Pavalko and Seat Tully register with BIGGAs Elaine Jones. Look who's on the wall (above) looking at us: Brian Stiehler, CGCS MG, sole 2017 recipient of BIGGA's Master Greenkeeper designation. ...from an environmental standpoint each badge is provided without the standard plastic badge holder. Trip participants were excited to start the education. Many of this years speakers are familiar to American superintendents, and include Micah Woods of the Asian Turfgrass Center, Penn State's Mike Fidanza, and Beth Guertal from Auburn. Royal Hall: quite a setting for a turf conference. The BTME Turf Managers' Conference was held in the nearby Majestic Hotel. Offering more than 250 hours of turf education, Continue to Learn at BTME is the largest single turf education program outside of the United States,
  7. Saturday was sure to be another busy day for us in Liverpool. A handful of guys went to historic Liverpool Football Club's stadium in nearby Anfield. Grounds Manager David Roberts was returning from the STMA conference in Texas so he had his assistant Dave McCulloch show them around. Their team was preparing for an Under 18s Cup Match/Championship so our TurfNet members got to see game day preparations first hand. Todd Fyffe of Westmoreland CC on the Liverpool FC pitch. When you're in Liverpool you understand what The Beatles continue to mean to the city. The airport is the John Lennon International Airport and there are many tours of their homes, important meeting places and the locations that inspired the lyrics to many of their songs. After some careful research I decided to enlist three taxis from the award-winning Fab Four Taxi Tour group. We broke into three teams for my TurfNet Interactive Trivia (no acronym allowed) contest: Teams John, Paul, and George. In addition to answering questions from the material they heard from the driver each team had to take certain photos and videos that would be judged by me and local superintendent Richie Stephens of Ringway Golf Club in nearby Cheshire. In the Cavern Club, where The Beatles got their start. "Team John" - Meersman, Kautzer, FitzGerald and Moore -- outside John Lennons boyhood home. Jason Meersman at Penny Lane Taxi driver Phil and Todd Fyffe outside the Barber Shop mentioned in Penny Lane. Other guys inside (below) Todd Fyffe and Scott Pavalko -- aka 'Team Paul' -- outside Paul McCartney's house (above) and at Strawberry Fields, below. The tour ended at the Albert Docks an area that has the Beatles Story museum as well other revitalized tourist attractions. Our headquarters hotel in Liverpool was the Tune Hotel. It was in the perfect location and our experience there, including the service, was outstanding. They even had "go cups" and a "welcome TurfNet" sign ready for us in the morning. After the Beatles tour about ten participants went into Manchester to attend the Premier League match between Manchester City and Newcastle. They went via train for the approximately one hour trip each way. Richie Stephens used to work at the Cavern Club and pulled some strings for us to have VIP access into the club and the live venue that evening. The Beatles tribute band that played was outstanding and had numerous costume changes. Saturday night at the Cavern Club. The Beatles tribute band. We were to be up early Sunday morning for the trip to Harrogate, but safe to say everyone relished their time in Liverpool.
  8. We had one last stop to make in Southport before heading to Liverpool for the evening. I learned about the British Lawnmower Museum while watching The Open Championship last summer. David Feherty did a segment on the museum, and curator Brian Ragan was excited to have a group of professional course managers over for a visit. Curator Brian Ragan has been collecting lawnmowers since he was nine years old. Before going to the museum itself he invited us to their warehouse to see some older models and units that were still being restored. Group photo with Brian Ragan inside the warehouse for the museum. The warehouse tour was especially for us and not typically included in the museum tour. Brian Ragan shows off the many mower baskets in the warehouse Brian Moore compares the weight of this machine to modern equipment. Alan FitzGerald takes one for a spin... The Museum has over 300 restored exhibits of garden items dating back over 200 years. They also have the original patent for Edward Buddings original mower under lock and key. Brians goal with the museum is to document the engineering from the many companies (most long shuttered) who created gardening equipment over the years. He also has a number of mowers owned by celebrities on display. Restored mowers in the museum proper. In addition to tours of the warehouse and museum, TurfNet members watched an instructional video from the 1950s and received a signed copy of Brians book Haynes Lawnmower manual: A practical guide to choosing, using and maintaining a lawnmower. In a follow up email, Brian had this to say about our stop at the museum: "Hi Jon, Thank you & the great group of guys for visiting the Museum. Hope everyone had a unique experience, perhaps something to remember forever-mower!"
  9. Jon Kiger

    Visit to Hesketh Golf Club

    Since we were already in Southport it made sense to accept Peter McVicar's invitation to learn more about his current renovations at Hesketh Golf Club nearby. After a short drive we were on Cockle Dicks Lane, the road leading to Hesketh Golf Club. For real. Despite blustery weather, there were plenty of members playing the golf course, many of whom we met in their historic clubhouse. Peter had us in for lunch and a presentation on the design changes to the club's 17th hole. The hole is being re-routed due to safety and property concerns with nearby homes. Errant golf balls had been entering and sometimes damaging them. Many "tonnes" of soil were brought in as part of the renovation and re-routing. Course Manager Peter McVicar welcomes the group to Hesketh Golf Club, which was established in 1885. Peter McVicar explains their re-routing of the 17th hole for safety considerations. Tony Girardi, Chuck Barber, Alan Fitzgerald and Frank Tichenor enjoy some refreshments in the Hasketh GC clubhouse. Sean Tully, Jason Meersman and Foley United CEO Brad Kautzer. After the presentation Peter led some members out on the course to see the renovations first-hand while others (including me) preferred the comfort and refreshments afforded by the clubhouse. Deputy Head Greenkeeper Ken Critchley, Course Manager/host Peter McVicar, and First Assistant David Williams Course photos by Scott Pavalko: Next up: the British National Lawnmower Museum!
  10. Friday was our first opportunity to have everyone together on the trip. Since we were to spend the weekend in Liverpool prior to traveling to Harrogate, we visited Royal Birkdale Golf Club in nearby Southport. Royal Birkdale has held more Championship and International events since World War II than any other course in the world. The weather included lots of wind, some rain and hail but we pressed on with a tour of their facilities and course courtesy of host Course Manager Chris Whittle and his deputy Rob Marchbank. Some photos from our tour: Deputy Rob Marchbank points out features on the course. We saw some reels being ground by other members of the staff, but somewhat surprisingly for a club of that stature there is no full time equipment technician on staff. Jordan Spieth won the 2017 Open Championship last July in dramatic fashion so I presented Rob and Chris with a Jordan Spieth bobblehead from the Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club in my hometown of Atlanta. After the obligatory stop in the Royal Birkdale pro shop we headed just down the road for lunch and a visit to Hesketh Golf Club.
  11. Sean Tully and I both arrived into London's Heathrow Airport on Wednesday. Knowing that our arrival was the extent of our time in London, we found a taxi company that arranged "Heathrow Layover" tours of Windsor. For slightly more money than our taxi fare to our hotel, they picked us up, dropped us in Windsor, stored our luggage and agreed to "collect us" again when we were finished touring the area. Located on the River Thames just west of London, Windsor is home to Windsor Castle, a residence of the British Royal Family. Naturally we wanted a close look at Windsor Castle before sunset. On the advice of a friendly security guard we walked around the back and got some outstanding photos. Dinner at a local pub in Windsor was a great way to continue to take in the experience before an extended walk around the area. Windsor Castle (last photo by Sean Tully) We had a quick pint at the Two Brewers pub and were ready to take our taxi to our hotel in Avisford Park near Arundel. The rules on outside drinking at the Two Brewers pub in Windsor. The hotel has an 18 hole golf course and the front nine was ideal for a walk around the property. Avispark Golf Club, above and below. At 10 AM the next morning Michael Mead, course manager at Littlehampton Golf Club, and his assistant Luke Green picked us up at the hotel. Michael and I met at BTME last year when he was in class with Tony Girardi and I helped him navigate the trade show for his first trip to BTME. We stopped in the town of Arundel for a look at the castle, which can also be seen from Littlehampton Golf Club. Arundel Castle, above. Sean Tully, Michael Mead and Luke Green in Arundel, below. Michael and Luke were keen (that's "eager" in UK English) to show us around the course which is one of the only links courses in the area and located right on the English Channel in the very south of England. He has a five year plan to renovate the bunkers and has several other projects currently going on. One of the benefits of visiting courses during the BTME trip in January is that many projects are taking place at this time of year. Luke Green, Michael Mead and Sean Tully before our course walk. Notice the High Visibility vests - a safety requirement for any non-golfers out on the course, shown below. The English Channel, above, viewed from Littlehampton Golf Club. Below, Michael Mead and the other members of his crew. After a short drive to Southampton Airport, Sean and I boarded a flight to Manchester on Flybe airline, British Airways' discount carrier. There we caught up with Todd Fyffe, who had arrived earlier that day. Just one more night and the whole TurfNet group would be together in the UK!
  12. After the success of the 2017 TurfNet BTME Education trip, we have embarked on another trip to the BIGGA conference in the UK. This time we have fourteen members (up from five last year) spending the week in Harrogate, Yorkshire, England. Many have said the chance to hear entirely new presentations and a different mix of speakers are their primary motivation to join us on the trip. The camaraderie both within and outside of TurfNet are added bonuses. As with most TurfNet overseas trips, we like to allow at least one extra day on the front end before the important events take place to allow for adjustment to jet lag and any flight disruptions. This year we had everyone arrive at least two days early for some golf course visits and Beatles/sports fun around Liverpool. A group of six on the trip added two additional days for a side trip to St. Andrews. In addition to spending time with St. Andrews Director of Links Gordon Moir, they were able to play the Old Course on Thursday. Despite overnight flights and two sets of flight changes, the group headed to St. Andrews is all smiles. All played the Old Course on Thursday. The schedule for the week in Harrogate includes four days of education (Sunday Wednesday) and three days of the trade show (Tuesday Thursday.) Participants receive BIGGA membership and a bundle of thirteen hours of education with the TurfNet trip package. On Thursday well visit the STRI turfgrass research facility before flying home on Friday. Thanks to trip and blog sponsors Foley United and Tru-Turf rollers. Their support allows us to deliver these activities at a reduced rate for all participants. Trip participants this year include: Chuck Barber, St. Charles CC. St. Charles, IL Jason Kahlstorf, St. Charles CC, St. Charles, IL Drew Barnett, Knollwood Club, Lake Forest, IL Scott Bordner, Chicago GC, Wheaton, IL Alan Fitzgerald, LedgeRock GC, Mohnton, PA Todd Fyffe, Westmoreland CC, Wilmette, IL Tony Girardi, Rockrimmon CC, Stamford, CT Arron McCurdy Metedeconk Nat'l GC, Jackson, NJ Jason Meersman, Patterson Club, Fairfield, CT Brian Moore, Glen View Club, Golf, IL Brian Palmer, Shore Acres GC, Lake Bluff, IL Scott Pavalko, Bob OLink GC, Highland Park, IL Frank Tichenor, Forest Hill Field Club, Bloomfield, NJ Sean Tully, Meadow Club, Fairfax, CA We are also pleased to have sponsors Brad Kautzer, new President/CEO of Foley United, and Bob Buckingham of Tru-Turf accompany us on portions of the trip. Many thanks to Scott Bordner of Chicago Golf Club for his efforts in organizing the Chicago-area contingent on the trip.
  13. I was called for jury duty in March of 2013 and picked for a jury in a human trafficking (prostitution) case. I, too, felt the weight of the responsibility when the judge met with us at the beginning. I can honestly say that after nearly thirty years here I thought I had insight into most aspects of Atlanta but nothing prepared me for the exposure to this underbelly of our city. What seemed like an open and shut case was debated thoroughly and deliberately by both sides and within the jury room, count by count. I had expected to catch up on work emails, etc... at the end of each day but the concentration took its toll and I wasn't up to even that. My son was home on Spring break and attended a few days of the trial part curiosity part civics lesson. We did not discuss any aspects of the case (what he heard that I did not, etc...) until after it was over. My biggest takeaways were that we did our job (convicted on all 19 counts) and that if someone I know is ever accused of something I want the same deliberate process implemented to ensure a fair trial for them.
  14. Jon Kiger

    Rethinking the Superintendent Search

    Mike - You are correct that the interim minister is just that - a "temporary transition." They are not eligible for the permanent position. In something as sensitive as guiding a church (and as is debated here a golf course) the new full time person comes in with enough of a buffer time-wise that their chance of success increases. Seems like this would be a good way to diffuse or disarm the "grill room superintendents" and other factions within the club.
  15. Happy Days. Would hate to think of what it would cost to send another one from Findlay. Odd that the person who found it didn't want to keep it...