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John Reitman

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About John Reitman

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    Director of News & Education

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    TurfNet
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    Findlay, OH

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    http://www.turfnet.com

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  1. 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. It's not you; it's me. Via Youtube 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. 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.
  2. Ohio State professor Karl Danneberger, Ph.D., shares his experience with the Covid-19 virus. Karl was diagnosed with virus in March, spent a month in the hospital at OSU. He talks with us about pre-existing conditions that made him more vulnerable to the disease, his experiences on a ventilator, going through rehab, dealing with some residual health issues since being released from the hospital, the strength of his family, what it was like to finally see his wife after being apart for a month and his newfound appreciation for the Whopper sandwich.
  3. until
    Fine-cut turf is susceptible to a wide range of disease pests, many of which are exacerbated by a of biotic stresses, abiotic stresses that are necessary to provide conditions that golfers today demand, or a combination of both. The ability to manage turf to ward off all the various diseases that can occur on cool-season turf can be the difference between a successful golf season and a disastrous one. In this TurfNet University webinar, Paul Koch, Ph.D., of the University of Wisconsin will discuss the latest research on new fungicides, successful cultural practices and a host of other strategies you can use to provide disease-free turf at your facility throughout the remainder of this golf season as well as into the future.
  4. 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."
  5. 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."
  6. 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.
  7. 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."
  8. It has been a challenging spring in 2020 for sports turf managers. Although stadiums and facilities across the country have been closed, sports turf managers have been tasked with the responsibility of keeping playing surfaces in shape. But when will that first game or practice be? As the economy begins to reopen, but schedules are still in flux, what does this mean for sports turf managers? John Sorochan, Ph.D., of the University of Tennessee talks about what is involved in managing a playing surface during a time when the first action on the field probably still is weeks or even months away. How does uncertainty affect cultural practices? How aggressive can you be and still leave sufficient time for recovery to be ready for that first event - whenever that is?
  9. 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."
  10. 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."
  11. 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.
  12. During the past three decades, entomologist Dave Shetlar, Ph.D., has made a living by knowing what makes bugs tick. Heck, he even carved a nickname out of it. Since he retired three years ago from Ohio State, Shetlar, aka, The Bug Doc, admits there are times when the insects know best. When someone asked him recently whether a mild winter followed by a wet spring would have an adverse effect on white grubs this summer, Shetlar laughed before answering: "I always tell people my money is with the insects. They've been around since the last ice age. They've seen it all, and they've lived through it all." The reality, says Shetlar, who in retirement still conducts entomology extension work for Ohio State, is grubs are marvels of evolution and as such there is no real accurate predictor of of grub populations from year to year. "We always lose some grubs whether it is a warm winter or a cold winter," Shetlar said. "In fact, a warm winter can be more deadly. When it's cold, the grubs go into winter dormancy and they are not metabolizing their fat storage. When it's a warm winter, if it is warm enough, the grubs can begin to metabolize and use fat storage. They're also more susceptible to fungal diseases and bacterial conditions." Shetlar's colleague at the University of Kentucky, Dan Potter, Ph.D., agreed that there often are more questions than answers when it comes to white grubs. "I gave up a long time ago trying to predict grub populations," said Potter, the recipient of the 2010 USGA Green Section Award. "If I could do that, I would've made a fortune." Through June 3, nearly 25 inches of rain have fallen so far in 2020 in Lexington, Kentucky, where Potter lives. That's about 6 inches more than the historic average. It is even more dramatic in Shetlar's hometown of Columbus, Ohio, where 26 inches of precipitation have fallen to date this year, which is 10 inches more than the norm, according to the NWS. Many adult beetles that overwintered as larva and pupa, will emerge any day now. And they will have to make their way through a saturated profile to take flight. A little water at the surface is not likely to impede their progress, Potter said. "I haven't seen any Japanese beetles yet. I think the flight is going to be late because it has been so cool," Potter said. "We're behind about a week or two in growing-degree-days. "The grub population can withstand soil saturation. It takes a lot to drown a white grub." White grub/beetle eggs need moisture to remain viable. How wet or dry it is in July, when female beetles lay those eggs won't much affect the grub population, but it could affect where those populations are concentrated. "If the soil is saturated, they're likely to be more spread out," Potter said. "If it's dry, they will be primarily concentrated in irrigated turf." Some beetles will lay eggs in higher areas during wet periods and in low-lying areas when it is dry, hoping to take advantage of any available surface water. There also is evidence that female Japanese beetles can see at least some color and thus will never enter brown turf when seeking a place to lay their eggs. They also can sense soil moisture, Shetlar said. "If it's not moist enough," Shetlar said, "they'll leave and go to another area." Because the eggs require a moist host, Bug Doc also noted evidence of masked chafer adults waiting for just the right conditions for egg laying before emerging from the underground lair. "When the rain stops in June, there is not much emergence until there is a rainfall event," he said. "It doesn't have to be much, but once there is rain then all hell breaks loose the next three nights. There is no reason for them to come out if it doesn't rain."
  13. CLICK HERE TO REGISTER - "MANAGING SPORTS TURF . . . WHEN THERE IS NO PLAY" To say 2020 has been a challenging year would be an understatement of epic magnitude, and the turfgrass management world has not been immune. Some golf courses have been open, otherS closed and some used as public parks while they have been closed. As the economy and the golf industry begin to reopen, sports field managers still are in a unique position. They have to keep fields in shape and ready for play, but when play will resume still is a mystery. What does this mean for sports turf managers as they navigate through uncharted territory, keeping fields ready for play during a time when the first action on the field probably still is weeks or even months away? John Sorochan, Ph.D., professor of turfgrass science at the University of Tennessee will address this topic in a free TurfNet webinar - Managing sports turf … when there is no play - on June 17. The event is sponsored by Brandt. The NFL has not solidified plans for play this season. Likewise, there is no solid timetable yet for college football, though we learned that several players have tested positive for Covid-19 as they began returning to campus this week. Major League Baseball owners and players have not been able to reach an agreement on a shortened season, and some owners have said they would be OK if the season was canceled entirely, a fate that likely awaits the minor league system this summer as well. While there might not be baseball, some facilities are doing what they can to generate some revenue, including renting out stadiums for private functions. In this free webinar, Sorochan will address expectations during a hiatus, how this uncertainty affects cultural practices not getting so aggressive that there is insufficient time for recovery before that first event. Click here to register.
  14. Bayer has reached a deal to settle most of the thousands of cases alleging that its weedkiller Roundup is responsible for causing cancer among its users. Bayer has set aside $8 billion to settle an estimated 50,000 to 85,000 existing cases, according to published reports by Bloomberg and Fortune. The company has earmarked another $2 billion to cover future claims, the reports say. In exchange, Roundup will remain on the market and attorneys involved say they will stop advertising for and accepting new claims against Bayer, which bought Monsanto, the maker of Roundup, in 2018. As many as 125,000 suits have been filed against Monsanto alleging that glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, is responsible for the plaintiffs' non-Hodgkins lymphoma. Leverkusen, Germany-based Bayer continues to appeal some of the early verdicts, just three of which resulted in jury awards of more than $2 billion damages, which were later reduced by a judge to $191 million. The first trial in the ongoing Roundup saga, which resulted in a $289 million verdict for the plaintiff in August 2018, went before a California appeals court this week. Bayer asked the court to set aside the verdict or at least order a new trial, according to Reuters. The results of that case could affect the payout each party receives in the settlement, said an arbiter working between attorneys on both sides. Awards will range from a few thousand dollars per claim to a few million, Fortune said. Bloomberg suggests Bayer has a strong chance to win its appeal in California, but adds that if the court upholds the earlier ruling it could result in Bayer paying more in its settlement and in future cases. At the center of the glyphosate debate are conflicting reports by the World Health Organization and the EPA. In 2015, the WHO concluded that glyphosate was a "probable" carcinogen. The EPA, on the other hand, has said that there is no evidence indicating that glyphosate causes cancer based on the results of more than 800 tests and studies. Bayer's stock value has taken a hit since 2018, dropping by as much as 62 percent. Stock prices currently are down about percent since the acquisition in 2018.
  15. Golf course superintendents growing warm-season grass and those who manage cool-season turf do not typically have much in common. This year, however, many of them have at least one thing in common - their golf courses are very wet, and in many cases have been completely under water. It is 2020, after all. From Iowa to Michigan to Florida and just about everywhere in between, golf courses have been inundated with spring rains, and social media is packed with photos and videos of golf courses under water. The worst of it appeared to be in Midland, Michigan, where the Currie Golf Courses, a 27-hole municipal operation that also includes a par-3 layout, were flooded by the Tittabawassee River when two dams, one each on Wixom and Sanford lakes, failed on May 18 and sent water rushing downstream leaving both lakes drained. Midland is the global operations hub for Dow Chemical, and 10,000 of its residents were ordered to evacuate. Before the disaster, rainfall in central Michigan in May was double the monthly average by May 27, prompting Michigan State's Kevin Frank, Ph.D., to publish a primer on the Michigan State Turf Extension website on water damage ranging from just a few inches to several feet. Just how bad turf damage is after a flood depends on temperature, silt and mud in the water and turf type. When temperatures are in the 50s and 60s, like they have been throughout much of the eastern U.S. until the last week or so, cool-season turf often is better equipped to be submerged for a period of time. "At this time of year, except now that it has been smoking hot the last couple days, you can see (water) on there a week and no damage with submersion," Frank said. "The problem is siltation. Creeks and rivers carry a tremendous amount of soil. "On soccer, football and baseball fields, I see people go in with a Koro and skim that off the surface. I've also seen places where water was there a week and there was no soil along with it and it's just a matter of letting it dry out. I've also seen where it floods, and, like today, if it happens to be 90 degrees, the turf doesn't last nearly as long, and it gets so bad so fast you can't stand the smell of it." Some cool-season grasses are more susceptible to damage than others. Frank wrote that submersion-tolerance ratings were excellent for bentgrass, medium for Kentucky bluegrass and merely fair for annual bluegrass and perennial ryegrass. "Turfgrass species differ in their ability to survive flooding," Frank wrote. "Unfortunately, there are no hard fast numbers such as Kentucky bluegrass will survive five days and creeping bentgrass 15 days under water." As temperatures rise, the amount of time the turf spends submerged is directly related to damage. "Flooding may cause the turf to turn yellow or brown," Frank wrote. "The discoloration is related to the turf losing its ability to take up nutrients. It doesn't take long once turf is submerged for soil oxygen levels to decline and root hairs to begin to die. As the root system becomes impaired, nutrient extraction and water uptake will be limited. Keep this in mind once the water has receded as the turf may benefit from a light fertilizer application." Thinning areas might require reseeding with perennial ryegrass, or regrassing entirely. If floodwaters bring silt, and they often do, it is important to get the sediment off the turf as quickly as possible. That can mean moving it off with a hose or, if it has dried out, breaking it up first with an aerifier and then removing it. Frank wrote there is an easy do-it-yourself method for determining damage level, if there is any at all, in the turf. To assess if submersion has caused injury, Michigan State University Extension advises extracting several plants from the flooded site and cutting a horizontal cross section through the crown. If the crown is white and firm, it has survived. If the crown is brown and mushy, it's dead.
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