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Paul MacCormack

Golf Course Superintendent
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About Paul MacCormack

  • Birthday 09/16/1973

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  • Club/Course/Company
    Fox Meadow Golf Course
  • Location
    Prince Edward Island, Canada
  • Interests
    Mindfulness, solitude, and quite time...and rock n roll.

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  1. No Randi, its a Fender Hot Rod Deluxe...damned heavy and damned loud! Thanks Paul
  2. This summer I was afforded a unique opportunity. Our son Lucas (17) plays guitar in a band and they were lucky enough to land a regular outdoor gig playing jazz in downtown Charlottetown five evenings a week all summer. Only glitch with this plan was that last November Lucas developed a hernia and has been waiting on surgery ever since. This precluded him from carrying any of the gear both to and from the summer shows. Hence, I became the band’s default roadie for most of the summer, and I have to say, it was a lot of fun. As I was waiting for them to finish up last week I began to reflect on what it would mean to be a real, full time roadie. Being out on tour, and setting up and tearing down in a different city each night while sacrificing time with family and friends to be part of something that brings joy and happiness to so many people is what it is all about. Being an integral part of the creative machine that is a musical tour and allowing the musicians the space to do what they do best, is a roadie’s job. It began to dawn on me that working behind the scenes on a summer long tour would be much like being a Superintendent and turf crew. We both work tirelessly when no one is looking. The fans and golfers usually only focus on the end product, not how it came to be. The amount of personal sacrifice to pull it off is by times, immense. Both gigs and golf courses are affected by weather, and most times it’s the crews behind the curtain that bear the brunt of this burden. The amount of technical knowledge required to be an instrument, sound, or lighting technician is staggering… much like that of a superintendent. For me though, it was a wonderful part-time job. I was happy to tag along and move the gear, supporting the boys when I could. It meant a lot knowing that our son and his bandmates were gaining vital experience while having a blast doing what they love to do the most… playing music. I also had a few other reflections of my own… Being of service – Volunteering to be part of something meaningful is such a rich experience. Your attitude matters –Lucas’ gig was an evening one which ended way past my summer bedtime. In any situation like this one it’s easy to get negative and jaded when you are feeling worn out, but your outlook and perspective means so very much. Keeping your attitude positive also helps those around you see things in the larger context. Taking nights off from time to time, and letting his friends help him out with his gear was wise action I applied on more than one occasion. Music is so vitally important to my own well being and the wellness of so many, and an art form intrinsic to the human experience. It was such a joy to be a small part of bringing forth the band’s art for people to enjoy. Just watching the patrons of the nearby restaurant patios tap their feet and nod their heads, getting lost in the music was magical. I am almost forty seven, and Lucas is nearing eighteen and we got to spend precious moments together in the summer during a global pandemic through our shared passion. The summer season doesn’t equal family time for me almost ever, and somehow this year it did. Hanging out on Victoria Row with my wife Jill and daughters Maria and Clara listening to Lucas and his friends play some fine music on warm summer evenings, it doesn’t get much better than that. I’m not as young as I once was – The aforementioned Fender amp that contributed in part to Lucas’ injury got its own skateboard for the season…way easier on my back. Thanks so much for reading. There’s always much to be grateful for! Paul
  3. As superintendents, we are well acquainted with the personal vulnerability we feel when our workplaces are in need of repair. Whether it's structural decline, damage from a weather event, personnel issues, or simply wear and tear from the passage of time, we usually have two choices when it comes to facing difficulties within our operations. We can pretend they are not really a problem and continue with business as usual, or we can tackle the issues head on with clarity, moving towards a meaningful solution. Some of us will choose to bury our heads in the sand pile and refuse to acknowledge there even is a problem. Inaction may feel safer initially but inevitably leads to much bigger problems. More often greenkeepers are active problem solvers. We step back, evaluate the issue and come up with a productive solution. It’s not always easy and it might not happen overnight, but in the long run it makes our courses better and our lives simpler. The current pandemic, if it has taught us nothing else, has shown very clearly that there are a lot of vulnerable elements within our society. People already facing barriers such as racial, gender and/or age discrimination, poverty, mental health problems, and such have had these problems further exacerbated by the COVID-19 crisis. The dominant culture has failed to ensure that everyone's needs are met in an equitable and sustainable manner. We have had our collective heads in the sand for far too long. Front-line workers, migrant agricultural labourers, and all the other people who have been falling through the cracks for years now are most suffering the wrath of COVID- 19. As a society we are now faced with the stark moral reality that we cannot just turn a blind eye and continue to ignore these deep-seated issues. Our civilization's operating systems have fundamental problems that must be faced with honesty and clarity so we can move closer to the healing and unity we so desperately seek. Returning to “business as usual” is no longer a viable option. Almost every meaningful conversation I’ve had in recent months has had a common undercurrent to it, in that many people are finally seeing the cracks in the paint and facing a greater sense of personal vulnerability than they can ever remember. It’s easier to dismiss vulnerability when life is good and on cruise control, but it can be an entirely different animal when you have to face your own personal vulnerability within the broader context of widespread social and environmental upheaval. It can be overwhelming. Some personal checkpoints which might help: How often do you make regular visits with yourself? How has this present situation stripped away pretense and left you feeling exposed? How do you react when you feel vulnerable? Can you acknowledge the cracks in your own veneer as something which inevitably occurs throughout life? These fundamental questions have been brought into sharp focus by the pandemic. From this perspective this crisis has prompted us to sit and begin to examine the answers. Facing the difficult truths in our own lives can help us be better able to recognize and solve problems on a societal level as well. This work isn’t easy, but it is extremely important. I’ll be honest. Many times, over the past few months I have been left feeling uncomfortably exposed and incredibly vulnerable. I have found myself moving between feeling spacious and solid to feeling completely shaken and unstable. It has been quite difficult, but continuing the practice of bringing clarity and compassion to my state of mind has allowed me to move through the tougher moments and open up again. Work has been incredibly busy, home life has been a struggle at times, and the broader societal suffering has been difficult to witness. It’s a constant balancing act, but having a mindful awareness of how I operate inside has allowed me more space to recalibrate when I most need it. Our personal and even collective responses to vulnerability and suffering are choices we have while living in an age of incredible uncertainty. We can choose to desperately cling to our old, damaging and worn out cultural and personal habits, or we can open ourselves to temporary discomfort while recognizing the vital importance of change. In opening to change we develop a new relationship to possibility. Within each of us we have the capacity to choose the path that leads to better long term solutions and new opportunities. Making peace with our own vulnerability can knock down barriers and open us to new growth where no such avenue appeared to exist before. So, the next time you feel backed into a corner or opened a bit too wide, pause. Pause and allow yourself to really experience what is happening right in the very moment. Allow yourself to connect with that deeper part of yourself which can bear this vulnerability. In kindness to self and other, sit in the knowledge that we are all deeply interconnected and facing the same suffering collectively. You never know where it might lead. Thanks so much for reading and take care.
  4. A couple of years back I saw an animated short on Youtube (below) narrated by author, ABC news personality, and podcast host Dan Harris. In the video Harris likened the practice of mindfulness to being an actual superpower. Our ability to choose to respond wisely rather than be carried off by our habitual reactions is on par with x-ray vision or shooting webs from your wrists. The interesting thing about most super heroes is that they aren’t just one-trick ponies. Even though the likes of Superman or Wonder Woman are best known for their superhuman strength and ability to fly, they also both have lesser-known powers — things like telepathy, laser vision, or even the ability to speak any of the world’s 6500 languages — that they can call onin a pinch. The art of mindfulness is actually very similar on a great many levels. Our ability to respond wisely and quiet our minds are often the main superpowers people tend to focus on. But there is also a long list of lesser know powers that can be called upon our everyday lives. Things like gratitude, kindness, presence, or seeing the interconnectedness of all things. These can be life changing skills. There is also another power that has the ability to diffuse negativity, help us work with shame or guilt, or even change the relationship with the “evil villains” in our lives. It is the simple but powerful notion of self compassion. Just pause for a moment and imagine yourself face to face with your nemesis of choice from the comic books or movies (or even your own life). This villain has the ability to make you feel intense shame, overwhelming guilt, aggression, anger... basically stir up anything that makes you dislike yourself. Let yourself feel the full brunt of this confrontation deep in your body, inhabiting the sensations completely. Take a breath or two and now shift your perspective to your inherent superpower. Imagine even a warmth or inner light emanating from deep within engaging and diffusing the negative onslaught from your enemy. The power of self compassion has the ability to open our hearts and create space for us to respond with friendliness instead of judgement. This space creates a container to hold the pain and allows us to respond wisely rather than go down the rabbit hole of reactivity. This imagined episode is the same story that plays out with us when we are trapped inside self-defeating storylines. The only difference is that the “arch enemy” we face is our own mind. Practicing and strengthening our ability to respond to self loathing with compassion and love transforms our lives on truly heroic levels. The other interesting thing about superheroes is that they are usually the ones who are called upon during times of great upheaval or crisis. They calmly and wisely respond by using their powers to transform the situation and help others to relative safety. By giving selflessly of themselves they help to restore balance and foster a renewed sense of peace. We are currently caught in the midst of such upheaval. The crisis we are living in real time has brought untold suffering on both a global and intensely personal level. Navigating these perilous times takes a great deal of inner resourcing and patience. As we choose to respond to the crisis with both equanimity and self compassion, we become a beacon of hope and stability for those around us. As they bear witness to our wisdom they can in turn begin to tap into their own inner strength. And therein lies our superpower. We don’t have to leap tall buildings in a single bound or transport to a different dimension to combat aliens. We simply need to open our hearts and minds to the radical idea of making friends with ourselves. The ripple effect we create has the power to transform our own experience and also that of those in our orbit…and right now that’s a super power the world sorely needs.
  5. Thanks so much for your kind words and wisdom John. We will emerge from all this different than before, but we are always different than before...
  6. Thanks so much for reading Steve. It's such a collective opportunity for growth, we just need to take extra care in the midst of the hardest parts.
  7. “There is nothing so stable as change.” — Bob Dylan In our lives there isn’t much that’s predictable. The only thing we can count on for sure is that things change constantly. On many levels change is imperceptible. Thatch accumulation underneath a green surface, a tree growing a few inches at a time, a change in a belt notch or a hairline receding. The hum of daily life keeps these things in the background, hidden by our toils and troubles, joys and sorrows. Once in a while we all experience great personal change. Death, major illness or job loss touches us and those in our immediate surroundings deeply. These changes affect everyone at some time or another, but when they occur they feel contained within the sphere of our own personal experience. Such changes can force us to evaluate our priorities and shift perspective but in the long run still largely affect ourselves and those closest to us when they occur. Then there are the major events that affect communities in larger ways. These are usually born of tragedy, natural disasters or even small-scale war. These events have the power to mobilize, to alter structure and cause those in charge to adapt and shift priorities. But for the most part, the majority of people outside of the affected community are insulated from the ramifications of such events, because it didn’t happen to them in their backyard. Larger still are the epic, once in a lifetime episodes that shatter everything we hold dear. These phenomena have the power to alter life as we know it on a global scale and leave a lasting cultural imprint. Those who live through such events are changed on a cellular level and their ability to adapt after the fact creates a ripple effect which lasts for generations. We are currently in the midst of such an event. The entire world is being held hostage by the same circumstances (to varying degrees) at relatively the same time. For many of us this is an unparalleled happening for which we simply have no touchpoint. Unfortunately, many people have lived through intense suffering, but again on a more localized scale. This one is different as it is truly global, knows no geographic borders and ignores race, gender and most any variable you want to throw at it (although it does affect those economically marginalized and the elderly with a fierce unfairness due to their increased vulnerabilities). At the moment all we can do is the best we can. We should listen to the scientists and health experts and obey the regulations they put forth. We must stay at home. But in doing so we can pour our personal resources into self care, family well being and taking care of others as safely as we are able to. When going to the grocery store feels like running the Boston Marathon it's best to keep things simple and be kind to ourselves in the process. What can we glean from this global catastrophe? It is difficult to dive deeply while still in the midst of the crisis but within the calamity of this forced pause we can begin to glimpse the impermanence of life. Our illusion of security and stability is just that… an illusion. Such a reflection can be unnerving and scary at first but once you move to a place of acceptance, it brings with it a great measure of freedom. Having the rug pulled out from underneath you obviously knocks you on your backside. But as you lay sprawled on the floor, how does the view change? Does this new way of seeing the world offer you a shift in perspective? Does stripping away all that you thought was important allow you to take stock in a way that until now felt virtually impossible? Using part of this time for quiet, thoughtful reflection can be a gift of immense proportions. Its lasting impact cannot be understated. Personal reflection during unsettling times can allow latent ideas to gently bubble up to the surface. With excessive busyness almost impossible for many of us right now, the muddied waters of daily life are settling out, the silt is taking its rightful place at the bottom and soon the pool of clear water will be ripe with the possibility of new intentions. As Greenkeepers we most likely are going to have more time than usual for reflection over the next while. We are either home with our families, maintaining our properties with a reduced staff and no golfers, maintaining the course with reduced play or doing the best we can with way too many golfers around (that’s an entirely different rant for a different day). We may spend more time than usual out doing the grounds work that we used to do before we were supers and most likely doing it alone. Use whatever time is afforded to you for kind reflection. Be it personal, course related or for the greater good of humanity, use this time to let your creativity and wellspring of inner wisdom lead you where it will. You never know what insights you might find. Most importantly take care during this time of upheaval and disruption. Self care has never been more important than it is now. Recognize that need within yourself, your family, friends and staff. This is a human crisis which will take the best humanity has to offer each other to get us through. Kindness, compassion, love, patience, gratitude, understanding… make these your pillars and share them with as many folks as you can. Recognize that all of life is interconnected and that when this crisis passes, we are still all in this beautiful life together. Be well, play it safe and thanks for reading.
  8. Thanks so very much Matt. Your kind words mean a great deal.
  9. It has been such a wonderful experience both meeting you and having you sit in on the seminars Brad. Thanks so much for the kind words.
  10. It's folks like you that this is written for...
  11. It was no more than a whisper for years. But thanks to the courage of more and more people willing to speak out, the hushed tones are growing into an audible conversation. People who you never would have suspected are opening up to a new narrative. Those who have always felt strongly about it are speaking their minds and sharing with each other openly. Mental well-being, stress management and mindfulness are beginning to take root in the turf industry. This movement towards a more honest and holistic approach to well-being is gaining momentum with each new day and making our industry more sustainable for us practitioners than ever before. The trajectory of this movement has been much like a golf course master plan methodically executed over many years. It began simply enough; with someone willing to open up a few dark corridors, clear out the underbrush and let in some much-needed air and light. New perspectives were taken and folks bravely began looking at the same picture differently. As the project evolved it gained momentum and some of the early skeptics started to become its biggest supporters. But none of this happened quickly or easily and the conversation about mental well-being continues to be an ongoing one. And rightfully so. Any change in the accepted narrative inevitably invites stumbles and harsh responses along the way. Sharing deeply makes many folks uncomfortable, and sometimes in their discomfort they choose to criticize instead of offering a helping hand. Unfortunately that’s how it goes with any new movement; push-back and skepticism are part of the journey forward. But it remains vital that those able to share their story continue to do so. The harshness will soften over time. All we can offer those who choose not to participate is kindness. So many brave souls have stepped up and shown what it means to be truly vulnerable. They have done so with the sincere hope that if lending their voice to the movement helps even one Superintendent open up about their troubles or seek help, it is worth it. And it has been. Superintendents are beginning to understand the value of fully living the themes of leadership, balance, presence and kindness. Any super who chooses to live these values improves the working conditions for their employees and for themselves. Our industry is always looking for ways to make us more sustainable. By focusing more on our personal well being, the ripple effect is palpable. If we can approach our lives and our jobs with a greater sense of spaciousness and kindness, it will naturally filter down to all other areas of the golf world. Eventually the game may even regain some of its simplicity and get back in touch with its minimalist roots. It’s not too much to hope for. I may sound like a broken record, but if you know of someone who needs help, reach out. If you have the opportunity to attend a talk or seminar by any of the wonderful folks who are sharing their version of the message, do so. If you are thinking about making a change in your own life that will make things better for you and the people you love, give it a go. You’ve got nothing to lose, and in doing so you will become part of a movement which is literally changing the way we tend turf and our lives for generations to come. Thanks for reading.
  12. Cannot take full credit for that one Leanne...my marvellous editor (and full time spouse) Jill came up with that. She thought the post wasn't "turfie" enough. She was correct as per usual! Thanks for reading
  13. “You must experiment. You do things in which you eliminate something that is perhaps essential, but to learn how essential it is you leave it out. The space then becomes very significant.” — Henry Moore A few weeks ago I was afforded a rare opportunity to step away from everything that I deem essential in my life. Work, phone, social media, my friends, my family (by far the most essential one… basically my life as I have come to know it. I wasn’t on a vacation per se, rather an intentional break from the normal routines of my life in order to connect with myself on a far deeper level. This pause came in the form of a seven-day silent meditation retreat, held at the IMS Retreat Center located just north of Boston in Barre, MA. Now you probably read the "seven day" and "silent" part with curiosity and skepticism. Did I actually not talk for seven days? Yes, I did. Besides a daily group meeting for five minutes, I actually did not speak for seven days. There were 100 other retreatants there with me and we all managed to coexist for seven days without uttering a word to each other. To say it was a powerful exercise would not do it justice. To list my entire personal takeaways would require two to three blog posts, so instead I’ve decided to share my top five. Here are a few of the themes I brought back home to Prince Edward Island following my silent retreat: 1. The Power of the Pause For me the simple nature of completely pausing and disconnecting from the world was immense. Around Day 3 I realized how desperately I needed the break from the demands of my busy life, (my wife had been cautioning me on that for months, if not years) and also how difficult I find it to take real vacations: the ones where you leave work behind, disconnect yourself from your phone and which leave you feeling like a new person. I’ve always been the type who takes an infrequent ¾ break, never sufficiently removed from my work to be a full recharge. That changed on this retreat. Work was no longer the single most important parameter by which I defined myself. In fact, one of the talks was on Self-No-Self and this was essential to helping me release the grip that “work” had on my notions of Self. 2. The Container The job that the staff and teachers at IMS did to create a safe container from which to practice meditation was astonishing. They almost seamlessly created both a safe emotional as well as physical space in which I felt completely held in compassion. In doing so they created the necessary container from which I could do some deep diving into my own psyche. Creating a safe container for a diverse community of retreatants is no easy task and they made it look effortless. You knew instinctively that there was a group of folks behind the scenes taking care of all the minor emergencies and details, but they were invisible. More than once I reflected on the importance and nature of creating a similar feeling with regard to the people we lead. Creating a workplace in which our employees feel safe and respected invariably changes things for the better. 3. The Value of Silence Upon landing at the center, my first thoughts were “what have I gotten myself into?” and “how on earth are all these people going to keep quiet?” After a day the first question evaporated and by Day 2 I began to understand the immense power of a large group of people moving together in complete silence. There was no need for small talk, no need to fumble awkwardly for the right thing to say, and most importantly we were left to our own devices. Being alone for that long in silence opens you up and allows you to begin peeling back the layers of psyche build-up. A powerful lesson in psychic de-thatching: once the layers of build-up are removed the possibility for light to penetrate and new growth to occur is staggering. In becoming comfortable with the stillness, the wonders and difficulties of life come into sharper focus. 4. Nervous System Reset One of the unanticipated effects of the retreat was the profound effect it had on my nervous system. By weeks end my volume dial had gone from a steady 8-9 down to a comfortable 3. The feeling within my body was palpable. The sense of calm was one I don’t think I’ve ever experienced. Now upon returning to the “real world”, the volume has gone up a notch or two, but the positive effects still remain. Our nervous systems can ratchet up constantly throughout the season for any number of reasons. Becoming aware of how that feels in your body and developing strategies that help turn down the dial can be extremely valuable. 5. We Are All in This Together As I sat and lived with 100 strangers for a week, I came to realize on a deeper level that we all struggle, we all suffer, and we are all on this journey together. There isn’t anyone you know who doesn't have a tough time occasionally, so tread lightly when it comes to opinions and judgments. It was funny how when you can’t speak to people how reflexive it is to make up stories about them, only to have them melt away once you have the chance to connect with them on a personal level. One of the lines that stayed with me was, “you never meet the same person twice.” I arrived back home with an immense sense of peace and gratitude. The sacrifice that my family made to allow me the time and space to take on this journey was huge. I am forever indebted to them and cherish them even more. The staff and teachers at the center were simply wonderful and so professional. All of us superintendents would be impressed as well with the state of the grounds and facilities, as they were impeccable. If you ever get a chance to take on a similar experience I wholeheartedly endorse it. It’s one of exploration, honesty, and heaping doses of compassion. In the end we are all worth that kind of attention and care, and sometimes you need to strip away everything you deem essential to find out what is really vital. Thanks so much for reading.
  14. Thanks so very much for this post Joe. What a wonderful reminder that a simple shift in perspective opens up an entirely fresh way of looking at one's surroundings. Merry Christmas ! Paul
  15. Thanks so very much gentlemen, you are both creative mentors of the highest order for me. So appreciate our collaborative offerings here on the Net... Take care Paul
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