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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. Love this Randy, exercise is absolutely an essential part of a healthy greenkeeping lifestyle.
  2. Funny you mention dropping trees and such Randy...I've had more twinges of remorse as of late with a chainsaw in my hands. But once the view opens up and the turf grows better and we don't spray as much, it goes away. Thanks so much for the kind words guys. Be well Paul
  3. Wow, Thanks so much for sharing that Dave. What a wonderful memory, she sounds like she was a super cool mom. Thanks again for the kind words, Paul
  4. A few weeks back a good friend, Michael Vessely (Culver Academy) reminded me of someone special who has had a profound effect on my life. He was not someone I ever met in person, but nonetheless always felt a deep connection with. This person had that kind of effect on all those he touched, met, and taught. I’m speaking of cultural icon, instructional painter, and humanitarian, Mr. Bob Ross - creator and host of The Joy of Painting television show that aired for many years on PBS. You see, like millions of others around the globe, Michael recently introduced the gift of Bob Ross to his young daughters, some 25 years after the painting shows went off the air. I did much the same with my children a few years back and we still hunker down during some of the long and chilly evenings of our PEI winters to watch Bob’s magic brush and Zen-like demeanor. "I guess I’m a little weird. I like to talk to trees and animals. that’s ok though; I have more fun than most people." Bob Ross, The Joy of Painting We all come across people in our lives who in some way have created a lasting impact on us. Their lessons may touch us in deep and compelling ways and leave with us something not readily apparent which subtly shapes us nevertheless. For me, Bob Ross was one of those folks. I started watching him back in my college days, and Saturday afternoons at 3 pm almost became a religious appointment for me. Recently, as I was reflecting on Michael’s words about Bob Ross, I concluded that Mr. Ross was actually my first introduction as a teenager to someone who embodied what it means to live mindfully. To live a mindful life doesn’t mean that you hike up to a cave in the mountains and disconnect with the world. No, it simply means that you live your life fully present to all that comes your way and make kindness and non-judging part of your moral compass. Here are a few of the lessons I learned from Mr. Ross and how they relate to the art of greenkeeping: Presence – You could always tell that Bob was connected to his painting in a deeply present way. The way he taught and spoke intimately with his audience demonstrated his commitment to presence. He was able to convey so much in those amazing scenes because when he was there, he was completely there. Each day as turf professionals we are afforded similar opportunities; whether it’s with the people we work with or actually being out on our properties. If we can pause and be present with what is right in front of us, we may just see it for the work of art it truly is. Humility – When you watch Bob Ross paint, you could easily mistake him for anything but what he was. His set was stark and simple. He always wore the same outfit, and most importantly, he never made you feel that he was better than you were. Even though he was never considered a master artist, he lived for the notion that the joy of painting could make the world would a better place for ordinary people just making their way in the world. Leadership within greenkeeping definitely grows stronger with a sense of humility. If we carry ourselves from a humble perspective, then those around us will respond in kind and we will see things more clearly as they are. Passion – Mr. Ross and those who worked with him gave of themselves tirelessly. They toured around the world sharing the gift of painting, showing everyone they came in contact with that they too had a special gift to share. This was Bob’s real secret; show everyone, everywhere, that they have a gift inside them, which, with a little help and practice, could blossom through using his painting technique. How do you work to inspire your team during the course of the season? Is your love of turf transmitted to those who work with you each day? If we can place more emphasis on why we love what we do more often, it will have a ripple effect on those around us. Flexibility – When you watch a half hour show, you always know that he has an end goal planned for a painting. When recording an episode, he had the picture in his mind of how he wanted the painting to turn out. But the key point was that he was never rigidly tied to a specific outcome. As the time permitted, he let the painting take him where it would and thoroughly appeared to enjoy the whole process. There were no mistakes ever in Bob’s world; only “happy accidents.” This flexibility of mind turns the missteps of life into places where something new can emerge from. This is where the methodology of Bob Ross overlaps with turf maintenance more so than any other. As Superintendents we always have an end goal in mind, but flexibility has to be a central feature to any project or system we seek to create. Adapting and welcoming the change as a wonderful opportunity is paramount to moving through our days with flow. Wonder & Gratitude – When Bob wasn’t painting, he would often reflect on the abundance and many gifts in his life. He had a deep reverence for all things natural and that was always apparent in his art. You could see the joy that painting and teaching brought Mr. Ross with your eyes closed. The very best part of watching his show, was that you usually carried on with your day happier than before you started. How often to you pause for a sense of wonder? Do you make gratefulness a central part of each day? Compassion & Kindness – You could always see that Bob Ross had a deep empathy for all beings. You could sense his caring nature for his students and also for animals in need of extra care. Our kids’ personal favourite was “Peapod” the squirrel who loved to sleep in the pocket of his shirt. We named a resident squirrel in our yard in honour of Bob’s Peapod. As leaders, kindness and compassion for those people whom we work with on a daily basis can make a world of difference. Realizing that our team members are people just like anyone else, with all the joys and sorrows that make us human, will have a lasting impact. As well, demonstrating compassion and caring for all the living things who share our golf courses as their home too requires courage and a willingness to acknowledge that the living world encompasses far more than we humans are often willing to admit or kindly engage with. Bob Ross always had room in his home for so many little creature friends. In an era of climate change and biodiversity loss we might do well to find room in our hearts and on our courses to make space for more than just humans and turf. Sense of Humour & Fun – His painting shows were always light hearted and almost whimsical in nature. His jokes and comical nature, well placed and balanced by his calm demeanor. His one liners as he beat his brushes on the easel to clean them are the stuff of legend. Keeping things fun just makes work better. People don’t mind working hard, but if you can approach each day with a sense of levity and humour it changes the vibe considerably. So, take a moment and think about your own life and craft. Do any of the above attributes ring true? It doesn’t matter whether you are a painting instructor or a Superintendent, being kind and working to inspire others transcends life itself. When we reflect on those persons who have had a profound effect on us, it’s usually long after the fact. These people can be someone close to us, or in the case of someone like Bob Ross, be someone whom we have never met. If you are lucky enough to have someone like this in your life, take a moment and share your gratitude. The power of sharing your positive feelings with people has a ripple effect that is felt far beyond this simple act of kindness. From all of us here at TurfNet, I’d like to wish you “Happy greenkeeping… and God bless”.
  5. The similarities are spooky. But the need for real change in their industry mirrors our in many ways. We can all do better.
  6. There has been a theory forming in my mind for a while now. It’s one of those connections that I have been subtly observing for a while now, but it wasn’t until this spring that it has emerged fully formed. The idea explores the overlay and the similarities between turf departments and restaurant kitchens. It may seem like an odd theme for a blog post but bear with me. Over the last couple of months our kitchen staff has suffered tremendously. We have been dealing with devastating personal issues, addictions, management woes, and huge staffing challenges. It would not be an understatement to say that this has been one of the most trying starts to a season I’ve ever encountered, and it has nothing to do with turf at all. Most of our management team’s energy has gone towards helping, guiding, filling gaps and generally trying to keep the ship afloat; and it has taken a considerable toll on us all. Collectively as a culture we have known about the crisis in the restaurant industry for a while now. Our own food & beverage at the course I manage had always been leased out to a third party, but we still dealt with many of the problems first hand. Then last year we decided to take control of the department ourselves, and it has been a real struggle ever since. We now see up close how difficult it is to hire and retain solid employees. This initial glimpse has also solidified my original theory that golf course turf departments and restaurant kitchens across the continent are currently facing many of the same problems, it’s just that theirs are worse. Let’s analyze some of the similarities: Staffing Crises – Low wages, subpar working conditions and, most importantly, the seasonal nature of most food establishments tend to breed low morale and disinterest. Restaurant kitchens struggle constantly to find qualified, dependable mid-range workers, most particularly line cooks, sous chefs and entry level managers. This is much the same as the struggle for key foremen/women, assistant superintendents or equipment technicians. This lack of qualified staff puts more workload and pressure on the existing staff, and inevitably leads to folks simply walking away from the business. Resume Building – Kitchens also suffer from the same malady as many low- to mid-range golf facilities. Students want to head for the high-end facilities in order to build their resumes and cv’s. Food Network shows and PGA golf events have young people chasing a reality that simply isn’t sustainable. It leaves the rest of us ninety five percent scrambling to attract young people and creates a huge vacuum in the industries. Expectations – It’s no secret that the turf industry has been dealing with increasing expectations that border on the ridiculous by times. The restaurant industry is no different. Razor thin margins, intense competition, and a discerning food culture have driven kitchens to produce food at levels that would have been unthinkable for the average facility twenty years ago. Judgment – We are usually judged by the conditions of the last round. Never mind how good things were a month ago, it’s now that matters…no matter what the cost. Kitchens are much the same. They are only as good as the last plate served, and when that plate is coming from a stressed environment to begin with it can be a tough burden to bear. Many of our customers simply don’t see the toll that these conditions take on those providing the service for them. Stress – I was shocked to learn how most chefs and cooks operate on a daily basis. Long hours, subpar conditions and equipment, and unpredictable staffing leave most back-house departments operating in a proverbial pressure cooker. When coupled with the aforementioned expectations and scrutiny, this workplace stress leads to unhealthy choices and lifestyles. We in the turf industry aren’t much different in many ways, and if we aren’t careful we can quickly follow the same path. Mental Health – The stressful environments of many restaurant kitchens have led to a whole host of mental health issues. Addictions, burn out, and mental illness are but a few of the problems that are the inevitable result of poor working environments. Sadly, most employees just accept these situations as reality and resign themselves to working through it. Unfortunately, within the restaurant industry this is where things get worse. High profile suicides like that of Anthony Bourdain have shone a harsh light into some dark places. Thankfully our industry hasn’t gotten to this level of tragedy as of yet, but we would be fools not to heed the warning signs. So, how do both industries begin to move forward and turn the tide? Fortunately, within the food industry many leading chefs and industry people have begun to talk about the issues I’ve just mentioned. (Chefs Speak Out on Mental Health in The Restaurant Industry; Anthony Bourdain Day on PEI). I like to think that we are starting to wake up and see the need for sharing our stories, and talking about these issues as well. Blogs like this one, conversations in social media, and high-profile Superintendents not being afraid of showing vulnerability are helping immensely. Building a new culture of respect that gives food workers and greens staff a reasonable wage, fair working conditions, and leadership is paramount. Educating customers about reasonable expectations, and the true cost of high end conditions can create space within both industries for improved success. And dare I say it once again… we must promote self care as one of the most important skills that young people learn in both turf and culinary school. If a new generation of Chefs and Superintendents learn to take better care of themselves first, then they can’t help but take better care of others as well. Thanks so much for reading.
  7. Wonderful to hear that you were self aware enough to realize the necessity for change Paul. I think we all have the occasional season from hell, we just have to be kind enough to allow ourselves the necessary healing time. Its no good for anyone if we just keep our heads down and go until we burn out. Thanks for the kind words Richard Thanks so much for reading.
  8. Robert is such an amazing person in so many ways. Happy to report that he has been making many of the necessary changes as of late and is on the road to improving his overall health.
  9. Like many of you I sat transfixed as Tiger Woods made his way to his unprecedented fifth Masters title. It was hard not to be swept away by the culmination of this archetypal hero’s journey and cheer him down the 18th fairway. It was great to see him don the green jacket once more, but more importantly it was really nice to see him happy. It wasn’t until after a recent conversation with my dear friend (a former Assistant Superintendent of mine) Robert McGregor a few days later, that the arc of Tiger’s journey took on deeper meaning. Robert is in the very raw stages of dealing with a major health scare. A few weeks ago, he was admitted to the intensive care unit with incredibly high blood pressure. The doctors and nurses were astounded that his heart didn’t stop or that he didn’t suffer a stroke. Fortunately, they managed to get things under control and allow his body to return to some semblance of normalcy. Robert emerged from the hospital shaken, but with a new lease on life. You see, like Tiger Woods, Robert had fallen into a series of choices that lead him to his present situation. There isn’t a time in any of our lives where we haven’t done the same. Commit ourselves far too much to our jobs, load too much on our plates, inadvertently ignore our friends and families, and generally make life far too difficult for ourselves and those we love. Now Robert’s choices were a lot less “over the top” than our friend, Mr. Woods, but they still had a detrimental effect on his health and his life in general. Most of us have made similar choices to Robert, and maybe even to some of Tiger’s, all the while not realizing the cumulative effect our daily decisions make on our lives until something happens to shake us up. As we spoke, Robert and I both reflected on the “bubble effect.” It's that nagging feeling we all get from time to time when being a Greenkeeper overwhelms us. It starts innocently enough; the pressures of the gig start to add up (Robert managed two separate properties), we don’t sleep enough, we make some questionable food choices, taking care of our physical health is last on the list, and our home life begins to suffer. We get stuck in this bubble and think that the only reasonable choice is to just keep doing much of the same. We manage to limp through the end of the summer and then collapse into the off season. Then we rest up and simply start the process over again, without changing a thing. Once in a while we can get away with a tough season, but when this scenario becomes the norm… the outcome is inevitable. A physical, emotional, and/or relationship crisis occurs. I’m sure that it wasn’t much different for Tiger. Living in a far more publicly visible bubble, it would have been much easier to succumb to his questionable lifestyle choices. The pain of his body failing, the immense pressures of competing, and rigors of celebrity would have easily led him down the road of unfortunate decisions and compound problems. But life has a way of calling in the tab when it's due. We can continue down the path of suffering and poor choices for a spell, but the universe usually has a way of telling us (not so subtly) that it's time for change. At these times, something stops us in our tracks and renders us completely powerless. Applying compassionate, non-judgmental awareness at this crucial point can give us the space to check ourselves and make the all-important decision; do we continue with the same path? Or begin to fashion a new way of approaching our lives? It can be really, really difficult starting out to make the necessary changes. After all, we have spent a great deal of time numbing our pain and suffering, and our default habits can take on seemingly supernatural powers of their own. It takes an unbelievable combination of compassion and courage to look in the mirror and begin to make friends again with the very person that got us in this mess. It's not even close to being easy but is always a far better option than continuing to make our lives far more difficult than they need to be. Tiger and Robert’s paths to reclaim well-being are obviously different in the details, but the journey is strikingly similar. Both deal with the themes of self-forgiveness, non- judgment, and deep acceptance. Nowhere are these ideas more critically applied than within ourselves. Dealing with the whims and hypocrisy of others is tough enough but navigating our own mental minefield can be torturous. A constant refrain of letting go and staying present to your current reality is crucial. It's also crucial to have the love and support of those who really matter to us. Vulnerability is a virtue that is easily covered over in many our lives, but critical life events have a way of stripping us down and leaving us barren. Finding ourselves in this state can be very destabilizing, but if we can find the strength to lean on those who matter, we can slowly find our way again. By the end of our conversation Robert and I both found ourselves inspired by the fact that Tiger managed to turn things around and the thought that his journey is one that any of us can choose to undertake. Maybe Robert won’t be putting on a green jacket anytime soon, but the changes he will implement in his life will be no less monumental. He has the support of his family and friends, and most of all the courage to accept what life has presented. There will be stumbles, more than a couple missed cuts and even times when all will appear lost. But as long as he can stay true to the notion that self care is the most important thing, it won’t matter what color his jacket is. Thanks so much for reading.
  10. Love the talk about lowering expectations. One glaring omission I see is that of climate change and it’s effects on golf courses. It’s going to change the game in a huge way very shortly whether we like it or not. And it has the potential to be extremely expensive.
  11. Thanks so very much my friend. I always found that by spreading your awareness to the supportive parts of your life, you spend less time stuck in your own head/drama. When someone you love (be it friends, family, or even yourself) reminds you in any way how much you matter and lends a helping hand...your whole outlook cannot help but improve.
  12. The practice of yoga has always fascinated me. The breath work, the mind/body connection, and the way it can absolutely destroy you without you leaving your mat. Yoga has had a profound effect on my body and my well being. A key yoga lesson which has stayed with me over the years is that of support. A wise teacher once explained that when doing a pose, the primary source of strength doesn’t always come from the main body part you would assume it would. Instead, much of the strength and stability comes from the surrounding cast of limbs and muscles. They are the support staff and when you activate these seemingly unrelated parts, the pose becomes achievable. This key lesson has been on my mind lately when contemplating our lives as Greenkeepers. When you think of your course, or, even more specifically, a green that might be struggling, it can be easy to assume you automatically know the source of the problem. But often the solution to a nagging issue can be a combination of seemingly unrelated factors. Things like air movement, shade, nutrition, compaction relief, or any other of a host of cultural practices can act as supports working together to improve the situation and provide relief. What if you apply this same idea to your personal lives? If you are suffering, what are the support systems that you can look to that for help? What types of cultural practices can you rely on to help with your personal well being? Do you reach for the quick fix (insert snake oil jug of magical elixir)? Or do you have a dependable network of resources you can call on when we need to? What does your network look like? Here are a few that have helped me over the years… Physical Well Being – How are things for you physically? Do you take care of your temple? Exercise of any kind will do, along with getting any nagging issues taken care of. It’s really easy for us to let our physical health slide when we are in the throes of the season, but if our bodies are working properly it can go a long way to helping you deal with the rigors of the gig. Mental Well Being – Do you make regular visits with yourself? If so, are you good friends with that person? A lot of us do better caring for the physical part, but completely neglect our mental wellness. If we are tending our inner faculties on a constant basis, then we stand a much better chance of living a healthier life overall. If we instead choose to pretend that we are “always fine” then it’s just a matter of time before the house of cards topples. Taking care of our inner well being can take many forms. We can have hobbies, we can practice some form of meditation or “personal quiet time”, attend to ourselves spiritually, or anything at all that takes us inside and fosters a positive relationship with whom and what we discover. Family – We can’t always choose the personalities which comprise our families, but we can choose how we interact with them. Taking care to focus on family well being and the quality of our relationships can be a key part of our support structure. Often times our families are unintentionally sacrificed for our courses. No superintendent job is more important than your family. Make it so, and you will be lucky to have them there when you arrive home. This job is a challenging one but having a supportive family unit can make a world of difference. Friends – Like family, having a network of friends that you can rely on is paramount. Nowhere is this more evident than when you have a solid group of superintendents you can call on when things are tough. As a group, Greenkeepers have an amazing amount of empathy and knowledge to share with each other so make sure you tap that resource. No one understands what you are facing better than a good friend who has been through the same thing. Sometimes a good venting session is all that’s required to set your perspective right again. It’s also very helpful to have a stable of non-turf related friends. Supers have a funny habit of getting completely absorbed in the world of growing grass, so it can be mighty helpful to have friends who bring you back to the outside world from time to time. (See The Zealot's latest post for more wisdom on this topic… "Wisdom in the Craft Brew".) These and other support systems can go a long way to ensuring that Greenkeepers are not only successful in their workplaces, but also healthy human beings. When you are vulnerable enough to realize that you are not an island, you can develop the courage necessary to ask for help. And before long you will realize that you are holding a yoga pose that you might have once thought impossible thanks to your supports. Thanks so much for reading.
  13. You can stop by and cut cups here at Fox Meadow anytime...
  14. It is a complex word with many different layers. But at its core it may not be as complicated as we think. Kindness, compassion, helping out when you can...its all not that fantastical. Its fear that seems to shut us down...either collectively or individually. And this fear grows into all sorts of unfortunate things like nationalism, protectionism and such.
  15. We are all part of communities. I am a family member, a citizen of my small town, I am an Islander, a Maritimer and a Canadian. You can say similar yet different things about yourself. Whether it’s at the family level, within our surrounding neighborhoods or even based on our geographic locations; we are all part of a something bigger than just ourselves. At the macro level we are also part of the larger human community and even the community of all beings that makes up this planet. We all are inextricably interconnected in this life because we need each other to survive. Within our turf industry, our affiliations with community can take many forms. We have the TurfNet group, GCSAA, CGSA, BIGGA, and the many other national and provincial/state level associations. Bringing it down to the micro level we also have small groups of Greenkeepers who gather informally or chat frequently by phone or via the occasional visit. Any way you cut it, these communities are essential for our well being and sense of connectedness. I have been incredibly fortunate over the past year to visit some of these associations, and I can tell you with confidence that despite geographic differences we are not that different at the group or individual level. I have had the privilege of witnessing first hand turf workers coming together, for the exchange of knowledge, support and friendship. The energy and sense of connectedness from such gatherings is palpable. On many different levels there are bonds forged which go far deeper than simply growing grass; and this is a very good thing. When we gather as a turf community, it also serves to remind us about the wider reach of the industry on the planet as a whole. When one segment of our industry researches or creates something new, it can have far reaching impacts on the rest of the wider turf community and beyond. Many times these repercussions are positive, but not always. Sometimes we can be so focused on the hype surrounding the next emerging technology that we can forget to ask whether we needed it or not. As a community, it can be helpful for us to occasionally step back and critically examine the trajectory of the industry and where it fits into the larger human experience. Is this technology/action beneficial for the wider ecosystem? Am I causing the least harm possible in my agronomic choices? After all, to slightly tweak John Donne’s famous phrase “No human is an island...”, nor is any segment of this industry independent from the world at large. It can also be helpful as a group to step back and honestly listen to and create space for those who feel excluded from the mainstream community. Often times, through no direct malicious intent by the dominant majority, parts of our community can feel excluded or left behind. Sometimes the exclusion occurs because there are those who cannot afford to attend many of our gatherings due to the financial situations at their facilities. Other times the sting of exclusion is felt by the minorities within our community. Minorities being marginalized due to race and/or gender are the biggest subgroup within the Greenkeeping community, and we need to realize that it’s a real issue that needs to be addressed by the group as a whole. This unintended discrimination can leave these people on the periphery of much of the important decision making that steers the community as a whole. In this regard we can and should do better. Building on a communities’ strengths is vital. Realizing that we all have blind spots is critical. As a collective we need to remember that our core strength is our ability to support each other. Whether it’s via sharing of knowledge, lending a helping hand in times of need, or simply being a listening presence, our ability to be there for each other binds us in a way that most industries would envy. But we cannot rest idly and ignore those voices from the margins. We need to open our hearts and minds and allow for new ways of doing things to replace outdated traditions and entrenched views. In a real sense, all life is interrelated. All men (and women) are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be, and you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality. -- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
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