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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. All superintendents have to-do lists. It doesn’t matter how one manages them — smartphone, tablet, app or even manually on a piece of paper — they guide our days and can shape us as much as they shape our courses. Many of us live and die by these lists. The blueprint they provide us is essential to what we accomplish on any given day, week, month, or over the course of the season. But what is your relationship to that list? Is it a positive source of clarity and organization? Do you pause and look back on all that your team has accomplished as you check off the boxes? Or is it a source of never-ending anxiety and angst; an endless reminder of all the things still left to do? If you answer yes to the second part of that query you might be experiencing what is called productivity shame. Jocelyn K. Glei, author and host of the podcast Hurry Slowly, coined that term and explored it on her show. It’s basically the notion that we create endless lists and set goals which are completely unrealistic, and then berate ourselves when we don’t live up the expectations the lists demand of us or fall short of our goals. This particular podcast touches on themes that many greenkeepers can relate to. The first of these is how we view productivity and success. Are you the type of super who only measures success by how many things you have checked off your list? Is the success of your team based only on the measurable, actionable things you’ve accomplished? Or instead, can you pause and step back from the list to see the bigger picture. It’s vital that we as superintendents and human beings create space for reflection and creativity. These aren’t things that are easily measured in a quantitative manner but when incorporated into our lives are critical to our overall well-being. Another key theme related to the idea of productivity shame is that of perfectionism. As turf managers, being slave to a perfectionist mindset can be lethal. There is nothing wrong with striving for excellence and attention to detail; it’s our job to look after details. But when those lists and details are never ending, and even worse, when they come to define how you view yourself, then they become toxic. Glei also refers to the idea of socially-oriented perfectionism. This is particularly dangerous, as it stems from our perception of how others view our work and how productive we are. Sound familiar? Do your relationships with golfers, board members or owners have you convinced that you are not measuring up — that your best efforts are somehow not good enough? The dangerous part of this notion is that most times these stories are simply not true. We tell ourselves these lies and they insidiously become part of our self identity. Our social media feeds can also play a sinister role in how we view our success and productivity. We can scroll through twitter and Instagram to see an endless stream of high quality pictures and stories of superintendents getting stuff done — especially so at this time of year when the renovation work starts to ramp up. If we are not careful, we can look at these amazing pictures and behind the scenes vignettes and think that everyone else is getting so much wonderful work done… and then leap quickly into the story of what’s wrong with us that we aren’t getting as much done at our place? We can’t see the imperfect truth behind the scenes of these images, and we often do not consider the budgets, the planning, and the fails they don’t take pictures of. If we are not careful this too becomes fuel for the storyline of how we/our course simply don’t measure up. If you find that any of this rings true, you can begin to release yourself from the grip of this perpetual shame by pausing and simply becoming aware that it’s affecting you negatively. Then, take out your list and instead of focusing on the stuff at the bottom without check marks, take some time to reflect on all of the items that are checked off. Let all that your team has accomplished settle in somewhere and just be with it. Take a moment to remind yourself that you are not this list. You are not measured in checkmarks and actionable items. You are more than both your perceived greatest successes and most devastating failures. You are a person who at this point in time happens to be a golf course superintendent, and what you do or do not get done in the run of a season doesn’t have to shape your inner landscape. Thanks so much for reading.
  2. Love this Randy, exercise is absolutely an essential part of a healthy greenkeeping lifestyle.
  3. 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
  4. 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
  5. 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”.
  6. The similarities are spooky. But the need for real change in their industry mirrors our in many ways. We can all do better.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. 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.
  14. You can stop by and cut cups here at Fox Meadow anytime...
  15. 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.
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