Monday, September 19, 2016

Hurricane Hermine not too much for Florida superintendents to handle

September was ushered in with some blustery weather produced by the recent Hurricane Hermine that dumped copious amounts of rainfall along Florida's west coast. Rainfall amounts ranged from 8 inches to better than 17 inches. The storm seemed to have a vendetta with the Tampa area as band after band of rain fell. There was localized flooding, but the wind effects were not really an issue other than creating debris cleanup. As I checked with superintendents along the west coast, most everyone that I heard back from reported debris issues with heavy rainfall.

I was able to visit with two superintendents in the Tallahassee area that experienced the most impact from the sustained 45-50 mph winds with gusts exceeding 75 mph. The trees with their heavy canopies in this area were susceptible to the winds. There were a number of trees that were downed, causing widespread power outages in the area.

I stopped in to see 6-year GCSAA member David Moyer at Capital City Country Club where he reported approximately 35 trees were downed and they were without power for nearly a week. David and his crew were actually able to get the golf course ready for play prior to power being restored. David was forced to conduct day-to-day operations from his smartphone. The ability to get the course ready for play in such a short period of time was paramount as David was scheduled to host a tournament that has been played since the 1950’s at Capital City Country Club the weekend after my visit. This effort is a testament to the hard work and commitment of both David and his staff.

Later, I stopped into to see Eddie Snipes, CGCS, and 35-year GCSAA member at Southwood Golf Club. Eddie was also gracious with his time and showed me around the facility. He had a number of trees that were downed and a lot of debris that needed to be removed. As David reported at Capital City, Eddie mentioned that he was very fortunate to have excellent drainage on the golf course so the rainfall amounts were manageable. The debris which was mostly isolated to out of play areas after several very long days will take probably until the middle of October to be removed. Again, thanks to the diligent efforts of Eddie and his staff, the course was open for play in less than a week.

As I reached out to the superintendents along the west coast that were impacted by Hermine either by the wind or rain it was evident that the impacts of the storm were not too much for them to handle. I realize the magnitude of impacts were not as severe as the flooding in Texas, West Virginia, or Louisiana, however, the same mentality of perseverance in the aftermath of nature’s destructive force seems to be a constant among those who choose the profession of golf course superintendent as their livelihood. It is an honor to work for and represent the men and women who serve as shining examples of hard work and dedication in the face of such challenges!

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Greens facelift at Viera East Golf Club

Recently, I had the opportunity to visit with, 22-year Class A GCSAA member Scott Eberly at Viera East Golf Club. Scott had invited me to come see the renovation work the course is currently undergoing as he and his crew convert the Emerald Dwarf Bermudagrass greens to TifEagle Bermudagrass.

They are utilizing a no-till transition, and 13 days after sprigging the greens, they appeared to be well on their way to filling in. Scott sprayed the greens three times with Roundup and Fusillade 21 days apart on the first two applications and 14 days between the second and third application. Following the applications, the greens were verticut with fairway verticut units to help establish good sprig-to-soil contact. Prior to sprigging the greens, they were tarped with Basimid and left covered for 17 days. Scott took temperature readings and the temperatures under the tarp were in excess of 130 degrees Fahrenheit.

The process seems to be working very well for the team at Viera, despite getting a little wash from a rainfall event immediately after sprigging the back nine greens. They received 3.5 inches of rain in a little over an hour which displaced some of the newly-planted grass. Scott and his staff replanted the sprigs that moved and cut them in again. During the visit, the greens were being mowed at .160 inches and they looked very healthy as they are nearly two weeks old but appear to be at least 4 weeks along in the process.

Scott will be planting the collars with TifGrand Bermudagrass in the near future. The hope is to have the greens renovation completed by August 5 for a ceremonial first putt by the club's board of directors.

As we toured the course, Scott was able to showcase a few other projects that he's working on including some cleanup work of unwanted vegetation that was slowing down play on a few holes and the construction of a new forward tee on the 6th hole.

Scott is looking forward to the conditions he will be able to provide with the TifEagle putting surfaces and is hopeful that the rest of the grow-in process proceeds as well as it has initially. I am hopeful to get back to visit Viera East prior to their grand opening and witness the progress that is made. I was very impressed with what I saw two weeks into the process and am looking forward to seeing Scott experience the best of success with his renovation.

Viera East Golf Club superintendent Scott Eberly inspects the sprigs on one of his greens two weeks after being planted during his no-till renovation from Emerald Bermudagrass to TifEagle Bermudagrass.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Going green at Broken Sound Country Club

Recently on a trip to Southeast Florida, I had the opportunity to drop in and see 18-year GCSAA member, Shannon Easter, director of golf maintenance at Broken Sound Country Club. It was great to visit with Easter. He was a member of my staff when I was an assistant on the Squire Golf Course at PGA National. Shannon and I are planning to undertake a First Green field trip most likely next fall.

As we discussed plans for the field trip, it became apparent that his operation at Broken Sound would provide an excellent opportunity for any students who participated in the experience. Broken Sound has an extensive recycling program. As Shannon relayed to me, the recycling program at his facility is second to only Waste Management in the state of Florida. Broken Sound has achieved a recycling rate in excess of 92 percent. During the first year of operation of their recycling plant, the club composted more than 500,000 pounds of food waste and 1.2 million pounds of yard waste that were ultimately reused on the golf courses.

The use of the composted materials resulted in a number of savings for the facility. In the first year, Broken Sound realized savings of $30,000 on disposal costs, $30,000 on commercial chemical fertilizer costs, $30,000 on chemical sprays for herbicides, fungicides, and pesticide applications, and another $30,000 on purchase of mulch as the yard wastes were ground into mulch and utilized on property.

Shannon was quick to point out that the key to the success of the recycling program and other green initiatives at the club was reliant upon membership buy-in. He indicated that the programs receive so much member support that thinking green is second nature at Broken Sound.

Shannon had a few spare moments so we took a ride on the Old Course which hosts the Champions Tour, Allianz Championship at Broken Sound Golf Club. The event has been cited as having a $15 million economic impact to the local community.

During our ride, Shannon highlighted a number of interesting features of the golf course. We stopped and observed one of the honey bee hives. Shannon pointed out the flight patterns the bees took coming and going from the nest to the top of the nearby cocoplum plants. Their flight back was exactly reversed from their flight out. Being allergic to bees, I was glad they had a pattern to their flight! Shannon indicated that last year the bees produced over 1,000 pounds of honey, and that this year they anticipated doubling that amount with the addition of more hives.

Our last stop on the course was the butterfly gardens. The use of milkweed plantings provides the allure to keep the Monarch butterflies on site. Even under the windy conditions there were a number of butterflies to observe. During the early morning hours, Shannon stated that the he finds countless butterflies in the garden.

I am hopeful that we can match up with a local school and conduct a top notch First Green field trip at Broken Sound. If there were ever a facility that is well suited to showcase the positive environmental impacts that golf courses can provide, Broken Sound more than fits the bill.

Friday, January 29, 2016

25-year GCSAA member, Eric von Hofen, retiring from golf industry at 44

Roughly 25 years ago, almost to the day, two friends from The Ohio State University set out on a journey that started at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. I had just graduated from school and Eric von Hofen accompanied me to help with my big move down to Florida to work at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens. The events of that trip are so clearly etched in my mind that it feels like it was just last week that the oil sending unit in my truck blew out as we were passing through Wytheville, Virginia. One loud air compressor and some dialect issues made for a comical repair that shortly got us back on our way. Once we made it to Florida, my housing arrangements fell through so we spent the first couple of nights sleeping in my truck and U-haul trailer. The transition from Ohio to Florida was not quite what I anticipated, but thanks to Eric and his support, I was able to find residence and get started in the right direction.

Upon his own graduation, Eric would return to Florida and join me as an assistant superintendent at PGA National. It was great to be reunited with him and have the opportunity to work together. Eric was clearly determined to achieve success and you could see that he had come to work with a clear goal of where he wanted his career to take him. That determination would see him excel as he moved up the ranks at PGA National. Eric would soon move on to take on roles as head superintendent at such prestigious facilities as John’s Island West Course, Doral, PGA West, Sailfish Point, Naples National, Calusa Pines, and his final role as Director of Agronomy at Riviera Country Club in Coral Gables, Florida. In each of these positions, Eric was able to establish a high-quality maintenance operation that elevated the conditions of the club. Eric is currently putting on the finishing touches of a total renovation at Riviera. The scope of this project was unprecedented, and through all that Mother Nature and the limestone rock could throw at Eric, he maintained his professionalism and persevered through the challenges. The new golf course at Riviera will have Eric’s fingerprints all over it and will be yet another spectacular achievement in his career.

Eric’s abilities as a superintendent are well-documented as he has hosted numerous PGA events with style and composure throughout his career. What has elevated Eric in his pursuits is his incredible business acumen. He has been able to transcend traditional roles and been asked to provide input on a wide array of matters both at his clubs and within the golf industry.

It is the combination of his personality, drive, and business savvy that has allowed Eric to hang up his paint gun and soil probe at such an early stage in his life. I am proud to be able to consider Eric a close friend and it has been an amazing 25 years in the industry. I will miss him in my travels but know that if I ever needed anything he would be right there with me, just as it was on that trip from Ohio to Florida so many years ago. I wish him the best of luck in his next chapters. I am confident he will find success!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

A time to give thanks



As the holidays are fast upon us, it is a good opportunity to reflect on the numerous positive occurrences from the past year. 

I know a number of superintendents that have taken on the task of course renovations this past summer. Mother Nature did her best to foil several of these endeavors, but for the most part, the indomitable spirit of our professionals around the state prevailed. Congratulations to all of you who have successfully completed projects of varying degrees. May your golfers appreciate all that you have done to provide them with the best experience of playing golf.

From a chapter perspective, the FGCSA continues to represent their individual members in the most professional manner and has worked diligently to provide the services and programs to help them find success. The FGCSA represented the golf industry well at another effective state golf day this past February and helped deliver the positive message of how the game of golf contributes to the economy, physical health and well-being, and to the environment of Florida. Beyond the state golf day, the FGCSA works attentively throughout the year on behalf of their members. Thank you FGCSA for all that you do for the members in Florida.

Also, as far as local chapters are concerned, the Gulf Coast Chapter, in conjunction with the Alabama Chapter and the Louisiana-Mississippi Chapter, held an excellent event in October in Biloxi, Mississippi, as the Deep South Turf Expo hosted over 700 attendees. These attendees were treated to top-notch education in addition to a well-supported trade show. This inaugural offering exceeded expectations and should serve as a launch to even more successful events in the future. I am sure a heartfelt thank you is well-deserved to the Deep South Expo Board of Directors, Trisha Roberts, Melanie Bonds, and Linda Wells, among many others, who pulled together an excellent event.

From your national association, GCSAA continues to advocate on behalf of our members to ensure that your career goals are achievable and that you continue to have the resources necessary to meet the demands of your job. There are limitless hours spent on behalf of members by volunteers and by GCSAA staff. The board of directors and the individuals who serve as representatives on various task forces and committees as well as delegates deserve recognition for their efforts. Also, we continue to build a strong advocacy base through our GCSAA Grassroots Ambassador program. These boots on the ground help forge relationships with policymakers that can directly impact our profession. Thank you to all that go above and beyond fulfilling the demands of your facility by also representing the industry with enthusiasm and dedication in your service.

Finally, I want to sincerely thank from the Florida region, the Everglades GCSA, the Treasure Coast GCSA and the Central Florida GCSA for their support of the EIFG through their financial contributions to our philanthropic arm over the course of this past year. Your contributions will be put to good use to benefit the industry.  Thank you!

As always, I am grateful for the opportunity to work alongside the numerous outstanding individuals in Lawrence, Kansas, as well as my field staff counterparts throughout their respective regions of the country. But truly, I want to thank the members of GCSAA for your continued support and the good fortune to serve alongside you as we work to constantly advance the profession and enhance the enjoyment, growth and vitality of the game of golf.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

2015 USGA Mid-Amateur Championship demonstrates best of our profession

I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to volunteer at John's Island Club – West Course from October 1-4 as they hosted the USGA Mid-Amateur Championship. I worked alongside John's Island staff, superintendent volunteers, assistant superintendents and industry partners. 


Longtime GCSAA members Greg Pheneger (29 years), John Curran (22 years), and Barry Balavender (15 years), had the golf courses in excellent shape for the event hosting 256 golfers on both the West and North Courses over the first four days. The field would be cut in half and then match play for an additional four days on the West Course would eventually determine the champion on Thursday, October 8.

The best part of the event was the illustration of how our industry pulls together to support one another. There was in excess of 40 volunteers to assist the effort. Two volunteers came from as far away as Scranton, Pennsylvania. FGCSA President David Dore-Smith brought two interns with him from across the state in Naples, despite the major renovation underway at his own facility. As the first president of GCSAA, John Morley, identified, "No life is, or can be, self-existent. We depend upon each other." This was evinced throughout the week during the championship.

This experience reminded me of several reasons I entered the golf industry and joined GCSAA in the first place. I love the sense of camaraderie that exists within our profession. In most endeavors in life, the entity that is competing for the same market share that you are looking to attract would never garner your support. In our profession, however, superintendents from the same golfing market came together to ensure that their colleagues at John's Island had every opportunity to conduct a successful tournament. 

I also truly enjoyed the opportunity to work in one of the greatest office settings: a golf course! I have been several years removed from the experience of waking up before dawn and riding a golf course from memory. Fortunately, I have been out on the West Course a number of times in the past and I did not end up driving into any of the 27 acres of sand on property. I came close, but was able to avoid the embarrassment! I also enjoyed the last glimpses of sunlight as it cast the shadows across the golf course. To me, this is the best time of day to be out on the course.

The experience of working outside among friends, sharing a common goal of creating the best golfer outing, and knowing at the end of the day you are a part of a greater fraternity of exceptional individuals who are there to assist you as you toil in the same fashion they do, rejuvenated my zeal. It is an honor to work alongside the outstanding individuals who are a part of the golf industry as a regional GCSAA representative. Thank you for the privilege!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Make an impact: "Sliding Doors" and "The Butterfly Effect"



Lying in bed before starting my day, I thought about past events in my life and how I got to where I am. Two movies popped into my head: the 1998 film "Sliding Doors" featuring Gwyneth Paltrow depicting how a woman’s life would be altered if she missed or made her train and the 2004 movie "The Butterfly Effect" with Ashton Kutcher. The concept of the butterfly effect is that something as small as a butterfly flapping its wings in one part of the world can have a bigger effect on larger system like the weather in another part of the world.

I am confident that we have all had "sliding door" moments in our lives and careers. Think about when you chose to make being a superintendent your career path. You passed through those sliding doors and set in motion the events in your career that you have already experienced and will experience. On a daily basis, we make decisions or pass through sliding doors that can have minimal or major consequences on the way we live our lives or make a living.

Bringing this into a GCSAA-related thought, there are a variety of services and programs that GCSAA offers that will undoubtedly help you as you work through your career opportunities. Your involvement within your local GCSAA chapter offers a number of interactions with others and educational offerings that can impact you and your career. Your decision to become active locally can enhance opportunities that may become available to you. Board service or committee participation can illustrate that you are a leader within the industry and set you on a different path.

On a national level, GCSAA education and career services are great tools to assist you as you progress in your profession. The opportunities your association provides are sliding door moments of which you can choose to take advantage. Those that do take the time to act on these services enhance themselves and grow their career.

Once you become active within the association, there are myriads of possible butterfly effects that you can initiate and from which you may benefit. I think of the opportunity to be a role model and the impact that may have on other individuals and their careers. Great leadership inspires me to want to be better at what I do. There are so many people in our industry both locally and nationally that evoke a positive desire to achieve more than previously imagined. You are the leader at your facility and your actions have daily impacts on those that work for you and those for whom you work. Your involvement within the association broadens the impacts you may have beyond the facility level. This is probably the aspect that is most rewarding to me as I moved from being a superintendent to GCSAA field staff and I was able to increase the amount of influence I may have. I love the interactions I am able to have around my region with so many great individuals with whom I share the same passion.

Our GCSAA Grassroots Ambassador program is another example of the butterfly effect. As we attempt to connect a GCSAA A, SM, or C member with a congressional representative we are hopeful that these relationships at the local level will be impactful when it comes to big-picture issues that have consequences industry wide. If you have not already done so, I would strongly urge you to consider our Grassroots Ambassador program and see if you can help influence the decisions that ultimately determine how you are able to perform your job.

As you pass through the sliding doors of your career, you can take advantage of the services and programs GCSAA has to offer and allow your association to help advance your profession. At the same time, through your involvement, you can provide the start to a butterfly effect that has dramatic, positive consequences for the industry for which we all share a passion.