Monday, June 26, 2017

GCSAA's Grassroots Ambassador program at work with Congressman Brian Mast

Recently I had the opportunity to work with our Grassroots Ambassadors from the Palm Beach Area and meet with Congressman Brian Mast from Florida’s 18th District. Erin Stevens, CGCS, MG, superintendent at Emerald Dunes Club pulled together the meeting with Representative Mast after meeting with him in Washington D.C. during the 10th Annual National Golf Day.

Our group consisted of Erin, Ryan Swilley, superintendent at Gulf Stream Golf Club and Grassroots Ambassador to Representative Ted Deutch, Jennifer Bryan, executive director of the Florida GCSA, and me. Our messaging built upon the foundation that was established during Erin’s meeting in Washington D.C.

Erin led off the meeting by refreshing Representative Mast of their conversations and the group added color as needed. We discussed NPDES permitting and were hopeful that Representative Mast would agree that the permitting was redundant considering that FIFRA regulates our application of pesticides. He supported our position and stated that he believed the NPDES permitting was excessive. As a matter of fact, HR 953 Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act of 2017 passed the House with support from Representative Mast.

We moved the discussion into the topic of H2B visas and Ryan commented on the need for the limit to be increased and that returning workers should not be counted against the cap limit. There are many golf facilities throughout the country that depend on these laborers and the demand is greater than the available numbers. We noted that these individuals serve in capacities beyond just the golf course but in the clubhouse as well. Representative Mast stated that he has heard this viewpoint from industries outside of golf and that the issue was front and center on his agenda.

In our time with Representative Mast, we were also able to venture into the topics of Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Phit Act, and WOTUS. On behalf of the National Alliance for Accessible Golf, we asked Representative Mast if he would be interested in being the keynote speaker at an event coming up in Orlando in early 2018. He said that he would consider the opportunity provided it fit into his calendar. He was also inclined to throw his support into the PHIT Act after our discussion.

Toward the end of our conversation, Jennifer Bryan shed light on the economic impact of the game in Florida and emphasized that golf provides a direct economic impact of $8.2 billion in Florida which exceeds the $5.4 billion generated by all the amusement parks in the state. She also highlighted the charitable giving produced through fundraising events that benefit many outside the game.

I spoke about Florida’s Best Management Practices program and noted how the successes enjoyed here in Florida as well as several other states have inspired GCSAA’s BMP template and served as the groundwork to GCSAA’s desire to have 50 states develop BMP’s by the year 2020. I expanded on this and discussed how golf courses have shown a decrease of nearly 22 percent in water consumption over the past 10 years. Representative Mast asked how this had been accomplished, and I mentioned that reduction in turf areas, advances in delivery systems, utilization of moisture meters and the use of wetting agents all contributed to the reduction.

With Representative Mast supporting many of our positions and agreeing to consider our asks, the group left the meeting feeling positive about the interaction. The day was an excellent example of how GCSAA’s Grassroots Ambassador program can be implemented and could be easily replicated around the state. At the conclusion of the day, Ryan Swilley asked if the group would consider joining him with a similar interaction with his Representative Ted Deutch. I am looking forward to the opportunity and am hopeful that other ambassadors from Florida will consider this approach when meeting with their representatives.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Driest period in 103 years has water use under scrutiny

Not that this is breaking information for those of you dealing with it daily, but Florida is experiencing some of the worst droughts in over 100 years according to several news sources. Every evening as I watch the news, the dry conditions seem to expand to more regions of the state. With rain shortfalls in some areas approaching double-digit deficits, water restrictions are beginning to be discussed. As you would imagine, golf will be right in the cross hairs of any of these discussions.

Data that can be utilized by golf in these conversations includes the following information that GCSAA reports through our Golf Course Environmental Profile Surveys. Water use on golf courses is down nationally by nearly 22 percent from 2005 – 2013. For that same period, water use in the Southeast is down by 39.3 percent. These reductions can be attributed to decreased turf area requiring water, advancements in delivery systems, and water conservation practices which include utilization of wetting agents, hand watering, keeping turf drier, and modifications in fertilizing practices. We have also found that golf courses account for only 1.44 percent of irrigation water used in the U.S.

As a matter of fact, the Florida Golf Course Superintendents Association is going to bat for superintendents in the region by drafting a letter utilizing this information as well as other pertinent figures that underscore how important golf is as an economic and environmental driver in the state. The state association continues to advocate on these issues as does GCSAA to help you, our members, and superintendents in general, keep the resources necessary to maintain their facilities.

I just read an article reporting that by 2070 water consumption in Florida will exceed 8 billion gallons a day which is a 54 percent increase over current water demands as per research conducted at the University of Florida. Most of the increased demand will be brought about by increased population that is anticipated to be an additional 15 million people.

In order to help offset any shortfalls in available water, we as an industry must be proactive in our practices and continue to strive to be as efficient as possible. With restrictions imminent, it is important that we continue to be stewards of the environment and follow the directives presented us. I am hopeful that the efforts of the state association will allow for a percent reduction in water use versus a day of the week mandate.

I am also hopeful that in the coming weeks, as we get deeper into the wet season in Florida, that more abundant rainfall will ease the current drought conditions. In the event that we continue to be dry, I hope you can utilize the data from this piece as speaking points when necessary. I also hope that you know that both the state and national associations are here to provide information and services to assist you during times such as this. Please feel free to reach out to me at if you need support information that can assist with any issues.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Florida Delegation Brings Golf’s Message to State Capitol

With the 10th Annual National Golf Day on the horizon in Washington D.C., I am proud to say that I was a part of a similar effort locally here in Florida. On Wednesday, April 19, a delegation representing golf's allied associations in the state gathered for the fifth consecutive year in the halls of the state capitol in Tallahassee. 

Our message is one of the positive contributions in the areas of economic drivers, environmental sustainability, and charitable giving. Our visit did not have a specific ask, rather it was our intention to continue to foster relationships with our elected officials. These relationships will prove fruitful in the future as water quality and quantity concerns continue to be at the forefront of policy decisions. We cannot afford to miss our seat at the table during these discussions or we may face legislation that is detrimental to our business.

Golf in Florida has an $8.2 billion direct economic impact to the state’s economy. This figure exceeds the total of $5.4 billion brought in by all the theme parks in the state…. Yes, golf is bigger than Mickey Mouse here in the Sunshine State. We were also able to share with our representatives how much golf reinvests in the local economy. It was reported in our meetings that in 2016 over $432 million was put back into golf facilities around the state. There is another $492 million of reinvestment on the books for 2017. Much of this work is completed using local businesses which again benefits local economies.

In addition to the positive economic impacts of the game, we were able to tell the story of the environmental benefits of golf courses within our communities. Obviously, we focused on the natural habitat we provide wildlife and the filtering and cooling effects which the turfgrass on the course offers in urban environments. Another takeaway we hoped to instill to the representatives was regarding our successful BMP program in Florida. We have certified 396 individuals throughout the state which is a testament to the commitment and professionalism of our members. Our BMP program has also helped golf be granted exemptions from 96 local ordinances around the state. We also relayed to legislators that the program received national recognition from GCSAA as the FGCSA was the 2015 recipient of the Excellence in Government Relations Award in large part due to the BMP program. 

Our closing message was that of the charitable giving associated with the game of golf. At the national level, golf gives back in charitable offerings nearly $4 billion annually. This amount exceeds the total charitable contributions of the NFL, MLB, NBA, and NHL combined. Here at home in Florida, golf combines to contribute over $383 million on an annual basis. 

With roughly 1,100 golf courses and over 132,000 individuals employed in the industry, we can truly call our state “The Golf Capitol of the World.” Therefore, events like Florida Golf Day remain important to promote the benefits of our game. If given the opportunity at the local level, I highly encourage you to speak with your representative and establish a relationship with them prior to needing something from them. These relationships may well be the foundation that allows us to continue to conduct our business in a manner that is both economically and environmentally sound.

Monday, March 27, 2017

South Florida Chapter Building for a Better Tomorrow

Recently, Steve Randall and I met with leaders of the South Florida GCSA to conduct a strategic planning session to focus chapter energies on a few goals that would provide leadership with a sense of direction. The group left that session with a sense of purpose and a very positive energy to achieve the outlined goals.
The goals we established were to grow professional membership as well as garner greater participation in chapter events. Through our work that day, we penned a concise mission statement to guide the chapter in their endeavors. The mission statement reads:
 The South Florida GCSA is a professional organization dedicated to advancing the golf course management profession by providing valuable member programs, serving the community and supporting turfgrass research across the region.”
Through a detailed SCOR analysis of the chapter, we identified the Strengths, Challenges, Opportunities, and Risks. Through a deeper dive into these results, we formulated the goals and action items that would be the focus for the upcoming 12 – 18 months.
·       Grow non-industry partner memberships (A, B, C, EM) by 25 members by the end of 2017. Create an EM Classification by July 2017 (Annual Meeting) Utilize non-member call list or mailings (spring and fall mailings) and create a membership packet (value of local, state, and GCSAA membership) to be delivered in person. Develop packet for distribution completed by May 1, 2017. Personal visits to be concluded by the annual meeting in July 2017.
·       Establish a 12-month event schedule for 2017 by January 2017. Dates with details to follow.
·       Establish a long-term goal during 2017 focused on the opportunity to partner with a charity foundation or community project (i.e. First Green or regional charity).
·       Establish one educational meeting focused on personal growth by the end of 2017. Topics can include business, communication, leadership concepts / financial / employment issues.
·       Create an assistants’ educational event to conduct by the end of 2017, potentially in November.
·       Create an expanded equipment manager education event.
It is with pleasure that I report after a follow-up meeting with the chapter leaders, that the chapter has made great strides in reaching their agreed upon goals for the upcoming year. The calendar is set as was an expectation. They have created a nice membership portfolio that will be used in site visits with non-member individuals. Their membership numbers have already begun to grow due to some individual efforts from board members. There are plans for an assistants' meeting as well as an equipment managers’ session. And a meeting that has personal growth as a focus is also being finalized.
I am encouraged by the early progress the chapter has made and am looking forward to seeing the South Florida GCSA build on these successes. I offer to other chapters within the region, as well as across the country, that GCSAA provides strategic planning free of charge. We are ready to facilitate these efforts and guide our chapters to enhance the services and programs that the local chapter provides their membership.
If you are looking for guidance for the chapter or want to dust off an older strategic plan, please contact me or your region’s GCSAA field staff representative and we will be glad to participate in the process with you. I am confident that through conducting a strategic planning session your chapter will have a better perspective on future direction and will have the stepping stones in place to reach your desired goals. Call us today and we will work with you to get this in motion!

Text Box: Members of the South Florida GCSA Board of Directors participate in a GCSAA strategic planning session to drive organizational priorities. The group has made excellent strides in achieving the goals established and serves as a model for pursuing a GCSAA strategic plan.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

A reminder of how golf gives back

I am going to try to put my thoughts and emotions into words but I am afraid I will come up short of capturing exactly how I am feeling. On Friday, January 20, the deeply caring and benevolent spirit of those who comprise the golf industry were on display at The Breakers Rees Jones® Course in West Palm Beach (owned and operated by The Breakers Palm Beach). The overwhelming outpouring of support had me in an emotional frenzy the past couple of days, so I really want to ascend to a high summit somewhere and shout out that people are good and thoughtful and giving!

Since I am in no shape to climb to a mountain top, I will settle for writing this blog post with the hope that it reaches more readers anyway.

It is during a most challenging time in the life of GCSAA member Neil Sheridan that our industry (really, our family) pulled together in such a remarkable fashion to show Neil just how valued he is not only as a member of The Breakers community but also as a part of the state and national golf community. Neil has recently been diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. More specifically, a rare tumor that develops off the adrenal gland called Pheochromocytoma.

Currently, the tumor is about the size of a softball. After a couple of months of stomach issues, back pain, and loss of appetite, the cancer was discovered. Unfortunately, by this time, it had spread to his T9 vertebrae and is nearly wrapped around his aortic artery, which completely rules out surgery unless it can be shrunk down.

Neil is 35 with two children under the age of three! The treatment plan Neil is doing now is called M.I.B.G. which is a high dose of radioactive isotope and is being carried out at Sloan Kettering, one of the leading cancer centers in the world. The facility is based in New York and they specialize in treating this extremely rare form of cancer. He is truly in the best hands possible.

As you may imagine, this care comes at a hefty price and will undoubtedly create some hardship for Neil. This is where The Breakers’ Director of Golf and Grounds Mark Reid and Danny St. Louis, director of golf at Breakers West, put together a plan to hold a fundraising event for Neil and his family. The initial thoughts were to have 18 teams of four play the Rees Jones Course in the afternoon and donate the proceeds from the day to Neil, as well as having some raffle fundraisers to kick in a little extra.

Was that ever a colossal underestimate of how much participation and support this event would garner. There was such a great demand to be a part of the day that the decision was made to have a morning shot gun in addition to the afternoon shot gun. Both events were full with no additional room for a foursome.

The energy of the day was palpable as I spoke with individuals from all walks as well as those within the industry that were there to support Neil. The group I was paired with, friend of a friend of Neil's wife Kate, came from Georgia, Orlando, and Palm Beach Gardens. They just knew they wanted to participate in such a worthwhile endeavor. Class was on display at every turn this day courtesy of the entire Breakers organization!

The Breakers ran a first class event on behalf of Neil and his family and the day exemplified why they are considered a premiere golfing destination with world-renowned facilities as well as top quality human beings. It was truly a pleasure being on hand for this occasion along with the best that the game has to offer.

I have had the opportunity to speak with Mark Reid since the day and express how moved I was to be a part of this event. He echoed my emotions and relayed that he was also touched by the support that was shown. If there were more Mark Reid’s in this world, we would definitely be living in a better place! Mark anticipated that the event will have raised, when all is said and done, roughly $95,000.

For something that started with the hopes of raising a little bit to help support a family in need, the enormity of the day still escapes words for me. It’s not the dollar amount that was raised that is what I will remember long after Neil has won his battle with cancer, but rather the display of the best of the human spirit and the positivity of the day that enveloped all who were there.

Neil, you remain in my thoughts and prayers as well as the prayers of those many more who were also touched by the magnificent outpouring of love and support! Thank you for allowing me the honor of sharing the day.