Thursday, October 12, 2017

Restoring order after Hurricane Irma

The destructive path that Hurricane Irma cut through the Florida peninsula on September 9 and 10 will be remembered for some time to come. The impact the storm had on agriculture and tourism in the state will be felt for years. It is reported that our state legislators are seeking $27 billion in Hurricane Assistance from Washington.

Irma did not spare the golf industry, as numerous courses suffered significant damage across the state. I have spoken to many superintendents and the reports vary from feeling fortunate to have suffered only minor issues to those less fortunate that have been setting up plans for weeks to come to restore conditions on their courses.

Wind and rain wreaked havoc across much of the state with flooding and uprooted trees commonplace from Naples to Jacksonville. I have heard reports of as many as over 1,000 trees toppled at a facility and another report of storm surge more than 6 feet that engulfed a course completely. Power outages that exceeded two weeks were also relayed. As the golf season approaches, there is much to accomplish outside the realm of typical agronomic practices.

I have had the opportunity to visit a number of facilities and see firsthand the issues that superintendents are facing as they work back to a sense of normalcy. The best of superintendents’ fortitude has been on display as progress is being made daily. One superintendent relayed the following analogy: “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time!” And so it goes as he is working through the worst that Irma had to offer.

In my visits, I have been impressed by the planning and implementation of these plans superintendents have displayed in their herculean efforts to reopen their facilities. Every day, another course opens nine or eighteen holes and golfers can once again enjoy their rounds at their local venue.

On another front, I have also had the opportunity to work with our GCSAA members in this time of personal need. Through the GCSAA Disaster Relief Program, I have been able to assist members who have suffered personal losses by putting them in touch with GCSAA headquarters where financial support may be provided. I have been touched by the generous donations of chapters, businesses, and individual members who fund this program. The fund was established in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast. Contributions go directly to assist members in need. The interactions I have had with the members who have suffered personally will leave an indelible memory for me. On one occasion, a member had lost his entire house. He was so moved by the outreach effort from GCSAA that he declared that the phone call from me and the birth of his first grandbaby which occurred the same week were the two best things that had happened for him since the storm. We are not able to replace entire homes but we can extend a little support to help get members headed back in the right direction.

If you find yourself in a time of need, please do not hesitate to reach out to me at and I will be glad to assist you and put you in touch with the appropriate individuals at GCSAA headquarters. Also, if you would like to donate to this very worthwhile cause, you can either email me or call GCSAA headquarters directly at 800.472.7878. Your donations will continue to support our members as other circumstances arise such as the wildfires currently impacting Central California.

On a final note, I am always so impressed with the camaraderie that exists in our industry and the genuine desire to assist one another in times of need. I am glad to offer my assistance in any fashion that may be helpful. Thank you for the opportunity to serve you!

Thursday, September 7, 2017

A perspective on the Melrose Leadership Academy

I recently had the opportunity to chat with 2017 Melrose Leadership Academy attendee, Brad Caporini. Brad is a Class A member and the superintendent at Old Corkscrew Golf Club in Estero, Florida. Brad had never been to the Golf Industry Show prior to the conference in Orlando. The Melrose Academy provided Brad an experience about which he still is raving.

In our conversation, Brad relayed that every aspect of the process was so rewarding. I asked how the application process was to complete and he revealed it reminded him a little of a job interview. He meant this as a positive comment. “It was a thorough questionnaire that made me think introspectively and analyze how I worked day to day. I put a lot of consideration into my responses and I am glad it paid off!”

Brad was equally impressed by the phone call he received from a GCSAA board member notifying him that he was selected to participate in the 2017 Melrose Leadership Academy. At the time, GCSAA Secretary/Treasurer, Darren Davis, CGCS, also followed up with a letter that really struck a chord with Brad. He was moved that he was getting these personal outreach touches by GCSAA board members.

Once the time came to attend the Golf Industry Show, Brad was excited to participate in the itinerary that was presented. Brad truly felt special to be a part of the select few individuals that were chosen. He took in every event with enthusiasm and he specifically made note that Mischia Wright, associate director of EIFG, really fueled his excitement by her professionalism and her engaging demeanor. Every facet of the interaction was equally rewarding and the networking opportunities were endless. As a matter of fact, a fellow attendee from Pennsylvania that Brad connected with reached out to make sure Brad was doing okay heading into what could be a long few days with the impact of Hurricane Irma uncertain. These connections were exactly what made the experience so memorable for Brad.

Brad feels like he may be ruined because his expectations will always be as high as what he experienced through his participation in the Melrose Leadership Academy. From the opening ceremony to the closing celebration, Brad embraced every aspect of the 2017 Golf Industry Show.

It is my hope that others will investigate the chance to participate in the Melrose Leadership Academy and have an experience that rivals what Brad enjoyed. The deadline for the 2018 Melrose Leadership Academy in San Antonio is rapidly approaching. The application needs to be in by September 15, 2017. You must be a Class A or B member of GCSAA as well as a member of your local chapter. You must have been a member for at least five years and not have attended the Golf Industry Show in the past five years.

If you think this is an opportunity you would like to pursue, apply.
If you have any questions about the program, I would be glad to answer them or I am confident the GCSAA field staff representative in your region will assist. (I guess I am hopeful that my blog's reach is even outside my region! Here’s hoping…)

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Thank you for your leadership

I have just wrapped up touring the state of Florida and most all the chapters within my region have conducted their annual meetings. To me, this is a very exciting time of year as the baton of chapter leadership is exchanged and new presidents and board members take their positions as they provide direction for their associations.

I am always impressed by the individuals who assume the additional burdens of leading their colleagues at the chapter level. As we all know the responsibilities of overseeing a golf facility are demanding enough, yet these leaders are motivated by a variety of reasons to give back to our industry.

Consistently, I see these chapter leaders as individuals who are motivated by the overwhelming desire to give back to a profession that has been rewarding for them. It is this desire that compels them to work on all the members’ behalf to try to make their livelihood better moving forward. Be it at the local or national level, I find myself inspired by the work of these men and women and want to give of myself in a manner that mirrors these individuals.

I am confident that I am in the role that I am currently serving because of the impressions that have been made by people in my career that have assumed these leadership positions. It is a great pleasure of mine to have the opportunity to interact with these esteemed individuals and work with them as they guide their chapters through the challenges we currently face. Many times, the work they perform occurs after working hours and goes unnoticed by their peers. It can be a thankless task but they still complete it.

To all the individuals who serve on the local, state, or national levels, I sincerely thank you for donating your time and efforts on behalf of our great industry. You should be admired and appreciated for all that you do. I look forward to working alongside all of you over the coming year and am here to serve you as well. I hope you will turn to me and GCSAA as a source of information and support as you fulfill the term upon which you are embarking. I would hope that your members will echo my sentiments and also encourage you and thank you for your efforts!

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.