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.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Funding research: A fundamental pillar of the EIFG

How different are the practices and tools that you use on a daily basis from the ones you implemented 5, 10, 15 years ago? I am going to guess quite a bit different the further you go back in time. Many of these changes can be directly attributed to research that makes you work more effectively and efficiently.

As I participate in a number of meetings with local and state boards, research funding frequently becomes a topic of discussion. I know, locally, that the Florida GCSA is helping fund six different projects over the next couple of years. Where does the money come from for these projects? Local chapters and individuals make donations to the research fund for the FGCSA. I assure you, however, that there is so much more that can be done. If you need a second opinion, feel free to contact any of the University of Florida faculty. I am confident they will let you know their needs for research dollars.

To that end, GCSAA, through the EIFG, has an excellent vehicle to help support these research projects. Our Rounds 4 Research program has distributed over $435,000 to local organizations since 2012. The program should not be new to any of you as I have been promoting it across the state for the past five years. We are very excited about the upward trend the program has experienced over the last couple of years.

Some of the positive indicators include a 15 percent increase in rounds donated in 2016 over 2015. In the same time period, the number of rounds sold experienced a 22 percent increase. Also, the amount bid per round was up 20 percent. In 2016 there was a $52,000 increase in proceeds over 2015. All of these indications point toward a successful 2017 auction.

We have dedicated a task group for Rounds 4 Research, which is chaired by GCSAA Secretary/Treasurer, Darren Davis, CGCS. Also serving on the committee is Nick Kearns, superintendent at The Oaks Club, in Venice, Fla. I am confident that the group will be invaluable in making 2017 the best year yet. Also, I am sure you would all like to hear another voice promoting the program!

To assist in reaching even more facilities, GCSAA is poised to promote your efforts through mailers, e-pushes, and other marketing materials that demonstrate the benefits of this worthwhile endeavor. We have also adjusted the timing of the auction to May 1-7, 2017 to run just prior to The Players Championship, where our relationship with The Golf Channel may help encourage additional participation from golfers.

Now is the time for you to help out by donating a foursome to Rounds 4 Research that can be auctioned off in May. You set all the parameters for the round and simply submit it to us and we will take care of it from there. To make it even easier for you, here's the donation form.

Please take a couple of minutes to consider this program as a way of making your life as a superintendent just a little bit easier. Pass along the information to whomever you need to at your facility to donate the rounds and let us take it from there. Funding research should be a fundamental pillar for all of us, and in the end, you will benefit from the work we all commit to together.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Charting a path for the future of your chapter

As a leader of your chapter, how many times have you felt like Michigan Football Coach Jim Harbaugh coaching against The Ohio State University and wanting to throw something violently to the ground? Hopefully not too many times! As was the case for Coach Harbaugh, nothing good can come out of that type of reaction. He cost his team 15 yards and looked silly trying to replace the broken headset upon his head. As a chapter leader, nobody will call an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty against you but you would indeed look just as silly.

What if I told you that GCSAA offers a service that can help alleviate some of the frustrations of running a chapter and help you chart a path for the chapter's future? Well, indeed we do! By conducting a GCSAA strategic planning session, we can help develop goals and action items that will lead you to the fulfillment of your mission statement. What’s that? You don’t have a mission statement. We can work with you to identify why your chapter exists and capture that in a mission statement that should guide your activities moving forward.

The process proceeds like this: At the outset, we determine from the group what they hope to achieve during the session. Hopefully, by the end of the day, we will have achieved what the group has set out to accomplish. We will do a SCOR analysis of the chapter to determine Strengths, Challenges, Opportunities, and Risks that are impacting the chapter and how it is functioning. Once they have been identified the group prioritizes the top items under each of the SCOR sections.

From here it becomes a matter of formulating a few achievable goals and action items for the upcoming 12-18 months and perhaps a long-range vision for the chapter. Individual responsibilities and timelines are determined and then the work begins. GCSAA provides the documentation of the outcomes of the strategic planning session and this document serves as a guide to meeting the set objectives. The key is to set only enough goals that can be achieved yet still move the chapter in the right direction. This process can be revisited at the end of the 12-18 month time frame to determine successes that have been achieved and perhaps areas that came up short of the desired goals.

If the process is followed, I will state that the chapter will have moved forward and met their established goals. The icing on the cake for conducting a strategic planning session is that the service is free. Also, for those who participate in the process, GCSAA education points are awarded.

GCSAA Director of Chapter Outreach Steve Randall and I recently conducted a strategic planning session with the South Florida GCSA. In this session, we went through the process that I described and established a few key initiatives for 2017. I have offered my assistance to the group throughout the process, and I sensed that the group left the meeting charged up for the challenge and ready to meet the outcomes we established.

I would encourage you and your chapters to follow suit and plan to conduct a strategic planning session in the coming months. It is a great way to chart a path for the future of your chapter and eliminate some of the frustrations that exist in being a chapter leader. The Buckeye in me wants to make another Harbaugh analogy but I will leave that go for now as I am certain that next year will bring another opportunity to poke fun of the coach from up north. In all seriousness, please reach out to me if there is a desire to conduct a strategic planning session for your chapter and we will get it on the books and start the process moving.

Members of the South Florida GCSA board of directors working on formulating the future direction for the chapter through a GCSAA strategic planning session. From left to right: Roly Molina, Lissa Donald-Minus, Kevin Fipps, Ricky Reeves, Rod Zimmerman, Shane Warriner (PGA), and Billy Entwistle Jr.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Around the Sunshine State

I have had the opportunity the past couple of weeks to speak with superintendents around the state as they prepare for the return of their golfing enthusiasts. I have also spotted more than my fair share of car carriers heading in a southern direction which means their return is imminent. Superintendents are putting the finishing touches on summer maintenance practices and some are wrapping up renovation work. It has been a busy summer but the fruit of your labors will surely pay off.

Unfortunately, Hurricane Matthew did not do anyone along the East Coast of Florida any favors as I have heard reports of numerous trees being uprooted and debris being strewn about in quantities that can be disheartening. However, the professional men and women at the helm of these facilities have been steadfast in their efforts to get their courses back up to speed. For the most part, the superintendents I have spoken with have either already opened their courses or are on the verge of opening. If GCSAA or I can assist with messaging regarding the impacts of Hurricane Matthew for your golfers as they return, please do not hesitate to reach out to me.

On a brighter note, there are a number of great events scheduled in the coming weeks as you may need a respite from your daily tasks. Some chapter camaraderie and educational opportunities may be just what is needed. Sometimes just taking a break from the demands of your course and sharing time with your counterparts can be refreshing and the breather you need to enter the golfing season.

I am aware of the following chapter functions coming up this month and I would encourage as many of you as possible to try and attend these events and gather with your peers to exchange thoughts and share successes:

  • November 9: The Suncoast Chapter is conducting a roundtable discussion featuring Todd Lowe of the USGA with his views from around the state and Nick Kearns will be speaking about his experience at the recent GCSAA Chapter Delegates Meeting held in October. The event will be held in the Signature Room at Gecko’s in Sarasota. The event starts at 2 p.m.
  • November 16: The Calusa Chapter will be holding their anticipated Yellow Ball Tournament at Magnolia Landing in North Fort Myers. The event begins at 9:30 a.m. You can register on the FGCSA website until November 12.
  • November 17: both the Seven Rivers and Palm Beach Chapters are conducting meetings. The Seven Rivers will be at Juliette Falls in Dunnellon for their annual charity fundraiser beginning at 9 a.m. The Palm Beach Chapter will be gathering at Boca Dunes Country Club in Boca Raton. The meeting is slated for 8 a.m. Online registration is available for the Palm Beach meeting until November 15.

These are the events I am aware of at this time, and hopefully, I did not miss anyone’s meetings. Take the time and get to a meeting close to you and you may be surprised to see how much is going on within your local association. Hopefully, I will see you in my travels in the coming weeks!

My very best,
Ralph Dain
GCSAA Regional Representative (Florida)

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.