Thursday, February 2, 2017

Michigan GCSA continues to look to future

Rounding out January's travel, Steve Randall, GCSAA's director of chapter outreach, and I facilitated a strategic planning session with the Michigan Golf Course Superintendents Association board of directors. Along with chapter executive director, Adam Ikamas, CGCS, eleven of the twelve MiGCSA board members were in attendance which made for a successful session.


Similar to previous chapter strategic planning meetings, the discussion began with members determining what they were hoping to achieve during the session. With suggestions ranging from ways to better serve the MiGCSA members, to discussions on larger future goals, the meeting created a platform for future success. The mission and vision statement were also addressed, with board members providing valuable input on both statements. Ultimately, the vision statement was altered to reflect the chapter’s long-term goals.

The group then moved into the SCOR (strengths, challenges, opportunities and risks) analysis from which we were able to set clear goals and action items for the chapter. These goals and action items will help the chapter achieve short-term success, while also laying the foundation to achieve larger success in the near future. The action items developed by the group were put in place to act as necessary steps as the chapter continually evolves. These preliminary steps will allow the chapter to continue to elevate the industry and its membership while allowing the chapter to establish future goals which are relative to their overall vision.

I want to thank Adam, Steve and the entire MiGCSA board for their dedication to the industry and their association, as well as making the trip to East Lansing for the day. The event not only allowed me to gain valuable experience but also helped forge solid relationships which are the backbone of this great industry. I look forward to working with the MiGCSA on executing the goals which were established from the session.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The future looks bright as students near graduation

Water restrictions, pesticide regulations and fertilizer bans: these are just a few of the challenges superintendents face on a daily basis. Labor, however, may be the most difficult aspect of the superintendent's role currently. Whether it's finding individuals to fill out their crew, or bring in a qualified assistant superintendent, tracking down the right person with a passion for the industry has proven difficult over recent years.
These individuals are out there, and many will begin their careers this spring. Late last week, I was invited to speak with students at Michigan State University who are enrolled in the Golf Turf Management Certificate program. During the hour, I was able to discuss current trends within the industry and stress the importance of continuing education, association involvement and networking with your peers. I was also able to discuss with students various initiatives GCSAA is spearheading to assist them as they enter the workforce that will benefit them throughout their career.
I was impressed with the professionalism the students displayed, as well as their involvement in the industry.  I was asked poignant and direct questions about how they can take advantage of their GCSAA membership to continue their education and distinguish themselves as they apply for AIT, second assistant and assistant superintendent positions. All students in the class will be attending the Golf Industry Show next month, not only to compete in the GCSAA Collegiate Turf Bowl Competition but also to attend education sessions, work the student booth area on the trade show floor and network with potential employers.
If you're looking for an assistant superintendent or an individual who is passionate about turfgrass to join your team, please plan on visiting with members at the student booth area on the trade show floor. Not only will it align you with a soon-to-be-graduating turfgrass professional, it will allow you the opportunity to act as a mentor to one who is truly passionate about the industry.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Education committees getting it right

As the winter education season is officially upon us, educational and networking events have ramped up across the region over the past few weeks, and they have not disappointed. Chapter boards and education committees have done an outstanding job this season putting together educational events that are both relevant and entertaining.

Earlier in the month, the Wisconsin GCSA held its Annual Meeting & Turf Symposium, which takes place each year at the American Club in Kohler, Wis. As one of the marquee events on the WGCSA calendar, this two-day event provides a wealth of education and networking opportunities. My hat goes off to the WGCSA education committee. They brought in university professors from around the region to speak on a variety of topics, as well as professionals from related industries to discuss labor issues and arbor care. The theme this year was 'Protecting your Grass' with an image of a male donkey on the cover. The symposium offered just that with information to protect both your turf and your backside. Not only were agronomic issues addressed, the topics of advocacy, community relations and the promotion of the profession were covered in depth and left a lasting impression on the attendees. I'm already looking forward to next year's theme and program.

WGCSA president Jon Canavan welcoming all to the 2016 Turf Symposium.

The following week, and about 270 miles south of Kohler, annual meetings continued in Illinois. Beginning with the Central Illinois GCSA, 15-year GCSAA member and Class A superintendent Raymond Actis welcomed members from the CIGCSA to Crestewicke Country Club for their annual meeting and education seminar. Another great line-up of speakers (and no I'm not just saying that because I was on the program) were on hand for the event to offer insights on upcoming research being done in the region. The event included incoming CIGCSA president and 13-year Class A member Greg Willman presenting to the membership on how he continues to move the association forward.

Dr. Kopsell from ISU discussing his upcoming research.

Wrapping up the week, members of the Midwest Association of Golf Course Superintendents (MAGCS) met at Medinah Country Club for the always popular Turf Clinic and Annual Meeting. The MAGCS' education committee did another outstanding job lining up speakers for this year's event. Not only was education provided on soil testing and combating various turf diseases, Wrigley Field head groundskeeper Justin Spillman was on hand to discuss the 'ins and outs' of maintaining the ballpark during the Chicago Cubs historic championship run; I believe the MAGCS' education committee is already lining up the same presentation to take place in the year 2124.

Wrigley Field head groundskeeper Justin Spillman presenting at Medinah CC.

These are just a few of the great examples of chapter boards and education committees going above and beyond to provide world-class events for their fellow members. I personally am able to take a great deal away from each of these events and know I can say the same for all of those who attended. I would like to thank those individuals who have served and are currently serving on their respective boards, as it takes sacrifice and dedication to ensure members are receiving full value from their membership. If you have not been out to a chapter event recently, I challenge you to attend in 2017. You will not be disappointed!

I want wish everyone a safe and happy holiday season as you spend time with family and friends. I look forward to seeing you in 2017!

Monday, November 21, 2016

Round table discussions

After what has been described by many superintendents in the region as one of the toughest years regarding weather in recent memory, it's nice to have the Thanksgiving holiday nearly upon us. It's also nice to be able to reflect on the season with your peers and colleagues to find out how others handled various issues and difficult stretches throughout the season.

Near the end of the season, the Miami Valley GCSA offers the MVGCSA Round Table Discussions for superintendents, equipment managers, assistants and vendors to meet and discuss a variety of topics. Rotating each year between a handful of golf courses, the open forums take place at the turfgrass maintenance facility of the host course. Hosting the event at the turfgrass maintenance facility allows those in attendance to tour the host superintendent's facilities and hopefully gather a couple of ideas to take back to their property. It also gives equipment managers a great platform to network with other equipment techs from around the area. During the meeting, there is no official set agenda, members simply weigh in on the successes and failures during the season. This format also allows assistants and equipment managers to be part of the discussions and add their perspective from the season.

Brian Laurent starts the meeting with an association update.

This year's host was 15-year GCSAA member Ryan D'Autremont, head superintendent at Dayton Country Club. Some of the highlights from this year's event included discussions on labor, difficult weather patterns, hosting events, government regulations and course renovations & construction. A huge thank you goes out to all who attended and participated in the lively discussions.

I wish all of you a happy and safe Thanksgiving weekend. As we take a moment to enjoy this time with family and friends, please keep in mind there are a handful of great social and educational events across the region as we move into December, a list of upcoming events in the region include:

  • November 28-29 - Michigan Golf Business Conference - Mt. Pleasant, Mich.
  • November 30-December 1 - Wisconsin GCSA Turf Symposium - Kohler, Wis.
  • December 1 - Michigan GCSA Northern Holiday Party - Traverse City, Mich.
  • December 2 - Kentuckiana GCSA Charitable Christmas Party - Louisville, Ky.
  • December 2 - Michigan GCSA Detroit Holiday Party - Keego Harbor, Mich.
  • December 5-8 - OTF Conference & Show - Columbus, Ohio
  • December 5 - Central Illinois GCSA Annual Meeting - Bloomington, Ill.
  • December 5 - Midwest Association of GCS South Side Holiday Party - Frankfort, Ill. 
  • December 7 - Tri-State GCSA Christmas Party - Evansville, Ind.
  • December 9 - Michigan GCSA West Holiday Party - Grand Rapids, Mich.
  • December 7 - Midwest Association of GCS Turf Clinic & Annual Meeting - Medinah, Ill.
  • December 14 - Northwest Illinois GCSA Holiday Party - Rockford, Ill.
  • December 14 - Indiana GCSA Christmas Party - Noblesville, Ind.
  • December 15 - Northwest Ohio GCSA Christmas Luncheon - Toledo, Ohio
  • December 16 - Michigan GCSA Western Holiday Party - Grand Rapids, Mich.
  • December 16 - Midwest Association of GCS West Side Holiday Party - Woodridge, Ill.
  • December 18 - Central Ohio GCSA Holiday Party - Columbus, Ohio

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Time to vote

Maybe it's the upcoming presidential election, maybe it's the fact many feel board service is a time-honored tradition or maybe they want to be more involved in the decision-making. Whichever the case, it's great to see more GCSAA members running for board service at their local chapter level.

As annual meetings ramp up across the region, almost all of those which have taken place thus far have had more members running for director positions than there are positions available. While this may sound problematic, as ultimately there can only be so many individuals on the board per chapter bylaws, it's really quite encouraging to the industry as more members are looking to get involved in their local chapters. We have seen it time and time again, members who want to give their time for board service typically make up a strong board, and it's the board who directly contributes to the success of the chapter.

As board members continue to keep the connection between GCSAA and their local chapters strong, it's encouraging to see chapter meetings with more members in attendance and new faces coming to each event. Again, this is a testament to the board for creating stronger chapter events, and an equal testament to the members who attend and receive value from these great meetings.

I encourage each of you to attend an upcoming meeting in your area, especially with many annual meetings are just around the corner, your attendance is always appreciated. A list of upcoming events in the region include:

  • Central Illinois GCSA: December 5 – Annual Meeting – Crestwicke CC – Bloomington, Ill.
  • Central Ohio GCSA: November 17 – Annual Meeting – Winking Lizard – Columbus, Ohio
  • Greater Cincinnati GCSA: November 9 – Fall Education Meeting - Maketewah Country Club – Cincinnati, Ohio
  • Kentuckiana: November 8 – Assistants Meeting – Louisville CC
  • Midwest Association of GCS: December 7 - Turf Clinic & Annual Meeting - Medinah CC - Medinah, Ill.
  • Michigan GCSA: November 28 – Michigan Golf Business Conference – Soaring Eagle Resort – Mt. Pleasant, Mich.
  • Miami Valley GCSA: November 14 – Association Round Tables – Dayton CC – Dayton, Ohio
  • Northern Ohio GCSA: November 16 – Annual Meeting – Lake Forest CC – Hudson, Ohio
  • Northwest Ohio GCSA: November 12 – Annual Dinner - Maumee Bay Resort & Conference Center – Oregon, Ohio
  • Tri-State GCSA: November 2 – Annual Meeting – Rolling Hills CC – Newburgh, Ind.
  • Wisconsin GCSA: November 5 – Annual Couples Dinner – City Club – Milwaukee, Wis.
  • Buckeye Golf Association Annual Meeting: November 2-3 – Shisler Conference Center – Wooster, Ohio

Friday, October 7, 2016

SIGCSA fundraiser receives support from neighbors

140 Southern Illinois GCSA members, guests and members from the Mississippi Valley GCSA descended upon Spencer T. Olin Golf Course for the annual SIGCSA fundraiser. Given the recent passing of longtime GCSAA supporter Arnold Palmer, the event was appropriately played at Spencer T. Olin Golf Course, which is an Arnold Palmer-designed golf course and one Mr. Palmer visited frequently during construction and grow-in. The day began with a moment of silence out of respect for the legendary golfer and great supporter of our industry.

The SIGCSA fundraiser was appropriately played at an Arnold Palmer-designed course.

The event was a huge success, helping raise money for local scholarships and turfgrass research. A huge thank you goes out to 20-year GCSAA member Tim Johnson and his staff for preparing a wonderful golf course.

SIGCSA President Mike Jones, CGCS, awards 50 lbs. of grass seed as part of the fundraiser raffle.

Earlier this year, Steve Randall and I facilitated a strategic planning meeting with both the Southern Illinois GCSA and Mississippi Valley GCSA chapters. One of the outcomes from the meeting was to continue the promotion of cross-chapter participation. Due to the leadership of both chapters, the event was promoted through both associations, with the Quad-State Turfgrass Association stepping up and also supporting the SIGCSA fundraiser.

This cross-chapter participation is what sums up our industry so well, everyone coming together for the greater good of the profession. It's also great to see chapter leaders taking the extra effort to ensure chapter events are successful and offer value to the members. A big thanks goes out to SIGCSA executive director John Keuper and president Mike Jones, CGCS, as well as MVGCSA executive director Chuck Gast and president Mike Null, the work of these gentlemen ensured a terrific event!

Friday, September 9, 2016

Courses in Indiana persevere after tornadoes

Residents of Kokomo, Indiana began the daunting task a couple weeks ago of cleaning up and putting the pieces of their lives back together after eight tornadoes touched down in and around the Howard County area. The largest of the tornadoes registered as an EF-3 with peak winds coming in at 151 miles-per-hour. The fact there were no fatalities and only a handful of minor injuries is a testament to the quick-acting residents of Kokomo.

Considering the extensive damage, including over 1,000 homes and business destroyed or damaged, the community has come together and is well underway in the rebuilding process. I was able to visit with two courses in Kokomo which were impacted by the tornadoes.

I first met with 14-year GCSAA member and Chippendale Golf Club superintendent Kevin Custis. I met Kevin at what remained of his maintenance facility as he walked me through the heavily-damaged building. The entire north half of the structure had been ripped from the foundation and was displaced as the tornado moved through the property. As the structure came down, parts of the roof and joists collapsed on parked equipment creating additional damage and challenges for Kevin. The course itself also received substantial damage as over 40 trees were damaged or uprooted during the day's events.

The maintenance facility at Chippendale Golf Club.

Kevin and his small staff have already made great strides in the clean up effort and reopened the golf course after only one day, which is extraordinary given the current condition of his facility and the surrounding area. As we toured the golf course, Kevin was in high spirits and was thankful there was not more damage to the course as the twister narrowly avoided a handful of greens and tees.

The tornado overturned and displaced many pieces of equipment.

Following Kevin's visit I met with 31-year GCSAA member and Kokomo Country Club superintendent Larry Wilk. Larry reported he and his crew are all doing well following the horrific tornadoes. The course was back open after being closed for the ten days following the storms. Larry lost roughly 200 trees concentrated in a handful of areas around the course. Unfortunately, many of the trees were key trees on the property which helped shape holes and screen the practice facility. The majority of large cleanup has been completed, however, there are many trees which will need additional attention. Larry and his crew will continue the trimming and removal throughout the fall and winter, and will assess which trees are healthy and safe enough to remain. Larry has also begun to seed rough areas which were damaged by the storm, consisting of numerous acres throughout the property. Many greens and tees were also damaged as the twister tore through the property, moving directly over various complexes. Larry and the crew will also plug, sod and seed the affected areas.

A handful of the 100's of trees lost at Kokomo Country Club.

The course was also without power for seven days, during which time Larry did not have access to his irrigation system. The course did receive a small rain shower the day of the storm, which helped in the immediate few days after the tornado, however, there are still many fairways recovering from drought conditions. The Kokomo Country Club clubhouse also sustained damage, which was mainly to the HVAC systems and pool facilities. As with Chippendale Golf Club, no major damage occurred to any crew members home or property.

Tree work will continue throughout the fall and winter months.

Both courses are on their way to recovery with the leadership of both Kevin and Larry. Many members of the community lost their homes and possessions which will take a much longer to recover from. Speaking with both Larry and Kevin, the community has come together to help those in need, and support from family and friends has been vital to the recovery process.