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.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Michiana GCSA poised for the future

The Michiana GCSA board of directors met recently with myself and Leann Cooper, GCSAA's senior manager of chapter services, to hold a strategic planning session for the chapter. The board's commitment to ensuring the future success of the chapter was showcased as they took time out of their schedules to conduct this important and effective meeting.

Most strategic planning meetings begin by the members affirming why said chapter exists and what it helps to accomplish moving forward. This is then reiterated, and adjusted if necessary, by conducting a SCOR (strength, challenges, opportunities and risks) analysis. The Michiana board was highly engaged during the session and identified areas to improve member services moving forward and created additional opportunities to support members as the chapter continues to expand.

The Michiana GCSA has always prided themselves on offering timely and relevant education to its members throughout the season, and this continued to be one of the main focuses from the meeting. The board will continue to focus its efforts on creating sound events in which members will receive direct benefit. The Michiana group will continue to build on the Spring Education Event which will set the precedent for the event calendar.

Creating additional member programs and services through direct partnerships with vendors and manufacturers will also be a focus for the Michiana GCSA. Utilizing these important relationships will not only give the vendors and manufacturers more flexibility and opportunity to support the industry and chapter members, it will also give all members the chance to become involved in services and programs created by the Michiana GCSA.

Success in any association largely depends on member activity and participation. The leaders of the Michiana GCSA have taken the necessary steps to create an environment where members are not only encouraged to become involved, but will see increased value from their chapter membership. With a sound agenda in place, and initiatives set which will benefit the members directly, it's easy to see why the Michiana GCSA continues to develop quality members, events and programs. I want to personally thank the Michiana GCSA board for their time and commitment to the industry and association.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Renovations at Moraine Country Club

Jason Mahl, the Class A superintendent at Moraine Country Club in Dayton, Ohio, has a huge item checked off his to-do list: open the golf course. A project which began with platform tennis construction, practice facility renovations and an extensive tree removal program, also featured a complete renovation of the golf course, including rebuilding all playing surfaces and installing new irrigation and drainage systems. What began over two years ago is now complete.

Jason Mahl (right) was on the first tee greeting those were in attendance for the MCC Media Day

The project originally broke ground in early 2014 when crews began demoing what are now the former tennis courts. Soon after the demo, construction began on the recently completed tennis courts, which includes brand new platform courts, surrounds, and a warming hut. Another large project which was coinciding with the platform tennis construction was the complete renovation of the practice facilities. The original range and tee were treated with glyphosate and the existing range irrigation was cut and capped. A new range tee was installed, including both grass and mat surfaces. The hitting area includes five new target greens, complete with bunkers and a large target fairway. In addition to the range, a short game facility was also added. The new short game facility features a USGA spec'd putting green, practice bunkers and approach area. New irrigation and drainage was installed over the complete range and short game practice facility.

Communicating the proper range tee divot patterns to the MCC members has seen early success.

The project on the golf course itself did not begin until June 2015, which happened to be one of the wettest June months in Ohio history with over eight inches of rainfall in a two-week span. The construction project on the course was a massive undertaking. Every playing surface was to be rebuilt, and a complete redesign of greens, tees, fairways, bunkers, roughs and native areas was to take place. New irrigation and drainage were also being installed at this time. With the record-setting rainfall in June, the project faced considerable delays early, but, Jason and his staff worked additional hours to ensure the project remained on schedule. A huge kudos goes out to Jason and the Moraine turf staff for making personal sacrifices to ensure the project was a huge success.

The ninth hole post renovation. The course looked fantastic.

Moraine Country Club officially opened back up to the members on June 11, 2016, more than two years after the project initially broke ground. I was fortunate enough to view much of the course in late June, and it's easy to see why Jason and his staff are getting such high praise from the Moraine membership. The course looked beautiful and playing conditions were second to none. Not only did Jason do a great job spearheading the two-year project, he kept the membership well informed throughout the entire process, proving the value of communication. Superintendents have come a long way from lurking in the shadows and seen as individuals who just 'mow the grass', and Jason is a prime example of that. His leadership shown on the project includes a website he created to keep the Moraine membership informed and displays just how far our members have come. This is a great example which showcases managing the largest asset of any club is both an art and science which requires a trained, skilled and dedicated individual.

A group finishing up their round on the 18th green (ninth green in foreground).

Friday, July 15, 2016

Ohio chapters come together for great cause

For the first time, the five Ohio GCSAA-affiliated chapters came together to host a joint chapter event, and the cause couldn't have been better: raising funds for the Wee One Foundation. The fundraiser began about a month before the event date, featuring a challenge between the five chapters. The challenge brought some good ole competition between the chapters, determining which chapter could garner the most participation in the event and raise the most funds.

The Wee One Foundation has directly supported several Ohio turfgrass industry members including Dean Kerns and Ryan Kopke who were both in attendance supporting the day's cause. Both of these gentlemen shared some of their experiences of how the Wee One offered assistance and donations. These shared experiences really hit home with those in attendance. It let them know that their donations were appreciated and that they are directly making a difference in our tight-knit turf community. All the proceeds from the day went to Dean Kerns to continue his battle with ALS.

Ohio Wee One attendees supporting Dean Kerns and his battle with ALS.

The event featured about 80 participants from around the state and region, including Adam Ikamas, CGCS of the Michigan Golf Course Superintendents Association and Luke Cella, CGCS of the Midwest Association of Golf Course Superintendents. Following golf and dinner, Luke Cella gave a brief presentation on the background of the Wee One and presented a check to Dean Kerns which put the total dollar amount donated by the Wee One Foundation over $1,000,000 to date. A silent auction and fundraising ball-drop were also featured on the day to help raise additional funds for the cause. This was a great event for the state of Ohio and the turf community as it was the first Wee One event to take place in Ohio. A huge thank you goes out to all those who worked so hard to make this event possible, including Brian Laurent of Propel Solutions and his team and Wedgewood Country Club and Joe Noppenberger for hosting. Thank you to the Wee One Foundation, which matched all funds up to $10,000 raised by this great event. This was an exceptional inaugural event, and I look forward to seeing it grow throughout the years!

COGCSA past President Carl Wittenauer, CGCS with Dean Kerns getting ready to select the 'ball-drop' winner.