Wednesday, December 17, 2014

A new season

Here in the Great Lakes region another season has come to an end and a new season is upon us with the onset of winter. Irrigation systems have been blown out, winter disease control products have been applied and equipment repair and restoration has begun. For chapters, monthly meetings have also come to a close and the education season has begun. I have attended numerous conferences already this fall, such as the Wisconsin Turfgrass Symposium and the Ohio Turfgrass Foundation Conference and Show and many more are right around the corner after the new year begins.

I hope that all superintendents will take advantage of these educational opportunities and encourage staff members, such as assistant superintendents, spray technicians, equipment technicians and irrigation technicians, to attend education offerings, as this will help to solidify the knowledge at the facility. Having a well educated team that is capable of taking the golf course to the next level reflects well on the golf course superintendent. As the role of the superintendent is changing it is vital that the team has the knowledge and skills to operate efficiently while the superintendent is attending meetings in the clubhouse or is off site talking with community leaders.

Staff members are very good at their jobs but many times lack training in areas that are outside their normal duties, such as managing people, budgets or leading meetings. Many of today's educational meetings for superintendents include training in these areas as superintendents are excellent in the agronomic arena but lacking in other areas they need knowledge in to be successful. I would challenge you and your staff to get out of your comfort zone and look at areas of leadership where you may be weak and attended educational opportunities in these areas.

Come to the GCSAA Education Conference and Golf Industry Show, as there are many learning opportunities in the agronomic area but just as many in the other areas that superintendents and assistants need to be successful. There will be many opportunities to brush up on interviewing skills and learn what employers are looking for in today's market, as well as keeping up to date on new advances in technology to help the golf course superintendent on the golf course and beyond. I hope to see all of you at local educational events and I hope you all are planning on attending the conference and show in San Antonio. Have a great and learning winter season!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Field days of summer

It seems as though the summer has flown by and fall is rapidly approaching. In the Great Lakes region, that means aerification. Most of the chapters in the region have limited, if any, chapter meetings during the month of September due to the amount of aeration that is going on and how busy the superintendents are during this time of the year. One other thing that late summer and fall brings are field days from our nearby universities. I try to attend as many field days as possible, due to the fact that I see superintendents that are unable to attend monthly meetings due to their schedule, so field days are a great way to make contact with members that I don't get to see very often. This year, I attended the Wisconsin Turfgrass Association and Ohio Turfgrass Foundation field days. There is a lot of great research being done by these two associations on turfgrass, but a couple of things stood out this year. At the WTA, Bruce Schweiger hosted a stop on "Calibrating Your Walking Speed" and at OTF they introduced us to the new Bermudagrass trials they will be conducting to see if any of four chosen varieties will do well enough in northern climates to be used in such places as football fields, soccer fields or driving range tees.

Schweiger's stop included comments about who calibrates their spreaders and sprayers. Did you know that being off by 1/2 mile per hour will make a 16.7 percent change in the rate, and being off by 1 mile per hour will make a 33.3 percent change in the rate? In lawn care this can be substantial to the bottom line but in golf it can be the difference between control of an insect population or damage to the turf, properly fertilized healthy turf or lean, hungry and unhealthy turf. It is easy to calibrate knowing that three miles per hour is equivalent to 4.4 feet per second or 44 feet in 10 seconds. Just set up an area where you have 44 feet, put weight in the spreader to equal the weight of the product, and have your applicator walk the 44 feet while being timed. It should take them 10 seconds if they are walking three miles per hour.

At field days you can also learn about new products coming to the market and how they are preforming. There are also updates on niches in the industry such as pigments, the effects of brushing and rolling and new ways of controlling pests. Also this year, at the OTF field day, there was a presentation on "Pesticide Safety Near Pollinators" that touched on one of this year's hot topics and was very well covered. It is information like this that makes the field days so valuable to superintendents.

Hopefully you saw the last post on my blog about the First Green. I am happy to report that the First Green will be coming to the Chicago area with Medinah Country Club and Superintendent Curtis Tyrell hosting this fall. Since a presentation at the August meeting of the MAGCS, others have also committed to hosting a First Green event at their golf courses. Once the events have taken place I will report back through the blog and give everyone highlights. If you and your golf course would like to host a First Green event please contact me and I will help you get it arranged. I hope that aeration goes well for everyone and that you have a great fall!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

The First Green

The post below was written for the Midwest Association of Golf Course Superintendents by Cathy Relyea of the First Green. This program is great at getting kids on the golf course and teaching them how to use practical knowledge they learn in the classroom by applying it in the real world. If you would like to have the First Green come to your golf course let me know and we will make it happen.

First Green coming to Chicago
Cathy Relyea from the First Green Foundation will introduce First Green, an innovative environmental education outreach program using golf courses as environmental learning labs, at the August 26 MAGCS monthly meeting at Harborside International. She’ll be joined by representatives from the Illinois and Indiana Sea Grant Program (IISG). First Green and IISG are seeking to bring First Green to the Chicago area, with help from Luke Cella, MAGCS executive director, and John Miller, Midwest Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA) representative. IISG will be applying for a second round of funding this fall to provide superintendent resources kits, training for superintendents and identify classroom teachers.

What is First Green?
First Green is an innovative environmental education outreach program using golf courses as environmental learning labs.  First Green coordinates outdoor STEM “learning labs” at golf courses that allow students to perform hands-on experiments and tests, all within the focus of their schools’ environmental science and/or environmental horticulture curricula. In these outdoor “labs” students test water quality, collect soil samples, identify plants, do math activities and work with local issues, such as stream-bed or owl-nest restoration. Many of the field trips involve community organizations. In Bellevue, Wash., the city’s Stream Team often has a learning station at Glendale Country Club’s field trips and engages students in identifying macro-invertebrates (bugs) from the Glendale pond.

Hosting a Field Trip
Golf course superintendents are key players in a First Green field trip, working with the teacher to select a lesson or lessons from the First Green website ( that fits what the students are learning in the classroom. Superintendents are the subject matter experts and have plenty of knowledge to share. With the help of the planning checklists and lesson plans on the First Green website, superintendents can host their own field trips. While sometimes a little apprehensive at hosting their first field trips, superintendents love the interaction with inquisitive students and are quickly sold on the benefits of reaching out to the community. Frank Tichenor, golf course superintendent at Forest Hill Field Club in Bloomfield, New Jersey said after his first field trip, “I have to say … yesterday was one of the best days I have ever spent on a golf course!”

Growing the Game
Over 15,000 students have been on First Green field trips. Each field trip reaches an estimated 230 people with environmental and golf messages (due to students sharing with friends and families and teachers sharing with colleagues). For many students, a First Green field trip is their first foray onto a golf course. 

The United States Golf Association (USGA) awarded First Green STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) grants in 2013 and 2014 to help expand from Washington into Oregon, California, Utah, Colorado, New Jersey and British Columbia.

Larry Gilhuly, director of northwest region, USGA Green Section, is surrounded by students during a field trip.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Summer is almost here

This winter was very tough in the Great Lakes Region and the spring has been no picnic either with, superintendents working to repair damage left by the harsh winter and struggling with a cool spring that did not lend itself to growing new turf and healing existing turf. I received numerous calls from superintendents in the northern part of the Great Lakes region talking with me about Poa annua not greening up. And I received just as many calls from superintendents in the southern part of the region calling about their bermudagrass not greening up. With summer fast approaching, I hope that everyone has experienced some weather good enough to promote recovery of all of their turf! Please make sure that you are using all of the resources available to you, especially resources your GCSAA membership gives you, including webinars, forums and access to the Turfgrass Information Files.

On May 14th, National Golf Day was held in Washington, D.C., and GCSAA was well represented with staff and the Government Relations Committee present. It is extremely important that GCSAA represents its members' interests and seizes the opportunity to talk with legislators about how their decisions affect superintendents. GCSAA is also looking to take this one-on-one relationship with legislators to a new level with the Government Relations Ambassador Program. This program will put a superintendent in direct contact with every legislator in Washington and give these legislators a go-to person when issues arise the will affect the golf industry. If you are interested in being that person in your community, please let GCSAA know. You can apply for the program through the website or by contacting me and I will help sign you up. It is important that members embrace this program and participate. Many members have already signed up so we are moving in the right direction. Here is a little bit more about National Golf Day:

National Golf Day is a broad industry effort under the auspice of We Are Golf - a coalition of the game's leading associations and industry partners - designed to showcase golf's nearly $70 billion economy, $4 billion annual charitable impact, environmental value to local communities and fitness benefits.

Golf's leaders met with members of Congress throughout the day to share stories about the game's almost 15,000 diverse small businesses, which employ more than 2 million people and provide $55.6 billion in annual wage income. In addition, industry executives discussed golf courses' positive influences on ecology, tax revenues and tourism.

"National Golf Day presents a unique opportunity not only for the golf industry, but also for GCSAA and its members, to make personal connections with members of Congress and to help them understand the role the game plays in the economic, environmental and charitable life of our communities," says GCSAA CEO Rhett Evans. "The opportunity to educate lawmakers on issues of importance to our members and the stewardship role superintendents play every day is one we embrace. We are proud of our association with We Are Golf and our participation in National Golf Day."

Monday, April 7, 2014

Spring at last - Maybe!

Well it looks like spring has finally decided to show up in the Great Lakes region. I was up in Michigan last week doing a strategic planning session with the MiGCSA and it was 32 degrees and rain mixing with freezing rain! The temperatures do seem to be moderating, though, and it is important for superintendents to think about their typical spring applications, be it for weed or insects, as the timing may be a bit off this year.

While in Michigan, we looked at the number of growing degree days that had accumulated and there were zero. It is hard to believe that in the first week of April there would have been zero growing degree days in south central Michigan. For the areas in the southern part of my territory I have heard that the zoysia and bermudagrass are just starting to green up, but at the northern tip of that zone only the south-facing slopes and low-lying, protected areas are greening up. We know that eventually everything will run its course and the turf will start growing, it is just a matter of superintendents being prepared when that happens.

And remember you can always turn to GCSAA for help through webinars and articles from the TGIF. All of these services are free as a part of your GCSAA membership. While you are on the website take a look at Rounds 4 Research, and if you can, please ask your golf course to make a donation of rounds or possibly a monetary donation. Eighty percent of the money goes back to your chapter and 20 percent goes to the EIFG, two great causes that help superintendents locally and nationally. I will be at a number of events in the Great Lakes region this month and look forward to seeing everyone.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Spring is coming!

Here in the Great Lakes region some of us are finally seeing turf again. This has been one of the harshest winters we have seen in quite some time. Heavy snows, wind and extremely cold temperatures have been with us since November, and while we are having a quick thaw, more cold is on the way. Now that we are seeing peeks of sun and warmth, I am sure your golfers are getting anxious to be out on the golf course. It is this time of year that superintendents have to make those tough decisions, such as should the golf course be open or be closed. At these times, it is important for superintendents to be great communicators and back up that communication with information. This information comes in the form of articles written by the experts and GCSAA can help you get your hands on those articles. One of the benefits of being a GCSAA member is the access you have to the Turfgrass Information Files (TGIF) housed at Michigan State University. The university staff has taken all of the articles ever written about turf and digitized them. Once you are on the TGIF site, just type in the topic you want to research, such as winter golf or freeze thaw damage, and you will get a list of articles available about those topics. TGIF can be accessed in the Course section of the GCSAA website at

We are just back from the very successful GCSAA Education Conference and Golf Industry Show. The numbers were up in all categories and this is a very encouraging sign for the golf industry. If you were not able to attend, or if you attended and missed some of the events, many of them have been captured by GCSAA TV, which you can access at Take a look at the video of Bill Engvall at the closing session, it is terrific. Congratulations to the new GCSAA board of directors, including Keith Ihms, CGCS, who is the new President. Election results can be viewed on the GCSAA website. The conclusion of the conference and show usually signals that the season is close to starting in the Great Lakes region, which means monthly meetings will be starting soon. I will be attending as many monthly meetings as I can and hope to see many members at every event. If I miss you at an event, and you have a question or if I can help you with your GCSAA membership please don't hesitate to contact me. Have a great spring!

Monday, January 27, 2014

Field Staff and the Golf Industry Show

With the GCSAA Education Conference at the Golf Industry Show just a couple of weeks away, I am hoping that everyone is prepared to head to Florida for some warm weather, education and networking. The week will be filled with numerous opportunities to educate yourself on what is new in the industry and to network with your peers. The trade show will be loaded with new products and innovations and there will also be education available on the show floor. Attendance numbers are trending up and the trade show is set to be the largest in recent years, which are positive signs for the golf industry. If you have already made plans to attend that is great. If you have not made plans to attend, I would encourage you to attend and to bring your greens chairman or owner. Give them a chance see what choices you have to make when purchasing products, as well as the level of professionalism golf course superintendents from all over the world have; I think they will be impressed.

You will also see all of the GCSAA field staff representatives in Orlando. Steve Randall, who covers the Great Plains and is also the associate director, chapter outreach, summed up the role of field staff in a blog post, Field Staff - How can we help you?

Recently, GCSAA received results from its Member Needs Assessment. First, thank you for participating in the survey. We take information received from our members very seriously. We use this information to ensure programs and services of value are offered.

If you are unaware, the field staff program began as a pilot program in 2006. It started with a chapter liaison of organizational development, then expanded with a chapter liaison of association management.  I was fortunate to obtain that position more than seven years ago. The roots of this program are in "chapter effectiveness."

Because of member support, the program has expanded to include nine regions in which a resident field staffer resides. A question I hear from members across the country is, "What does this field staff person do?" Or, "Why haven't I seen my field staff representative at our course?" This article hopes to shed some light on those questions.

We have been able to connect chapters to GCSAA in many areas. Through the connection with their field staff representative, chapters have successfully added assets and resources for their industry partners. Field staff representatives have also visited member and non-member facilities and individuals.

As the program evolves, I would love to hear your ideas and suggestions to enhance the program. While site visits have been conducted, would expanding this concept be an effective way to broaden our membership outreach? There are financial considerations to consider, but if evolving the program to include more direct member interaction is of benefit, let me know.

Without the efforts of everyone at GCSAA, the field staff program could not be effective. This is an organization-wide effort. We take information from the field and apply that to ensuring quality programs and services.

 Let's take a look at the basics of the program. Call it "Field Staff 101" if you wish:

Objectives of the field staff program:
The mission of the field staff program is to: Administer outreach and support to members and affiliated chapters to provide direct services to our members

The vision of the field staff program is to: Accomplish the "we" between chapters, members and the GCSAA

Accomplishing this vision is important. We want to eliminate the "us and them" mentality. We are all together to benefit the industry.

So, how do we accomplish the mission and vision?
  • Be a two-way communication vehicle - we only know what we know
  • Establish a direct voice for chapters to relay their needs and opinions to GCSAA and golf-related organizations
  • Expand the superintendents role as being a leader in the golf community. Support allied organizational efforts, state/regional golf days, events that support the the growth and enhancement of golf
Day-to-day functions of our field staff members:
  • Assist chapters with developing and implementing best practices
  • Facilitate strategic planning sessions. From sessions conducted in 2013 alone, chapters developed new outreach programs, assistant education sessions, networking events for members, membership recruitment and retention programs, communications plans and much, much more!
  • Assist chapters to improve financial standing. This includes working with chapters to identify proper revenue streams, effective cost/benefit analysis efforts and adding programs of value
  • Support chapters and research development through Rounds4Research
  • Work with chapters and members who have gone through natural disasters. Providing tool kits and communicating the message about the importance of golf to our communities is essential
  • Be part of board and membership meetings to provide information on the golf industry. Be a voice to provide resources provided by GCSAA that can be used by members and chapters alike
  • Provide communications tools and articles for publication. This includes our regional pages on 
  • Enhance the profession through:
    • Working with allied organizations to provide communications tools and golf industry information
    • Coordinating education and information with chapter executives
    • Providing case-study analysis for member retention, recruitment and meeting attendance
    • Working with chapters on educational programs and providing educational sessions
    • Facilitating communications for government affairs/advocacy issues
    • And much more!
This month alone I have facilitated strategic planning sessions, provided information and education at regional turfgrass conferences and been part of board meetings to share best practices and ideas that have worked across the country. This outreach is consistent among all our field staff members.

We are skilled at facilitation and listening to your requests. Working with our chapters and members directly while providing strategic oversight for the program is why we need to hear from you!

Please look for me at the GCSAA Education Conference and Golf Industry Show. If you have not met your regional field staff representative, please give them a call. These regional pages are a tool to introduce you to our quality staff and to the programs and services GCSAA offers. Take advantage and have a great start to 2014!

I look forward to seeing everyone in Orlando and discussing my role as your representative.