Friday, October 20, 2017

Travels with Keith - take two

The second day of travels with GCSAA Past President Keith Ihms, CGCS, included the Kentuckiana GCSA Annual Business Meeting, held at Lake Forest Country Club in Louisville, Ken. Eight-year GCSAA member and current KGCSA Vice President Brian Curtis hosted roughly half of the KGCSA membership at the event. Brian had the course in outstanding condition, hats off to him and his crew on the work they have put in this season, it truly showed.

Hole #10 at Lake Forest Country Club.
Valhalla Golf Club superintendent and 21-year GCSAA member Roger Meier stepped down after a successful two-year term as president, with 12-year GCSAA member and Woodhaven Country Club superintendent Josh Adams assuming the presidency. This was a great meeting with a chapter who has seen a lot of growth over the past few years, which is a direct testament to the hard work the board has put in.
KGCSA director John Ballard, CGCS, addressing the membership during the Annual Business Meeting. 
Keith Ihms, CGCS addressing the turfgrass students at WKU.
The third and final day of our travels included a meeting with turfgrass students at Western Kentucky University. Keith and I were able to meet with Dr. Paul Woosley, professor of plant science at WKU and address the students in the turfgrass management class.This was a great opportunity to hear first hand from students, as they begin their turfgrass management careers. Keith and I were able to glean feedback from students and address some of their concerns. We also wanted to provide them with as many resources as possible in their young careers, including our free web-only student membership where they will have access to GCSAA and begin their membership. I thank Dr. Woosley for the opportunity to connect with the students, and hope to help them as much as possible as they begin their career in this very rewarding industry. 

John Leathers (L), Keith, and Tony Whitmer, CGCS (R).
Following the presentation at WKU, Keith and I met with 27-year GCSAA member Tony Whitmer, CGCS, and three-year Class C member John Leathers. Both Tony and John have been at Bowling Green Country Club for about a year, and are already making their mark on the facility. During our trip to BGCC, the Kentucky Boys' State High School Championships were taking place. Families from across the state descend on the course for an entire week to watch the competition. Tony and John had the course in fantastic shape, despite the recent weather challenges. Once the boy's competition wraps up, the girls begin their competition, with the KHSAA Girls' Golf Championship taking place at the club. Tony and John do an excellent job of not only providing championship conditions across the two weeks but do their part to help grow this great game at the youth level as tournament hosts. 

Keith Ihms, CGCS (right), Bob McLean (center left), Jason Hopkins (center right)
Our final stop of the day was a visit with 14-year GCSAA member Robert McLean and two-year GCSAA member Jason Hopkins at Indian Hills Country Club. Along with first-year GCSAA member Michael Reynolds, Bob and Jason make an exceptional team. During our tour of the course, it's easy to see their hard work paying off, the course was in fantastic condition. Our conversations with Bob and Jason were very rewarding. We were able to learn more about where our members are utilizing GCSAA services and programs, and where the association can improve to better serve our members and industry. Along with all of our previous visits, Bob and Jason were truly first-class hosts. I greatly appreciate the southern hospitality and look forward to my next visit to Bowling Green.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Travels with GCSAA Past President Keith Ihms, CGCS

During the first week of October, I was fortunate to spend a few days with Keith Ihms, CGCS, GCSAA past president, and current board director. The goal of our travels was to provide outreach to members, hear about their activities and challenges, and determine ways GCSAA can better serve our members moving forward.

Chris Knockwafel – Audubon Country Club – Louisville, Kentucky
To begin our travels, Keith and I met with 17-year GCSAA member Chris Knockwafel, superintendent of Audubon Country Club in Louisville, Kentucky, and one-year GCSAA member and assistant superintendent Paul Hauck. The four of us discussed current programs and initiatives offered by GCSAA, as well as potential future plans. Chris relayed, one of his largest challenges is finding sufficient labor. He, along with many other courses in the nation, struggle to attract and retain seasonal employees throughout the season. We were able to convey to him, the areas where GCSAA is working to attract individuals into our profession moving forward.

David Littrell – Crescent Hills Golf Course – Louisville, Kentucky
Following the meeting with Chris Knockwafel, Keith and I met with 20-year Class A member David Littrell at Crescent Hills Golf Course, which is run by the city of Louisville. David maintains the golf course with a full-time staff of just three, including himself! David has been with the city for over 15-years, however, he has only been at Crescent Hills since early 2017. During his short time at the course, he has overseen an extensive improvement project which has seen tree management, turf seeding, and irrigation repair to name a few. As we toured the course, it was hard to believe there were only three staff members to care for the entire property. He and his crew do a fantastic job and go the extra mile to ensure the course is in excellent condition.

David Littrell (left) and Keith Ihms, CGCS
Josh Adams – Woodhaven Country Club – Louisville, Kentucky
Current Kentuckiana GCSA vice president and 12-year GCSAA member Josh Adams welcomed Keith and me to Woodhaven Country Club where we were able to get a full tour of the golf course. Josh is currently overseeding his bermudagrass fairways with Kentucky bluegrass to create a ‘Bluemuda’ blend. He and his staff had a trial hole overseeded a couple years, and had successful results. Since the time of this writing, Josh has assumed the presidency of the Kentuckiana GCSA. Josh has been a board member within the KGCSA for almost a decade, which he felt has been very rewarding, and is proud of the accomplishments and programs the board has put in place during his time. I look forward to working with him more over the coming years.

Jacob Blair – Iroquois Park Golf Course – Louisville, Kentucky
The final stop of the day was at Iroquois Park Golf Course, which is also run by the city of Louisville. Jacob Blair, a four-year member of GCSAA, is in his first year as superintendent. Jacob, along with head PGA professional Paul Schuchard, was kind enough to give us a history of the course and discuss some of the challenges they face. The course is located on a great piece of property bordered by Iroquois Park which makes for a challenging and beautiful round of golf. Despite the recent challenges from Mother Nature, Jacob and his team had the course looking fantastic which is a testament to Jacob's passion for the job.

Paul Schuchard (left), Keith Ihms, CGCS (center) and superintendent Jacob Blair

Friday, September 22, 2017

Industry shows support for those in need

It's no secret that those in the golf course management profession look out for one another. While many of us in the industry are in direct competition with one another, we always have the best interest of our neighbor and industry counterpart in mind. This could not have been more telling recently, in the wake of the Hurricanes Harvey and Irma hitting the United States.

While many of us in the Great Lakes region were not personally affected by the storms, we undoubtedly have family, friends, and colleagues who were affected. Instead of sitting idly by, members and chapters in the Great Lakes region stepped up and donated to GCSAA's Disaster Relief Fund. The fund was set up in wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2006 and has since raised almost $200,000.

Currently, over a third of the chapters in the region have donated to the fund since Hurricane Harvey made landfall in late August. A few of the region's chapters are providing matching donations to the amount raised by their members to increase their overall donation. These donations are administered by GCSAA's philanthropic organization, the Environmental Institute for Golf (EIFG), and are tax-deductible. 100 percent of your donation goes to GCSAA members in need.

I personally thank each GCSAA member, chapters in the region, and the throughout the U.S. who have donated to this worthy cause. Many of us got into this industry because of our love of golf and the outdoors, but it's the people who in our profession that makes it so great. If you would like to donate to GCSAA's Disaster Relief Fund and help your fellow members, please visit GCSAA's site. You can also make a donation by texting "DISASTER" to 785-693-2593.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Quad-State hosts round table discussions

Members of the Quad-State Turfgrass Association met at Calvert City Country Club, in Calvert City, Kentucky. where host superintendent and 16-year GCSAA member John English welcomed the association to take part in round table discussions. One of the smaller chapters in the region, and country, the group held a lively discussion on a number of pertinent industry topics. 

One of the main topics during the meeting was on the conversion from bentgrass greens to bermudagrass greens on a number of area clubs. Ultradwarf bermudagrass is becoming increasingly popular in the Western Kentucky area, among others, and many courses have undergone the conversion in recent years. Superintendents and industry partners all took part dissecting the cultural and mechanical practices needed before, during, and after the conversion, as well as the playability between the two surfaces. 

Another main topic during the meeting focused on the labor issue in the industry. A couple success stories for attracting labor from the group included raising hourly pay rates to compete with other industries, and allowing high school and college students flexible work hours throughout the season. Paducah Country Club superintendent Larry Hantle, CGCS, is considering implementing various seasonal bonuses to encourage employees to work earlier and later into the season, while others have utilized club member, and community resident volunteer programs to assist with various tasks performed on the golf course. 

Discussions also focused on various troublesome turfgrass diseases in the area, as well as the difficult stretches of weather during the season. During these discussions, members discussed cultural and mechanical practices which have worked best for them this season, and years prior. 

These smaller get-togethers are a great opportunity to meet with each member on a one-on-one basis. Everyone in attendance had the opportunity to contribute to the discussion and added value for every other person in the room. It is clear that each person there cared about how their fellow industry member was faring throughout the year and offered input where they could. These events truly help sum up the great individuals we have in our industry, and the willingness of all involved to help each other out.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Chapters offering GIS experience to members

As the 2018 Golf Industry Show (GIS) continues to creep up on the calendar, a few chapters in the region have been busy putting together opportunities for members to attend GIS at little or no cost. 

The Northwestern Illinois GCSA began their 'Send Me to the Show' promotion in 2014, with that year's winner, 10-year GCSAA member Shane Bays, who is the superintendent at River Heights Golf Course in the DeKalb Park District, receiving an all-expense paid trip to GIS 2015 in San Antonio. They have held the promotion every year since, and are once again offering a Northwestern Illinois GCSA member an all-expense paid trip to San Antonio, including airfare, hotel stay, conference registration and two education seminars. Ingersoll golf course superintendent and 17-year GCSAA member Matt Dutkiewicz, who also serves as the NWIGCSA director of communications, had this to say about the success of the promotion: "As an association, we are always trying to find ways to provide maximum value to our members. Providing an opportunity for one of our members to attend GIS was an excellent way to add value, and promote the industry at the same time."

The Kentuckiana GCSA put together a similar program last year after a strategic planning session with GCSAA staff. To help a current member offset the expense of attending GIS, the chapter introduced the GIS Scholarship. The inaugural scholarship was won by Dalton Morgan, a three-year Class C GCSAA member and assistant superintendent at Hurstbourne Country Club in Louisville, Kentucky. This provided an excellent opportunity to give something back directly to the members, and the KGCSA is continuing with this scholarship in 2018. Regarding his experience in Orlando at GIS last year, Dalton had this to say:

"First and foremost, I would like to just give a huge thanks to the KGCSA membership, the board of directors, and all of the sponsors at the fundraiser for giving me the opportunity to attend the show. The scholarship helped cover everything I needed while attending the GIS. The Orlando show was the first one I’ve attended. I've always kept up with the show on Twitter every year but actually being there this past February was great. The classes I attended on Monday and Tuesday were super beneficial and the trade show was a blast. The amount of networking with other turf heads and knowledge gained from GIS 2017 was outstanding. I appreciate everything that the KGCSA has done and is continuing to do to benefit me as a turf professional."
Dalton Morgan at GIS 2017 in Orlando, Florida
Most recently, the Michigan GCSA created a promotion to send one of their members to GIS 2018 through a tee shirt fundraiser. During the two-week promotion, the MiGCSA sold 180 shirts. 

Regarding the fundraiser, 19-year GCSAA member and MiGCSA Executive Director Adam Ikamas, CGCS added: "The MiGCSA Board is so happy to be able to provide the direct member benefit from the sales of these shirts, and the overwhelming showing of pride from our members to support their chapter is really a testament to the amazing community we have here in Michigan. This idea would not have happened if it were not for the original idea brought forth by Randy Robinson, Iowa executive director and seeing it put to action by Brian Laurent in Ohio, and the Michigan Turf tag line from Adam Garr, the Michigan Territory Manager for Syngenta, who has been using it on Twitter all summer. We look forward to expanding this fundraiser in the years to come."

Thursday, August 10, 2017

GCSAA and WGCSA leaders meet

During the week of the U.S. Open, leaders from the GCSAA and Wisconsin GCSA took advantage and got together to discuss matters related to the industry. Present at the meeting were: Jon Canavan, WGCSA president, Josh Lepine, CGCS, WGCSA vice president, Jeff Barlow, CGCS, WGCSA treasurer, Mike Bremmer, WGCSA director, Brian Bonlender, WGCSA director, Rob Johnson, WGCSA vendor representative, Brett Grams, WGCSA executive director, Rhett Evans, GCSAA CEO, Darren Davis, CGCS, GCSAA vice president, Rafael Barajas, CGCS, GCSAA Secretary/Treasurer, John Fulling, CGCS, GCSAA director and Shane Conroy, GCSAA field staff. Mike Bremmer hosted the meeting at the Wisconsin Club in Milwaukee.

Mike Bremmer and The Wisconsin Club hosted the day's events.

During the meeting, a variety of pertinent issues were addressed, including the GCSAA’s current key initiatives, which include:

  • State-wide Best Management Practices implementation
  • Government Affairs
  • Professional development
  • Recognition and promotion of profession

The Wisconsin GCSA key initiatives were also discussed which, coincide with some of GCSAA’s initiatives and include:

  • Execution of Best Management Practices
  • Continual chapter growth
  • Continue to produce quality chapter events and education

This meeting provided an exceptional opportunity to gather information on what is being done at the local and national levels to continue to elevate our profession for both parties. One area of focus was Best Management Practices implementation strategies and approaches. Utilizing tactics and information from states who have previously implemented BMPs, such as Michigan and Florida, the group was able to discuss a variety of developmental approaches.

Growth as a chapter was also addressed. Constantly working to advance the profession and serve members, WGCSA President Jon Canavan brought up a variety of areas where the chapter has discussed growth programs and initiatives. With GCSAA representatives able to offer feedback and guidance, as well as take information back to headquarters, there was a lively discussion on remaining vigilant as an association to continue to grow the profession and association.

The group also used this time to discuss the labor issue in our industry. Finding talent at multiple levels in our industry is not a problem exclusive to Wisconsin, it's a national problem. This is being addressed at every level to ensure there is steady talent entering our industry. Currently, GCSAA is working with various allied associations in an effort to expose more individuals at every age to the career opportunities which exist in our great profession. There is also an immediate concern to produce individuals in golf turfgrass management. With this immediate concern, programs and initiatives are being addressed with specific allied associations and firms, which were discussed with the group.

Being able to conduct these intelligence gathering meetings offers great value to all involved. I know I can speak for each GCSAA representative and say the meeting produced both immediate, and long-term results, as well as valuable information each one of us can use to improve the industry. I want to thank each individual for taking the time out of their schedules to attend and offer input at this meeting. I'd like to thank Mike Bremmer for hosting at his beautiful facility, as well. I'm appreciative of the WGCSA board, and members for continuing to elevate not only our industry but all of golf. With such a successful month of June in the international golf spotlight, all the credit to Erin Hills superintendent and 14-year GCSAA member Zach Reineking and Thornberry Creek at Oneida superintendent and 30-year GCSAA member Steve Archibald as well as everyone on their crews for showcasing to the world how Wisconsin does golf.