Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Michigan Golf Day at the capitol building

Over the past decade, the Michigan Golf Alliance — made up of the Michigan Golf Course Superintendents Association (MiGCSA), Michigan Golf Course Owners Association, Golf Association of Michigan, Michigan Section PGA, Greater Michigan Club Managers Associations and Michigan Turfgrass Foundation — has organized the annual Michigan Golf Day at the Capitol, which takes place on the Capitol lawn in Lansing, Mich.

This year's event began with Representative Jason Sheppard from Monroe County providing opening remarks. Rep. Sheppard discussed the economic impact golf plays in Michigan, as well as the continued efforts to introduce new players to the game. Hailing from a golfing family, he is well versed in some of the issues facing the industry. Last year, Governor Rick Snyder signed a proclamation declaring June as 'Michigan Golf Month.' This year, Rep. Sheppard presented the proclamation to the presidents of the associations who make up the Michigan Golf Alliance. Tim Skubick, host of the PBS television show 'Off the Record' and long-time political columnists in the state of Michigan, followed Rep. Sheppard. Mr. Skubick offered his insight on the upcoming national election in November and spoke on various legislation currently being discussed in Michigan, outlining how it may impact our industry.

I accompanied MiGCSA Executive Director Adam Ikamas, CGCS, and Saginaw Country Club superintendent Rob Steger, CGCS, during our visits to the offices of various state senators and representatives. During our visits, we relayed information regarding the $4.2 billion economic impact golf has in Michigan, the 58,000 jobs the game supports, the environmental benefits and the $118 million charitable impact the game provides. With the work and preparation of the Michigan Golf Alliance, every state legislator's office was visited throughout the day to discuss golf's important role in Michigan.

'Lunch on the Turn,' which takes place on the Capitol building lawn, was once again catered by Eagle Eye Golf Course. This lunch provides a great opportunity to meet with various legislators on a personal level to discuss issues which take place both on and off the course. Some of the state and national issues which came up most often were the Department of Labor's new overtime wage regulations, the future use of water and the role the golf course superintendent plays at the facility. Legislators could also have their swing examined by Michigan Section PGA Professionals, as well as receive putting tips at displays set up on the lawn. Both the House and Senate were in session during the day, which worked out well, as nearly every state legislator came out to the Capitol lawn to join us for a golf inspired lunch.

Many of the legislators we spoke to during the event were looking forward to Michigan Golf Day, which is a testament to the preparation and work the Michigan Golf Alliance does to promote, not only the day but the entire industry. A massive 'thank you' goes out to all Michigan Golf Alliance members who made the trip to Lansing, The MiGCSA once again had a solid contingent, with members taking time away from the course, in order to support this important day for the golf industry, and create key relationships with state legislators.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Pure Michigan

Last year, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder officially decreed June as Michigan Golf Month, so I thought a recap of my recent travels to the state would be timely. The Senior PGA Championship wrapped up last week at the Golf Club at Harbor Shores, located on the eastern edge of Lake Michigan in Benton Harbor, Mich. Harbor Shores previously hosted the event in 2012 and 2014, and is scheduled on the same two-year rotation through 2024. Host superintendent Brad Fry and assistant superintendent Austin Grall had the course in immaculate condition, even with mother nature being somewhat uncooperative. I was fortunate enough to volunteer on the grounds crew for a couple days during the event, which featured volunteers from as far as Texas and Florida, as well as industry peers around the Great Lakes area.

Brad and his staff did a tremendous job organizing the volunteers each morning and evening creating a conducive team atmosphere. The local industry partners went above and beyond providing hospitality, meals and uniforms, showcasing just how everyone pools together to help our neighbors when they need a hand. The golf course tested some of the best players in the world, providing some of the most scenic settings while doing so.

The Golf Club at Harbor Shores is a unique golf course featuring spectacular views of Lake Michigan and winds along the Paw Paw River in Southwestern Michigan. If you are in the area and haven't been to the property, make a point to do so, it is worth the trip. Also, with the Senior PGA Championship coming back to the course every two years, mark your calendar now to volunteer in 2018, I'm sure you'll make some lasting friendships and won't be disappointed by doing so. A huge thank you goes out to Brad, Austin and the entire Harbor Shores staff and volunteers. Events like these make the industry so rewarding.

Earlier in the month, I visited the southeastern part of the state, where I was able to stop by the course where held my first position on a grounds crew, Boulder Pointe Golf Club in Oxford, Mich. I started there over 16 years ago, under the supervision of Scot Gardiner, CGCS, who continues to oversee the 27-hole facility.

It was my first trip to the course in almost a decade, and it was great to see the fantastic work Scot has done over that time. The course weaves through an extensive and continuous housing development. It was carved out of an unused gravel pit which creates unique challenges to Scot and his crew. The course was in excellent condition, even though our travels were limited due to the weather continuing the early May trend of being cool and wet. We were, however, able to tour a good portion of the course and see the many improvements Scot has made over the years.

Visiting Scot and Boulder Pointe was a great experience. It gave me a great perspective on how relationships evolve and grow over the years, as well as provided me a unique and personal appreciation of the individuals who work to make this industry so great. The visit was very personal to me, which is something I will continue to reflect on, and take with me to each event and visit I attend in the future.

Also, coming up next week on June 9 is Michigan Golf Day at the Capitol. The day is put on by the Michigan Golf Alliance and is an extremely important event on the MiGCSA calendar. Please plan on attending the day's events in Lansing and supporting all of those who make up the Michigan golf industry. More information and sign up can be found here.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Neonic bans in Illinois introduced in House and Senate

Illinois House Bill 5900 and Illinois Senate Bill 2965, better known as the Saving Illinois Pollinators Act, were introduced earlier this year in the 99th Illinois General Assembly. Both bills are in their early stages but have already added a significant amount of representative co-sponsors in both the Illinois House and Senate.

The bills are identical in their description and partially read as follows: Provides that beginning 9 months after the effective date of the Act, it shall be unlawful to apply any neonicotinoid insecticides on any public lands owned or maintained by Illinois. Provides that beginning 9 months after the effective date of the Act, it shall be unlawful to apply neonicotinoid insecticides in any other outdoor residential settings, including landscaping, ornamental, or other outdoor applications in Illinois. 

The bills also leave room to adopt any rules to further define or implement provisions within the act.

As of the publication of this post, the bills have been referred to the Rules Committee in the Illinois House of Representatives, and to the Assignments Committee in the Illinois Senate. Both of these committees are made up of three members of the majority party (Democrat), and two members of the minority party (Republican). These five individuals from each committee decide if the bill will be assigned to one of the standing committees in each the House and Senate, and if so, which committee. If House Bill 5900 and Senate Bill 2965 are assigned to standing committees, they would most likely be assigned to the Environment Committee in both areas of the Illinois General Assembly. 

During these Environment Committee hearings, the bill’s sponsors (Rep. Will Guzzardi in the House and Sen. Don Harmon in the Senate) explain the bills to the Environment Committee members. Individuals, including special interest groups, government agencies or private citizens can voice their opposition or support of a bill at this time. As of right now the Rules and Assignment Committee hearings for each bill have not been scheduled.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Michigan courses discuss Fair Labor Standards Act

The Michigan Golf Course Owners Association recently held a seminar to discuss the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The FLSA was enacted in 1938, but, with proposed changes scheduled to take place later this year, the act has come under question recently. Much of the day's discussion impacted owners, however, many of the issues pertain to superintendents and include:

  • I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification Forms - I-9 forms must be filled out and filed for every employee who works at the golf course, including all of those on the grounds crew. These forms should remain on file for a minimum of three years after the conclusion of employment for each employee. 
  • Non-Exempt vs. Exempt Employees - Non-exempt employees may be paid on an hourly basis, must earn at least minimum wage, and must be paid overtime for all hours over 40 worked in one work week. Exempt employees are generally salaried employees (many superintendents and assistants fall in this category), must be paid at least $455/week (proposed change would see this salary number jump to $921/week) and meet the job duties of one of the white collar exemptions.
  • Payroll Records - Along with I-9 forms, payroll records must be retained for a minimum of three years following the end of the year to which they relate.
  • Posting Requirements - All employers are required to post the FLSA minimum wage provision in an area where their employees congregate, such as the break room or lunch room. FLSA posting's vary by statues so please check the posters page to find out which postings you need to display in your facility. Postings typically change year-to-year, so instead of purchasing the large laminate posters, the forms can be printed on 8" x 11" sheets of paper and re-hung when changes occur.
  • Preventative Measures:
    • Regularly review time records for accuracy. Make sure any changes made to hours worked have both the supervisor's and employee in question's approval. 
    • Develop accurate job descriptions. Job descriptions are important. Be sure the description is written based on the job itself, and the not the person currently performing the job. It is also important, under the 'Duties and Responsibilities' area of the description to add: 'Additional duties assigned by the supervisor'. 

This only covers a brief snapshot of the entire FLSA, as the act covers additional information. I would encourage you to visit the DOL's FLSA website for more information on the FLSA, and to review the proposed changes which may directly impact your facility and employees.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Chapter Leaders/Executives Symposium

The Chapter Leaders/Executive Symposium wrapped up last week at GCSAA headquarters in Lawrence, Kansas. The symposium features chapter members and executives from 25 affiliated chapters scattered across the nation. The goal of the symposium is to provide leadership training, offer development to chapters and discuss components necessary for chapter success. It also allows GCSAA an opportunity to communicate services and programs available to GCSAA chapters and members.

GCSAA CEO Rhett Evans kicked off the event with a passionate presentation on working as a team to create successful events. Rhett highlighted the importance of individuals and the roles they play when planning events. He also stressed chapters must know the member's needs and expectations they have when attending, or deciding to attend these events. Chapters must work together within their organizations to make sure these needs and expectations are being exceeded.

Following Rhett's presentation, Bill Hamilton, CGCS, and Irene Cline from the Sierra Nevada chapter gave a presentation on an outreach event put on in an under-served area of their chapter. Bill and Irene focused the education portion of the event on issues which were directly facing the area where the event was taking place. They also spoke on how holding events in similar areas can create a sense of community and encourage members to become more involved. Brian Laurent of the Miami Valley GCSA, Central Ohio GCSA and Greater Cincinnati GCSA gave an informational presentation on selecting and implementing a new website to communicate with chapter members.

Updates were also given by GCSAA staff on: marketing campaigns, the upcoming redesigned GCSAA website, Chapter Outreach Grants, National Golf Day, Grassroots Ambassadors, Rounds 4 Research, social media etiquette and upcoming Golf Industry Shows. Both days concluded with attendees breaking in to roundtable based on region and topics.

The second day began with Steve Randall, GCSAA's director of chapter outreach, giving a spirited presentation on leadership and how the outreach program has evolved over the past 10 years. Steve stressed the importance of communication and challenged everyone in the room to become a better communicator, leader and person.

The day-and-a-half event was full of education, ideas and training opportunities which can be used at each chapter, regardless of size or location. The event also allowed each participant to network with peers and develop both professional and personal relationships. 

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Grassroots Ambassadors in action!

Grassroots Ambassadors Zach Wike and Jason Mahl from the Miami Valley GCSA and I recently spent the day at the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus, Ohio. The agenda for the day featured meetings with five Ohio state senators and representatives from the Miami Valley region. The goal of these meetings was to advocate on behalf the turfgrass/golf management profession, and forge lasting relationships with local representatives who influence laws and regulations that effect our profession.

Throughout the day, we met with Representatives Bob Hackett, Rick Perales and Fred Strahorn, along with staff members from Senators Bill Beagle and Peggy Lehner's office.

During each meeting, we presented the representative or senator a brochure focusing on three key areas of Ohio golf: economic impact, water quality and environmental habitats. We also introduced them to GCSAA's Grassroots Ambassador program, the First Green Foundation and explained our positions on key federal issues such as WOTUS and H-2B. In addition to these subjects, we also provided examples of the professionalism and environmental stewardship golf course superintendents exhibit each day.

Some of the key talking points we focused on were:

  • Golf's $4.8 billion economic impact in Ohio 
  • 68,000 jobs created by the golf industry in Ohio, with $1.5 billion in wage income
  • Charitable giving of $155 million annually 
  • Golfs impact on related industries such as tourism and hospitality
  • Golf's water use has dropped by 22 percent nationally over the past decade
  • Golf uses less than 1.5 percent of all irrigated water in the U.S.
  • Wildlife sanctuaries and pollinator habitats golf courses provide
  • Recreation, fitness and training opportunities offered by golf courses

In each meeting, the representative or staff members were very inviting and receptive to our message. These relationships will build a foundation for future meetings and give us a seat at the table when regulations are drafted that effect our profession. Since the meetings, Representative Bob Hackett has scheduled a fundraiser outing at Beavercreek Golf Club where Zach Wike serves as the assistant superintendent. A big thank you goes out to Zach and Jason for taking time out of their schedules to set-up and attend these important advocacy efforts.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

2016 Golf Industry Show recap

GIS always seems to creep up on the calendar, and when the week does arrive, it seems to go by in a similar fashion.

Although I wasn't able to attend the GCSAA Golf Championships, I heard great things about the course conditions, weather, camaraderie and competition. A big thank you goes out to the superintendents who played in the various competitions, and also to those superintendents and their crews who hosted the GCSAA Golf Championships. Their hard work makes the event possible.

As this was my first GIS as a field staff representative, my week was a little different than in years past, and I wanted to share with you some of my favorite moments:

  • First off, thank you to all of the attendees who had their registration email or print-out handy, as registration with the QR (Quick Response) codes went smoothly with little to no trouble. It kept what little line there was moving quickly.

  • With 25 new seminars and sessions offered this year, the education portion had something for everyone. I was fortunate to sit in on a couple sessions Monday afternoon, and was glad I did. I am always impressed by the level of education and preparedness of superintendents and industry professionals who teach the seminars and sessions, they truly provide relevant and timely information.  

  • The Opening Session held on Tuesday night saw the various GCSAA awards handed out to well-deserving individuals. This is a fun event which is followed by the Opening Night Celebration which was held on the terrace of the convention center. The event featured food, drink, networking and wonderful weather.

  • I attended the Chapter Executive and Chapter Editor's session on Tuesday which is an excellent networking opportunity and idea-sharing platform. Chapter executives from around the country (and Canada) get together to exchange information on what is and isn't working when planning chapter meetings, publishing newsletters and magazines, scheduling social events and creating education line-ups. Rhett Evans kick-started the meeting by introducing some of the 2016 GCSAA initiatives and priorities. The field staff team – myself included – were able to brief the executives on initiatives in our respective regions and give them an update on current focuses. 

  • Wednesday the field staff team and GCSAA Board of Directors were able to meet with chapter presidents at the annual Chapter Presidents Breakfast. This event is set-up similar to the Chapter Executives Session, where chapter presidents are able to network, share ideas and focus on areas chapters are looking to improve. The event also allows chapter presidents to meet the GCSAA board of directors and have a Q&A session with them. Wednesday, I was also able to work the GCSAA booth on the trade show floor. Getting out on the trade show floor is always a highlight of the week, everyone is excited to meet with vendors and catch up with old friends.

  • This was my first time attending GCSAA's annual meeting, which was held on Thursday and saw the proposed bylaw changes, member standards and definition of the Class A superintendent all pass after the voting was conducted by the chapter delegates. The annual meeting is a fun and interesting event as you get to see the voting process first-hand and meet many of GCSAA's past presidents in attendance. 

  • The GIS concluded with the Closing Celebration. This event was extremely well-attended, and, in my opinion an excellent way to wrap up the week. Turf Bowl awards were presented which allowed everyone to get into their school spirit (maybe NC State will field a team next year), and comedian Frank Caliendo put on a hilarious show. If you haven't attended a Closing Celebration over the past few years, I highly recommend you do, it's well worth your time. 

Thank you to all those who attended GIS and to the vendors and sponsors who make this great event happen each year. Already looking forward to Orlando!