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.

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.