Monday, May 23, 2016

National Golf Day highlights golf's charitable impact

Last week, while I was in Washington, D.C., I received an email from Grassroots Ambassador and Class C member Mitch Savage of Green Valley Ranch in Colorado. He wanted to wish me a happy National Golf Day. He felt that it seemed fitting, I assumed because we were all in DC celebrating the game of golf but it was much more than that. Green Valley Ranch was hosting the NCAA Division II Men’s Golf National Championships. The flags were flown on each green in conjunction with the NCAA and the Folded Flag Foundation. There were pictures and bios of fallen soldiers on each tee box honoring their sacrifice. As Mitch said, it was “pretty powerful stuff.”

This was my first visit to D.C. and I really didn’t know what to expect. Admittedly, I was a tad nervous...

I just think this is fitting. What other industry, or sport for that matter, has the ability to generate charitable monies the way the game of golf can? The numbers are still ringing in my ear from repeating them in the seven Capitol Hill meetings that I attended: “Golf raises more money for charity than all other sports combined. Annually, the game generates $3.9 billion for philanthropic causes, almost all of which are unrelated to the golf industry.” This comes straight from We Are Golf's "benefits of golf" card. If you don’t have one, let me know, I will do my best to get one in your hands. Knowing the information on this card will empower you to become a better golf advocate.

This was my first visit to D.C. and I really didn’t know what to expect. Admittedly, I was a tad nervous about my scheduled meetings. That all went away as soon as Senator Daines from Montana walked up to me and introduced himself and we began to talk. It was as simple as that. From that point on, I had the time of my life. I ended up meeting four state senators and seven staffers that day, each as equally pleasant to talk to.

Senator Barrasso (WY) and Jeffrey Jensen, Jackson Hole Golf
and Tennis Club

By now, most of you have probably already read about how well GCSAA was represented at National Golf Day (NGD). A lot of that credit has to go to Chava McKeel and her team. Kaelyn Seymour has been instrumental in gathering and training all of our grassroots ambassadors, many of which decided to come to NGD on their own dime. One, in particular, that I am very proud of is Jeffrey Jensen of Jackson Hole Golf and Tennis Club in Jackson Hole, Wyo. Jeffrey became a grassroots ambassador as a Class C member and just recently became superintendent on May 12. Jeffrey actually received his bachelors in political science and had no problem taking vacation and spending his own money to make a difference. After watching him in action, I can tell that he will do great things for his association. He got right in there and met Senator Barrasso and Enzi and spelled out everything that he needed to do. It was a joy to watch him in action.

I didn’t have much time to see the sights but what inspired me most was how lucky we are as citizens of the United States to have direct access to the leaders of our government. Mitch's email that day was timely. This wouldn’t at all be possible without the sacrifices of our soldiers and their families. If your chapter is looking for a charity to support, I hope you will look no further than the Folded Flag Foundation. In recognition of our fallen heroes, the Folded Flag Foundation awards educational grants and scholarships to families of the U.S. military and employees of the U.S. government who have lost their lives while deployed in combat. Certainly a charity worth supporting.

Monday, April 25, 2016

A superintendent fraternity

Bill Webster, CGCS, arrived at work last winter to find out that the owners of Pumpkin Ridge had sold the golf course to a new management company. After sitting through the employee meeting and hearing that everyone will keep their job, Bill was pulled aside by the exiting management company and was told that he was being let go. Bill was only two years from retirement. Nearing the end of his working career and taking care of his mother who is in her nineties, Bill suddenly found himself in a place that he had never expected to be at this time. I have known Bill for 25 years and would have never expected something like this to happen to him. Bill has been the only superintendent at Pumpkin Ridge and has hosted two Women’s U.S. Opens, the U.S. Amateur, events and other LPGA events. It's not what one would typically expect after such an illustrious career.
From top left - Bill Webster, CGCS, Rod Nelson, Russell Vandehey, CGCS,
Tom Cook, and Gordon Kiyokawa
This year was Bill’s 25th CGCS anniversary and he was to receive his watch at this year’s Golf Industry Show in San Diego. For obvious reasons, he was unable to attend. I asked to have Bill's watch sent to me so I could present it to him in person instead of just letting him get it in the mail. I organized a lunch for him in Corvallis prior to the Oregon State field day and invited his close friends, Russell Vandehey, CGCS, Gordon Kiyokawa, CGCS, Rod Nelson, as well as our professor from OSU, Tom Cook. Due to a small miscommunication, the watch didn’t quite make it to my door by the time I had to leave so I was in panic mode. Sure enough the watch finally came and my son Adam was kind enough to drive it down to Corvallis and surprise Bill with the gift. I think it really meant a lot to Bill to have it presented in person and to have his friends by his side.
I wouldn't wish Bills situation on anyone. A great superintendent unnecessarily lost his job. But, at the end of the day, his friends were there to support him. Golf course superintendents are part of a fraternity that I am proud to be part of.

2016 Colorado Golf Day

April 13 was Colorado’s first annual Golf Day at the capitol. The event was put on by Colorado’s Golf Alliance which includes the RMGCSA, Colorado Golf Association, the Colorado PGA and the Colorado Women’s Golf Association. Tables were set up in the lobby of the capitol and a continental breakfast was served. Jennifer Cassell, the lobbyist for the Colorado Alliance, was present and was able to round up key legislators and bring them around to meet the alliance members. Golf Course Management's Editor-in-Chief Scott Hollister attended the event and was able to live tweet and interview some key players.

Superintendents Kyle Merritt and Tim Davis talk water with Representative Tracy Kraft-Tharp

The RMGCSA’s Government Relations Committee Chair Kyle Merritt was the star of the day. Kyle spoke to just about every legislator that came down to learn about the industry. The RMGCSA table had an assortment of irrigation tools including moisture meters and sprinkler cans. I brought my banners to frame the table. Water use seemed to be the hot topic. I had a conversation with Representative Polly Lawrence and she commented on how tough it is for Colorado since their state is the source of all the water that is used by Utah, Nevada, Arizona, and Southern California. They are limited on what they can use, so in a dry year, things are very tough. Following the time in the lobby, we were invited to sit on the floor of the House and observe the session in progress. Representative Lawrence was able to introduce our group in front of the assembly before they got down to business.

Following the morning session, I took Grassroots Ambassadors, Kyle Merritt and Mitch Savage, and Broken Tee Superintendent Tim Davis out to lunch. It was a great opportunity to get to know each of them better. Like I said earlier, Merritt did a fantastic job interacting with the House members. Mitch Savage did a great job, as well. Savage is one of three Class C Grassroots Ambassadors in my region. It was great to get to know him and find out what made him want to be so engaged as a Class C member. His answer was simple, he said he wanted to be part of something that could make a difference and he also felt it would be a great way to get connected in the industry. He told me that his ultimate goal would be to either work for the USGA or become the next northwest region field staff representative! If only I could bottle up his enthusiasm…

Monday, March 7, 2016

Are you building social capital?

We all know how important it is to have a good working relationship with your head golf professional. Sometimes, it is just enough to keep things running smooth, and with others, it can become a truly lasting friendship. At The Valley Club in Hailey, Idaho, Gerald Flaherty, CGCS, and Jamie Sharp, PGA, have taken their relationship to the next level. They have become business partners in a small venture that is called Advanced Scoreboards, LLC. They have combined their talents to produce a product that is called TaskTracker. With Gerald’s ideas and firsthand knowledge of the golf maintenance industry and Jamie’s background in internet technologies, the two of them put together a labor tracking product that is internet-based and works on multiple platforms.
Gerald Flaherty, CGCS, and Jamie Sharp, PGA
By now, you have probably already heard of TaskTracker or even walked by the both at GIS 2015 and GIS 2016. Chances are you would have had to wait in line to get the scoop on the product. Aside from the fact that Gerald and Jamie won the 2015 Innovation award, sponsored by Jacobsen, and their product is winning the favor of many superintendents, the most important factor is the friendship that the two have forged throughout their time at The Valley Club.
Last October, I was taken by their presentation that they gave to the Idaho GCSA at their annual fall meeting. The two of them stood up there and gave, what I would consider, the best presentation that I have heard on the pro/superintendent relationship. They both brought up the obvious elephants in the room but instead of Gerald saying Jaimie was the best sweater folder he had ever seen, Jamie actually shouted his own accolades. Gerald even admitted that he had fudged on a few frost delays or so in the past, as well. In the early years, the pro shop/maintenance shop relation was rather contentious. Gerald quickly realized that much of the issue was in his own house. His assistants had grown to expect an adversarial relationship so that’s just how things were expected to be.
Second from the left, Jamie Sharp, PGA, building social
Gerald knew that things had to change so he began what he called, building social capital. In other words, getting to know one and other outside of the boundaries of the everyday work place. Or you could say building social relations that have productive benefits. Gerald and Jamie both began to spend more time in each other’s area, getting to know their respective staff members. Then they began to ask their assistants to do the same thing. They were building social capital in one and another and pretty soon the channels of communication had opened up completely and the overall workplace was more productive. This has been so successful that the general manager has seen the benefits and now wants the F&B manager to spend a week working on Gerald’s crew.
On the few occasions that I have visited The Valley Club, I can certainly say that the atmosphere is a very positive one. Gerald and Jamie have created a teamwork atmosphere that has transcended throughout both of their professional and personal lives. 

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Top 10 reasons to join a professional organization

I recently read a blog post by Jacqueline McClellan, a graphic designer at 4CDesignWorks. Her blog was titled the Top 10 Reasons to Join a Professional Organization. As I read her post, each of her top ten reasons seemed to resonate directly at our industry, and pointed right to the value of our chapters and GCSAA.

In recent times, chapters and GCSAA alike have seen stagnant growth within our associations. The recession took a large portion of our members, many of which haven’t re-joined. As many chapters work to increase their attendance and membership, it made me think that perhaps we need to first ask the question why? Simon Sinek has a great Ted Talk on the subject and it couldn’t be clearer what he is saying. Are we communicating the reasons why we exist to our members and prospective members alike? If not, I believe we can change and start turning the tide.

The most important group to focus on is our up-and-coming members. That means the Class C and Student members. This is the group that will be leading our association in the future and without that solid base, we are sure to see little, if any, growth to look forward to.

So what are the top ten reasons to belong to a professional organization? Here are Jacqueline McClellan’s top ten with my interpretation of her bullets:
  1. Broaden your knowledge: GCSAA offers courses through webinars and at conference and show that keep members up to date with the latest industry trends. Staying ahead of the trends will not only keep you informed of the latest tools, it will help you stay ahead of the competition.
  2. Take charge of your career: GCSAA and local chapters offer a job board on their websites. Taking advantage of this can help you find the right job that you’re looking for.
  3. Build a better resume: GCSAA offers resume assistance to ensure that you have every advantage offered to you when job searching. Also, listing associations that you belong to will show your future employers that you are dedicated to staying connected to the golf industry and current trends.
  4. Enhance your network: Networking is the key to all the movers and shakers in the turf industry. Whether you are serving on a local board, a GCSAA committee or simply meeting fellow superintendents at the Golf Industry Show, you are able to support one and other in achieving your professional goals. Don’t confuse networking with social media. Yes, you broaden your network, but there is nothing like developing a personal relationship outside of your Android/iPhone.
  5. Be a leader: Within GCSAA and your local chapter, there are opportunities to develop your skills as a leader. Simply as serving as a board member or aspiring to run through the chairs of either will strengthen your ability to lead as well as nurture your professional growth.
  6. Become a mentor: I have always said that giving back to an association is the greatest way to realize the benefit of belonging to an association. Participation in webcasts, or forums sponsored by your association is a great way to grow your network. This also gives others a way to reach out to you to grow their own network.
  7. Make a new friend: Jacqueline said it best: Once we graduate from school, we all know how hard it is to get out and meet new people and make a new friend! Use professional networking groups as an opportunity to escape the norm and meet new people that may give you a reason to come out of your shell a bit more and have fun.
  8. Give back to the community: Many local chapters, as well as GCSAA, support local and national charities. Following Hurricane Katrina, thousands of dollars were donated from local chapters and the EIFG to support members that were impacted. It is also a good way to help give back to your local turf programs.
  9. Strength in numbers: That cannot be more evident today as we watch the GCSAA Government Affairs team in action. The Grassroots Ambassador program demonstrates that members can have a direct impact when organized into one voice. GCSAA’s Government Affairs team has made significant impacts in Washington D.C. in protecting the tools that we use to maintain our golf courses.
  10. Stay inspired and stay motivated: We are all in this industry because we have a passion for what we do. Others may not understand why we are so passionate but when they just take one look at the Georgia GCSAA’s promotional video “This is my office,” they may just see why.
These ten points struck a chord for me and I hope they did the same for you. Professional associations are not the thing of the past, we need them more than ever now. In order for associations to continue, we all have to understand why we belong. With that understood, we can easily communicate the value to those peers that haven’t taken that all-important step of membership.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Is becoming a GCSAA Grassroots Ambassador on your to-do list for 2016?

The 2015 season is now officially in the books. Many of you are probably in the middle of budgeting for 2016, I find that this is also prime time to reflect on your personal growth and the goals that you may have set for the year. Whether setting goals with my crew or setting goals with my supervisor, I have always utilized goals to help fulfill my responsibilities – and even guide my career. I would like to take this opportunity to perhaps suggest a goal or two that might push you out of your comfort zone but will allow you to grow professionally.

Undoubtedly, you have probably heard of the GCSAA Grassroots Ambassador program. You may have even toyed with the notion of becoming a Grassroots Ambassador but felt that it would be too much of an undertaking. I want to encourage you to take a second look. So far, the Northwest region has filled 22 of 47 possible positions including the completed states of Alaska and Idaho and with just one each remaining in Montana and Wyoming.

" are simply developing a relationship with that person or their staff member and you do that by just telling your story."

The goal of the Grassroots Ambassador program is simple. By the end of the day, GCSAA would like to make sure that each member of congress knows our industry's position on a particular issue across all 50 states. This will be accomplished by matching a GCSAA member with each member of congress, as well as each state senator. GCSAA will support the Grassroots Ambassadors through training and regular communication and offers the opportunity to attend the Grassroots Ambassadors boot camp at the Golf Industry Show.  As an ambassador, you will not only be that person that conveys our position, but you will also serve as the go-to person for that congressman or congresswoman when they have a particular question regarding our industry. In a nutshell, you are simply developing a relationship with that person or their staff member and you do that by just telling your story.

The Northwest has been a hotbed for activists that are trying to take pesticides off the market. Cities such as Durango, Boulder, Portland, Seattle, Spokane and Eugene are just some that are constantly under pressure to outlaw the use of pesticides. If you are a pesticide user in these areas, you are commonly viewed as the enemy.

I know I’m preaching to the choir, but we need to tell our story as to why golf courses are safe for the environment; explain how when used properly, and by the label, pesticides are safe to use. Ken Gorzycki, CGCS of Horseshoe Bay Resort in Texas, said it best, “if we are not at the table then we are going to be on the menu.”

I am including an up-to-date list of the Northwest Grassroots Ambassadors. If you know any of them, please feel free to reach out and thank them for serving your association. If you feel that you are up to taking on a position, please contact me at or contact Kaelyn Seymour directly at . Also, ambassadors receive .25 service points per year for completing their 2 member touches per year, and .50 education point per year for completing 50% of the events on the engagement calendar.

Let’s take this bull by the horns and speak up for our industry!

Congressional District
Member of Congress

Don Edwin Young
John Krull
Senator Murkowski

Amos Stephens
Senator Sullivan

Marty Bauman


Diana DeGette

Jared Polis

Scott Tipton

Kenneth Buck

Doug Lamborn

Mike Coffman

Ed Perlmutter

Senator Bennett

Senator Gardney

Zach Bauer


Raul Labrado
Eric McCormick
Mike Simpson
Adam Bagwell, CGCS
Senator Crapo

Kevin Hicks
Senator Risch

Gerald Flaherty, CGCS


Ryan Zinke
Dan Rootes
Senator Tester

Senator Daines

Dane Gamble


Suzanne Bonamici
Mike Turner, CGCS
Greg Walden
Richard Jensen
Earl Blumenauer

Peter DeFazio
Chris Gaughan, CGCS
Kurt Schrader
Brian Koffler
Senator Wyden

Chuck Wolsborn
Senator Merkley


Rob Bishop
Thomas Rhoades
Chris Steward

Jason Chaffetz

Mia Love
T.A. Barker, Jr
Senator Hatch

Senator Lee


Suzan DelBene

Rick Larsen
Jacob Close
Jaime Herrera Beutler

Daniel Newhouse
Bo Lacy, CGCS
Cathy McMorris Ridger

Derek Kilmer

Jim McDermott

Dave Reichert
Marcus Harness
Adam Smith

Denny Heck
Tony Bubenas, CGCS
Senator Murray

Scott Phelps, CGCS
Senator Cantwell


Cynthia Lummis
Jeffrey Jensen
Senator Enzi

Dwayne Dillinger, CGCS
Senator Barrasso

Jason Busch