Friday, July 15, 2016

Where's the propane?

As I'm driving along a road in Portland, I happen to notice a landscape truck towing a load of John Deere commercial rotary mowers with propane tanks attached to them. The company happens to be Pacific Landscape Maintenance which belongs to an old college friend of mine from Oregon State. Bob Grover and I both worked together at a large commercial landscape firm in the late 80’s. He has since started his own very successful business on his own. My thought has always been that the golf industry has been cutting edge when it came to mowing technology but it dawned on me that the propane-powered mowing equipment hasn’t necessarily broken through. I became a little set back when I realized that the landscape industry has somehow found the way to cut emissions by over half and also cut the maintenance of their equipment by over half. I wondered when the “big three” were going to jump in and offer a viable option to the golf industry to save money and cut emissions?

I gave Bob a call and asked him how the propane power was working for him. He had nothing but high marks for the performance and the cost savings. The propane was completely accessible and easy to set up. He simply has an inventory of propane tanks which he replaces on each piece of equipment as the gas is depleted. The propane company just comes to his shop every few days and fills the empty tanks. It’s that simple, there is no hassle of having to fill your own tanks, it’s just a matter of using a wrench to unhook and reattach a new tank. Bob said that one tank will generally last a whole day in the field.

More than 130 models of propane-powered commercial lawn mowers are available today from 18 industry-leading brands, including walk-behind, stand-on, and zero-turn-rider options. Some landscape contractors choose to convert existing equipment to propane using EPA- and CARB-certified conversion kits. (1)  If the landscape industry is so far along, then what is holding back the golf industry?

For years the Ag industry has used diesel-powered engines to run their irrigation systems but since EPA has mandated a 90 percent emission reduction on all non-road diesel engines the one way they have found to improve emissions is to switch from engines fueled by diesel to those powered by propane. While diesel has long been the fuel of choice for many farmers, increasingly strict emissions regulations and new propane equipment technology are making propane-powered engines a more cost-effective, convenient, and efficient choice for farm irrigation. (2) Instead of making the transition to propane, the golf equipment manufacturers simply started using the new tier IV technology and passed the ever-so-slightly increased costs along to the end users.

I have yet to hear of a legitimate reason why propane isn’t offered outside of R&R Products. How can we get the other equipment manufacturers to step up and deliver us a product that we can use? I have heard that propane isn’t available in all areas of our country, but I have a hard time believing that. If that were the case, then why does Home Depot sell so many propane BBQ grills across the country?

If our industry desires a change, then let’s start asking for it. I still believe that the golf industry is on the cutting edge and I am confident that this too will evolve. Talk to your local rep or send letters to their development teams. I really think there is a place for propane in our industry.

On March 23, GCSAA held a webcast called the Plusses of Propane-Powered Equipment. If you are interested in learning more, you can watch the entirety at your own leisure. Find additional information on propane-powered mowing equipment here.


Friday, June 10, 2016

Mentoring our Class C members

Most all of us have been there. We know how hard we worked, and looking back at those we worked for, we now realize that they were incredible mentors. Of course, I’m talking about our time as an assistant superintendent. Ranking right up there with our equipment manager, the assistant superintendent in one of the most vital positions on the crew. In the hustle and bustle of everyday life on the course, I think we can lose track of our role as mentors. Sometimes it’s just taking that extra time to check in and ask how things are going. Most of all, we should make sure that we are setting a clear career path for our assistants and ensuring their success of becoming a superintendent.

Over lunch, he told me that someday he would like to even have my job!

Part of that success is making sure your assistants are connected to the local superintendent’s association as well as GCSAA. It’s not necessarily about creating chances for them to be away from the course by attending meetings with you, but it’s more about creating networking opportunities. There are many opportunities within the local chapter to become involved as a Class C member. Whether it’s just serving on a committee or even as a board liaison, the time involved can weigh heavily on determining the success of your legacy.

I would like to recognize a few individuals within the Northwest region who, as Class C members, have taken on an impactful role. Not only for their local chapter but for the GCSAA as well. These are Grassroots Ambassadors, Jeffrey Jensen, Mitch Savage, and Seth Swanson.

Senator Barrasso and Jeffrey Jensen

Jeffrey recently attended National Golf Day in Washington D.C., but just a few days prior he informed me that he became the superintendent at Jackson Hole Golf and Tennis! I was able to accompany him while meeting Wyoming Senators Enzi and Barrasso. Jeffrey happened to major in political science and he was right at home talking the talk.

I met Mitch Savage of Green Valley Ranch Golf Club at Colorado’s Golf Day in April and was able to spend some time with him at the event as well as on a couple site visits in the area. Mitch struck me as an individual that had a plan for his career and advocacy was a large part of it. Over lunch, he told me that someday he would like to even have my job! After getting to know him, I don’t doubt that he could.

Seth Swanson and Mitch are close friends and were college roommates. Seth is the assistant at Littleton Golf and Tennis Club. I haven’t had the opportunity to meet Seth yet but from his correspondences, I can tell that he will be a future leader.

In my opinion, behind each of these assistants is a great superintendent that see’s the value of their involvement and I would like to commend each of them for their support. I know one thing is for sure, and that is Gary Leaper, RMGCSA’s executive director, couldn’t be more pleased to see his future leaders taking shape.

Remembering Walter Mattison, CGCS

There have been just a few that have come into my life and have had a significant impact on the direction of my career and have left this world way before their time. One in particular was Walter Mattison, CGCS. Walter moved to Central Oregon with his wife Nancy, and his two sons Brent and Sean. Previous to the move, he was the superintendent of Makena Beach and Golf Resort on the island of Maui. His new job was the construction and grow-in of what is now called Widgi Creek Golf Course in Bend, Oregon. The construction was complete in 1991. It didn’t take Walter long to fit into the Oregon GCSA. He became active in the chapter and was the chapter president by 1997. Shortly thereafter, Walter’s life was cut short by cancer, and he passed in December 2000 at the age of 44.

..."if he were still alive today, he would have been President of GCSAA well before me."

My first run-in with Walter was when I was working for Farwest Turf Equipment as a supply truck driver and salesperson. My route would take me through Central Oregon. Walter always told me to make his stop the last of the day so we could play nine holes. Looking back at those times I spent with him, it made me look forward to the day that I could become a superintendent and manage a construction project such as his. Little did I know that I would eventually be hired to be the construction manager at Stone Creek Golf Club and I would be able to tell Walter the great news just before his passing.

Walter was a man of great ambitions. His foremost was to serve his Lord, and by doing so, be the best father that he could be. This spilled over into his professional life. He garnered so much respect and adoration by the way he interacted with his employees and his peers. Past President Sean Hoolehan, CGCS, was one of Walter’s closest friends. Sean said that if he were still alive today, he would have been president of GCSAA well before him.

Another one of Walter’s ambitions was to create a giant flag assembled out of golf flags from golf courses around the world. It would be called the Brotherhood Flag. Walter would eventually accumulate 750 flags from around the world, all to support his brave battle against cancer. This was his way to show his appreciation and commemorate 75 years of GCSAA’s brotherhood. He worked on this adventure clear through to his last days. Below is a picture of a poster of the flag which can only give you the relative size of it.

The flag was displayed at the Dallas Golf Industry Show and now resides with his wife Nancy. Nancy would love to find a permanent home for the flag, where it could be displayed every once in a while and people could appreciate who Walter was and what he meant to our industry.

In May, at the Oregon Golf Course Superintendents Association’s annual meeting, Walter was inducted into the Oregon Golf Course Superintendents Hall of Fame. Nancy and her boys were able to attend and receive the award. Now in their 30’s, Brent and Sean have grown into outstanding men and spoke eloquently of their time with their father. Since Walter’s passing, Nancy had been unable to even consider playing golf again. She's now met a wonderful new husband who has brought her back to the game, which is exactly what Walter would have wanted. Also in attendance at the ceremony was Bill Dierdorff, Walter’s assistant who is now the superintendent at Loomis Trail Golf Club in Blaine, Wash., and Russell Dooge, CGCS from Kahului, Hawaii. Russell and Walter were very close and once it was known that Walter was to be inducted, Sean Hoolehan, CGCS, called him and he immediately booked his plane ticket. Nancy was taken by the outpouring of support from the association and his close friends which lead to not a dry eye in the room.

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.