Thursday, October 1, 2015

Size doesn't matter

Earlier last month, Marty Baumann, superintendent at Anchorage Golf Club, called me to ask a favor. He said that there was a young man from his club, Ian Bruchhauser, who qualified for the Regional Drive, Chip and Putt contest at Chambers Bay on September 12. The community and the golf club rallied together and raised enough money for Ian to travel to Tacoma, Washington, to compete. Marty asked if I could contact the golf course management staff at Chambers Bay to see if Ian could get a round of golf while he was there. Marty explained that Ian is from a single-parent home and golf is the world to this kid. At age 11, he has already managed to score par at Anchorage Golf Course and being able to play at the U.S. Open venue would be a dream come true. I reached out and as I expected, Josh Lewis came through and delivered.

Marty called me recently to report on Ian's trip. When Ian arrived with a set of junior golf clubs, he was instantly a target for teasing from some of the other contestants.  A Ping representative was made aware of Ian’s need for clubs and the rep arranged for Ian to be fit by the Ping Tour Fitter! To top that off, Ian caught the attention of a couple college scouts that were there as well.

But, the scouts were not the only ones left with a good impression from Bruchhauser. Ian’s playing partner for the day had a caddy. The caddy was so impressed with Ian’s play that he asked his name and said he'll be watching for him on the tour. Following his round on the course, the bus driver also took him over to the pro shop and purchased a divot tool for Ian. The driver said that Ian was very talented and he wanted to do something special for him.

Ian Bruchhauser (right) placed 3rd overall in the 12- to 13-year-old division
The teasing turned out to have no effect on Ian’s performance. Ian placed 3rd overall in the 12- to 13-year-old division, missing second by only a stroke. What is remarkable is how well he competed for his size. You see, Ian is barely four feet tall. The only reason he didn’t get first was because he was outdriven in distance. He actually beat the first place finisher in the chip and putt portions of the contest. What Ian lacks in size, he more than makes up for in heart and talent. 

Every once in a while there is a small kid that stands out like a Tiger, a Bubba or a Jordan. Perhaps we are seeing one of our next generation's star in the making. Oh, and by the way, he finished his round at Chambers Bay at even bogey. That’s not too shabby.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

An inside look at the Bandon Dunes Resort

When the director of agronomy at Bandon Dunes, Ken Nice, heard I was coming down for my first official visit as a GCSAA field staff representative, the first thing he did was invite me to attend their weekly agronomy meeting. I felt very fortunate to be able to sit in on a staff meeting at one of our nation’s premier golf resorts and to get a peek of what goes on behind the scenes. What I experienced was nothing like I had ever expected. As soon as I got out of my car, I was greeted by Jeff (Big Bird) Southerland, superintendent at the Pacific Dunes course. (I had taken his parking place and he was curious who was sitting in the car.) He invited me into his office, giving us a chance to catch up. Soon, Bandon Dunes superintendent Jeff Wilson walked by and stuck his head in and welcomed me to the property. From the moment that I walked in, I felt completely comfortable and welcomed, like VIP.

The Bandon Dunes Agronomy Meeting
Once everyone was present, the meeting began and I sat back and watched the dialogue unfold. As each team member went over their schedule for the week and their respective equipment needs, I was taken by how well everyone was communicating and felt that each superintendent/manager’s report was a top priority by all. Near the end of the meeting, Ken gave me the opportunity to provide an update, which was unexpected, but I was grateful. 

Ken Nice and Jim Seeley
Later, Ken took me over to meet with Jim Seeley at the Wild Rivers Coast Alliance. The WRCA is Mike Keiser’s philanthropic arm of the Bandon Dunes Golf Resort. The WRCA is committed to supporting communities along the South Coast of Oregon. Then, he took me over to a place that very few probably know exist. Mr. Keiser had a labyrinth made to honor his past friend and business partner, Howard McKee. The labyrinth signified Howards’ journey which contributed to the vision and experience that is the Bandon Dunes Resort.

Ken addresses the Golfweek Raters
Finally, we stopped by the methiozolin plots that were located at the practice facility. While observing the plots, Bradley Klein from Golfweek Magazine drove up and asked Ken if he would say a few words to his group of raters that were breaking for lunch while playing at the resort. Ken and I had just spent some time with Bradley up at the U.S. Open in Tacoma, so Bradley asked Ken if he would give his insight on the putting surfaces at Chambers Bay. Ken’s talk to the group primarily focused on the types of grass that they will be putting on at the resort. Ken explained the recent transition to Poa annua on the Bandon Dunes and the Pacific Dunes courses from the traditional fescue/colonial mix. They had continued to try to fight the Poa but the customer ratings for Pacific just continued to drop. Once Bandon and Pacific reached that certain threshold, they made the decision to lower the HOC and increase the level of nitrogen applied just a bit to encourage the conversion. Within a year the greens had established themselves and the customer ratings climbed back on top.

To defend the putting surfaces at Chambers Bay, Ken explained the greens and compared them to the greens on the Trails course, which is relatively the same age. Ask any superintendent that has grown a new golf course west of the Cascades, they can tell you that that the eight to ten year mark is an ugly phase where many of the annual biotypes have established and the transition is inevitable. That just happens to be where Chambers Bay is in its life cycle. Whether Eric Johnson and Josh Lewis decide to transition to Poa, that will be up to them, but Ken explained that they may take heed from the success he and his staff has had at the Bandon Dunes Resort. I can attest that the greens at Pacific were as good as greens can get and rolled beautifully. I must also note that the greens at Old MacDonald are still pure fine fescue and there are no plans on converting them soon.

After spending the day with Ken and watching his interactions with his staff and the customers, I began to really appreciate his manner of management. Ken and I spoke a lot on styles of management, and he explained how he was mentored by Jim Seeley, who prior to running the Wild Rivers Coast Alliance, was the executive vice president of operations for Kemper Sports for over 17 years. Jim is also a Life Member of the Professional Golfers’ Association of America and played in a number of PGA Tour events including two major championships, the PGA and the British Open. Ken had always respected Jim’s style of management and learned that he too could benefit from Jim’s style.

If I were to define Ken’s management style it would be a bottom-up style of management.  Bottom-up is a style where management seeks to develop ideas using the brainpower of your entire staff, as the manager you still determine the overall goals for your staff along with the dates you'd like to see these goals accomplished, but your employees of all levels assist in developing the mechanisms to reach those goals. This is a model that works extremely well in our industry and Ken was accomplishing it perfectly. Ken is highly respected by his staff, and it shows in every aspect of his operation. From the moment I walked onto the property, there was a sense of success and pride in each of his staff members and I can attribute that to the general atmosphere that Ken creates as the director of agronomy.

To top off my trip, Ken invited me to join himself, Tom Jefferson, CGCS, and Jeff Southerland for a round at Pacific Dunes. He set up four Evans Scholarship candidates to loop for us, which was a wonderful experience. A fitting end to a great visit at a wonderful facility.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

First Green initiatives highlighted during U.S. Open week

As soon as I heard the U.S. Open was coming to the Northwest, I knew I would soon be able to check off the top item on my bucket list.  I could not be happier for Eric Johnson, Josh Lewis and their crew for how the week is shaping up as they prepare the course to championship specifications. It is early in the week and I have already met so many wonderful people from around the world who have made the trip to be part of this historic event.

While golf is in the national spotlight, the USGA and First Green Foundation decided to use the opportunity to promote a new campaign, highlighting the First Green Foundation. As a part of the campaign, a 30-second tv spot will air on Fox during the U.S. Open.

The First Green was also invited to participate in the U.S. Open community celebration event. Over 500 children participated in the five learning lab booths, learning about bugs, water, soils and mathematics.

The entire First Green board also participated, including Steve Kealy, Jeff Gullikson, CGCS, Karen Armstead, Cathy Relyea, Lynn McKay, Jeff and Annie Shelley and myself. I also invited some superintendent volunteers who were in town to help the agronomy team, including Scot Dey of Mission Viejo Country Club, Andrew McDaniel of Keya Golf Club in Japan and Masaru Shimizu of Kasumigaseki Country Club in Japan, as well. Steve Kealy's assistants, Kyle Young and Nick Magnuson, also joined and did an outstanding job teaching the soils lab.  Dey, McDaniel and Masaru manned the hitting cage. We could not have pulled off the entire day without their help. The entire day was a success.

McDaniel, Dey and Shimizu helping a young player hit balls into the net

Jeff Gullikson uses balls of tape to demonstrate how attraction between molecules of water happens
Steve Kealy covers mathematical calculations

I've got just a short window to write this post as the 3 a.m. wake-up call comes early. I will provide the day two and three recap tomorrow as my time allows.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Chapter all-stars

In my travels, so much of the conversation revolves around how to get members engaged at the chapter level and attending local meetings. If you are reading this, you are probably more engaged than most, simply because you are taking an interest in what is happening in your region. Many times, members ask me what GCSAA or their local chapter has done for them lately. The answers are pretty obvious, but I like to respond with a question that asks, what have you done for GCSAA or your local chapter lately? In my personal experience, I seemed to get the most from my associations by serving as board members or committee members. But, you don’t have to serve as a board or committee members to give back to your association. Two members in the Northwest region that have found a way to continue to give in their own way come to my mind.

Tom Baty
Tom Baty, a 29-year member and superintendent at the Bend Golf and Country Club in Central Oregon has always stayed connected to the industry outside of his own job. This winter, he traveled to China with Thom Nickolai, PhD, and taught Chinese students how to operate turf equipment. Aside from being a great experience, it was a different way that he could contribute to the turf industry. Tom also served on the OGCSA board of directors back in the early 2000s, but has always managed to stay connected to members outside of his club. Bend Country Club is located in central Oregon and four hours from most of the OGCSA meetings. Tom understands the value of staying connected with local superintendents and likes to organize small social gatherings as well as a winter roundtable meeting each year. This provides a way for the central Oregon superintendents to get together and talk over issues. 

Tom got tired of the local rental yards price gouging for air compressor rentals each fall  those of you that blow out your irrigation system understand. To remedy the problem, he now drives over to Eugene and rents a machine for a month each year. Once he's finished, he takes it to each course in the area and rents it out for a fair price. It’s a win-win for everyone. I can tell that Tom does all of these things for the good of the membership. Nothing has ever been self-serving.

Andy Nikkary

Andy Nikkari, a 19-year member and superintendent at The Golf Club at Redlands Mesa in Grand Junction, Colorado, served on the RMGCSA board about eight years ago. Prior to Andy’s service, the RMGCSA had not held a chapter meeting on the Western Slope. Once he started on the board, the meetings began to happen. Today, Andy continues to organize the event. He does everything from setting up the education to overseeing the proshop collection fees for the event to distributes funds. RMGCSA President Zach Bauer says, “if we didn’t have Andy over [at Western Slope], who knows where we’d be. He’s a wonderful asset to the state of Colorado superintendents.” I can vouch for his drive to serve. Earlier this year, he took the time to detail a handwritten note thanking me for taking the time to attend his meeting.

These are just two individuals amongst the many across the country. I can name at least one individual in each chapter in the Northwest region that continues to serve. I hope to highlight their service in later blog posts. If you know of anyone who fits the bill, please feel free to let me know. I always enjoy highlighting great ways to serve the industry.

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Thursday, April 23, 2015

Make every day Earth Day

Wednesday marked the 45th annual celebration of Earth Day and Twitter feeds and Facebook pages were buzzing with facts about golf and the environment. You would almost wonder how anyone could not understand the relationship between the two.

In my home state of Oregon, the Golf Alliance of Oregon (GAO) just completed their second economic impact study through the Stanford Research Institute. The numbers look good for just coming out of the recession. The GAO decided that in addition to hosting an “Oregon Golf Day” reception, they would request that Governor Kate Brown declares the month of May as Oregon Golf Month. Since I am on the GAO committee, I was able to help craft the recommended declaration. Of course, I felt that an environmental statement was imperative.

The following proclamation is what was officially declared by the governor:

The GAO couldn't have been more excited when we received the proclamation, then I took a closer look and noticed something missing. The one statement that superintendents are most passionate about and a statement that I took care to include in the proposal, for some reason, was not included by the governor's office in the official declaration:

WHEREAS: Golf courses are responsible users of green space, providing wildlife habitat, a filter for runoff and a cooling effect on developed areas

I had extracted the statement directly from the WE ARE GOLF's "Benefits of Golf" card. It was obvious that the environmental statement was left off because someone in the governor's office felt that the statement was somehow too political and not factual. Some of the members of the GAO even felt the same way. Only after providing evidence of research that backed the statement was I able to convince the other members of the GAO to understand the truth of the statement.

This story should only reinforce the need for GCSAA members to be proactive in communicating the environmental benefits of golf, not only to our lawmakers, but to our own allies as well. Many allied associations understand golf's positive environmental impact, but not all do. Just on the heels of Earth Day, we should ask ourselves what have we done lately to promote golf's environmental benefits.

Many of us are now looking toward social media to convey the message. If you blog or tweet about the great things you are doing, keep it up. I don't believe we can all rest on the good work of others. We all need to step up and treat every day like Earth Day to keep the positive message moving.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Chapter leaders assemble in Lawrence

The 2015 Chapter Leaders Symposium just concluded in Lawrence, Kan., and I am proud to say the NW was well represented this year. Chapter leaders from Idaho, Peaks & Prairies, Inland Empire, Rocky Mountain and the Intermountain were all in attendance.

Besides the opportunity to network with chapter leaders from across the country, participants were treated to first-class hospitality and a full day and a half of education and updates on GCSAA programs. Attending this year from the NW were Wade Altschwager of Peaks & Prairies, James Curdy of Inland Empire, and Gerald Flaherty, CGCS of Idaho, all arriving with Lori Russell. Intermountain’s executive, Natalie Barker, attended, as did Joe Putnam, along with Gary Leeper of the Rocky Mountain GCSA.

Michael Bostian from Waverly Woods Golf Club in Westminster, Md., wrote the following to Leann Cooper, GCSAA's senior manager of chapter services: "I gained exposure to several areas that will help our association in the near future…it was first class from start to finish."

I can personally attest that being with the rising leaders of my region provided me the opportunity to get to know each a little better. It forged lines of communication between me and other GCSAA staff and these chapter leaders as they guide their associations.

Reflecting back to my first visit to Lawrence as a superintendent, I remember the sense of how strong our association is and the level at which I was being represented. If you have ever considered becoming more involved at the chapter level, I would strongly encourage you to seek a board position and work to become a representative from your chapter to attend the Chapter Leaders Symposium. It is a rewarding experience and will help you get the most from your membership.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Is chapter participation on the rise?

A common topic of conversation I have with many boards is how to increase attendance and participation at local events.

I hear that it's often the time commitment. Too many members have to juggle time between their families and work. Between little league or soccer and other family commitments, there just doesn't seem to be time to attend a conference.

Some say it's a generational issue. The younger generation just doesn't seem to want to engage -- they get all the education and networking they need from their iPhones in the palms of their hands.

Then there are those that simply don't have support from their facilities to attend the meetings. Some can't attend because they are running such a tight crew and the course couldn't manage without them, and some simply don't have the budget.

Trust me, I don't have the golden answer that is going to solve all of these scenarios, but somehow, chapters are seeing a change. I'm seeing a few success stories lately, and hopefully this is a trend that continues into the future.

Last week I had the privilege of attending the Idaho GCSA Spring Meeting in Boise, Idaho. I started hearing the buzz about the meeting weeks prior to the event, so I knew there could be a good crowd. In an association that has close to 57 Class A and SM members, there were 115 attendees at the day-and-a-half conference.

Idaho typically has two meetings a year. The Spring Meeting is always in Boise at the Red Lion Inn, and the Fall Meeting moves around the state. Many times the venue will dictate the success of an event. I'm not saying the Red Lion is not a good venue, but it's not a five-star facility, so that discounts the venue excuse.

However, the educational line-up was pretty good. The Gem State has always lured some great speakers, and this meeting was no exception. There were four speakers at this event providing solid and relevant education. They included Thomas Nikolai, Ph.D.; Rob Golembiewski, Ph.D.; John Sorochan, Ph.D.; and Terry Buchan, CGCS, MG. The highlight of the meeting was the Turfgrass Talk Show hosted by Nikolai. It really seemed to create two-way exchange of information between the speakers and the attendees. I heard from various members that the information they learned was valuable and will be put to use when they return to their courses.

There were at least five members who were first-time attendees at the meeting -- a great thing! Over all, it was estimated that close to 62% of the Idaho membership attended this meeting.

Just south of the State of Idaho, the Intermountain GCSA has experienced similar success in its meeting attendance. Just last month, on Jan. 29,the chapter held its winter conference at Fox Hollow Golf Club in American Fork, Utah. I attended this event last year, and there were 100 attendees. This year wasn’t too far off the mark with 90 attendees.

Last year, Pat Finlen, CGCS, presented, along with The First Green Foundation at Riverside Country Club in Provo. This year the subject was on course renovation, and speakers included Steve Wolfard from Weibring – Wolfard Golf Design, Jim Ruelle from GPS Golf As-Built Design and Rex Hanson from Rainbird Golf Services. What stood out to me here was the offer of five hours of education (.5 CEU’s) for only $30. The IGCSA has kept the price affordable, which has attracted not only superintendents but assistants as well. In this case, the IGCSA has roughly 50 As and SMs, but they attracted over twice that in attendance, which is very similar to Idaho.

Like I said, I really don’t have the golden answer, but from what I see, we are experiencing a positive trend among chapters so far this year. There are all kinds of ways to increase the attendance at local meetings, the secret is finding the right recipe that fits your demographic. There is a lot to be said if boards reach out to other boards and share ideas. GCSAA field staff representatives can also help communicate BMPs amongst chapters as well.

Let’s continue to support the local chapter in 2015. If you haven’t been to a meeting in some time, perhaps it is time to make a change. The networking alone is invaluable, not to mention the quality of education that is offered at such an affordable price.