Monday, November 25, 2013

Aggie campus course opening

Maybe I’m a little biased – okay, I’m a lot biased. As a proud member of the Fighting Texas Aggie Class of 1985 (Whoop!), I was thrilled to be invited to an event hosted by Ewing and Hunter Irrigation at the recently renovated Texas A&M University Campus Golf Course. Renovation is actually an understatement as the course was completely “gutted” and every square inch of the 1952 version rebuilt.

The multi-million dollar renovation was a collaborative project between Texas A&M University, Sterling Golf and Golf Course Architect Jeff Blume - Aggie Class of ’89.  Blume and Landscapes Unlimited were charged with the task of designing and building a course that would help the university reach its goal of creating the “best on-campus golf course anywhere.” Critical to the success of the project were the industry partners involved, including Landscapes Unlimited, Ewing Irrigation, John Deere, Hunter Irrigation and many more.

The event was kicked off with an educational session that included welcoming remarks from Ewing, Hunter and Sterling Golf representatives. The two highlight presentations were from the course designer, Jeff Blume, and the Texas A&M vice president of student affairs, Lieutenant General Joe Weber.

Blume spoke of the great honor to be selected as the course designer on land considered hallowed by Aggies. His design was inspired by classic golf course architecture, specifically work by Charles B. Macdonald and Donald Ross. The course includes elevated greens, gently sloping fairways, and 154 bunkers used to frame and define the fairways – not to punish the golfer or the superintendent. Most of the bunkers are very small and will require minimal maintenance.

Lt-Gen Weber spoke with great pride of the project that has been in the works for more than 15 years. He spoke of the new “front door” of the University that will now welcome current and former students, and the Texas golf community. Weber was also very proud of the way the course was built under a very tight budget and will be operated in a financially responsible manner.  

All speakers spoke very highly of GCSAA members Carter Hindes and Tanner Light. Carter is the director of agronomy for Sterling Golf and oversaw the project from the first shovel being turned. Tanner Light is the golf course superintendent and charged with maintaining the Mini-verde greens and wall-to-wall Celebration bermudagrass. Carter created a terrific account of the construction process on his blog:

There were no Johnny Football sightings that day, but I was privileged to play golf with a Class of 85 classmate – Johnny Walker. We braved two rain delays and very soggy conditions but were both able to break 80 on the very challenging course – thanks to the fact that we skipped 3 holes in order to finish before the heaviest rain.

This course will be a shining star for years to come in the Texas golf community. I enjoyed the course very much and appreciated the opportunity to be invited to this special event. Thanks to Curtis Bruton of Ewing Irrigation for the invitation and a great day. The improvement to the course and the overall A&M campus will make every Aggie proud and excited about the opportunity to tee it up.  

Monday, November 18, 2013

Tribute to a North Texas GCSA friend

I always learn something new at chapter events. Usually it’s about a new turf management technique, an equipment innovation that has solved a unique problem, or just the latest news and happenings among our members in the South Central region. But earlier this month in Fort Worth, I learned about something much more important than agronomy, management solutions or news. I learned about a friendship and a special bond that existed between two superintendents for almost 20 years. I also learned more about a great superintendent I had known for a quarter century.

Many of you in the South Central region know that in October, the North Texas chapter lost one of its legendary members when Garry Bearden passed away from complications related to COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease). Garry was only 66 and had just completed his 40th year of service as superintendent at Ridglea CC - Championship Course.  He had planned to retire at the end of this year to spend time with his wife, Elaine, and his two granddaughters. Garry's funeral service was an awesome tribute that provided tremendous insight into his life outside of golf. He will be missed by many, many people.

It is well known that golf course superintendents have a long tradition of mentorship and camaraderie. The unique nature of the work and our industry often foster enduring friendships, which is truly one of the greatest benefits of the profession. Because of a fortunate golf pairing at the North Texas GCSA Scholarship Tournament at River Crest CC, I had the opportunity to play with Garry's closest friend and coworker, Duane Janssen, superintendent at Ridglea CC - Family Course.

Duane has been at Ridglea for 19 years and worked side by side with Garry for most of that time. Everyone knows that the two were close friends and often inseparable at chapter events and conferences - it was rare to see one without the other. Despite a 20+ year age difference, the two were the best of friends on and off the course.

Duane spoke emotionally about the friend he considered his mentor, partner, confidant and brother, offering amazing and warm memories, stories and “Beardenisms.” I was especially touched by the story of the day Duane informed Garry’s staff and crew that Garry's disease was quite serious and his chance of survival was bleak. The crew showed an outpouring of emotion and love for their leader, and they showed up in mass to Garry’s funeral. There is no doubt that this is the ultimate tribute to a golf course superintendent by the men and women who worked for him.

I am proud to have known Garry, privileged to have spent time with him and his family the day he passed away, and honored that Duane shared so much with me on the golf course that day. Thank you Duane, for making that day special.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Water Auditing In Arkansas

GCSA Arkansas members conduct a green water
audit at Fayetteville CC
One of the really cool parts of my job as South Central field staff is all the great education presentations that I see at chapter events. In October, at the GCSA of Arkansas annual meeting, attendees were treated to an informative talk and demonstration of basic water auditing techniques and methods. Jason Cook, CID (Certified Irrigation Designer), CLIA (Certified Landscape Irrigation Auditor), provided members with practical information that they were able to take back to their courses and use immediately. 

Water auditing provides many benefits not limited to the opportunity to save water and associated pumping power. For a course committed to responsible environmental management and water conservation, auditing is an essential Best Management Practice. Water auditing is the process of measuring irrigation system performance to determine water use efficiency.
From these calculations, management decisions and system modifications can be considered to better utilize the system and apply water as precisely as possible. Issues with factors such as station run time, cycle scheduling, nozzle selection, head spacing and many others can be identified and addressed with routine water audits. Members in attendance were very enthusiastic about the demonstration and are now prepared to initiate a water audit at their home courses.

The highlight of the presentation was an on-course audit demonstration on the 9th green at Fayetteville Country Club. Members measured a grid and placed catch can devices on 10-foot centers across the entire surface of the green. All four sprinkler heads that irrigate the green were operated for 10 minutes. The water collected during the run time was then precisely measured and analyzed to determine the distribution uniformity for the system. 

For more information about water auditing, I suggest a search of “water audit” on the website. Or visit the Course section, and select "Water conservation" under the Environment heading. I found many very good articles from the GCM archives and several irrigation related webcasts. There are also several irrigation management seminars planned for the 2014 GCSAA Education Conference in Orlando. Registration for these seminars and the conference opens November 5th!

Greenside irrigation running during the irrigation audit of #9 green. In the interest of time for this demonstration, all four heads were run at the same time. Typically, heads would run independently.