Tuesday, December 30, 2014

All day, Every day at GCSAA HQ

I’m amazed how often during my travels a member will come up to me to brag about a GCSAA employee that they have dealt with on membership questions, education, research, or many other member service or program issues. Usually it’s about an employee who you don’t see in the pages of GCM or hear give a speech at GIS. It’s usually about one of the fantastic hard-working team members who are just a phone call or email away and available to every member of the association. Like superintendents, they are ultra-committed to their work and the members they serve all day, every day. 

My field staff colleagues will certainly agree that we are lucky and couldn’t be prouder to represent such an amazing team in the field. I can’t tell you how many times a member asks me a question, and I’m able to deliver an answer or a resolution on the spot. Truth be told, it involved a quick phone call or email to someone at headquarters who is always more than willing to provide assistance. I've done it sitting in a member’s office, during a break at a chapter event and even from the golf course. 

If you ask any one of these superstars about the GCSAA Mission Statement, I can guarantee you they will be able to recite it chapter and verse. CEO Rhett Evans has a habit of calling out employees at our monthly all-staff meeting to deliver “GCSAA is dedicated to serving its members, advancing their profession and enhancing the enjoyment, growth and vitality of the game of golf.” As far as I know, he is still 0-fer in finding an employee who doesn't know it by heart. 

I’m not foolish enough to start naming names because I will certainly leave someone out who really deserves recognition. They all deserve a pat on the back and a heart-felt thank you. One of the great employee recognition programs that the GCSAA utilizes is called Birdie Bucks. Employees write quick notes of appreciation to recognize fellow employees who have gone above and beyond to be particularly helpful to a member or a fellow employee. I sat down last week to write a few to recognize my fellow employees who have been particularly helpful to me during 2014. When I reflected on the list, I realized there isn't a single department who didn't go out of their way to help me during the year. I made a lot of “birdies” that day; wish I could do that well on the golf course once and a while.   

I’ll admit they can be a little obnoxious about their beloved Kansas University sports teams. Not surprisingly, we hear a lot out of them during basketball season but they have been fairly silent during football season lately. Since they just hired a Texas A&M trained coach, I expect they will soon enjoy their falls a lot more soon. KU isn't the only school represented at HQ, once in awhile we hear from Kansas State and Missouri fans, but they generally keep a low profile. 

Unless you are a KU Jayhawk superfan or your team is playing against them, Lawrence, Kansas, isn't the type of place you might visit on a family vacation or even pass thru on your way somewhere. It’s about 40 miles east of Kansas City on the Kansas Turnpike. A common GCSAA known truth is that once a member visits headquarters, they will be a fan and advocate for the association for their entire career. I couldn't agree more, and felt that way the first time I visited as a member sometime in the early '90s. But it isn't the beautiful building and campus that does it; there is no doubt it is the smiling faces and helpful employees who are always ready, willing and able to serve. So, if you get a chance at the San Antonio Conference or better yet, to visit them in Lawrence, please take a minute to say thank you and give them a well-deserved pat on the back. Here is a list of current staff members and their contact information: http://www.gcsaa.org/about-gcsaa/staff-contacts 

Remember, they are working to serve you, advance your profession, and to enhance the enjoyment, growth and vitality of the game we all love – all day, every day at GCSAA HQ. 

Sunday, November 16, 2014

NTGCSA supports children's hospital

Every year since 1999 I have had the privilege of visiting the Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children through my involvement with the North Texas GCSA and the GCSAA. And every year I come away inspired and in awe of the great work that the hospital is doing every day for children with orthopaedic conditions, neurological disorders, and learning disorders.

My involvement has been as an officer and president of the chapter, as the NTGCSA chapter executive and in my current role as GCSAA field staff. During his tenure in Dallas, GCSAA President Keith Ihms, CGCS, was also very involved with getting the chapter committed to the hospital. There are way too many NTGCSA members who have been very instrumental in fostering this great relationship to mention in this blog.
Quinton Johnson (center),
TSRHC Grounds Manager
Kim Howard (left) and Brian Cloud

The hospital is located near the bustling center of downtown Dallas on a beautifully manicured campus. As hospital President Emeritus J.C. Montgomery proudly tells the North Texas members each year, "No patient or family has ever spent a dime at this hospital for any service, ever." It does not charge patients for services, or receive state or federal funding. It relies on the generosity of individuals, organizations, foundations and corporations to continue its mission.

The North Texas GCSA became involved with the TSRHC in the late 90s through the invitation of one of its most respected and founding members: Quinton Johnson. Quinton and Martha Johnson’s granddaughter was treated at the hospital following an accident, and they experienced first-hand the fantastic work being done. Soon after, Quinton became involved as a volunteer and invited the NTGCSA board of directors for a visit and tour of the hospital. He enouraged the chapter to become involved with an idea for the construction of a putting green for the patients to use during their therapy. When Mr. Johnson “encourages” members in North Texas to do anything, it has a way of happening.

During that meeting, we were treated like royalty, and during the tour of the hospital we met some of the children and their families who were being treated. From that afternoon on, the chapter has been committed to supporting the hospital through financial and equipment donations as well as agronomic expertise by its members. It has really been a rewarding relationship for all.

This year, the chapter made a $3500 donation, which extends their cumulative giving total to over $70,000. Shortly after becoming involved, the chapter started hosting an annual education meeting in the auditorium of the hospital each fall. They have brought in many well known turfgrass researchers to provide education and have a great turnout every year. This year was no different, with Beth Guertal, Ph.D., as the featured speaker discussing turf fertility and nutrition.

I am always blown away by the courtesy and hospitality that the TSRHC rolls out every year for the chapter. They treat us like we are the making the most generous donation of the year and we are the most important donors they have. During the year, I will see tv news stories in the DFW area about the Dallas Mavericks or Boone Pickens giving the hospital donations 100x more money than the NTGCSA and marvel at the way they make us feel so special.

Getting involved with a great community program like the TSRHC is easy. I encourage chapters to form relationships like this and show their support in any way they can. I guarantee your members, affiliates and sponsors will be proud of the effort and be rewarded in many ways.

In a future blog post, I look forward to telling you all about the golf programs that the hospital has initiated through the support of the NTGCSA, golf professionals and the USGA. They are one of the leaders in the country in introducing their patients to the game. The program director, Dana Dempsey, will be a part of a panel discussion at the 2015 Conference in San Antonio. I look forward to telling you all about it.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Tee it up with the First Tee - You'll be glad you did

In case you've been wondering what you could be doing with all the spare time you have, I've got a great solution that is very rewarding, fun and helps grow the game we all love. Of course, I'm kidding about spare time, but I do want to encourage you to get to know your local First Tee program. With chapters in all 50 states and four international locations, there is bound to be one near you. I know there are many GCSAA members who are already involved with their local programs, and I applaud their efforts.

Earlier this year, I visited the First Tee facility in Fort Worth for the first time because one of my mentors in the golf industry, Don Armstrong, was receiving the First Tee of Fort Worth Leadership Award for his tireless contribution during the construction and ongoing operations of the facility. I worked for Don Armstrong when he was an assistant superintendent at Colonial Country Club, back when guys named Lietzke, Zoeller and Nicklaus were winning the Colonial NIT Championship. Don, along with another of my mentors, Lindy Miller, both encouraged me to get involved with the program and introduced me to a lot of inspiring people. Part of the ceremony that night were introductions by several of the young First Tee participants, who all talked about how the program had profoundly influenced their lives in so many positive ways. I love when First Tee kids say, “And oh yeah, I learned to play golf too.”

The very next day, I signed up to be a volunteer for the program. It was an easy process, and they put me to work the next Saturday. With my history of working for Don and Lindy, I didn’t expect anything less. Like many of you, any time someone figures out what I do for a living and my background, they tend to ask for help with “that spot in their back yard where they just can’t seem to get the grass to grow.” I wanted to be helpful in that regard with the facility, but I really wanted to focus on working with kids and leave the grass growing to the real experts. I turned into the field “consultant” when my boys were in Little League and every other time I volunteered somewhere.

The First Tee of Fort Worth is located at Rockwood Golf Course, specifically in the Ben Hogan Learning Center. It includes classrooms, recreation areas, an incredible golf library and offices. The program utilizes the Rockwood driving range, practice greens and a six-hole practice course. Kevin Long is the executive director, and he and his staff do an incredible job of running the program and reaching kids. Like many parts of the country, Fort Worth has an alarming student dropout rate and a generation that desperately needs guidance and direction. Kevin’s team also manages a terrific outreach program that brings the First Tee curriculum directly to area schools.

The Learning Center also houses a museum that has great information about Ben Hogan and the impact golf has had in the Fort Worth community. As someone who grew up playing golf in Fort Worth and having had the privilege of working as an assistant at Shady Oaks Country Club when Mr. Hogan was still very active, it’s a very special place for me. I’d encourage you to stop in for a visit if you are ever in the area. In case you didn’t know, we are pretty darned proud of our golf history in Cowtown.

Since volunteering, I have advanced through the First Tee coaching system and now serve as the lead coach for a regular Saturday morning class. There are classes almost every day at this facility, so it was easy for me to find a commitment that fit around my busy travel schedule with GCSAA. Anyone who has ever teed it up with me will realize that golf ability is not a prerequisite for a First Tee coach! They give you lots of training material and guidance to help you structure the lessons. I teach a PLAYer 2 Class, which is for beginning players, so my 14+ handicap is plenty good enough to teach the fundamentals. Plus, I have a wonderful group of other volunteers and parents who help me prepare and deliver the lessons each week. Kris Traver is the “co-lead coach” of our group and the real brains behind our operation. She keeps me on script and inspires me to do it for the most important reason we give our time – the kiddos.

By far, the most rewarding part of working with the First Tee is the opportunity to deliver the lessons on the "9 Core Values." The program insists that coaches talk about the core values every week, and I believe it really puts a higher priority on this message above the golf. I love that. I’m proud to say that our students can recite the 9 Core Values by heart by the end of our time with them. We shout them each week when we do our warmups as part of our exercise cadence: Respect! Courtesy! Responsibility! Confidence! Honesty! Integrity! Sportsmanship! Judgment! Perseverance! It’s pretty funny each week to see 8 and 9 year old boys and girls doing warm-up exercises “old school” football style but that’s exactly what we do.

We are also working on ways to bring an environmental education component to the lesson curriculum at the First Tee of Fort Worth. It’s a natural fit because we have plenty of great examples of the way golf benefits the environment at the Rockwood course and kids who already have an interest in golf. I envision a “Golf and the Environment Day” where we can deliver the good news about golf and its positive impact on the environment in Fort Worth to students, parents, golfers and the general public. Rockwood sits adjacent to the Trinity River in Fort Worth, so we are hoping to partner with the Tarrant Regional Water District to provide this useful education. Every week I talk to my class about course care and etiquette on the course, but this would take it to the next level. I hope to get individual superintendents involved with this program as well as the North Texas GCSA chapter.

Kevin Long and BC enjoying The Colonial
I really hope GCSAA members will consider becoming involved with the First Tee. I think you can tell that I am proud of the work I have done and have enjoyed every minute of it. I know I get more reward from donating my time than the kids ever will. And maybe along the way, I will make a difference in some of the kids lives and futures.

For more information about the First Tee please visit www.thefirsttee.org.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

North Texas bermudagrass roundtable a success

During the month of July, a considerable amount of my time and focus was spent planning, preparing and conducting the Bermudagrass Roundtable Forum held in Arlington, Texas, July 23. It all began in June, when I met with a concerned Fort Worth superintendent who asked me to assist him in putting together a roundtable forum focused on the severe impact that the extreme winter of 2013-2014 has had on bermudagrass greens across the southern half of the United States.

All types of bermudagrass greens have experienced damage, ranging from slow spring recovery to severe winterkill. This has occurred as far as South Texas and all parts north that are growing bermudagrass. Many theories have been discussed regarding the causes of damage, as well as the preventative measures that could have been implemented to lessen the effects of the severe weather conditions.

The Fort Worth superintendent, Duane Janssen, CGCS, believed it was very important to bring together a group of superintendents in the Dallas/Fort Worth area to share ideas, knowledge and experience. At our initial meeting, Duane and I created a four-step plan to accomplish this goal:

Organization meeting
Duane and I assembled an engaged group of five superintendents, two vendor representatives and myself who met at Ridglea Country Club in Fort Worth. At the meeting, the group shared experiences regarding the issue and discussed the possible benefits of the roundtable forum. The group felt strongly that the roundtable format would be enthusiastically supported by superintendents in the DFW area. The group also determined that the best starting point for the discussion would be an electronic survey sent to all superintendents with bermudagrass greens. The results of this survey would provide discussion topics for the roundtable. The group provided feedback regarding the issues and survey questions they believed would be most informative. July 23 was set for the Bermudagrass Roundtable Forum, to be held at Rolling Hills Country Club in Arlington.

Survey creation
Working with one of the vendor representatives, we constructed the survey based on the meeting outcomes. The survey included approximately 42 sections/questions that covered all aspects of the management of bermudagrass greens in the DFW area, along with questions about facilities' experiences. The survey provided ample opportunity for superintendents to provide data and express opinions about the techniques that were successful or unsuccessful during the winter and spring. The survey was posted to Survey Monkey, and an email encouraging participation was sent to all North Texas GCSA members.

Survey results and presentation
On July 22, I met with Duane Janssen and Mike Epps to review the survey results and create a plan to present the data at the forum. Twenty-seven courses participated in the survey, which was completely anonymous. It quickly became apparent that the information provided great insight into the diversity of the management practices that exist among the survey participants. Rather than attempt to digest and quantify the information in a scientific manner, the group felt the data should be presented in whole and each topic discussed individually.

Roundtable forum
Turnout for the forum exceeded our group’s expectations, with 20 superintendents in attendance. I was asked to moderate the session, and we had no shortage of discussion during the three-hour meeting.

The discussion was broken in to the following sections:
  • Survey Participants and Course Information
  • 2013 Management and Conditions - Growing Season
  • 2013-2014 Winter - Management and Conditions
  • 2014 Spring - Damage and Recovery
  • Looking Back and Moving Forward 2014-2015

This event was considered a huge success by all who participated. The information provided from the survey was very helpful, but the most valuable aspect was the discussion and sharing of ideas and experiences. I am confident that my involvement demonstrated the value of the field staff program in a unique and new way. Several members mentioned that they would like to see future events address this issue, as well as others that affect members.

View the survey results and presentation used at the Bermudagrass Roundtable Forum »

I would encourage chapters to consider these types of meetings to promote information sharing among members. Contact your field representative for more information and ideas on how you can hold a successful event.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Rio Grande GCSA member represents USA!

I want to share this article by a Rio Grande GCSA member and a member of the Board of Directors: Robert Gonzales. Robert is the superintendent at the New Mexico Tech Golf Course and has been doing some serious training and preparation for this event. The article is an interesting review of the competition and his travels in Europe. Great going Robert and thanks for sharing!

Robert Gonzales
Earlier this month, I had the honor of representing my country at the 2014 World Duathlon Championships in Pontevedra, Spain. Duathlon is a RUN-BIKE-RUN race format. There were a total of 265 athletes representing the USA and 1,400 athletes from around the world – representing 31 countries.

My family and I arrived early in the week and visited the many small towns of the Galicia province of Spain (NW corner), and we were amazed at the architecture of the region. The Spanish landscape is vastly different from the U.S., with the residents residing in many of the original buildings or living in apartment buildings. The country between the small towns was beautiful rolling hills covered with small houses and farms, as many of the residents grow most of their own fruit and vegetables. The roads are very narrow, most are one-way and are NOT in a grid. Most vehicles in Spain (Europe in general) are small, and parking is at a premium. Many of the residents walk many, many blocks to their destinations. There are small fruit and meat markets on every corner, as residents seem to buy food on a nightly basis. Café’s and small bars are also on every street, as residents pick their favorite place to grab espresso or beverage of their choice every evening.

The sun would not set until about 11 p.m., so going to sleep was always late in the evening. We also visited the town of Santiago, which is a town that many Europeans pilgrimage to. There is a huge Cathedral there, and legend has it that the remains of the apostle James were brought to Galicia for burial. In 813, according to medieval legend, the light of a bright star guided a shepherd (who was watching his flock at night) to the burial site in Santiago de Compostela.

We also drove into Portugal and saw several old forts along the coast. What was also neat to see was the sea tide being out on our way down to Portugal and the tide returning on our way back to Spain. The Atlantic Ocean was very cold.


The weather for the race was perfect – low 70s, mild humidity. As I arrived at the venue, I was very nervous but also anxious about getting going. I warmed up with several of my teammates, went to the restroom many times and prayed before the race.

One of the many things that I learned from this trip is that a majority of people are caring and friendly, no matter what country you reside in.

The first part of the race was a 4 loop run (10K – 6.2 miles) around the old town of Pontevedra. My family was able to see me at several points during the run portion, and seeing their friendly faces was a great help. I finished the first run segment in 40:11 and was headed out on the bike course (2 loops).

The bike course was not what we (TEAM USA) was given in our pre-race handouts. We were told that the course was relatively flat with a small incline going out. During team practice, we found out that the small incline was about 5.5 miles of a continuous incline. This is where the Europeans have a HUGE advantage on most of the TEAM USA athletes. I did the best I could on the bike course, but was tired after the 40K.

The last segment of the race was a 2 loop 5k run, on the same run course as earlier. My legs were tired, but I still had a race to finish. I was happy to see my family during this run segment and their encouragement was greatly needed. Before the finish line, our team captain was passing out American flags that he wanted us to finish the race with. I was proud to wave this small flag across the finish line. I finished the race in 2:30:21, which was 40th out of 64 in my age group and 8th out of 16 Americans.

I was happy with my overall performance, but learned many valuable lessons. I hope I will be able to race in these championships again.

Monday, June 9, 2014

May In the South Central region

May in the South Central region is always busy for members, from both an agronomic and a tournament-season standpoint. In an effort to keep members informed of my activities as your field staff representative, I've included some of the highlights from last month.

The spring of 2014 has been challenging for many members in the South Central region. A very slow winter recovery for bermudagrass has been experienced due to a harsh winter that included extreme temperatures, winter storms and extended periods of ice and snow cover. Spring temperatures have been relatively low, resulting in slow winter recovery at many courses, most notably on putting surfaces. One member in the Houston area reported that the thermometer didn't reach 90 degrees in May, something that hasn't happened since 1969. Ultradwarf bermudagrass has been hit hard in Northern Texas, Arkansas and Oklahoma. Slow recovery has been experienced as far south as Houston and San Antonio.

In response to these conditions, Ron Wright, Southeast field representative, and I composed a letter relating our experiences and observations during our travel in our regions. The letter was targeted to golfers, employers and club officials to explain the widespread damage that occurred and to encourage support and patience for superintendents as they manage recovery.

We encourage members who are experiencing issues to share this letter by posting it in locker rooms and proshops, republishing it in newsletters, and posting it on websites and social media. We hope the information is useful, and we look forward to assisting our members in the future.

In May, the South Central region wraps up a very busy professional tournament season that includes four PGA events, one LPGA event and a Senior Tour event. Despite a difficult season, GCSAA members have provided some of the best playing conditions found on any of the professional tours. Several GCSAA members have served as volunteers at each of these events. This summer the region will host the US Senior Open in Edmond, Okla., and the LPGA Walmart Championship in Rogers, Ark.

The Texas Golf Economic and Environmental Impact Study has been completed and is due to be published in the near future. Several South Central members were instrumental in providing information and data for this report, which will
include extensive data regarding water use on Texas golf courses as well as several other environmental topics.

The report will demonstrate that Texas’s $4.2 billion golf industry (direct impact) generated a total economic impact of $6.2 billion in 2012, supporting over 80,000 jobs with wage income of $2 billion. These figures represent a significant increase in the economic direct impact from the study conducted in 2006. The full report will be published and available from the Texas Golf Association.

Outreach Activities

North Texas GCSA Chapter Event – Pro/Superintendent, Lantana, Texas
This is the second year for the chapter to host this tournament format, which is successful in bringing superintendents and golf professionals together for a day of camaraderie.  Approximately 15 golf courses were represented by teams, including the courses superintendent and golf professional. During the event, I rode the golf course with the chapter’s media manager, taking photos and interacting with tournament participants. This activity was very beneficial, providing the opportunity to meet with chapter members as well as golf professionals from around the DFW area.

South Texas GCSA Scholarship Tournament – High Meadows Ranch, Texas
This event is extremely well attended with more than100 members participating in the golf tournament and fundraising activities. The members of this chapter raised more than $24,000 in an auction that included course maintenance supplies and services, as well as hunting and sports packages.

This successful auction will fund very generous turf and legacy scholarships for the chapter. Every item in the auction was sold at a price close to retail value or greater, as chapter members enthusiastically participated. Each of the auction items were donated by affiliate members. Following the auction, meeting participants enjoyed a very well-conditioned golf course.

LPGA North Texas Shootout – Las Colinas Country Club, Irving, Texas

On Friday, May 2, I volunteered to work on the maintenance staff for superintendent Rob Wiggins. This is the second year for the event to be held at this venue and enthusiasm and support have grown in the DFW Metroplex. Las Colinas is a Club Corporation Management Company course, and I worked with CCA regional superintendent, Charlie Trammell. The company does a good job utilizing equipment and labor resources from their neighboring properties in DFW. Several courses had representation on the course maintenance staff. The golf course received very good reviews from the golf media and LPGA players and staff.

Lone Star GCSA Board of Directors Meeting – Horseshoe Bay, Texas
I participated in the Lone Star GCSA Board of Directors meeting on the morning of May 5. The meeting focused on the upcoming Texas Trophy event and the newly released Water Conservation BMP and plans to promote usage among LS members across the state. I have offered to help the chapter by communicating with chapters and individual members regarding the document.

Lone Star GCSA Texas Cup – Horseshoe Bay, Texas
On Monday, May 5, I participated in the Lone Star GCSA Texas Cup. This one-day event brings chapter leaders together from around the entire state. Approximately 90 members participated in this great day of golf and camaraderie. The event is also heavily supported by affiliate members with participation and funds. During the golf tournament, I was paired with LSGCSA Vice President Terry Gill and discussed current issues and challenges with the chapter.

Member Outreach – Joe Todaro, Texas State Technical College
During a return trip through Central Texas, I met with the department head of the golf course and landscape management program in Waco, Texas. Joe has done a good job recruiting new students and growing enthusiasm for the program. Joe also serves as an affiliate board member for the Central Texas GCSA. During our visit, we discussed the chapter’s membership and participation, and the 2015 GCSAA Conference and GIS in San Antonio. The chapter and the college are exploring ways to promote participation by all members at the conference.

Oklahoma GCSA Chapter Event – McAlester, Okla.  
On Monday, May 12, I attended an Oklahoma GCSA chapter event at McAlester Country Club. Despite threatening weather, the event had good participation with about 30 OKGCSA members. The event included limited announcements but lots of interaction time prior to and during lunch. Unfortunately, severe weather hit McAlester very hard during the golf portion of the event, sending members scrambling home to safety.

Texas AgriLife Water Expo – Dallas, Texas
On Friday, May 16, I attended a Texas AgriLife Water Expo at the AgriLife Extension Research Center in Dallas. The program included excellent information on the latest innovations and technology addressing water conservation. The event was geared to professional landscapers, field managers and golf superintendents. The most impressive information was related to the drought-tolerant turf cultivar research that is being conducted at several sites in the southern U.S. Several bermudagrass, paspalum and zoysia cultivars have performed very well under drought and severe winter conditions and have very good potential for golf course use in the future. The event also included a moderate trade show and educational sessions.

Lone Star Sports Turf Managers Association Chapter Event – Frisco, Texas
On Thursday, May 22, I attended the Lone Star Sports Turf Managers
Association regional event held at Toyota Field, home of the FC Dallas soccer team. I participated at the invitation of event host and STMA director Allen Reed. During the event I met many sports turf managers and discussed common issues related to agronomic conditions, labor, water issues/shortages, and other issues. I spoke with chapter president Rusty Walker regarding the possibility of the organization working with the superintendent chapters to conduct events that would provide common education topics and continuing education credits. Many affiliate members at the meeting commented that they would support events that included superintendents, sports turf managers and support staff.

Colonial PGA Event Volunteer – Colonial Country Club, Fort Worth, Texas
During the week of the Colonial PGA event in Fort Worth, I served on the tournament volunteer staff each morning. I have served in this capacity for several years and use the opportunity to interact with Colonial staff members, several GCSAA members who volunteer, and many student members who work internships during the tournament. Scott Ebers and the entire CCC staff were praised for course conditions during the entire week. I was able to provide updates and news regarding the course and maintenance staff activities via social media.

Member Outreach – Stephen Tucker, CEO - International Golf Course Equipment Managers Association
On Thursday, May 29, I had lunch with Stephen Tucker, equipment manager at Las Colinas Four Seasons and CEO of the IGCEMA. Stephen is very passionate about the association he founded and gave me a very good understanding of its mission. Our conversation focused on how chapters could include and attract equipment technicians by providing membership classifications and technician education. Stephen provided a summary of the very successful event that he helped coordinate in St. Louis recently. I believe this format would be a good model for chapters in the SC region and could create a much-needed infusion of membership and enthusiasm for these organizations.

June 2014 – Activity Schedule

June 2: North Texas GCSA Chapter Event – Prosper, Texas
June 5: Tarrant Regional Water District – Meeting with Water Conservation Managers
June 10: Texas Gulf Coast SA Chapter Event – Victoria, Texas
June 11: Member Outreach - South Texas GCSA
June 17: Central Texas GCSA Chapter Event – Horseshoe Bay, Texas
June 18: Member Outreach - Central Texas GCSA
June 24: South Texas GCSA Chapter Event – Houston, Texas
June 26: Texas Alliance of Recreational Organizations Board of Directors Meeting
June 27-29: LPGA Event Volunteer – Rogers, Ark.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Government relations update: South Central region

Regardless of which cable news channel you pledge your allegiance, we can all agree that government regulation has a significant effect on our industry and livelihoods on a local, state and national level. Through its government relations program, GCSAA is committed to advocating on behalf of its members and the golf industry, providing members with the resources necessary to stay informed about issues impacting the golf course management profession, and engaging and assisting members in advocacy efforts.

As your field staff representative, I am working hard on these issues for you; but the real superstars of the department are Chava McKeel, associate director of government relations, and Kaelyn Seymour, government relations specialist. Both of these ladies are ready to help you by providing information or assistance with government relations issues that affect you or your course.  Both are just a phone call or email away!

So what is going on with GCSAA government relations? I’m glad you asked! Here are some of the very important issues that we are working on and some great information to keep you up to speed. For more details on these activities and much more information, visit the GCSAA Government Relations Online website at: http://cqrcengage.com/gcsaa/home or from the easy link on the gcsaa.org homepage.

Government Relations Online launches
GCSAA's new Government Relations Online is now live. GCSAA members can have quick and easy access to critical and relevant advocacy and compliance information and resources in one location. Learn more about legislative and regulatory issues impacting your facility, join the GCSAA Grassroots Network and volunteer to serve as a GCSAA Grassroots Ambassador.

Government Relations Quarterly Briefing
In this quarterly briefing, McKeel, along with Robert Helland, advisor from the law firm Reed Smith, will host an online session updating members on what is going on in Congress and advocacy activities impacting the association and our members this quarter. A GCSAA field staff representative will also be on hand each quarter to talk about state government relations efforts. The briefing will be 30 minutes with a 15 minute question-and-answer period following. The next briefing is scheduled for 1 p.m., July 9.

Greens & Grassroots e-newsletter launches
Sign up to receive GCSAA's new, monthly government relations e-newsletter. Greens & Grassroots will feature important legislative and regulatory updates, federal and state bills and how GCSAA members and chapters are addressing the bills, as well as GCSAA Grassroots Network activities.

GCSAA Grassroots Network - Building our Grassroots Army
GCSAA is building its grassroots army to protect and defend the golf course management profession. Advocacy is one of the most powerful ways to impact public policy. Successful association advocacy and lobbying efforts depend upon establishing strong relationships with elected officials. Ad hoc advocacy makes it hard to build strong, long-term relationships with elected officials and have a positive impact on policy decisions.

The GCSAA Grassroots Network is a new, dedicated group of GCSAA members who want to engage in the association's government relations efforts. Being part of the GCSAA Grassroots Network allows you to:

  • Learn about legislative and regulatory issues affecting the golf course management profession
  • Learn about GCSAA's advocacy activities
  • Actively participate in the association's government relations efforts 
  • Communicate with your legislators about issues critical to the golf industry 
  • Learn about upcoming GCSAA Grassroots Network events 
  • Become part of a movement standing up for the golf course management profession and golf industry

Individuals in the GCSAA Grassroots Network also have the opportunity to serve as GCSAA Grassroots Ambassadors. GCSAA will give its Grassroots Ambassadors personalized training on building relationships with members of Congress. Please contact me (bcloud@gcsaa.org or 817-296-9117) if you are interested in serving as an ambassador in your district.

WE ARE GOLF Returns to Capitol Hill for National Golf Day on May 21 
WE ARE GOLF, a coalition of the game’s leading associations and industry partners, returns to Capitol Hill for the seventh annual National Golf Day on Wednesday, May 21, to meet with members of Congress and discuss golf’s nearly $69 billion economy, $4 billion annual charitable impact and many environmental and fitness benefits.

Jack Nicklaus, 18-time major winner, will join golf industry executives in D.C. for The First Tee Congressional Breakfast. Golf’s leaders will meet with members of Congress throughout the day to share stories about the game’s nearly 15,000 diverse businesses, two million employees, tax revenue creation, tourism and ecological value.

“Our primary goal is to communicate to congressional members that golf is a major U.S. industry and generates almost $4 billion annually for charities – more than the MLB, NBA, NFL and NHL combined – with the majority of funds going to causes unrelated to the sport,” says Steve Mona, CEO of World Golf Foundation (WGF) and administrator of WE ARE GOLF. “The May 21 event is an ideal opportunity to bring industry stakeholders together on Capitol Hill to showcase the game’s benefits to society and explain why golf courses should be regarded like any other small business.”

Organizations participating include the Club Managers Association of America, Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA), Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA), National Golf Course Owners Association, PGA of America, PGA TOUR, The First Tee, United States Golf Association, United States Golf Manufacturers Council, WGF and others.

National Golf Day will feature a day-long exhibit in the Cannon Caucus Room with live lessons for members of Congress and staff from 2012 PGA Teacher of the Year Michael Breed, host of “The Golf Fix” on Golf Channel, and LPGA Professional Dana Rader. Special exhibits and activities include a “Closest to the Pin” contest utilizing an aboutGolf simulator, the exclusive on-air provider for the Golf Channel and official licensed product of the PGA TOUR; state-of-the-art swing analysis from GolfTEC; Birdie Ball, the latest at-home training technology; and a Republican vs. Democrat “Putting Challenge.”

“We look forward to representing the two million men and women who rely on the golf industry to make a living while providing significant benefits to local communities,” says Rhett Evans, CEO of GCSAA and WE ARE GOLF coalition chairman. “When passing legislation, we want Congress to appropriately recognize the size and scope of the golf industry so we are treated similarly to other businesses.”

To join the conversation, visit the social media hub at www.wearegolf.org/social-media/national-golf-day. From May 1-31, be sure to use #NGD14 and tag @wearegolf for Twitter and Instagram to show your support for the golf industry.

Action Alert: Request an extension for Clean Water Act proposed rule
The EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers has proposed a rule that would expand Clean Water Act jurisdiction to almost all waters in the United States. The rule was published in the Federal Register April 21, and there is a 90-day comment period until July 21, 2014. Please help GCSAA ask EPA and the Corps to extend the comment deadline another 90 days.

Friday, April 11, 2014

How to make the most of chapter meetings!

Seems like an easy deal: Sign up, show up, hang out, tee it up and head home. But if that is your game plan for attending your local GCSAA-affiliated chapter event, you are really missing out on great opportunities to broaden your horizons. Think about it - a full day to interact with your peers in a relaxed atmosphere that typically includes a great educational program, a nice meal and an opportunity to experience golf at one of the finest facilities in your area. You can probably increase your value to your employer more in a single day than you can in months by making the most of this opportunity.

Following are a list of what to do, and what not to do, to maximize your chapter meeting experience. The most common reasons chapter members say they don’t attend meetings are cost, travel distance and time away from the job. This article addresses some of these concerns and offers tips to reduce these hurdles, whether you are a superintendent, assistant, affiliate member or any other member who wants to attend meetings and make the most of your time, effort and money.

Do: Register early. Your board of directors and chapter executive work very hard to make sure all the details for each meeting are organized and first-class. Knowing how many people are going to attend is always a mystery and makes arranging menus, room setup and golf format a challenge. When you see a meeting announcement that you know you want to attend, sign up early. Don’t put that meeting announcement in a pile on your desk or in a folder in your email. If something comes up and you have to cancel your registration, it is no big deal. Just let chapter leaders know as soon as you can.

Don’t: Wait until the last minute to cancel your registration. If something comes up and you have to cancel your registration, let chapter leaders know as soon as you can. A last-minute cancellation can really throw a wrench into best-laid plans. If you have ever had to rearrange a four-person handicapped scramble tournament at the last minute with four last-minute cancelations, two noshows and three new players, you’ll know exactly why this is important. It’s the nature of the industry to have last-minute things come up, so sometimes it impossible to avoid; but please be courteous to your chapter leaders who are working hard to make the events run smoothly.

Do: Support your organization. Part of your association's commitment to providing great education and member services depends on good meeting attendance. At most courses, the financial liability and risk for securing a meeting site are significant. Your attendance and registrations fees help cover the costs of speakers, refreshments and more. The better the attendance, the more easily your association can provide exceptional member services and programs. Many members find a way for at least one person from their operation to attend each event. Chapter benefit greatly when courses and companies adopt that goal.

Do: Bring a guest to a meeting. Most chapter meetings have room for members to bring guests. That is an excellent opportunity to demonstrate the professional nature of your group and to show a general manager, golf professional or club official how important it is to attend meetings. Meetings may also be an incentive or reward for assistants or crew members for a job well done. This can be a great way to do some team building in a productive way. Don’t forget non-members - inviting them as guests will show them the benefits of belonging to the association and helping your chapter grow. Make sure to check with your chapter for their guest policy ahead of time.

Do: Invite a fellow member to a meeting. Pick up the phone, send a text or email and invite a fellow member to a meeting. Think what it would mean to a new member to be personally invited to be a part of the group. And it doesn't have to be a newcomer - some members just get out of the habit of attending meetings, and an invitation to attend may be just the nudge needed to get them back in the swing of things. Most members work within a few miles of several other courses or members, while some meetings may be more than 100 miles round trip depending on your location. Sharing a ride is a great way to reduce expenses and spend extra time with your local peers. For vendors, inviting customers (or potential customers) to meetings shows your appreciation for their business and helps build relationships. Inviting a member and offering to cover his or her entry fee is as good, or better, an investment of your company’s money than taking someone to lunch or the ballgame. And it’s a much more productive and industry-related method.

Do: Prepare to be gone for the day. Anyone can come up with a hundred reasons why they can't be away from the job for even a day. But the truth is that most operations can survive just fine even with the superintendent gone, provided everyone is prepared. Make sure the right people at your course know where you are going and exactly what is expected to be accomplished while you are gone. Plan for these days well in advance and things will go smoothly. You will only be a phone call away, and most issues can wait until you return the next day.

Do: Arrive early. Some of the best opportunities to meet people and network come before the actual agenda starts, when the crowd is smaller and people are relaxed. Usually, meetings are packed with activity, and it helps when everyone arrives a little early to get registered and so that the event can start on time. Make sure you have clear directions, especially in an unfamiliar area. And if you haven't noticed, traffic is more unpredictable than Mother Nature, so plan ahead.

Don’t: Skip the education and lunch. Most chapters offer members the option to participate in only the education and meeting portion. It is a great option if it is not possible to be away from the course all day or other commitments prevent you from playing golf into the afternoon. However, if you skip the education and only make the golf, you are definitely missing the best opportunity to gain important knowledge from the program. If the education doesn't pertain to your current situation, it is very likely that it may someday.

Do: Meet new people. Just look around and you are sure to find someone new to introduce yourself to at a meeting. Most people gravitate to those they already know, but everyone benefits from meeting new members in this setting. Set a goal for each meeting to shake three to five new hands. It is always amusing to hear longtime members say they don't recognize all the new people. Well, there is an easy remedy for that. Golf tends to mix members up so you will always meet someone new or get to know others better. Make sure you take the time during your round to really get to know your playing partners.

Don’t: Worry about your golf game. There are many really good golfers in golf course management. But the majority of members are just out for a good time and have a golf game that leaves a lot to be desired. Most members have a handicap closer to 18 than single digits. So don't worry about your ability or how you stack up with the rest of the group. Most golf formats take handicap into consideration, so you won't be at a disadvantage if breaking 90 for you is rarer than a Tiger Woods 3 putt. All members of all abilities are welcome and encouraged to participate in all golf events. Besides, if your score is high enough, you will probably get the ultimate compliment about your golf game - "You're working too hard."

Do: Share with your peers. Please come to the meetings ready to share your troubles, your successes and even your failures. Chapter members have always been supportive of each other, are always ready to share information and extend a helping hand. Nine times out of 10 you will find someone who has faced the same issues and is willing to share their experience. Participate in meetings by asking questions or providing insight. Chapters have a massive amount of information that is very useful if everyone is willing to participate by contributing.

Don’t: Only talk about business. Believe it or not, there is more to life than the weather, growing grass and golfers who are driving you crazy. Get to know some of your fellow members on a different level by talking about their families, hobbies, sports or anything other than golf and growing grass. You'll find out that they are a pretty interesting bunch, and it helps to find common ground with your peers.

Do: Welcome affiliate members who participate. Affiliate members make up about half of most chapters’ total membership and contribute very generously with their membership, participation at meetings and sponsorships. Affiliates are a very valuable component to the success of chapters and deserve the right to participate. Just like superintendents, they have a job to do, and building relationships with their customers is a very important part of their job. So don't be offended if an affiliate member introduces themselves and leaves you with a business card. Associations recognize the value of all of their members, and all members should share in that spirit.

Don’t: Hesitate to pat the host superintendent on the back. Hosting a meeting is a very stressful endeavor, and superintendents should be praised for inviting their peers to inspect their work with a fine tooth comb. A thoughtful comment or compliment to the host can go a long way to relieve that stress. Not everyone works with the same budget or under the same circumstances, so it helps to let the host know that you recognize the job they are doing with the resources they manage.

Do: Enjoy yourself in a responsible manner. You are representing your place of employment, your association and your profession when you are at chapter functions. Your reputation depends on the way you dress, your language, and above all, your actions. Superintendents are now considered a leading professional in the golf industry and should be aware of that when visiting host clubs. Don't you want the host club personnel and members to have a great impression of your group?

Do: Follow up. With email and text messaging, it couldn't take a whole minute to write a quick thank you to the host superintendent or a greeting to playing partners or someone new you met. If you have more time, pick up the phone or leave a message. Those kinds of efforts are really appreciated by the recipient and will help you build that all-important network that will benefit you and your career in the future.

Do: Let your supervisor know about the event. Make a habit of letting your supervisor know what type of education was presented, what you learned from playing the course, who you met, etc. He or she is probably the person writing the checks to pay for the meeting, so you want to make sure they know the facility is getting its money's worth and your attendance at future meetings is a value. It can be as simple as a quick conversation over a cup of coffee or a written report depending on your situation. Keeping your supervisor informed will help justify the costs associated with meeting attendance.

Do: Provide feedback to your chapter. Your chapter leaders are always working to make your meetings enjoyable and productive. In order to accomplish this, feedback from the membership is necessary and important. Take the time to let them know what you enjoyed or appreciated, and also let them know if you have any suggestions or constructive criticism about how the meetings can be made better.

Hopefully, these suggestions will give you a few things to think about when it comes to chapter meeting attendance. So, make plans today to attend an upcoming event and make the most of your experience.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Have you heard the one about the UT biochemist turned superintendent?

I am often amazed at the non-conventional and successful career paths of many superintendents in the South Central region. Last week, I was paired with GCSAA Class A member Donny Latham at a Central Texas GCSA event at Olympia Hills Golf Club in San Antonio. Although I had met Donny before and worked with him while he served on the CTGCSA Board of Directors, I didn't know him very well. I sure enjoyed getting to know him better and hearing about what he calls his "bizarre story" from biochemist to self-proclaimed "grass farmer." We all know there is no better way to get to know someone than to spend 18 holes and four hours together on the golf course!

In 2013, Donny accepted the position of director of golf course management at The Club at Sonterra, a 36-hole private facility managed by Century Golf. He is a native Texan and grew up in Little River – Academy, a very small town near Temple and one that only the most experienced Texas travelers would ever have heard of or visited. He headed south to Austin and earned a degree in biochemistry from the University of Texas. His career then took him to Seattle, Wash., where he worked in the biochemistry industry until he literally woke up one day and knew he needed a change in scenery and career path. He remembered that a close childhood friend, Justin White, had a degree from Texas A&M and was working in an industry that involved golf courses and growing grass. He checked into the details, and faster than a walking greensmower, he made a 180-degree change in careers.

Donny and his wife, Laurie, picked up from Seattle and headed south to Tucson, where he enrolled in the turf program at the University of Arizona. On his very first day in Tucson, another one of those bizarre twists happened when he met a golf member at The Gallery Golf Club while having dinner and watching the Holiday Bowl featuring the U of Texas and the U of Washington. The member introduced him to superintendent Paul Ellwood, who hired Donny despite his lack of experience or knowledge about golf course management. It turned out to be a great hire as Donny was instrumental in the building and opening of the South Course at The Gallery. Donny calls Ellwood a true professional superintendent and credits him with shaping his career.

From Arizona, Donny and his family made successful steps to the University of Texas Golf Club where he served as assistant superintendent under Rich Cope and then to his first superintendent position at The Republic Golf Club in San Antonio. Donny says he feels very fortunate to have worked with some great people along the way, which is evident in the way he talks about Ed Miller, with whom he had the privilege of working for at The Republic: "Ed is an amazing man who taught me so many things both professionally and personally. I only hope to someday positively affect the next generation of grass farmers in the way he influenced my career."
View of green of North Course at Sonterra GC

Donny and Laurie’s pride and joy are their children: Grace, age 10, and Blake age 3. Donny also volunteers his time and expertise at the San Antonio First Tee when he’s not at work or chasing the kiddos. Like all Central Texas GCSA members, he is very excited about the 2015 Golf Industry Show coming to San Antonio. Donny appreciates that his employer, Century Golf, is a huge supporter of participation and attendance at both local and national association events.

Hands down, the best part of my job is getting to know members on a personal basis. Thanks Donny, for a great day on the golf course and sharing your story. Hope you have a great 2014 season!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

OKGCSA event at OSU a big hit

Football Practice Field

Kudos to the Oklahoma GCSA for trying something new again at its February chapter event in Stillwater, Okla. If you like variety, this is the chapter for you! Chapter leadership isn’t shy about shaking things up once and a while, and trying new formats and venues. Last year, the chapter held a bowling event headlined by GCSAA CEO Rhett Evans and earlier this year, an education event that featured a Texas HoldEm Poker tournament – all for bragging rights of course.
Cowgirl Stadium

The February event was held on the campus of Oklahoma State University in Stillwater. The activities for the day included a tour of the OSU football practice facilities – Sherman E. Smith Training Center, baseball stadium – Allie P. Reynolds Stadium, softball stadium – Cowgirl Stadium, and the crowning touch – a tour of Boone Pickens Stadium, including the football team facilities within the stadium. Chapter leadership believes that providing these types of opportunities has sparked an interest among members, and participation will increase. President Jared Wooten is a proud OSU alumnus and was all too happy to schedule the event during a time of the year when golf is usually “iffy,” but members are still looking for networking opportunities.
Boon Pickens Stadium from the 50

The tours provided a lot of great agronomic information from Field Manager Todd Tribble. Todd provided good insight in to the demands of maintaining high-profile college athletic venues. Members quizzed him on mowing height, fertility programs, cultural methods and schedules, and of course, tried to pick up some insider information about this year’s Cowboy and Cowgirl teams! Since the vast majority of participants were OSU fans, this Texas Aggie kept a pretty low profile during the day but did enjoy seeing the very impressive facilities.
I think every Field Staff member would tell you the best part of our job is meeting new members and getting to know them a little personally. At this event I met two relatively new assistant superintendents, Michael Payne and Taylor Sandell, from Kickingbird GC in Edmond, Okla. Thanks for visiting and good luck at Kickingbird. Kudos to their boss, Brad Jolliff, for sending assistants to this meeting and supporting the association. Michael and Taylor said Brad had a city meeting to attend, but I’m wondering if he is more of an OU fan?
OSU Legend - Pistol Pete

I really think all chapters would benefit from following the OKGCSA’s lead by trying new venues and formats for their meetings. As a group, we usually have similar outside interests and hobbie,s so it’s not hard to find something that will appeal to most of your members. This meeting was low-cost and therefore a low-risk opportunity for the chapter to consider. I think the attendees enjoyed the day and probably learned something useful they can implement on their courses. Touch base with the great folks in Oklahoma for more information and insight.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Oklahoma Turfgrass Research Foundation honors veteran superintendent

With overnight temperatures plummeting into the single digits, the Oklahoma GCSA kicked off its 2014 chapter event season with an "all inside" meeting at Tulsa Country Club in January. The Polar Vortex that gripped most of the Midwest gave the attendees plenty to talk about and plenty of incentive to huddle indoors for a great day of education, networking and fellowship.

Members substituted straights and flushes for birdies and pars as a poker tournament was held in lieu of the typical golf tournament. If you've seen Oklahomans and Texans fiercely battle on the gridiron, you can imagine what it's like at a poker table, and you'll understand why I graciously excused myself from the competition to head down the road to my next event.

But before I did, I had the privilege to spend time with one of the OKGCSA's most well-respected and legendary members: Craig Elms, CGCS. Craig was recently honored by being inducted into the Oklahoma Turfgrass Research Foundation Hall of Fame. To say he was overwhelmed and surprised by the award would be the understatement of the year. Craig is a regular attendee of the OTRF conference, but he almost missed this special day. However, without spoiling the surprise, good friend and former assistant Charles Wise made sure Craig was there to accept the honor. In fact, the audience was full of Oklahoma turfgrass professionals who consider Craig a mentor and true friend.

Craig has been the superintendent at Oklahoma City Golf and Country Club since 1975 and will celebrate his 39th year of employment before retiring later this year. During his tenure, he has employed and mentored a long list of individuals who have gone on to successful careers, thanks to his influence. Two of the most well known on that list include former GCSAA president and fellow OTRF Hall of Fame member Bob Randquist, CGCS, and Dallas Athletic Club former superintendent, Clyde Nettles. The rest of the list is much too long to include here, but Craig spoke very proudly as he talked about many of them. The protégé Craig is most proud of is his son Dustin, who will assume the reins at OCG&CC when Craig retires. Craig says you might see him out mowing a fairway once and a while, but Dustin will be calling the shots in the position he has earned and richly deserves.

Receiving the award on the campus of Craig’s alma mater, Oklahoma State University, was the crowning touch. Craig delivered a very humble and heartfelt acceptance speech for the award, which was presented by his good friend Lionel Bentley. He recognized and thanked many people and said he felt "guilty" for receiving such a prestigious honor that has been bestowed on so many well-deserving professionals in the past.

Craig has started preparing for retirement on his 320-acre farm in southern Oklahoma. He recently purchased a bulldozer and has started playing with his new toy. I asked him if we might see a tee or green built on the property, and he said he doubted it - he just likes moving things around with it. But Craig’s eyes really lit up when he talked about spending time with his three precious granddaughters. I’m sure they react the same way when they talk about spending time with their grandpa.

Congratulations to Craig and the entire Elms family for this very prestigious award and an impressive career. The legacy that Craig leaves behind in the industry and with the individuals he has mentored will live on forever. Please join me in congratulating the newest member of the Oklahoma Turfgrass Research Foundation’s Hall of Fame!