Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Coming together to support a peer

I met Matthew Dusenbery for the first time in October at the Rio Grande GCSA chapter event held at Sandia Golf Club where he serves as the assistant superintendent. He seemed a little fidgety that day, but that was normal as he was hosting golf for about 60 of his New Mexico peers. What I didn’t know until later was that he was also very excited that day because he and his wife Raquel were expecting their first child any day. After the round, I made sure to compliment and thank Matthew and his boss, Todd Huslig, for a great day on their beautiful golf course at Sandia. I also wished Matt good luck on the birth of his child and kidded him about not getting much sleep anytime in the near future.

The best part of our jobs as field staff representatives is getting to meet and know many young people like Matthew. One of the hardest is learning about the tragic stories that happen occasionally to individuals that we meet along the way. We’ve all heard many tough stories, but the one that has affected Matthew and his family has hit home for many of the members in New Mexico who have shown an outpouring of support. As you will read from the excerpts on the gofundme page, Matthew’s wife, Raquel, tragically passed away shortly after giving birth to their daughter on October 21. Baby Emma Raquel is thankfully doing well and is happy and healthy.

Since our meeting, I have learned that that Matthew is a decorated Army veteran who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. He served in Bosnia and Kosovo and decided on a career in golf course maintenance after bravely serving his country. I strongly encourage everyone to read more about Matthew’s story and to consider a donation if you are able.  

October 28
Matthew, and his wife, Raquel, were blessed by the birth of their daughter, Emma, on October 21st. They were told that they would never have children. She is a medical miracle. Unimaginably, Raquel passed away only hours after her birth due to severe complications. Back in June, Matthew and Raquel found their dream home. The perfect place to build their dreams and raise their little miracle. This account was established to help Matthew and Emma cope with the loss of a second income and any other necessities related to a new baby. Many people have asked our family about the best way to show their love and support in this time of need. Please consider donating or sharing this with someone that may want to. Thank you for your prayers and generosity.

November 1
Emma is 11 days old today. She's a healthy, beautiful, wonderful baby. Not surprisingly, as she was born to a couple of amazing people. Raquel made her living and spent her life caring for others. She was an emergency room registered nurse that had room in her heart of gold for everyone that she met, human and animal. She loved openly and genuinely, and her absence has formed a sea of grieving hearts that were fortunate enough to experience her love.

Matthew's passion is golf. Not just the game, but down to smallest detail. He even has a degree in it. No joke. But before he was the King of the Course, Matthew served his country for 7 years as an MP in the United States Army. He is a decorated veteran from Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom and also served in Bosnia and Kosovo. He was regularly selected for special assignments has received many awards for his outstanding service. Raquel was very proud of her soldier.

Little Emma has a very proud legacy; born to a father that would give anything and a mother that gave everything.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Kevin Breen, CGCS, visits the Lone Star State

Talk about a Texas-sized welcome! The members of the Lone Star GCSA rolled out the red carpet for GCSAA Board Director, Kevin Breen, CGCS, at their recent highlight event of the year – The Texas Trophy. For close to 30 years, the chapter has rounded up superintendents, assistants and industry partners for three days of great golf, social events, networking opportunities and education.

This year’s event was held smack-dab in the middle of Texas at Horseshoe Bay Resort near Marble Falls. This beautiful venue hosts five of the most beautiful courses in Texas and participants were treated to play two of the best – Apple Rock and Summit Rock. Ken Gorzycki and his amazing staff had the courses in outstanding condition and the resort delivered first class treatment throughout the entire event.

Kevin’s attendance was part of the GCSAA board of directors' Outreach Program that allows board members to travel to regions outside of their home base to meet members and gain feedback. It is a terrific program and many of the board members have had great visits across the country. Kevin came to Texas via New Jersey directly after the board’s fall meeting but was no worse for the wear. He arrived Sunday night just in time for the really cool Long Drive contest held high on the hill of the Apple Rock course. Chapters send up their longest shooters in hopes of capturing the coveted title and the $500 prize! The South Texas GCSA chapter took home the coveted title with three out of four of their competitors blasting their shots more than 300 yards. Tanner Chrastecky of Crystal Falls Golf Club was the individual champion with a 336-yard bomb. Tanner had a great week – you’ll hear that name again…

No trip to the Lone Star State would be complete without a little good-natured ribbing from Johnny Walker. Kevin was treated to his fair share at the Long Drive contest. Let’s just say that the PG-13 version of the story Johnny told got the festivities rolling. Everyone in Texas knows that all bets are off when Johnny Walker has the microphone and he didn’t disappoint giving everyone their fair share.

Bright and early the next morning, the Central Texas GCSA hosted the Education Session for the event headed by yours truly with a huge assist from John Daniels of the USGA. Our topic was Government Regulation in Golf and we had great feedback and discussion from the early bird attendees. Kevin gave a very good presentation on the proposed Membership Standards and the information was very well received. Kevin was also provided input from the board of directors' perspective regarding government regulations, which was very helpful. 

Following the education session, the group headed to Apple Rock for round one of the championship. As noted, the course was in terrific condition and the good scores reflected that fact. Kevin had the opportunity to play golf with Lone Star GCSA Past President and tournament host, Ken Gorzycki, CGCS. They had a great time on the course and Kevin was a gracious guest by not showing off his golf game too much.

Later that evening, Kevin and I attended the really great dinner on site at the Horseshoe Bay Resort. Kevin said what he lost in golf balls that day he gained back in pounds as he enjoyed some real Texas BBQ and all the fixings. LSGCSA President Terry Gill recognized Kevin during announcements at the dinner and he took the opportunity to thank all of the participants for making him feel so welcome. After dinner, Lone Star members were treated to a round of “miniature golf” on the very unique putting course at the Horseshoe Bay Resort. This is a spectacular botanical, tropical setting and worth the trip if you are ever near Horseshoe Bay. Kevin and I served as unofficial starters on the first tee and greeted players as they teed off.

A real cool thing happened when I introduced Kevin to local compost tea guru, Jamie Kizer. Jamie is a third generation superintendent and has committed to managing his course in a very natural manner. He has made an incredible reduction in chemical inputs and lowered costs through his work with compost tea and other natural inputs. Jamie and Kevin hit if off like long-lost brothers and compared notes on tea, carbon, microbes, you name it. They traded contact information and I’m sure they will stay in touch to share successes.

The next day was the final round of the tournament and the close of the Texas Trophy. Following the round, Kevin made a quick exit to catch his flight for a much deserved and anticipated trip home. I know Kevin had a great trip but was excited about getting home to his family after a really long stretch on the road.

For the second consecutive year, Tanner Chrastecky of Crystal Falls Golf Course was crowned individual champion of the Texas Trophy. He also led the Central Texas GCSA chapter to the team championship for a clean sweep of all of the awards. I told you he had a great week!

A few days after settling back to home and work, Kevin sent me this quick message “The Texas Trophy event was the best multi-day chapter event I have ever attended. Everyone was very welcoming and I enjoyed making new friendships and learning a thing or two, which is what a good association is all about. It is the type of interaction that GCSAA is encouraging board members to do outside their own regions, and I feel like I got the best event of anyone on the board. Thanks so much to everyone with the Lone Star GCSA and the Central Texas GCSA for everything.”

Thank you, Kevin, for taking the time to join us in the South Central region. We really enjoyed having you in the Lone Star State and appreciate your participation. Please plan to come back soon.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

“Guns up” for Texas Tech turfgrass program

Many of you know how hard it is for an Aggie to compliment anything in the Lone Star State
that isn’t maroon. But, there is no denying that the turf program at Texas Tech has taken some really great strides over the past two years under the leadership of Joey Young, Ph.D. This momentum was very obvious at the recent 2nd annual Turfgrass Field Day held in Lubbock in July. More than 200 individuals attended to hear about the latest turfgrass research that is being conducted by Dr. Young and his team at the Quaker Research Farm on the Texas Tech campus. 

The group included golf course superintendents, sports turf managers, landscape maintenance contractors and even Lubbock homeowners who heard about the program through TV and radio media. The event has become well known in Lubbock. The West Texas GCSA had a very good showing of members at the event and several of them braved 95 degree and higher temperatures to play golf at the Rawls course after the field day. The West Texas GCSA was a major sponsor for the event and donated funds for the tent where the majority of education sessions were held. 

“Joey,” as many of us have affectionately come to know Dr. Young, hit the ground running since arriving in Lubbock in 2013. He built strongly on the momentum started by Dr. Gerald Henry, who headed the program prior to accepting a similar position at the University of Georgia. Student enrollment in the program has grown and Joey has done a terrific job of being available to the Texas Turfgrass Association, several local GCSA chapters and the Texas Sports Turf Managers Association. He has spoken at many events and contributed articles and information. He has even taken his message west to the Rio Grande GCSA speaking at one of their events in El Paso. He has built a very strong following on both Twitter: @bulldawg3155 / @ttuturf and his blog: All are worth checking out and following. 

Joey is a hybrid Bulldog, Razorback and Red Raider. He received his bachelor’s degree in agronomy with an emphasis in golf course and sports turf management and his master’s degree in plant pathology from Mississippi State University. His doctorate in turfgrass science is from the University of Arkansas where he studied under Dr. Mike Richardson and Dr. Doug Karcher. That’s a pretty outstanding pedigree, even by Aggie standards. His full Career Vita can be found here. If you’re wondering where his football allegiance stands, just take a look at his Twitter handle and that should let you know pretty clearly. 

Following are photos from the event and descriptions of the activities from the day. (Thanks, Dr. Young, for a great event and congratulations on doing such an outstanding job of making the Texas Tech program an important part of the Texas turfgrass scene.) 

The July field day agenda included a morning coffee reception, a small trade show and a welcome from Dr. Eric Hequet, Department Chair and Professor of the Plant and Soil Department. 

Following the welcome, attendees split into two sessions: professional and homeowners. Attendees received valuable information on turfgrass management and the latest research being conducted at Texas Tech. 
Reviews of most of the talks from the education session can be found at the Texas Tech Turf Blog.

The morning session of the Texas Tech field day included a tent to keep everyone cool in the shade. Vendors were able to promote their products and services during the coffee reception and trade show.

Li Li is from China, and he came to Texas Tech in August 2014 to pursue a master's degree in turfgrass science.  Li introduced new research that he will be conducting at Tech. His talk covered reducing salinity with cultivation practices and products on golf course fairways. A review of Li's research can be found here.

Prativa Gautam is a master's student in the turf science program and began at Texas Tech in August 2013.  She is conducting research on carbon sequestration potential from bermudagrass fairways of golf courses in Lubbock with different ages. Information from her research can be found here.

Dr. Matt Elmore with the Texas A & M AgriLife Extension service in Dallas addresses the attendees. Matt spoke about herbicide resistance and management. Information from his talk can be found here.

Dr. Casey Reynolds of Texas A&M – College Station helped attendees learn more about pesticide labels to help control weeds, insects and diseases. Dr. Reynolds also spent time talking about the new AggieTurf website which is now up and running and looks great. 

Dr. Joey Young addresses the Professional attendees on the different products being tested on the research farm. In the foreground is an apparatus to measure and analyze turfgrass color and health. The plots in the photo are different fertilizer treatments. Click here for information about one of the products being tested, Anuvia, an organic based ammonium sulfate Nitrogen.

Monday, June 8, 2015

A cup of coffee with Hud Haas, superintendent at Waterchase Golf Course

This cup of joe happened while leaning on the bed of a pickup early one morning in Fort Worth, Texas, at Colonial Country Club during the Crowne Plaza Invitational. Hud has been visiting Colonial since the late 70s and comes back each year to catch up with old friends.

You’re a Fort Worth boy, right?
Yep, grew up in Fort Worth, attended Southwest High School and got started in the golf business working as a cart boy at Pecan Valley. Also spent a couple years in military school during some of my more “adventurous” years. It was an awesome experience that taught me a lot about time management, discipline and respect. Very helpful to me throughout my life.

Your family has a long history at Colonial?
We were Colonial members for 10 years during the late 70s and 80s. My father owned a pharmaceutical supply company and we all learned to play golf here. It is a special place for all of us.

Speaking of the Haas clan, can you name everybody in order of age?  

Holly is an instructor at Leonard Golf Links.
I’m next, and the Superintendent at Waterchase Golf Club.
Hans is my Assistant at Waterchase.
Heather lives in Cleveland and has four girls.
Hunter is playing on the tour.
Heidi is a golf professional at Geneva National in Wisconsin.
Hawni works at a golf course in Cincinnati.
Of course, next question is, why all the H’s? 
According to Mom and Dad, absolutely no rhyme or reason, it just happened.

How are your parents?   
They are doing great. Dad is an artist now and is still playing golf. My mom, Karen, is doing very well too.

Cool that 6 out of 7 siblings are working in the golf business. How did that happen?
I attribute it all to my dad’s love of the game and our exposure to it at a young age.

Does your mom play?
True story – she has played one hole in her entire life. Believe it or not, she made a par on #4 here at Colonial and quit while she was ahead. Hasn’t played a hole since.

How long have you been at Waterchase?
17 years. Nick Martin, the owner of the course, hired me in 1998. I have always worked for one owner and Nick is like an adopted granddad to me. He treats me like family and that is why I have been there 17 years. He trusts me and lets me do what I need to do. I don’t even have to ask for permission to cut down a tree.

He built the course as an investment in the late 90s when golf was booming and has stuck with it thru hard times in the golf business. He has now evolved into a part-owner and, at 91 years old, is still involved with the club management. He comes out three to four times per year and even plays the course when he can.

You have a couple of great assistants at Waterchase. Tell us about them.
TB Ruiz has been by my side for 15 years and is an invaluable part of my team. His title is assistant, but he does everything – assistant, mechanic, foreman. I don’t even remember where he worked before he came here – maybe Riverside in Fort Worth, working for David Denley. I am very fortunate to have him.

And, I mentioned my brother Hans who is also an assistant at Waterchase. Yes, it’s challenging to work with my brother, but I have also had my sister Heidi work for me and my cousin JJ Jansen. I know Hans’ strengths and let him do his job. There is never any tension between us.

How did a Texas boy end up at Mississippi State?
Definitely influenced by a former assistant at Colonial, Mitchell Wilkerson. I got to know him when I was playing golf here and we became friends. I was a high school senior and had no idea what I wanted to do. Thought I could go somewhere and play golf but Mitchell talked me into visiting MSU and looking into the turf program. My mom and I drove to Starkville one day, in the middle of the summer, and I signed up on the spot. It is a very special place to me.

Probably the biggest influence on me to get in to the golf business was former Colonial superintendent, Tom Werner. I got to know him while I was a kid playing golf and then worked for him during three summer “tours of duty”. Tom used to let me ride along with him when he was watering greens and he always gave me the “privilege” of dragging the hose. We had a lot of fun naming syringe hoses and Tom’s favorite was Bertha. He has probably been the biggest influence in my career and I appreciate him for it.

How is your family doing?
Awesome. I have two boys, Luke, 13, and Nicholas, nine. Luke announced, just last night, that he is planning to attend Mississippi State and is going to be a superintendent. My wife, Andrea, and I have been married 18 years and going strong. She is originally from Big Spring, Texas, and has a Masters in English from Texas Tech. She is a Pre-K – 4 teacher at Redeemer Lutheran Church School in West Fort Worth.

Who are some of your best friends in the business?
Charlie Trammell and I go way back but I don’t have anyone to play golf with since he moved to Austin. I do business with Jon Treibly and we are also close friends. We have spent a lot of time fishing and skiing together.

You come back to Colonial every year?
Definitely, this is a special place and it gets in your blood. I have a lot of family and career memories here.

OK, now for the touchy, feely stuff, what is your favorite color?
Green – duh. 


And what would be your Fantasy Foursome?
It would be an 8-some with mom driving the cart and keeping score!

Thanks for the coffee, Hud. Good to get to know you a little better.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

South Texas GCSA impacts their community in a big way

I want to share some really incredible work that is going on thanks to some very dedicated members of the South Texas GCSA. The chapter has made a concerted effort to reach out to their community beyond our world of golf. I think it is something that all chapters should consider because it is good public relations, it shows a value to their membership and because it is the right thing to do!

Last year, the South Texas GCSA resurrected an inspiring program that leaders in the past had initiated many years ago. One of their members championed an idea of then President Blayne Sparks of refurbishing a golf cart and donating it to a needy organization. Bluejack National in Conroe, Texas, donated a beat up E-Z-GO cart that became the focus of the project. The champion of the project identified all of the work and replacement parts that would be necessary to make the cart usable. The chapter distributed the list of parts and asked members to either purchase the parts or make financial donations. 

More than 20 courses and affiliate companies made the donations necessary to make the cart new again. When it was finished, they searched for an organization that needed a cart and found a terrific one. 

Camp Hope is a facility in Houston that provides treatment and housing for wounded warriors who are affected by PTSD. The champion, Brandon Cole, Regional Sales Manager for Salsco Inc., says the chapter plans to donate a cart every year and will continue to support organizations like Camp Hope. Great job by the South Texas chapter.

I am sure that many of you are familiar or may be involved with Christmas Toy Drives. The South Texas chapter also has a great toy drive each year and in 2014, they donated their proceeds to the Pediatric Center at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.

Following are two article from the South Texas GCSA Tee to Green newsletter. It describes the chapter's work in their own words. I think you will find them interesting and hope it inspires you to consider similar programs within your own chapter.

The Toy Drive and Golf Cart Charity Project is Complete
Published Jan/Feb 2015

In 2014, President Blayne Sparks had an idea to bring back the
golf cart restoration project that STGCSA did many years ago as well as a toy drive that would mirror the time when we used to collect money at the Christmas Party for Toys for Tots. Director, Brandon Cole, newly named Regional Sales Manager for Salsco Inc., took the golf cart project by the reins. Eric Bauer of Bluejack National Golf Club donated the cart and with the help of many members’ donations, including $1000 from Texas Aggregate and Base

Materials (Steven Stulce), $1000 from Richard Oaks and Carl Tolbert of The Hurt Company/Reladyne, $500 from High Meadow Ranch (Cody Spivey), and $100 from All Seasons Turf Grass (Scott and Irene Sipes). Brandon completed the project in time to show it off at the annual meeting in November at Cypress Lakes. At that meeting, toys and cash were collected to hand out to a worthy cause. 

Both charity projects were completed on December 17 when Directors Willy Plowman, Kyle Brown, Brandon Cole, Past President Sean Wilson and 2014 President Blayne Sparks went to Camp Hope to donate the golf cart. Camp Hope provides interim housing for our wounded warriors, veterans and their families suffering from combat-related PTSD in a caring and positive environment. 

The toys were then delivered to the Pediatric Center at MD Anderson Cancer Center for them to distribute to the kids suffering in the hospital during the Christmas Holidays.

Both projects were a huge success and a collaborated effort from all of our members. We can all be so proud of what was accomplished. Once again, South Texas GCSA members show how giving and dedicated they are to our association and others in need.

Camp Hope, Houston (Update)  

By: Blayne Sparks
Published May 2015

Happy Memorial Day!! What a week, or even just the day to celebrate our service men and women for their many sacrifices made to provide us with the very freedoms that we have today. 

Coincidentally, it happened to be the week of the groundbreaking ceremony for the new housing unit at Camp Hope; that was desperately needed. Once the new structure is in place, there will be an even greater demand on the feeding of nearly 80 of our service people and their families that are returning home only to find themselves broken or lost. This outreach program that is privately funded, meaning there are no government subsidies, has taken on the fight to get these dedicated warriors back to the lives that they knew before they left the very soil that has all but forgotten them, in some cases. Recognizing our association’s willingness to pitch in, I have greatly enjoyed the process of giving back so little to so many that deserve so much more. The generosity of a new golf cart was a great first step, but feeding these heroes can go so much further, especially recognizing that most times, their families are involved with the process of getting their lives back.

Phase I

On Saturday, May 2, 2015, the Board of Directors for the STGCSA were able to mobilize and set forth with the construction of nearly a half-acre raised garden bed. Jack
Hargrove of Hargrove Construction provided over seven hours of labor on both a Bobcat skid-steer and a John Deere tractor spreading and blending over 120 tons of material. Not bad for an old man! Sue Rinehart of Rinehart Trucking donated over 60 tons of topsoil and Daniel Baker provided the remaining 60 tons of mushroom compost material to complete the capping off process in the construction of the garden.

Phase II

This is where everyone can still get involved… and it is desperately needed. All calls out to anyone with gardening experience because this is going to set the stage for a successful yield and get the project started off on the right foot. This year, the STGCSA is going to donate a tiller, instead of a golf cart, so that the Camp Hope veterans can be trained by the time winter crops are ready to be planted. There is still much to do, such as setting up an overhead irrigation system that AMC, Inc., has so generously donated, but needs to be installed.

Jim Norris of John Deere Landscape has donated two backpack sprayers for the maintenance of the garden and Stephen Dolen along with Clint Neely of Harrell’s are willing to donate whatever fertilizers are necessary to develop a garden that our association can be proud of for years to come. We have all been blessed by the sacrifices that these service people have made to ensure that our lives are better, so please remember that we should all take a minute to thank a veteran every chance we get.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

TSTC grad Mitch O'Brey headed to ANGC

Every once and a while, we run into individuals who teach us a valuable lesson about stepping out of our comfort zone and taking a shot at something beyond our perceived limits. We don't often expect that lesson to come from a 21-year-old youngster. Congratulations to GCSAA Student Member Mitch O'Brey who took his longshot earlier this year and applied for an internship at Augusta National Golf Club.

Within minutes of seeing the position posting, Mitch and his instructor at Texas State Technical College, Joe Todaro, started polishing his resume and networking within the industry to come up with a game plan.

“Mitch told me from day one he wanted to work at Augusta National.  I agreed it would be a wonderful experience, but warned him that a lot of people share that same dream and he might focus on some of the great courses here in Texas.  But, one evening...I saw a tweet about the Augusta internships.  I shared the tweet with Mitch, who texted back immediately and said he already saw it and was working on his resume!”

Joe, a current board member of the North Texas GCSA admits he was skeptical about Mitch's chances but encouraged him to go through the process for the experience, “Even though I thought his chances were slim, I wanted him to try it anyway.  I am extremely excited and proud of the initiative Mitch demonstrated in pursuing this position.  Working for Augusta National is a dream most won’t realize.  Mitch worked very hard during his time as a student, and I expect nothing less from him as an employee of ANGC. In our program, we stress the importance of networking and interpersonal communication skills, something Mitch excels at.”

The process was arduous and thorough, but in the end, the longshot from the small turfgrass program in Waco landed the job and will soon be arriving at Augusta for a what will certainly be a career-changing year. Mitch graduated from TSTC with his degree in Golf Course and Landscape Technology in April and hopes the year in Augusta will get him off to a great start toward his ultimate career goal of becoming a Certified Golf Course Superintendent. The internship runs through the 2016 Masters which will certainly be the ultimate experience of the internship.

"I've always admired Augusta National from watching the Masters year after year. My dream from day one at TSTC was to go to the historic course, and I couldn't have picked a better school to help me accomplish my dream."

Mitch started in the golf business at Lake Park golf course in Lewisville, Texas where he found a love and respect for the game of golf. “I started out as an outside services attendant then moved up into the pro shop as an Assistant Golf Pro... Then, Josh Seale, the Assistant Superintendent now at Indian Creek Golf Club told me about TSTC and before I knew it, I was on my way to Waco to learn what it takes to become a superintendent.”

As I write this, Mitch and his mother are in the car driving to Augusta to get started later this week. Mitch credits his parents and family for all of the help they have provided and the encouragement to follow his dreams. One of Mitch’s favorite quotes is, "You don't know what could be on the other side of that door until you try to open it." Pretty insightful stuff from someone at the beginning of their career.

Way to go, Joe. Great work encouraging your students to excel and being a helpful resource to their careers.

Congratulations again to Mitch on your terrific opportunity and thanks for the lesson!

(Something tells me Mitch will be a bit too busy to be doing much tweeting over the next 12 months, but you can follow him on Twitter (@mjobrey27). You can also learn more about the TSTC Golf Course and Landscape Technology Program at the TSTC website. The program is also a good follow on Twitter, too: @GLM_TSTC.)

Thursday, March 26, 2015

So what's a Bully Cup?

I have talked about my relationship with the North Texas GCSA in this blog. I guess we all have a "home" chapter near and dear to our hearts – one that we started with early in our careers. My best guess is that I first attended a North Texas GCSA event around 1986 as an assistant superintendent at the Northwood Club in Dallas, Texas. Fortunately for me, I worked for a mentor who saw the value in getting his assistants involved with the local chapter and who served on the board of directors as a volunteer leader. Thank you, Mike Allen.

As the South Central field representative for GCSAA, it can be hard to keep up with local events, but there is one North Texas chapter event that is circled bright red on my calendar every spring. Next week, on March 31 at Ridglea Country Club, members of the North Texas GCSA will compete in a long-standing tradition known as the "Bully Cup." It is a friendly competition between members of the east side of the chapter territory against the west side. Most people think of it as Dallas vs. Fort Worth, but really it includes members from all parts of the vast North Texas GCSA area.

As an "old timer" with the chapter, I am often asked (actually I usually have to bring it up) how did the chapter come up with the name Bully Cup? I wish there was a prestigious and sentimental tribute I could tell, but actually it started like a lot of good Tall Texas Tales – golf, great friends and the pursuit of fun.

The actual tournament started in 1997 with a friendly match between members from the west side of DFW hosting the east siders at Pecan Valley Golf Club. Back then, it was very cleverly called the NTGCSA Ryder Cup. No one got hurt so the annual event continued at Twin Creeks GC, then at Shady Valley CC, then in 2000 at Sky Creek Ranch Golf Club in Keller. It was still called the DFW Ryder Cup that year, but a series of events on the course were the genesis of the Bully Cup, a.k.a the Battle for Bully. Fitting that the tale started at the course of one of NTGCSA’s legendary members, Stephen Best.

Basically, each Bully Cup match pits two members from the west against two from the east in individual and team matches. The format is purposely complicated so confusion and corruption are typically the overriding theme each year. That year, I was paired with one of my oldest friends and another NTGCSA legend, Dan Wegand.

About 10 holes into the match, we realized that the other side was actually keeping score, and we were in a lot of trouble. Our worthy opponents included a young buck we had really never heard of: Jay Stine. Mr. Stine, as we know him today, has turned out to be a big part of Bully Cup history himself over the years. After a few more holes, we knew these whippersnappers weren’t going to show their elders due respect. We stood on the 15th tee, 4 down with 4 to play.

I wouldn’t really call Dan’s tee shot a shank, but it was further right than a Rush Limbaugh rant. Since my tee shot was resting comfortably in a watery grave on the other side of the world, we had to find it in the Sky Creek National Forest or the match would be over. We imposed the elder’s five-minute search extension rule and finally found it (or one similar to it) at least 50 yards from the fairway in the deep woods with absolutely no shot. Upon further review, we noticed that the ball was actually resting against a small mammal bone. Dan immediately claimed to be a rules expert and lectured Buck and Wild that not only could we remove the bone, but we were allowed to move it a club length or two to get at least a fighting chance. They were so bored at this point, they shrugged it off and said "whatever."

Before Dan addressed the ball for the next shot I reached down and unceremoniously picked up the bone, waving it over his ball for good luck. Dan’s handicap was about a 12 at that time, but the shot he hit would have made even the 2000 version of Tiger Woods proud. It would make the 2015 Tiger believe he could make a cut again someday. He actually got it back to the fairway and within a hundred yards of the green. Next shot was another masterpiece that gave him a gimmie and a very fancy par. By the time we met back with our opponents on the green we had figured out that the bone was pure magic, and we waved it over every shot we hit for the rest of the round like a couple of genies. You guessed it: 3 down with 3 to play, 2 down with 2 to play, 1 down with 1 to play, yahtzee!!

To say we railroaded those boys wouldn’t be fair to trains. The west won the matches that day thanks to our half. We’ve told our story so many times that we finally have a version most people believe.

So where does Bully come in? Of course, the bone immediately became the symbol for prosperity and good fortune for all North Texas GCSA members. It was decided that day that the bone would be the prize for the winning team for the annual matches, and a very prominent DFW artist was commissioned to design and build a fitting trophy to showcase the award. He vehemently declined so the chapter was stuck with whatever nonsense I came up with and the result was the now famous Bully, who stands guard over the very bone that was used that day in 2000 to rescue some lost westsiders.

The more observant of you will realize that Bully is a Boxer. We've been notified about that by the American Kennel Club and lawsuits are pending. That may be why he's always in a bad mood. He is softening some and even has a twitter account @ntgcsabully. Rumor has it he will be live tweeting next week. . .

So, Bully still stands over the bone, and North Texas GCSA members will battle in 2015 at Bully Cup XIX to see who gets to take him home and enjoy the well-deserved accolades and rewards. And now you know about as much about the truth as anyone can remember.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Y’all come back now, ya hear?

Did you hear the one about the Texan who didn’t like to brag about how proud he was of his state or people? Nah, you haven’t. It’s part of the DNA of native Texans and even those of us who became Texans “by the grace of God.” So, in true Texas style, I want to tell you how proud I am of my fellow Texans and my state for hosting the 2015 GCSAA Education Conference, GIS and Golf Championships in San Antonio. You may not be partial to our football, politics or style, but you gotta admit, we put on a pretty good rodeo.

I’m proud of the host chapters and their members: the Central Texas GCSA and the Lone Star GCSA. I know they took their role very seriously and wanted to be hospitable. They planned for months to make sure their members knew it was important. Many of them dressed in true Texas style so visitors would know who they could ask for directions, restaurant recommendations or just to visit a little. They delivered in a big way. The Lone Star Reception at Pat Obrien’s near the Alamo was one heck of a party. It has definitely turned in to one of the “can’t-miss” events of every conference. If you can’t have fun at a LSGCSA event, you just ain’t tryin.

"Some folks look at me and see a certain swagger, which in Texas is called 'walking.'"  George W. Bush

I’m proud of Ken Gorzycki, CGCS; Terry Gill, president of the LSGCSA; and Thomas Speakman, president of the CTGCSA, for the welcoming message they presented at the Opening Session.

It took a lot of guts to
volunteer to be a part of the program and they knocked it out of the park. Ken delivered a message that included a heartfelt welcome, some stirring Texas history and even a lesson about Texas fairy tales that none will soon forget. His joke was pretty funny, but it was also a nice tribute to a great Texan who used that joke regularly whenever he spoke – Mr. Robert Dedman. Mr. Dedman is best known in the Texas golf business as the Founder and past Chairman of Clubcorp a company that owns and operates more than 200 golf and country clubs across the US.

I’m proud of the many Texas companies who supported the GIS with their sponsorship dollars and trade show support. Way too many to name but it was great to see even some of the smaller companies stepping up to be a part of the show. I’m sure they had to be happy with the opportunity they had to connect with their Texas customers as well as those from around the world.

Proud of the Texas weather. In true Texas form, we had all four seasons in one week. Hopefully it made visitors feel at home as they got to experience a slice of their home weather while on the road.

I’m proud of the superintendents and their amazing staffs who hosted rounds of the Golf Championship. I have the privilege of being part of the GCSAA staff who works the tournament, and I can tell you participants were very impressed with the golf courses conditions all week. My position this year was course coordinator for the Canyons Course at TPC San Antonio. Tom Lively, CGCS, and his staff went way beyond the call of duty to deliver a great golf course and to make every step of the process of hosting the tournament seamless. I heard the same comments about all the hosts – Thank you Mark Semm at Cordillera Ranch, Bruce Burger at the Quarry, and Dustin Strickland at The Palmer Course at La Cantera.  Please let your staffs know how much we appreciate their hard work and dedication to the event!

“If you’ve ever driven across Texas, you know how different one area of the state can be from another. Take El Paso. It looks as much like Dallas as I look like Jack Nicklaus.”  Lee Trevino

Congratulations to Old Tom Morris Award Winner and Texan Dan
Jenkins. As a lifelong fan of his writing and a Fort Worth boy, it was a huge thrill to see him humbly accept the award. When I was a superintendent in a previous life, our club hosted a tournament hosted by Mr. Jenkins and I can tell you he is a huge advocate of superintendents and a big fan of their work.

Proud of native Texan Keith Ihms, CGCS, who completed an amazing year as president of the GCSAA. I know fellow Texans feel the same way about Keith and sincerely appreciate his commitment to the profession, the association and the industry. Also very proud of Fighting Texas Aggie Classmate of 1985, Johnny Walker, who ran an outstanding campaign for a GCSAA board of directors position.

And how about a Texan winning the National Golf Championship? Congratulations Matt Cowan for an incredible 1-under at Cordillera
Ranch in cold blustery conditions. Lots of Texans placed high in their flights and took home coveted pewter plates.

I’m proud of the folks in San Antonio. Can’t tell you how many times visiting members told me that it really felt like San Antonio wanted us there and the people were genuinely courteous and friendly. I got a kick out of that because they were just doing what comes naturally and acting like you’re “spose to.” I sure know the food didn’t disappoint. The Riverwalk was packed every night with members enjoying the fine Texas cuisine, including Tex-Mex, BBQ, or anything else their taste buds desired.

Proud of the student chapters from around the state that showed up to network and participate in education sessions. Several participated in the Turf Bowl and had good showings. Maybe if the test included a section on calf roping or reading defenses, they would do a little better – sorry couldn’t resist.

Proud of the many San Antonio superintendents that I know of who hosted their colleagues for educational events or even just for a getaway round of golf or a tour of their course. In particular, thanks to Brian Wollard at historic Brackenridge Golf Course who hosted the First Green field trip. Craig Felton of Oak Hills Country Club, who was also instrumental in coordinating the field trip. Daniel McCann at San Antonio Country Club hosted a couple educational events, and I know Bruce Burger at the Quarry had several visitors during the conference. Way to roll out the red carpet guys.

"I'm from Texas, and one of the reasons I like Texas is because there's no one in control." Willie Nelson

The numbers are still rolling in, but I’m very proud of the outstanding attendance by Texas members. They put their money where their mouths are and supported the conference in their own back yard. I know several members who brought their assistants, club officials, golf professionals and even key crew members. This wasn’t limited to Texans – all of the states in the region that I work in participated in mass, including Oklahoma, New Mexico and Arkansas. It’s important for members in a region to support the conference when it is a “home game,” and y’all walked the walk.

I sure hope visitors to the conference got to experience first-hand some of the things I've rambled on about like a true Texan. If you didn't get to attend, I hope it gets you fired up for the next time the show comes our way. Y’all come back now, ya here?

Friday, February 6, 2015

Award winners in the South Central region

No paparazzi, sequined gowns or red carpet, but the awards given out recently in the South Central region carry every bit as much meaning and prestige as the ones they hand out in Hollywood. Several chapters and turfgrass associations handed out well-deserved hardware to recognize achievements to their members. Congratulations to these award winners, and thank you for your contributions to the game of golf and the golf industry in the South Central region.

Dr. Greg Bell
Oklahoma Turfgrass Research Foundation Hall of Fame
The Oklahoma Turfgrass Research Foundation (OTRF) inducted Emeritus Professor Dr. Greg Bell into the Oklahoma Turfgrass Hall of Fame during the opening of its 69th Oklahoma Turf Conference & Trade Show on Dec 2, 2014, in Stillwater, Okla. Induction into the Oklahoma Turfgrass Hall of Fame recognizes long and exceptional achievement as well as service to the members of the OTRF and the state's turfgrass industry.

Read more about Dr. Bell’s career »

John Neese

North Texas GCSA Distinguished Service Award
John Neese was the founder of Neese Materials, a company that supplied sand and materials to golf course superintendents in Texas for more than 30 years. John’s company set the standard for quality materials and service that is second to none. He is a former golf professional who started his business through the connections he made during construction and renovation projects in the DFW area. John was honored with many accolades and praises by former customers and employees at the North Texas GCSA banquet. He was joined by his lovely wife, Alice, and their children for the special evening.

Pictures and a nice note by Alice can be found on Facebook »

Kyle Embry
North Texas GCSA 
A.C. and Garry Bearden Superintendent of the Year Award
West Texas’ own Kyle Embry was honored with the North Texas GCSA’s highest honor also at the Annual Awards Banquet at the Northwood Club in Dallas. The Muleshoe, Texas, native was honored with a twist of roast by his former employer and mentor, Scott Ebers. Kyle is the superintendent at Gentle Creek Golf Club in Prosper, Texas. He has done an outstanding job creating championship conditions for Gentle Creek’s members and the many tournaments that the course hosts each year. Kyle’s golf prowess was also recognized during the evening. He is the two-time defending champion of the North Texas GCSA Ace January Superintendent Championship. In 2014, Kyle took advantage of a little home cooking by winning the championship on his home course.

Gentle Creek proudly announced Kyle’s award on its Facebook page »

George B. Manuel, CGCS
South Texas GCSA – Sonny Dubose Distinguished Service Award
George was truly surprised and honored by this prestigious award from his peers. He was nominated along with two very deserving candidates: John Freeman of Brookside Equipment and Sean Wilson of Falcon Point Golf Club. George is the superintendent at Royal Oaks Country Club and has been in Houston and a member of the South Texas GCSA for the majority of his long career. He has been an active member of the chapter and served as a board member, officer and president. He has mentored countless young people who have had successful careers in the golf course management industry. The members of Royal Oaks are very proud and appreciative of George’s commitment and dedication.

Visit the club’s Facebook page to read more about the award and view congratulatory messages from members and colleagues »

Mary Armstrong – Armstrong Golf Architects
Top 20 Sustainable Golf Course Design Practitioner
Mary Armstrong of Armstrong Golf Architects was recognized as a "TOP 20 SUSTAINABLE GOLF COURSE DESIGN PRACTITIONER" in the world by the internationally recognized Green Planet Architects.
In his email to Armstrong, Roy E. den Hoed, president of Green Planet Architects wrote, "it is my privilege to announce that you have been elected to our elite TOP 20 AWARDS of Sustainable Golf Course Architects for 2014. This prestigious award is addressed to a select number of Golf Course Architects who have established a sterling reputation as practitioners of Sustainable Golf Course Architecture. We consider your practice as one of the most visionary in Sustainable Golf Course Architecture."

Ms. Armstrong has completed design work in all areas of the U.S. and internationally. She stated, "In all, I've designed new courses or renovations for over 120 courses world-wide. While I am semi-retired, I still have a passion for those projects, large or small, that stir my imagination."

She is a long-time member of many local superintendent associations nationwide and most recently served as executive director of the Rio Grande GCSA.

"I am very pleased to be recognized in what I consider to be one of the most relevant and noteworthy areas of my practice.  Early in my career, I worked for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. In large part, I owe my proficiency in this regard to the experience and knowledge I gained in those positions. I also would like to recognize the landscape architecture department at Iowa State University and the emphasis they placed on stewardship in my education there many years ago."

View her profile on the Green Planet Architects website »