Thursday, December 18, 2014

Local super inducted to Hall of Fame

If you are familiar with the golf business in the Eastern Shore of Maryland, then it's likely you are familiar with the name Joe Perry, CGCS at Eagles Landing Golf Course in Berlin, Md. Joe has been the superintendent at Eagles Landing for almost 25 years and was recently inducted into the Eastern Shore Golf Hall of Fame -- one of the few superintendents to ever achieve such a distinction.

Joe has been involved in the Eastern Shore Association of Golf Course Superintendents for years. The chapter is a longtime host of the annual crab feast and pig roast, which raises money for organizations such as the Wounded Warriors Project, Autism Speaks, Maryland Turfgrass Council and others. In 1998, he helped develop the silent auction to add to the pig roast, which would help raise even more money for a local charity close to Joe's heart: the Believe in Tomorrow Children's Foundation. To this day, the ESAGCS has contributed $180,000 to support the children's house by the sea in Ocean City. This year alone, the crab feast and silent auction raised a total of $29,000 to divvy out to these great causes.

So, I sat down and asked Joe a few questions about his career:

Q: How did you learn about this induction?
A: Three years ago they nominated me, and at that time I declined the nomination because there were other guys still working who had been around longer and done more. So I nominated Tom List, who had been a superintendent down here for about 30 years and probably 25 as a CGCS. So, they awarded the nomination to Tom, and he was the first superintendent inducted into the Eastern Shore Golf Hall of Fame. Through this time, they kept my nomination in play and the committee brought it back this year. I found out in September I would be inducted.

Q: Why did you get in to the GC superintendent business?
A: Probably like a lot of other guys (almost by default). I originally wanted to be in Parks and Recreation. The year I graduated there was a hiring freeze with the federal government, so the only job I could get was cutting grass at a cemetery, which bordered a golf course. Some of my buddies were working on the golf course and having a grand old time, while I'm over there bored in the cemetery. The next year I got a job on the golf course, and the rest is history.

Q: What do you like most about this business?
A: Well, you never have a boring day; that's for sure. You always have something new -- new challenges, new projects. It's the only field I know where you have to wear so many different hats and have so many lines of expertise. I think we are the jacks of all trades.

Q: If you had to choose one other career, what would it be?
A: Fishing guide in the summer and a ski instructor in the winter.

Q: Biggest lifetime accomplishment?
A: I'll call myself a successful family man. I have been married 32 years, and I have two adult kids who are successful. I think that is my biggest accomplishment.

Q: What is your advice to a student coming out aspiring to be a superintendent?
A: I have a kid working for me who is trying to find a career path. He came to me this summer and said he really liked this business. I told him it's a great business, but you have to work hard. He wanted to sign up for the Rutgers program, but I told him to go check out the three-week course. He loved it! I've told him you have to use peripheral vision on the golf course. Look at things differently and from every angle, and figure out how your'e going to be a good problem solver. Superintendents are good problem solvers.

Q: What is key to the future success of golf?
A: The key to the future of golf is affordability, playability and getting a younger population interested in the game, which circles back to affordability, playability and pace of play. If I'm an 18 handicap and I go out to the hard course and get beat up, it's not as fun. If I go to a good golf course that isn't overly difficult and the pace of play is good, it's fun! It's all part of the sustainability circle. We want people to have fun and play at a good pace.

Q: Last word?
A: Members have to get involved and take advantage of the assets that GCSAA and their local chapter have provided. I think everyone needs to get involved, because there are a lot of resources out there. Get involved in the community too, and make a difference!

Thanks for the interview, Joe. And congratulations on your achievement!

Friday, October 31, 2014

Skateboard-golf?

Do you like to surf? How about snowboard? Or skateboard? Well, one exuberant start-up is bringing skateboarding to the golf course. Literally. Instead of commuting to your next shot sitting down in a cart next to your playing mate, imagine mounting an over-sized skateboard and traveling standing up, leaning in to the turns as you would on a skate board, snowboard, or surfboard. Sounds kinda fun, right? It certainly does to me!

Golfboard is a new product developed by surfing nut Laird Hamilton and Bally Total Fitness founder Don Wildman. And the company has recently raised 1 million dollars to increase production for a list of backlogged customers in the golf market. Could it be a hit? I don't know, but I think it sounds cool. I like to surf. I like to snowboard. And I like to golf. Three-in-one? Boo yeah! To see the Golfboard in action, check out http://www.bizjournals.com/portland/blog/threads_and_laces/2014/10/bend-company-golfboard-raises-1-million.html

Will it bring more people out to the course? I don't know, but either way I'm a fan of the initiative. Regardless of how it's received in the golf community, it's an innovative product that could reduce turf stress, bring out new golfers, and add a twist of enjoyment to the round. Sounds like win-win -- I'm in. What are your thoughts? Comment below or tweet using #Golfboard.


Thursday, October 2, 2014

Water and conservation survey launches

Environmental management is a bit of a “buzz word” in our line of work, and for good reason. Within our inner circles of the golf industry, we realize how responsible we are with nutrient and water management, habitat development, Integrated Pest Management (IPM), Best Management Practices (BMPs), and so forth. And while many of our golfing constituents see these practices embraced and employed each time they hit the links, that may not be true of the general public and our legislators.

The point is, perception is reality; but perception isn’t always aligned with reality. We find ourselves in an era where words like sustainability, going green, organic and stewardship are used to describe practices that govern many industries across the board. And while I think many of us embrace our environmental progressiveness, we need to do a better job of communicating it.

That’s why GCSAA is seeking your help in gathering data about our water and conservation practices. Collected data will be compared to information gathered in 2006 and used to gain a picture of water and environmental stewardship in the profession.

Complete the survey online until Nov. 17 »

For more information, please visit the Golf Course Environmental Profile overview. I want to encourage all golf course superintendents (GCSAA members and non-members) to be champions for this effort. Together, we can use this material for the advocacy and betterment of our profession as we communicate the good things happening on our golf courses. And as always, thank you in advance for your commitment.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Golf's popularity growing again?

If you watched the PGA Championship on Sunday, there is no need to explain the thrilling finish golf fans everywhere got to experience as play came down the stretch at Valhalla. With three of the tour's most popular players battling to the end, pressed by expiring daylight, executing nasty-good shots with jaw-dropping drama and excitement, it was simply great golf to watch. You had one of the game's long-time fan favorites and a savvy vet Phil Mickelson, who doesn't know the meaning of conservative golf. You had young, budding star Rickie Fowler, who brings color to the game (literally, check out his outfits) and who had finished top 5 in all three previous majors to that point. And then you had red-hot Rory Mcllroy, fresh off a win at the British Open, oozing with confidence as he stared down tee shots and playing so well that you probably would have spontaneously combusted should you got near him. Yes, we have some stars on the rise, and they can captivate an audience.

Case in point, this PGA Championship was the highest rated in 5 years (source: pga.com), since a time when -- you guessed it -- Tiger Woods was battling atop the leaderboard to win yet another major championship. Ironically he didn't, as he wound up losing to the one-hit wonder Y.E. Yang. Granted, I'm a fan of golf and probably would have been following the finish at Valhalla regardless of who was in contention. But that finish, it was one for the books. And while Rory and Rickie may not have quite that polarizing draw that Tiger always brings to the game, I think they come close.

Rickie goes about it with a quiet confidence and bright clothing. But he represents a new generation that isn't afraid to push the style envelope a little bit on the golf course. After all, we need to embrace a new generation of golfers in order to the grow the game. He is one of those players who goes about his business in seemingly all the right ways, with a little bit of flash here and there. It seems like you just can't help but root for the guy. Then you add in the fact that he's 5'9'' and 150 lbs. dripping wet, and it gives little guys hope that they can still hit the long ball even without the 6'2" frame to create that ridiculous leverage through the golf swing. And let's not forget -- he's an American!

Then you have Rory, a humble young Irishman, who may wear his confidence on his sleeve a bit more than Rickie, but probably deservedly so. He already has four major championships to his name, and is showing no signs of slowing down anytime soon. Is the plot thick enough for you yet? Because you could create a narrative of Rickie being cast in Rory's shadow as he tries to start capturing major championships of his own, and maybe even a scenario in which he finally capitalizes and beats Rory down the stretch. It's even more exciting when you add in that they are close in age, with Rory being 25 and Rickie being a year older at 26 -- oh, and the fact that they hail from two different countries.

For all that Tiger vs. Phil used to be, I think this can be just as good. We even have an added narrative of these two facing each other every other year in the Ryder Cup. I don't know about you, but coming off that finish at Valhalla, with these two playing that well, it makes me that much more excited to see what the 2014 Ryder Cup has in store. Coming off a wrenching loss to the Europeans on home soil at Chicago's Medinah Country Club, Rickie leads the U.S. team over to golf's homeland as they look to avenge their defeat at Gleneagles Hotel. Who knows, maybe this is where Rickie counters and leads the U.S. to an upset victory over the Rory-lead Europeans.

So tell me, do you think golf's popularity is on the rise?

Monday, August 4, 2014

What's WOTUS?

WOTUS. What is it? Have you heard of it? Do you know anything about it? If not, then let's learn. It falls under the umbrella of government relations, which isn't typically the top contender for categories that people are chomping at the bit to get involved in. However, government relations in our industry is absolutely, positively, undoubtedly necessary. And in this case, pretty urgent.

Let's start from the top -- WOTUS stands for Waters Of The US; the definition contained within the Clean Water Act that dictates the parameters of EPA's jurisdiction over public waters (e.g., lakes, streams, oceans and bays). And right now, there are proposed changes to the language contained in WOTUS. Changes that, if implemented, would have significant managerial and fiscal effects on our industry.

In short, the proposed changes are very vague in language and open to interpretation. If the changes are approved, this could mean the EPA has jurisdiction over an area that has flowing water at any point throughout the year. In other words, if you get a 3-inch rain storm and have runoff flowing across 7 fairway, then that land suddenly falls under the jurisdiction of the EPA. So what does that mean? It means costly permits and susceptibility to huge fines -- up to $37,000 per day. We believe that EPA is overstepping its boundaries with these suggested amendments, and we want to stop it. Please visit GCSAA's Government Relations portal and submit a request for your senator to co-sponsor a bill that would stop these proposed changes. Believe me, this is a BIG deal, and GCSAA has done all the leg-work in providing a template request that just requires some information on your behalf. 

GCSAA is very closely tracking this issue, and we have some strong allies who are also lobbying against these erroneous changes. Please do your part and take action on behalf of yourself, your employer, and the rest of our industry. Thank you in advance for your attention to this matter, and please feel free to reach out should you have any questions regarding this issue. 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Leveraging your qualifications

We talk about how educated golf course superintendents are, and it's true. But do we do a good job leveraging qualifications to increase salaries? To gain clout with our members? To create job security? Some probably do, some probably don't. One would be hard pressed to find another industry that invests in continuing education as much as ours does. Although basic agronomic programs will never change; new products, new technology, evolving legislation and ongoing commitment to environmental programs make the job of a superintendent ever changing and always challenging. But you are qualified to do the job, and do it well. So you should be compensated fairly based on your experience and qualifications.

Have you ever heard of GCSAA's compensation and benefits report? If you haven't, you should take a look at it. This report breaks down industrywide compensation trends using various factors such as facility type, facility location and personal education. The report can be a useful tool, and it's not limited to those starting new employment. Why not use these statistics to leverage a raise during your annual review? If money isn't an option, how about leveraging qualifications to improve your benefits package?

To elaborate further, how about leveraging your "Class A" or "CGCS"? An abundance of educational hours are inherent to these distinctions, and those accomplishments should be communicated to your employer. By communicating these achievements, you just may gain their trust more so than ever before. For example, add "Class A Superintendent" to your business card. Add it to your email signature. Perhaps promote it in a board meeting when the opportunity presents itself.

If you do fall into that category of looking for new employment, take advantage of GCSAA's career services page. There you can gain tips for building your resume and cover letter, explore professional and personal profiles and websites, and grow your understanding of how to negotiate with an employer so that both sides come out happy.

I think sometimes in our industry we want to create a great product for the golfers and stay out of the limelight. But when it comes to negotiating and promoting yourself (and your qualifications) to your superiors, it is time to let your star shine a little bit. After all, you deserve it.


Thursday, June 19, 2014

Tourney time

In my opinion, tournament preparation is one of the most exciting experiences in our business. Whether it's this year's member-guest invitational or the PGA Championship, nothing is better than dialing-in the golf course and displaying a product you can be proud of. Although tournament prep always starts with early mornings and ends with late evenings, constant adrenaline makes those long days seem like an afterthought.

Being part of such a large event is only part of the satisfaction, however. The camaraderie gained through these week-long working benders always adds to the enjoyment. It's almost a love-hate relationship in some ways. Nobody (at least not me) enjoys waking up at 3 a.m., but everyone is agonizing together. After that first cup of coffee is down the hatch, and the doughnut spread is before you, the excitement of the day ahead overcomes the nerves and wipes out the drowsiness. 

In retrospect, when a team of 40, 60, even a hundred guys are all swarming back to the shop after a successful morning shift, it's such a gratifying feeling. A feeling of accomplishment. A feeling of fluidity. A feeling of teamwork. It's a large group of guys working in remarkable harmony to accomplish a single goal: championship caliber golf. Teamwork is probably one of the main reasons many of us got into this business to begin with. It's funny how much camaraderie is built among a staff in a single golf season, or even a single golf tournament. You meet someone Monday morning, you spend the next seven days with them mowing tees, eating meals and waking up far before the crack of dawn, and all of a sudden you feel like you've known the person for years. Pretty cool.

For these reasons and others, I'm very much looking forward to working the Quicken Loans National at Congressional Country Club next week. I'm excited to get out on the golf course; I'm excited to meet new people; I'm excited to display a product we can be proud of; and I'm excited to develop new friendships. If you have never been involved in a large tournament prep, I encourage you to add it to your list of career goals. Not only do you broaden your network and meet new people, but you get to see how the hosting organization, agronomy and hundreds of workers come together to accomplish one of golf's greatest spectacles.