Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Local superintendents to partake in leadership academy

Three superintendents from the Mid-Atlantic region will be attending the 2017 Golf Industry Show in Orlando on a fully-paid scholarship as part of the EIFG's Melrose Leadership Academy. The Melrose Leadership Academy supports the professional development of GCSAA members, and is set up to provide up to 20 scholarships every year.

Please join me in congratulating:

  • Thomas R. Bass Jr., Falling River Country Club in Appomattox, Va.
  • Eric Pockl, CGCS, The Club at Blackthorne in Jeanneatte, Pa.
  • Derrick S. Wozniak, Radley Run Country Club in West Chester, Pa.

Find out more on this year's winners.

The Melrose Leadership Academy was established in 2012 by Ken Melrose, retired CEO and chairman of the board of The Toro Co., and is supported by a $1 million gift to the EIFG from The Kendrick B. Melrose Family Foundation. This program will have a positive impact for each superintendent selected and ultimately, the game of golf.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

First Green takes off in Mid-Atlantic

At the conclusion of Wednesday's First Green field trip at Westminster National Golf Course, the invigorated fifth-grade students putted golf balls and mounted turf equipment, persistent in their quest to test drive the unfamiliar but intriguing power machines. As for those of us teaching the labs, we were tired. But it was well worth it. Because throughout the day we got to talk to 100 students from Spring Garden Elementary about applied STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) education within the context of golf.

Over the course of 5 hours, two separate groups of 50 kids arrived at Westminster to participate in a rotation of labs focusing on water conservation, math, golf and the environment, equipment and putting. We talked about things like wildlife habitat, calculating area, soil moisture, watersheds, living filters, and simply golf.

For most, it was their first introduction to the game, and what a great introduction it was. For them to learn about our industry, for them to learn about applied science in the outdoors, for them to experience something new, that is what First Green is all about.

And the success of the day was appropriately summed up when one student told me he'd enjoyed the trip to the golf course better than the trip to planetarium because, well, he got to hit golf balls.

And maybe, unbeknownst to him or us, he found his future career.

Special thanks to the Mid-Atlantic Association of Golf Course Superintendents and Finch Services, who provided the day's equipment display.

Students sprint toward their first lab of the day

Superintendent Galen Evans describes different turf species

Superintendent and MAAGCS President Chris Harriman teaches kids applied math

Students mount power equipment next to the putting green

Michael Bostian and Jon Lobenstine teach water conservation

Students learning to calculate area

Superintendent Tyler Bloom introduces kids to turf equipment

Craig Kirby (background) of Golf. My Future. My Game, works with kids on the putting green

Monday, October 31, 2016

Outcomes and outlooks

Several weeks ago, GCSAA hosted the annual Chapter Delegates Meeting at headquarters in Lawrence, Kan. Below is a review of key items that were covered throughout these meetings. Questions, comments, or concerns can be directed towards me or your chapter delegate.

Otherwise, it is a busy time for chapters in the Mid-Atlantic region as annual meetings and fall educational conferences are in full swing. Take a look below the delegates recap to see events and opportunities coming up around the region. Hope to see you soon!

Delegates Meetings Review

  • Political Action Committee - GCSAA is investigating the possibility of resurrecting a GCSAA Political Action Committee (PAC) to further its advocacy efforts. GCSAA stressed that if a PAC were started the money distributed would be to aid champions of policies that advance GCSAA’s priorities from the GCSAA Priority Issue Agenda, not a particular person or party.  Staff will provide additional educational materials to each chapter before year end to help gauge the level of interest. 
  • Rounds 4 Research Auction - The delegates celebrated the success of the top 4 chapter fundraisers in the 2016 R4R Auction. Chapters are encouraged to find a champion – a delegate, the president, chapter executive – someone who will spearhead the initiative in their chapter. 2017 Auction will be April 1-9. Chapters just need to recruit the rounds to donate – GCSAA administers the rest of the program. Call or email Mischia Wright, Associate Director, EIFG at 800-472-7878 or mwright@gcsaa.org.
  • Member Engagement Through Committees and Task Groups - Delegates learned more about GCSAA’s committee and task group process.  We are asking you to spread the word that GCSAA is looking for volunteers. The Call for Volunteers for 2017 will open on November 1. More information will be available on the GCSAA website or call our office at 800-472-7878.
  • Membership Growth – GCSAA has a renewed focus on membership growth and value.  We need your help at the local level as we are working to achieve a set goal of 20,000 members by 2020. Delegates were presented with several different membership growth initiatives, including ideas to partner with affiliated chapters. Delegates heard about, and asked questions concerning, potential bylaws definition changes surrounding the ISM and EM classifications aimed at being more inclusive and introducing others to golf employment opportunities.
  • Department of Labor Overtime Rule - December 1, 2016 is the deadline when the new Department of Labor overtime pay rule goes into effect. The final rule will raise the exempt salary threshold indicating eligibility from $455/week to $913 ($47,476 per year). All golf facilities should come into compliance with this significant jump in the salary threshold in the next 6 months. GCSAA has provided a webinar and other important resources to help you get ready for the change.
  • BMP Planning Guide and Template - Delegates heard about GCSAA’s 50 by 2020 BMP initiative. This aims to have all 50 states with a golf centric BMP program in place by 2020. GCSAA unveiled portions of its new BMP Planning Guide and online template which can be utilized by the chapters creating the state level BMPs programs. We will need your help at the local level as key constituents within your state and chapter will play a vital role in this initiative.
Upcoming Events
  • West Virginia GCSA Fall Conference: Oct. 31 - Nov. 2, Lakeview Golf Resort and Spa
  • First Green Event: Nov. 2, Westminster National Golf Course, MD
  • Eastern Shore AGCS Fall Conference: Nov. 1-3, Princess Royale Resort Hotel, Ocean City, MD
  • Tidewater Turfgrass Association Meeting: Nov. 3, James River Country Club
  • Philadelphia AGCS Annual Meeting: Nov. 7, Fieldstone Golf Club
  • Mid-Atlantic AGCS Annual Championship: Nov. 7, Cattail Creek Country Club
  • VGCSA Assistants Forum: Nov. 9, Independence Golf Club
  • Greater Washington GCSA Meeting: Nov. 15, Evergreen Golf Club
  • Penn State Turf Conference: Nov. 15-17, State College, PA
  • VGCSA Conference/Annual Meeting: Dec. 5-6, Colonial Williamsburg
  • Mid-Atlantic GCSA Annual Meeting: Dec. 7, Baltimore Country Club

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Local organization diversifies the game

As we all know, golf is a great game. It’s easy to fall in love with golf. Strike it pure once, and you’re hooked. But how do we get people introduced? I’m not sure we’ve answered that question. For me, my dad revealed the game. But if you don’t have a friend or family member who plays, then maybe you never get introduced. Frankly, it can be an intimidating sport to pick up on your own. Furthermore, how do we get more young people acquainted with our profession?

Craig Kirby and his non-profit organization, “Golf. My Future. My Game,” are working to grow and diversify our game of golf. Kirby has partnered with schools in the Washington D.C. area to set up programs that give African-American kids access to the game. In fact, each of his 12-week classes enrolls about 80 students. But Kirby’s mission doesn’t stop there. He also wants to introduce these kids to the various careers that golf has to offer. As stated on their website, Golf. My Future. My Game, the organization’s goal is to raise awareness of the values, camaraderie, lessons, and opportunities that golf has to offer.

According to a 2015 study by Dr. Michael Cooper, President of Urban Golfer, LLC, and former Director of Diversity for World Golf Foundation, we learn that American golfers are 77 percent male and 80 percent white. Likewise, golf industry workers are 90 percent male and 88 percent white. As we know, many courses in the region are struggling to find reliable employees, including assistant superintendents. So what better way to help broaden our workforce than to simply tap into an untapped demographic?

That’s where we come in. Craig has a vision for his organization where we can teach young people about our profession. Similar to a round-table discussion, Craig will be looking to superintendents in D.C. area to engage these kids and introduce them to the superintendent work life. Through that, we can build greater sustainability for not only our sector of the industry but also for golf as a whole.

Craig’s organization has partnered with one of only four courses in America that are African-American owned, The Marlton Golf Club, just outside of Washington D.C. in Upper Marlboro. The Marlton Golf Club is the venue that serves as the catalyst for the programs offered by “Golf. My Future. My Game.” As Kirby mentions, “Golf is a sport from which everyone can benefit.” And as these programs are certainly most beneficial for the youth they serve, the industry itself stands to benefit from Kirby’s philanthropic heart. That there is a win-win.

Craig Kirby and Jimmy Garvin with Holy Family Catholic students (photo credit: Heaven Nez Cree, Creative Content Designer, Golf. My Future. My Game.)

Jimmy Garvin talking with Holy Family students about the difference in heights of cut around the golf course (photo credit: Heaven Nez Cree) 

Holy Family students ready for the green (photo credit: Heaven Nez Cree)

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

July weather in the Mid-Atlantic

It's hot out. Like, really hot. And typically, mid-July is the toughest stretch of weather for golf course superintendents operating in the Mid-Atlantic. While most everyone seems to be holding strong, the weather has certainly been a topic of conversation as we grind through July. And here in the Mid-Atlantic, we have what's known as the transition zone where superintendents are tasked with growing cool-season turfgrasses in a climate akin to sitting in a hot tub on a 95-degree afternoon in the middle of the rain forest.

So that got me thinking: has it really been hotter than usual? I evaluated the July weather over the past three years. In a nutshell, yes, according to the Weather Underground website, the average maximum temperatures during July have been higher than two years previous in nearly all cities throughout the region. The only exception being Richmond, Va. In most cases, the temperatures are up 2-5 degrees. And although 2-5 degrees may not seem like a lot, when temperatures are this high, every degree makes a difference. Please see the first graph below for an illustration. 

Secondly, I took a look at average precipitation for the month of July (2nd graph). While both these graphs only evaluate July 2016 weather to date (July 26th), we can still make a fair assessment of where we are relative to past years. This time of year, the weather is such a delicate balance. The heat is a given. But with regard to precipitation, too much can be problematic when soils approach saturation (wet-wilt).

Likewise, when precipitation is too scarce, irrigation only gets you so far. There is nothing quite like a good rainfall. While we like the precipitation to fall somewhere in the middle, you can see by observing the graphs below that multiple cities have experienced well above-average precipitation (Philly), or well below-average precipitation (Pitt, DC, Baltimore, Ocean City).

So while we can't control the weather, we can certainly react. Employing best practices is crucial to surviving these tough stretches. Best practices include raising mowing heights, reducing mowing frequency, encouraging air movement with fans and needle-tine aeration, and maintaining diligence with fungicide programs, to name a few.

Stay patient, stay cool, and good luck!

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

More on Department of Labor Overtime Rule

This is why GCSAA has active involvement in government affairs issues across the country. On May 18, the Department of Labor (DOL) announced the final ruling that increases the salary threshold at which employees must be paid overtime. To learn more about this rule and how it affects your course, sign up for the June 29 webinar, , "Getting Ready for the New DOL Overtime Rules."

In the meantime, here is some background information:

Under the new rule, individuals who earn salaries of less than $47,476 a year will automatically qualify for overtime pay of time-and-a-half if they work more than 40 hours a week. Previously, those who earned more than $23,660 were exempt from overtime pay. The new rules will go into effect Dec. 1, 2016.

This change dates back to last summer when the DOL announced the original version of this rule, allowing an open comment period to hear the public’s thoughts on said rule. Along with other allied organizations, GCSAA submitted a letter (collectively submitted as the ‘golf industry’), that expressed our concerns with this new rule. Along with other concerns, one thing the golf industry addressed in that letter was that the wage increase was too steep and the financial implications of this increase could cost others their jobs. Originally, the proposed rule offered a minimum salary of $50,440.

While the DOL slightly decreased that minimum salary, this new rule will certainly create some tough budgeting decisions for much of our industry, not just our maintenance departments. One other positive to take away is that, for the first time, employers will be able to use non-discretionary bonuses and incentive payments including commissions, to satisfy up to 10 percent of the standard salary level of $47,476.

The golf industry talked to members of Congress and their staff about the impacts of the overtime rule during National Golf Day. Members of Congress were asked to support H.R. 4773 or S. 2707. The Protecting Workplace Advancement and Opportunity Act would ensure the DOL pursues a balanced and responsible approach to updating federal overtime rules.

As stated, the new rule will go in to effect on Dec. 1 of this year. At this time, it doesn’t look like anything is going to change that. So, please plan accordingly and communicate with your business about this rule’s effects on your department. And again, please participate in the webinar for more information. Contact me with any questions.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Inconsistent spring weather ushers in summer

There is an old saying that goes, "April showers bring May flowers." Well, those April showers seem to be arriving a month late. And where are the warmer temperatures? Superintendents around the region were charging up their irrigation systems in late March, but I'm not sure they anticipated utilizing them more than usual throughout April.

Many superintendents have testified that April was indeed so dry that it required supplemental irrigation to keep the course looking like a spring course should look — green. And, as we roll in to May, we are now seeing many of the showers that failed to arrive throughout April. Sure, there are always positives to experiencing a dry spring month — efficient spring aeration, easy spring clean up, completing winter projects, and in many years, even being able to consistently mow the golf course would be considered a win.

So, as we approach mid-May, we are still waiting for spring to gain some consistency and start feeling a little bit more like early summer. With expected lows dipping in to the 30s in coming days, I guess we will have to wait at least a few more before we can experience that early-summer feel. 

And while the temperatures haven't been consistently pleasant, one trend that seems to be pretty consistent around the region is the number of rounds being played. Again, this is another benefit of dry spring weather. While we sometimes wish we had a little more space to complete our work, ultimately it's a positive sign when we see an increase in rounds compared to last year's books. 

Around the region, many chapters have already hosted their first golf meetings for the 2016 season. Early season success at these meetings shows that guys are still interested in spending time with their peers and gaining quality education in the meantime. Other big happenings around the region include National Golf Day on May 18, multiple scholarship events, VGCSA's "Environmental Cup" hosted at Keswick Club on June 13 and Pennsylvania Golf Day on June 22. 

Oh, and let's not forget, the U.S. Open will be coming to Oakmont CC on June 16-19. If you are interested in attending, remember that your Class A, SM, or B membership card will get you free admission to the tournament. 

Enjoy the energy surrounding golf this time of year, and I hope to see you soon!