2023 GCSAA Conference and Trade Show: News and buzz

Follow updates from the GCM team on the latest happenings in Orlando.


GCSAA 2022 Conference Trade Show
The GCM staff is covering all the action at the 2023 GCSAA Conference and Trade Show as it unfolds. Check back often for the latest industry news, company announcements, highlights from the Education Conference, and more.

Thursday, February 9

mental health panel
GCSAA CEO Rhett Evans, consultant Lori Hoffner, Miranda Robinson, former superintendent and current operations manager for the British Columbia Golf Superintendents Association and communication manager of the Canadian Golf Superintendents Association, BIGGA CEO Jim Croxton and Pete Grass, GCSAA past president, superintendent at Hilands Golf Club in Billings, Mont., and Leo Feser Award winner, spoke on mental health at the 2023 GCSAA Conference and Trade Show. Photo by Howard Richman

Pete Grass, CGCS, learned the hard way.

Speaking in the session “No One is an Island: A Guide to Health and Mental Wellness,” Grass reached a crossroads that he never should have let arrive. “I thought what makes me a good superintendent is striving for perfection. It’s also the biggest curse,” says Grass, a past GCSAA president and superintendent at Hilands Golf Club in Billings, Mont. “It can drive you to obsession, rather than enjoying your life.”

Grass was joined on stage with GCSAA CEO Rhett Evans; Miranda Robinson, former superintendent and current operations manager for the British Columbia Golf Superintendents Association and communication manager of the Canadian Golf Superintendents Association; BIGGA CEO Jim Croxton; and Lori Hoffner, a speaker, trainer and consultant. She noted “anxiety is the No. 1 mental health issue diagnosed today. People have to speak about it and acknowledge what’s going on. If you’re struggling with mental health in any way, reach out.”

J. Bryan Unruh and Tim Hiers
J. Bryan Unruh, Ph.D., and Tim Hiers, CGCS, discussed integrated pest management planning on the trade show floor at the 2023 GCSAA Conference and Trade Show. Photo by Darrell J. Pehr

During this morning’s BMP industry spotlight focusing on the importance of integrated pest management plans, speakers spent some time discussing how an IPM plan can benefit the wildlife habitat at a golf course. Supporting a healthy out-of-bounds area helps reduce fertilizer and herbicide inputs while bringing greater golfer satisfaction, as long as the habitat is properly developed and managed.

With GCSAA’s Conference and Trade Show taking place in Florida, where wildlife is never far away, the subject seemed especially topical.

“Remember, you are managing a golf course that falls within a watershed,” said Tim Hiers, CGCS, superintendent at White Oak Conservation Center in Yulee, Fla. “One of the things you are trying to do is increase the carrying capacity for wildlife: for quail, for rabbits, for rats, for snakes, for any number of species.” Techniques like boosting edge habitat and planting with wildlife needs in mind can help move a golf course closer to becoming a flourishing wildlife habitat.

“By doing that, you have a healthier golf course,” he said. “Everything on the golf course needs to be there for a reason. It’s like a puzzle. A piece here and a piece there and eventually the puzzle is complete. But it’s always changing and you have to recognize and adapt to that change.”

Hiers and moderator J.Bryan Unruh, turfgrass professor at the University of Florida, agreed that one of the keys to establishing and maintaining wildlife habitat on a golf course is ensuring communication continues with everyday golfers.

“Effective communication needs to be brief and people need to be able to understand it,” Hiers said. He also stressed the importance of ongoing communication and building trust with the audience.

“It needs to be believable,” he said. “You need to find the most effective means of communication available and then you don’t stop. The biggest thing is if they don’t trust you, you can be articulate, you can be handsome, you can be anything, it doesn’t matter. You need to earn their trust and that takes time. It means you don’t exaggerate anything and you don’t tell them an untruth.”

In thinking of how superintendents can best approach pest management, Unruh asked Hiers to sum up the importance of IPM plans within the framework of best management practices on golf courses.

“If you want to sustain your career, then you need to continue to learn and find the people who have the answers to specific areas of concern, but then don’t just focus on turf,” Hiers said. “Focus on everything in that watershed and what you can do to make everything more resilient, more viable.”

Kevin Breen election
Kevin Breen, CGCS, was elected to a second term as president in 2023 at the GCSAA Conference and Trade Show after Kevin Sunderman, CGCS, resigned as vice president to become GCSAA's chief operation officer. Photo by Montana Pritchard

Kevin Breen, CGCS, got the full treatment this time.

On Thursday, Breen was reelected as GCSAA president. He is back in that position because Kevin Sunderman, CGCS, resigned his job at vice president to become chief operating officer. Breen, director of greens and grounds at La Rinconada Country Club in Los Gatos, Calif., was first elected in 2022 in San Diego. He wasn’t there in person, however. At the time, Breen was recovering from eye surgery that kept him from traveling. Nothing could prevent him from being there this time, however, and he cherished the opportunity.

As part of the inauguration, the past presidents walked Breen up the aisle to present him as president (pictured). He felt honored, especially being able to do it in person. “It’s kind of surreal,” he says. “Last year, not being here for this, was kind of tough. So I really appreciated that today.”

Jeff White, CGCS, was elected vice president. He served in 2022 as secretary-treasurer. T.A. Barker, CGCS, was elected secretary-treasurer. For Board of Directors, Paul L. Carter, CGCS; Doug Dykstra, CGCS; and Marc E. Weston, CGCS; and GCSAA Class A superintendent Steven J. Hammon, remained on the Board. The new board member is H. Scott Griffith, CGCS.

USGA tournament preparation session
David Johnson, GCSAA Class A director of grounds at The Country Club in Brookline, Mass., discusses USGA tournament prep at a power hour on Thursday, Feb. 9 at the GCSAA Conference and Trade Show. Photo by Andrew Hartsock

On the Monday of championship week at the U.S. Open, the decision was made to hand-mow the roughs at The Country Club in Brookline, Mass., sending the turf world — at least as far as the turf Twitterverse was concerned — in a bit of a tizzy. Given the commitment of labor and equipment, the move was seen as a bit of a flex. David Johnson, The Country Club’s GCSAA Class A director of grounds, assures it was anything but.

“We had the tools and the manpower,” Johnson said. “We had the volunteers, and they were hungry. It was the best way to do it, the easiest way to do it. It wasn’t anything to show off. It was the best way to do it, and honestly it was one of the highlights.” Johnson, a 23-year GCSAA member, was a fifth of a panel discussion on the final day of the GCSAA Conference and Trade Show “What it Takes to Host a USGA Championship,” held on the grass stage. He was joined by Darin Bevard, USGA senior director of championship agronomy and 32-year GCSAA Educator member; Alex Beson-Crone, director of grounds at Blue Mound Golf and Country Club in Wauwatosa, Wis., and a 12-year GCSAA member; Bubba Wright, GCSAA Class A superintendent at Pebble Beach Golf Links and five-year association member; and American Society of Golf Course Architect member Bruce Charlton.

Johnson says conditions of the roughs dominated his team’s discussions with the USGA — which might be seen as a positive.

“If they’re not talking about your greens,” Wright interjected, “that’s a good thing.”

The panelists universally agreed one of the biggest misconceptions about tournament prep is that all decisions are made unilaterally.

“I’d never held a major championship in my career,” Johnson said, “and never did I aspire to host one. … So it was all new to me. The most eye-opening part was the transparency. They don’t come in and tell us what to do. We talked about it and made a plan.”

“It is a collaboration and a discussion,” Bevard said. “We don’t dictate. It’s a collaboration.”

DPH Biologicals has the GCSAA Conference and Trade Show in its fiber. It is determined to build on its rich industry heritage. The current goal: To become the industry’s most trusted biologicals provider. In 2018, Douglas Plant Health was formed by acquiring AgriEnergy Resources and Growth Products, a name that was synonymous for multiple decades at the GCSAA Conference and Trade Show in biological technologies serving the turf and ornamental, agriculture, arbor care and residential markets. Those acquisitions spawned what is now DPH Biologicals. Its stable of products include the new RootXCell, a 100% water-dispersible, broad-spectrum bio-stimulant. Company veteran Keith Giertych remembers coming to Show for the first time with Growth Products. The reason to come hasn’t changed since becoming DPH Biologicals. “It’s important to us,” Giertych says.

Wednesday, February 8

J. Bryan Unruh
University of Florida turfgrass professor J. Bryan Unruh, Ph.D., discussing environmental best management practices at the GCSAA Conference and Trade Show. Photo by Darrell J. Pehr

University of Florida turfgrass professor J. Bryan Unruh, Ph.D., outlined the relationship between best management practices and GCSAA’s Golf Course Environmental Profile series during an industry spotlight on the Trade Show floor Wednesday afternoon.

Unruh called the BMPs that have been developed for every state the “guiding documents,” while the GCEP data is the barometer of how effectively BMPs are being implemented.

“In a sense, we can use that GCEP data as a grade of how things are going,” he said.

Unruh noted that the BMP initiative was launched in Orlando in 2017. The goal was for all 50 states to have a manual in place by 2020. That goal was accomplished by December of 2020.

The survey-based GCEP series, now in its third iteration, is divided into seven regions across the country. Data generated from the surveys is a benefit not only to golf course superintendents as benchmarks of progress in areas like water reduction, reduction in use of inputs and other measures, but also to present data to decision-makers and help them more fully understand changes being made.

“Why is that data important? Maybe more so now more than ever is because the industry is facing increasing scrutiny,” Unruh said, such as in the use of active ingredients to control pests on the golf course. Unruh said having data available to show regulators how products are being used can help lead to better informed decisions.

“We can stand up before our regulatory agencies and show we’ve had a 29 percent reduction in water use,” he said. The industry has had a 26 percent reduction in nitrogen use and about a 50 percent reduction in the use of phosphorus on golf courses across the country since the first survey was conducted in 2006.

“Those numbers resonate,” Unruh said, “and they’re not just numbers that we’re spewing off the tip of our tongues; we have the data.” Unruh noted that results of the GCEP surveys are published in scientific journals. Condensed versions of the articles are published in Golf Course Management magazine, and all information is available online.

Virginia Tech students competing in the tufbowl
235 students from 63 schools participated in the Turf Bowl at the GCSAA Conference and Trade Show. Photo by Darrell J. Pehr

College students wearing school colors faced off Wednesday afternoon, not on the turf of a football field but on tables covered with turf, insects and weeds in the annual collegiate Turf Bowl at GCSAA’s Conference and Trade Show.

Students from big, well-established schools like Kansas State, Mississippi State and Virginia Tech were on a level playing field with students from small, two-year colleges like State Technical College of Missouri in Linn, Mo., and Southeast Technical College in Sioux Falls, S.D.

In all, 235 students from 63 schools were challenged with both exam-style testing as well as hands-on examination of turfgrasses, glass tube-encased insect specimens and a selection of unruly weeds sprouting from pint-sized pots.

University faculty members served as exam proctors for the rigorous, almost three-hour botanical and entomological odyssey, which students approached with everything from flashlights and magnifying glasses to enthusiasm and academic preparation.

In a discussion just before the competition began, a team from the State Technical College of Missouri noted that even competing in the Turf Bowl would be a boost for their resumes, although several team members — who were among the first group to represent their school at the event last year at the Conference and Trade Show in San Diego — were planning to do more than just participate. They were ready to compete for top turf honors.

How did they do? Results will be released on Thursday.

In their presentation “Fairway Regrassing: Can You Afford Not To?” USGA agronomists Adam Moeller, Paul Jacobs, Brian Whitlark and John Rowland and past GCSAA President Darren Davis, CGCS, have suggestions on the benefits to consider doing it. They range from playability, resource savings, tolerance from disease, and return on investment. And, if you are concerned about missing a whole season or a whole year of golf, there are ways around it that allow you to regrass without entirely disrupting golf. “The long-term return on investment will pay itself off in a couple of years,” Jacobs said.

The GS3 is a data collection tool created by the USGA that compiles approximately 15,000 measurements related to green smoothness, trueness and speed. Photo by Andrew Hartsock

The whole point of the USGA’s suite of data collection tools is to help golf course superintendents make crucial decisions about the maintenance of their facilities. But all those data points serve another purpose as well.

“To be able to collect all this data … it allows you to have a conversation,” said Darin Bevard, USGA’s senior director of championship agronomy and 32-year GCSAA Educator member. “The power of these tools is unreal. It’s not just saying something: ‘Oh, yeah, topdressing makes greens smoother.’ Now you can show them.”

Bevard was one of three presenters for “What’s Next for Data Collection and Technology: GS3 and Deacon” on the Interactive Grass Stage on Wednesday. He was joined by USGA consulting agronomist Jordan Booth, CGCS, Ph.D., and a 16-year GCSAA member; and USGA product director Scott Mingay.

Together, they introduced their latest tool, the GS3, a golf-ball-sized data collector that compiles roughly 15,000 measurements regarding green smoothness, trueness and speed. The device — which was officially released a day earlier — is meant to be rolled from a Stimpmeter (to measure speed, smoothness and trueness) and dropped to measure firmness.

The info joins all the other data points stockpiled within the USGA’s Deacon platform to inform decisions. Those other data points include information about cultural practices like topdressing, inputs, clipping volume and height of cut, plus the USGA’s GPS-based golfer traffic information.

“Having that data to help you communicate illustrates your role as a subject-matter expert,” Booth said.

Deacon can also plot pin placements and integrate weather data.

“This is all trying to simplify all the data collection for you,” Mingay said.

Bevard said the suite of tools had its genesis in the data collection that informs USGA championship agronomy but for the everyday superintendent.

“Taking data,” he said, “is how we make decisions.”

Tuesday, February 7

John Sorochan, turfgrass professor at the University of Tennessee
John Sorochan, turfgrass professor at the University of Tennessee, led an interactive facility tour at Marriot’s Grande Vista Golf Club. Photo by Darrell J. Pehr

As golf courses in the transition zone have changed from bentgrass to bermudagrass to improve heat tolerance, the drawbacks of bermudagrass, such as low shade tolerance, are becoming apparent.

“Golf course superintendents started to find they had a lot more shade issues on their golf courses than they realized,” said John Sorochan, turfgrass professor at the University of Tennessee, during this morning’s GCSAA Conference and Trade Show interactive facility learning tour at Marriot’s Grande Vista Golf Club.

Sorochan said one solution to too much shade is to cut down trees, but that approach can be a challenge, especially if a tree shading a green isn’t on the golf course’s property or the tree was planted in memory of a deceased club member.

An alternative is to replace the bermudagrass with zoysiagrass, which has much better shade tolerance, especially Zoysia matrella. Sorochan noted that 13 different species of zoysiagrass have been identified.

Sorochan said researchers are interested in exploring how zoysiagrasses will perform on a putting green.

“We wanted to look at whether they can tolerate green height,” Sorochan said. “Can we get the speeds, the trueness and the rolls out of them?”

Some new varieties — Lazer, Prizm and M85 — have shown exceptional green speeds, Sorochan said. Management techniques for the varieties were discussed, with high wear tolerance and very few ball marks found to be especially true for Lazer.

Other stations at the learning tour included demonstrations by Toro that covered new sprinkler technology as well as an update on a triplex autonomous fairway mower. Grande Vista Director of Grounds Matt Morrison and Cornell University turfgrass professor Frank Rossi outlined the recent putting green upgrades at the course, removing 25-year-old TifEagle bermudagrass and replacing it with zoysiagrass.

Matt Gourlay, CGCS, presenting on engaging Gen Z
Matt Gourlay, CGCS, MG, gave a presentation titled "How to Lead Gen Z to Succeed” Photo by Roger Billings

• Matt Gourlay, CGCS, MG, oversees a staff that at times counts as many as 34 members of Generation Z, so it’s fair to say he knows a thing or two about working with “Zoomers.” It’s no wonder, then, that Gourlay — a Millennial — found himself presenting “How to Lead Gen Z to Succeed” in a packed Power Hour on Tuesday.

Gourlay, a 20-year GCSAA member, is director of golf course operations at Colbert Hills Golf Course in Manhattan, Kan., which also is home to a major university (Kansas State) that teaches turfgrass. So it makes sense Gourlay frequently employees members of Gen Z, which is loosely defined as the folks born roughly between the mid-1990s and early 2010s. His 34 Gen Zers are the equivalent of seven full-timers, which underscores a common theme throughout his entertaining talk: flexibility. He schedules to accommodate classes, for example.

“It’s challenging, but it’s worth it,” Gourlay said.

Quoting equally Orson Welles and Snoop Dogg, Gourlay stressed that good leaders trust and support their employees and genuinely want them to succeed.

“Give them the freedom to do what they want,” he said. “They understand the goal of the organization.”

Carlos Arraya and John Cunningham
Former colleagues Carlos Arraya, CGCS, left, and John Cunningham, CGCS, right, presented together on the value of transparency and staff communication. Photo by Howard Richman

• John Cunningham, CGCS, and Carlos Arraya, CGCS, reunited.

The pair worked together in 2016-17 at historic Bellerive Country Club in St. Louis, where Arraya hosted the PGA Championship as superintendent in 2018. He still is there, but as general manager/CEO. Cunningham moved on six years ago. Now, he is GM/COO, at Grandfather Golf & Country Club in Linville, N.C. On Tuesday, they delivered the presentation "Self-Awareness and Relationship Building: A Deep Dive.”

A key portion of their two hours focused on asking for, and receiving, feedback from the staff and others at the club. Share information. Break through communication barriers. How do you reach that goal? "Disclosure and feedback,” Cunningham said. "Be completely open and honest.”

• The USGA today announced the launch of GS3, a state-of-the-art golf technology tool that calculates putting green speed, firmness, smoothness and trueness – all with one device.

A rechargeable smart ball that is the same size and weight as a standard golf ball, GS3 creates accurate, measurable, first-of-their-kind agronomic benchmarks that superintendents can use to facilitate change more effectively on their course. The tool has sensors that collect over 15,000 data points, empowering analytics-driven decisions.

“We are excited to provide a tool that enables the industry to objectively quantify putting green metrics, besides just green speed,” said Matt Pringle, Ph.D., managing director of the USGA Green Section. “GS3 can clarify the impact of different maintenance practices, provide benchmarks and communicate to stakeholders how the course is performing.

Fully integrated with, and operating on, the USGA’s DEACON course management platform via a Bluetooth connection, GS3 employs data to help superintendents manage their facility, including weather, mowing practices, resource applications and course setup, all in one place. The mapping technology in DEACON displays the facility, and GPS stores exactly where a greenkeeper last took measurements. All data is also calculated locally in case of internet issues and synchronized to the cloud at a later time.

For more information, visit the USGA's website.

Bay Hill course tour
Bland Cooper, PGA Tour agronomist, speaks to participants in the Tournament Prep interactive learning tour on Tuesday at Bay Hill Club and Lodge. This talk took place in the grandstands surrounding the No. 8 hole. Photo by Andrew Hartsock

• A former equestrian who found her way into the golf course management industry during college, Alex Hills never envisioned herself working at a course that regularly hosted PGA Tour events.

Then she landed at Arnold Palmer’s Bay Hill Club and Lodge in Orlando.

“Now I’m not sure I’d work at a place without one,” said Hills, senior assistant superintendent at Bay Hill and four-year GCSAA member. “It really pushes you to see what you can do.”

Bay Hill is the site of the annual Arnold Palmer Invitational, and two hurricanes that hit Florida late last year threw a wrench in preparations for this year’s event, which will be held March 1-5. The wet forced a two-week delay in the overseeding process.

“I’d never seen water like that,” Hills said during the Tournament Prep interactive learning tour on Tuesday. “That provided a new challenge.”

Bay Hill director of grounds Chris Flynn, CGCS, and 25-year association member, and his staff took time out from prep lead-up to entertain two sold-out learning tours Tuesday.

According to Bland Cooper, PGA Tour competitions agronomist, Flynn & Co. are right back on schedule.

Cooper, who oversees playing conditions at 10 PGA Tour stops, worked with Palmer before the golfing great’s death in 2016, and he recall’s Palmer’s charge to make Bay Hill a stiff challenge.

“He used to say to me, Bland, when I walk through the locker room, I want to hear 50% of the players bitching about conditions,” Cooper said. “I don’t want all of them, but if I don’t hear any complaints, you’re not doing your job.”

Monday, February 6

Kevin Breen, Dylan Foster and Rhett Evans
GCSAA president Kevin Breen and CEO Rhett Evans congratulate Dylan Foster, assistant superintendent at Verandah Golf Club in Fort Myers, Fla., on winning the GCSAA national championship. Photo by Montana Pritchard

• A player with a home-state advantage rode the event’s only sub-par round to his very first GCSAA National Championship on Monday.

Dylan Foster, the assistant superintendent at Verandah Golf Club in Fort Myers, Fla., fired a two-day total of even-par 144 (74-70) to win the 2023 event, presented by The Toro Co. His performance was five shots better than his closest competitor.

Wrapping up play on the International Course at ChampionsGate Golf Club, Foster carded one of the steadiest rounds of the tournament during the final round. While the rest of the field moved in the wrong direction, the four-year GCSAA member recorded four birdies against just two bogeys to finish the day with a 2-under-par 70.

Finishing tied for second at 5-over-par 149 were both Edward Martinez, the superintendent at Los Colinas Country Club in Irving, Texas, and Bill Davis, the superintendent at Hidden Hills Golf Club in Jacksonville, Fla. Defending champion Seth Strickland from Miami Beach (Fla.) Golf Club finished solo fourth with a two-day total of 150.

For complete results from all the action at the GCSAA Golf Championships, go to golfgenius.com/pages/4025524.

• Target Specialty Products, a leading provider of Pest Control, Vector and Turf and Ornamental solutions in the U.S. and Canada, welcomes GCSAA Conference and Trade Show attendees at booth #1841. Participants are invited to stop by to meet with Target Specialty Products experts and attend the “Happy Hour with Turf Fuel” from 3-5 p.m. on Feb. 8. Booth visitors will have the opportunity to be entered to win a cruise trip for two.

• Todd Duellman has as good an excuse as any for cutting short his first trip to the GCSAA Conference and Trade Show. He has to get back to Wisconsin Rapids, Wis., to perform a half dozen surgeries on Thursday.

“This,” he says, “is just my side hustle.”

Duellman bought TriCity Golf Course — a longstanding nine-hole course that was closing — two years ago and quickly learned he had a lot to learn about running and maintaining a golf course. He also started with “no equipment,” and he scrambled to purchase the tools of the trade on the cheap, often from the sale of other closing golf courses.

He came to his first Conference and Trade Show to learn, but was dismayed to learn he’d only have a short time at the trade show portion because he has to fly back (did we mention he flew himself down in his own plane?) Wednesday to accommodate his primary gig as an orthopedic surgeon.

Dr. Duellman has six surgeries on the docket Thursday, mostly knee and hip replacements.

Simple covers of various sizes to seal catch basins when applying fertilizer was one tip suggested during the interactive facility tour this afternoon on Best Management Practices at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club, Grande Lakes. Photo by Darrell J. Pehr

• With Best Management Practices a key topic for every golf course superintendent, an interactive facility tour at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club, Grande Lakes, in Orlando on the first day of the GCSAA Conference and Trade Show was a time of discussion and collaboration.

Participants were divided into six groups and fanned out near the clubhouse and 18th hole of the golf course. Topics included lake management, wildlife and habitat, out-of-play areas, Outreach and Telling Your Story, integrated pest management, and water quality and nutrient management.

The tour was presented by Helena, and participants were given an update on the company’s Rx-360 turf management program as the event got underway. Aaron Martin, branch manager for Helena, and Josh Henry, Ph.D., Helena division agronomist, outlined the technology innovations offered by the company, such as soil management services and property mapping using GPS and dual electromagnetic equipment, tissue testing, water analysis and customized tools that can help a superintendent track the status of soil, tissue and diseases via graphical reports, as well as offering weed, insect and disease scouting.

Leading the segment on water quality and nutrient management was Bryan Unruh, Ph.D., who was recently selected to receive the GCSAA President’s Award for Environmental Stewardship. Unruh gave participants tips on gathering information about their course’s water quality data as maintained by the Environmental Protection Agency, as well as the associated watershed. Unruh spoke about the interconnectivity of course catch basins to the greater watershed. He noted that even taking the basic step of covering catch basins with something as simple as a piece of plywood, cut to fit over the grate, can help keep fertilizer granules from being carried off, unintentionally, to a nearby waterway.

Simple steps superintendents can take also were discussed in the lake management segment. Capt. Mark Benson, director of fly fishing at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club, spoke about how the installation of a basic aeration system can help keep a lake healthier, so much so that the 11 lakes at the Ritz-Carlton have become a popular destination for guided fishing experiences and kayak eco-tours for guests.

Jan Bel Jan and David Barton
Jan Bel Jan, past president of the American Society of Golf Course Architects, and David Barton, the executive director of the National Alliance for Accessible Golf presented on maximizing course accessiblity. Photo by Howard Richman

• Jan Bel Jan has one request for golf courses.

“You do a service for a lot of people by making it more accessible,” says Bel Jan, past president of the American Society of Golf Course Architects. “Embrace the opportunity to choose inclusion.”

Bel Jan and David Barton, the executive director of the National Alliance for Accessible Golf, collaborated for a presentation named “Making Your Course Welcoming and Accessible.” Training the entire staff in communication and etiquette when interacting with disabilities includes understanding the needs of the individual; being well versed in facility accessibility features; maintaining clear paths of travel; clear policies for service animals, adaptive vehicles and wheelchair use; awareness there are hidden disabilities; and respecting all patrons as valued customers.”

“Do your best to be as accommodating as you can,” Barton said.

Randquist leading bunker tour
Former GCSAA COO Bob Randquist talks about the pros and cons of bunker liners during a learning tour to Dubsdread Golf Course. Photo by Andrew Hartsock

• Bob Randquist, CGCS Retired, former GCSAA chief operating officer, came out of retirement to host one of seven stations on an interactive learning tour “All About Bunkers” to Dubsdread Golf Course in Orlando. Randquist spoke about bunker liners on the tour, which was presented by Capillary Bunkers.

Randquist, a former longtime superintendent who retired in 2022 as GCSAA’s COO, offered one bit of advice for superintendents mulling which of four general types (not to mention different brands) of liners is most appropriate for their facilities.

“Do it at your own property,” Randquist said. “I can’t encourage you enough to trial three or four different options to see what’s best for your situation, for your soil type, your architectural style, your bunker sand.”

Other stations addressed bunker construction; architecture and purpose; bunker sand types; golfer expectations; and a presentation of the Capillary Bunkers Wash Box, which allows for sand to be cleaned of sullying accumulated organic matter without the sand needing to be removed from the bunker.

Foley interactive facility tour
A group of attendees including Brian Thompson, equipment manager at White Oak Golf Club in Newnan, Ga., toured the shop at Interlachen Country Club in Winter Park, Fla., as part of the Foley Learning Tour. Photo by Howard Richman

• Brian Thompson loves nothing more than seeing how others do his job.

Well, not his job, but rather those who do what he does daily. Thompson, equipment manager at White Oak Golf Club in Newnan, Ga., attended the Foley Learning Tour at Interlachen Country Club in Winter, Park, Fla. There, Thompson got an eyeful of what Interlachen’s equipment manager Ray Hooker Jr. does in his shop.

One thing in particular caught Thompson’s eye. The overhead oil dispenser, which eliminates the need for bottles or gallon jugs, plus stays out of the way by virtue of being higher.

“I enjoy seeing how others do things and how they optimize their job,” Thompson says.

Chad Braun
Chad Braun, golf and turf equipment fleet manager/technician at Town & Country Club in St. Paul, Minn., talked equipment maintenance during his power hour. Photo by Roger Billings

• Chad Braun’s message was so good he said it twice. And once more for good measure.

“it’s easier to maintain than restore.”

Braun, golf and turf equipment fleet manager/technician at Town & Country Club in St. Paul, Minn., facilitated a power hour titled “Everyone Likes New Equipment.” A significant part of Braun’s presentation, however, focused on caring for what you already have in your equipment arsenal. “Pride in ownership. (Equipment) operators will tend to respect it (equipment) more than if it looks old, worn out, even if it isn’t,” Braun said.

Other tips from Braun included: 

  • Wax repels dirt, making cleaning easier and protects the finish.
  • Towels are essential, especially 15- by 25-inch hand towels because you are less prone from dragging them on the ground.
  • Hot water pressure keep equipment clean and require lower pressure and less detergent.

Oh, and one more thing Braun is passionate about regarding maintenance operations: if he sees green wheels on a shiny mower, well, he isn’t happy. “People who know me know it’s one of my biggest pet peeves,” Braun says.


John Fech
University of Nebraska’s John C. Fech, left, outlines challenges with trees on a golf course at this morning’s Power Hour on Turf Solutions during the GCSAA Conference and Trade Show in Orlando. Photo by Darrell J. Pehr.

• John C. Fech, Ph.D., University of Nebraska-Lincoln, chatted with audience members at this morning’s Power Hour on Turf Solutions during the GCSAA Conference and Trade Show in Orlando. Fech and three other moderators outlined solutions to turf challenges ranging from ways to combat poor soil and water quality, led by Paul Cushing, owner and agronomist at Paul Cushing Agronomic Turfgrass Systems; techniques to reduce nitrogen use on golf courses by A.J. Lindsey, Ph.D., University of Florida; an outline of a hydroponic approach to growing turfgrass by Capillary Hydroponics’ Martin Sternberg, founder and CEO; and Fech’s tips on managing the interaction between turf and trees on golf courses.

Fech noted that it is important to remember that trees planted close to turf will share the same root system, and therefore be impacted similarly by irrigation, fertilization and herbicide treatments.

Panelists discuss staffing challenges and solutions at the Monday morning power hour “Work is Hard — Especially with No Workers.&rdquo at the 2023 GCSAA Conference and Trade Show in Orlando. Photo by Andrew Hartsock

• Recruiting newcomers, especially youths, into the industry was the common theme shared by panelists at the Power Hour “Work is Hard — Especially with No Workers.” All five panelists discussed the importance of getting youngsters interested early to begin to develop pipelines into the industry, and each explored a different tack.

Marc Connerly, executive director of the GCSA of Northern California, discussed that chapter’s housing grant program, which provides up to $1,000 per month for four months per qualifying intern. After budgeting $8,000 for the first year of the program, surprising demand forced an increase to $14,000 in housing grants for seven interns. The budget was hiked to $20,000 this year. “Housing,” Connerly said, “is the biggest challenge to attracting talent to California.”

Jada Paisley, executive director of the Michigan Golf Course Association, discussed that state’s fledgling registered apprenticeship program, in which participants can serve as apprentices on courses to learn on the job and earn a national occupation certificate. “It’s all about exposure,” she said, “while filling a critical need.”

JR Wilson, CTEM, equipment manager at Noyac Golf Club in Sag Harbor, N.Y., and a nine-year GCSAA member, talked about his success in recruiting interns from high schools, among family and friends and youth organizations, like the Boy Scouts. “Go to the school counsellor,” he said, “and tell them, ‘I have this playground of a place they can work.’ Who wouldn’t want that?”

Mike Richardson, Ph.D., and a 24-year Educator member of GCSAA, talked about the University of Arkansas recruitment efforts, including work with the National FFA Organization. U of A recently held an FFA Career Development Event, which he likened to a high school Turf Bowl. He reported an uptick in turfgrass enrollment at Arkansas, but stressed the need to recruit more. “If you send them to me,” he said, “I’ll get ’em trained and send you back and assistant. That’s my promise.”

Former superintendent Tyler Bloom, a GCSAA Class A superintendent and 11-year member now working as an industry labor recruiter, stressed recruitment to individual facilities was crucial. “If you don’t have the bandwidth to handle it yourself,” he said, speaking to head superintendents, “pass it off to your assistant and let them develop their leadership skills. Let them make that call. … There’s a lot of different angles for recruitment. Just focus on one or two initiatives, and be persistent and patient.”

Sunday, February 5

A pair of fresh faces and a past champion find themselves tied for the lead following Sunday’s first round of the GCSAA National Championships.

Shawn Westacott, the director of agronomy at Blessings Golf Club in Fayetteville, Ark., and the winner of the 2016 event, fired a 1-over-par 73 on the National Course at ChampionsGate Golf Club to top the leaderboard after day one. He’s joined there by Edward Martinez, the superintendent at Las Colinas Country Club in Irving, Texas, and Richard Moore, who is the assistant superintendent at Aurora Hills Golf Course in Aurora, Colo., who both also shot 73s on Sunday.

Two other players find themselves a shot back heading into tomorrow’s final round, which will be played on the International Course at ChampionsGate — Dylan Foster, the assistant superintendent at Verandah Golf Course in Fort Myers, Fla., and Adam Sauls, the assistant superintendent at Kinloch Golf Club in Manakin Sabot, Va.

For complete tournament results from Sunday’s rounds, go to golfgenius.com/pages/4025524.

A pair of GCSAA members took home a little something extra from the GCSAA Golf Championships after the Toro Par-3 Shootout, which took place at the 19th Hole Reception on Sunday. Kyle Moses, the superintendent at Tower Tee Golf in St. Louis, Mo., won a new Toro Workman GTX Lithium in the main closest-to-the-pin contest with a shot that finished 7 feet from the pin. He qualified to participate in the shootout during his tournament round earlier Sunday.

In a separate closest-to-the-pin contest for entrants who donated to the GCSAA Foundation, retired superintendent John Newton — who will be honored with GCSAA’s Col. John Morley Award later this week — took home a $500 prize with his 100-yard shot that landed 4 feet, 11 inches from the hole.