December 2020

Carl Blake: A Member of The Greatest Generation

Dr. Carl Blake taught turfgrass at North Carolina State University so long ago that many of his students are now retired from their own successful careers. One of them, Mike Fabrizio, CGCS spoke for many in the golf and turf industries following Blake’s passing on November 7 at 94, when he said: “He was a huge mentor to me…and I know that he mentored and touched many, many others like myself.”

Fabrizio, best known for his work at Wild Dunes Resort and Daniel Island Club, served as president of the Carolinas GCSA in 1994 and won the association’s Distinguished Service Award in 2014. Another Distinguished Service Award winner, in 2018, Dr. Bert McCarty from Clemson University, was also one of Blake’s students.

“Dr. Blake was an excellent teacher but more importantly, a great all-around guy,” McCarty said. “He was very instrumental in my career, encouraging me to pursue advanced graduate degrees and eventually work as a professor in the university system. He was a member of the greatest generation that was tough as nails but enjoyed life to its fullest. He will be dearly missed.”

Tough indeed. Blake enlisted in the U.S. Navy at age 16 and was one of three survivors when his ship was bombed in the Pacific during World War II. He carried shrapnel from that attack in his leg and hip for the rest of his life.

Through McCarty’s own students and people Fabrizio, and those “many, many others,” helped introduce to the industry, Dr. Blake’s influence remains one of the threads central to what golf course maintenance is in the Carolinas today.

For that work, he, too, won the Distinguished Service Award in 1993. He helped establish the world-class turfgrass program at NC State and was also instrumental in establishing the Turfgrass Council of North Carolina. After retiring from NC State, he became the Carolinas Golf Association’s first agronomist, serving countless superintendents including many he taught years before.

Calendar of Events

December 8, 2020
MTA Annual Mendell Bedenbaugh Memorial Tournament and Christmas Party - Ponderosa Golf Club

December 8, 2020
Palmetto GCSA December Meeting - The Dunes Club

December 14, 2020
LCGCSA Annual Mike Carn Christmas Tournament - Hilton Head National

November 2 – December 18
Conference Comes to You
Register Today!


Online Conference Success Spawns Future Programs

Drawing on the success of Conference Comes to You, the Carolinas GCSA plans to introduce online learning opportunities for members in 2021. With a week and a half of seminars still to go, more than 2,000 seminar “seats” have been filled during Conference Comes to You.

“We think that is a clear signal that this format works for people,” Carolinas GCSA executive director Tim Kreger says. “Of course, we’re optimistic we can return to our traditional in-person Conference and Trade Show in 2021. But we feel like we can supplement that education with some specialized offerings earlier in the year.”

The convenience of online education might allow the association to provide a different range of seminars than members usually look for at Conference and Show. Initial offerings are likely to include a leadership series aimed at assistant superintendents and another on mindfulness, focusing on maintaining a healthy and balanced outlook and approach to life and work.

“Everyone has been forced to adapt in some way shape or form because of the pandemic,” Kreger says. “None of it has been easy but I think we can benefit from the experience and making use of what we’ve built with our own online education format is one way we can do that.”

The number of “seats” sold with Conference Comes to You is already up more than 50 percent on seminars taken at Conference and Show. But Kreger is hopeful that figure will continue to grow in the remaining days as the countdown begins towards a drawing for $30,000 in cash prizes at the end of the conference. Every seminar taken gives attendees an extra chance in the drawing which will be televised live on the Carolinas GCSA Facebook page at 10 a.m. EST on December 21.

To register for a seminar and have a chance at one or more of 82 prizes ranging from $100 to $2,500, visit

Ross’s Last Design First To Adopt New Paths

Raleigh Country Club will always be known for being the last design by the great Donald Ross. Now, it can also claim a first. The course reopened in November after a $5.5-million renovation that included the first U.S. use, on a significant scale, of a new method for constructing cart paths that amounts to recycling.

“A machine tills whatever is existing, be it old path, soil, roots, and incorporates cement and water to create a soil surface. There’s nothing going in a landfill,” McConnell Golf vice president of agronomy, Michael Shoun, says. “The final product is eight to 10 inches of a soil surface that takes on the natural look of the material tilled. It’s call ‘natural path’ — not meant to be a perfectly smooth surface, more like a hard soil path.”

The process was developed in Europe first as a means of stabilizing soils. Ron Kelly, CGCS has a small section at the Country Club of North Carolina but Raleigh is the first to use it course-wide.

Shoun expects the new paths to last a “super long time, like 20 to 25 years or more” and says they are significantly cheaper and quicker to build than conventional asphalt or concrete paths. The tilling machine runs over the existing surface, milling whatever it collects then laying it back in place. A sheepsfoot roller helps compact what is laid down and a smoot roller levels it out.

“What you have doesn’t look like a regular finished cart path. It looks far more natural,” Shoun says. “But it is as hard as a rock and as deep as it is, I don’t see it cracking or being affected by weight or water going across it. It’s a new product so we will see it performs over time but we’re happy with what we have right now.”

Golf Course Owners Honor Turner Revels

The only downside to Turner Revels being named North Carolina Golf Leader for 2020 was that too few people got to shake his hand. In normal times, roughly 2,000 would have at least had the chance at the John Deere booth during Conference and Show in Myrtle Beach, SC. But, of course, these are far from normal times.

The North Carolina Golf Course Owners Association announced the award a few weeks before Conference and Show’s customary time-slot mid-November. But with the show cancelled as a result of the pandemic, most of the congratulations Revels received came by phone, text and email.

The award recognizes “leadership in the golf industry as evidenced by long-term business achievement and/or service to the industry.” Revels is chief executive officer of Revels Turf and Tractor based in Fuquay-Varina, NC.

“Turner Revels is one of the pillars of the golf industry in the region, so for the owners to honor him this way is entirely appropriate,” Carolinas GCSA executive director Tim Kreger says. “He does so much more for the industry than provide turf equipment. He helped get Golf Day off the ground in North Carolina and has been integral to our legislative outreach ever since. And that’s just one example.”  

Revels, who won the Carolinas GCSA Distinguished Service Award in 2016, says he was surprised by the award but grateful all the same. “It was quite an honor,” he says. “It caught me completely off guard, but I was pleased and certainly humbled to be recognized by the golf course owners. I’d like to think the award reflects on how much the owners truly do appreciate the golf course maintenance side of the industry.”

Shortly after Revels’ award was announced, the North Carolina owners named Pinehurst Resort and Country Club as their Golf Course of the Year. The award followed on the heels of the USGA announcing it would establish a secondary base in Pinehurst to be known as Golf House Pinehurst and declaring Pinehurst’s No.2 course as the first U.S. Open “anchor site.”

Sandman Makes it Big In the City of Angels

Some folks move to LA to make it big. Rob Hamrick did it over the phone from the comfort of home right here in the Carolinas. Hamrick, the Asheville, NC-based owner of Golf Agronomics, became a recent “star” in the city of angels when he was the lead in the sports section of the country’s fifth-largest circulating newspaper, The Los Angeles Times.

A story pre-Masters in November, began: “Rob Hamrick could sell sand to the desert.” The story went on: “He has, in fact, shipped 4,000 tons of it from a tiny community tucked in the Blue Ridge Mountains to an exclusive golf course in Dubai.” And also, of course, to another exclusive course in Augusta, GA.

For a long time now, Hamrick and Golf Agronomics have been integral players in providing sand, in this case, granulated quartz from Spruce Pine, to Augusta National Golf Club. That fact tends to make it into print somewhere in the lead up to The Masters most years as media outlets try to explain why Augusta National’s bunkers look the way they do.

“But normally it’s newspapers like the McDowell News or the Mountain Times more locally,” Hamrick says. “It’s been funny to see what’s come out of this story. I’ve had calls and emails along the lines of, “Dude! What are you doing in the LA Times? I had calls from a golf course architect in Michigan. I even heard from one woman in Sweden who wants some of the sand to use in her artwork.”

The Hamrick name goes back a long way in the Carolinas GCSA. Rob’s late father, Bob, was an institution for decades, first with Porter Brothers and later with Greenville Turf Tractor. In 1992, he won the Distinguished Service Award, the year it was introduced.

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