December 2021

New President Issues Immediate Challenge

The Carolinas GCSA’s 48th president, Billy Bagwell, 36, from Callawassie Island Club in Okatie, SC, wasted no time in his new role issuing a challenge to members the moment he took up the gavel at the association’s annual business meeting. Bagwell prefaced his challenge by paying tribute to how the association and its members met and overcame the challenge presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. “We came out on the other side better and stronger than we’ve ever been,” he said.

Then he looked forward. “I want to challenge you, challenge our staff, challenge this board, to use this past year as motivation to make 2022 our best year yet. A year where we get back to what we are best at, fellowship and camaraderie. I challenge you to attend the local association meeting you haven't been to in years, to donate a round of golf to Rounds 4 Research … volunteer to serve your local association. Whatever it is, let’s restart, refresh, and get back to what we are best at, working together to not only make this association better, but more importantly, working together to make our teams back home better, our friendships better, our families. We are better when we are together.”

Bagwell also made a point of paying tribute to the service of the man he replaced, Brian Stiehler, CGCS, MG from Highlands Country Club in Highlands, NC. Stiehler served a rare two-year term in office to help provide stability during the pandemic.

“Brian was given the most challenging presidency in our association’s history,” Bagwell said, looking towards Stiehler. “But I can’t think of a better person to be at the helm over the past two years…We wouldn’t be standing here in the shape we are today if it was not for the leadership you provided.”

Calendar of Events

December 7, 2021
MTA December Meeting - Ponderosa Golf Club

December 9, 2021
UTA 2021 Christmas Oyster Roast/Low Country Boil - Preserve at Verdae Clubhouse

December 14, 2021
Triangle Turfgrass Association Christmas Party/Spouse Appreciation Night - North Ridge Country Club

December 16, 2021
Coastal Plains GCSA Shadowmoss Christmas Outing

Winter Meeting
January 9 and 10, 2022
Dataw Island
Saint Helena Island, SC



Conference and Show Returns with a Bang

“For once, we didn’t break any records. But by any numerical measure – attendance, exhibitor support, overall participation, you name it – it was still a hugely successful show. Most importantly though, we brought people together again, face to face, and they loved it. We all loved it. From start to finish, the atmosphere was incredible.” That is how Carolinas GCSA executive director, Tim Kreger, sums up this year’s Conference and Trade Show in Myrtle Beach, SC last month.

Across the board, the event topped at least 90 percent of record levels. The only exceptions were in the number of seminar seats and partnership revenues, which were both above 98 percent of the best levels in show history. The result is that the association remains on a firm financial footing and Conference and Show remains the pre-eminent regional event in the nation for golf course superintendents.

That is a great outcome after some of the most challenging times in the association’s history. As outgoing secretary-treasurer, Chuck Connolly, said before delivering his final report at the annual meeting: “Well, ladies and gentlemen, it’s been quite a wild ride.” Remarkably, though, you wouldn’t know it from the association’s balance sheet. Even with the cancelation of last year’s show because of the pandemic, the association maintained services without having to dip into financial reserves.

“None of what happened last year and what happened at the show this year would be possible if there was a weak link in the chain,” Kreger says. “We where we are today as an association is because our members, our industry partners and our researchers are in synch, and totally get the idea that real success is a collaborative effort. And that’s not new in the Carolinas, it has been the culture all along. We are extremely grateful.”

Show Generates Waves Of Positive Reviews

Not surprisingly, plenty of people had plenty of great things to say about the 2021 Carolinas GCSA Conference and Trade Show. “Walking out of the Myrtle Beach Convention Center last Wednesday afternoon, it was hard to think that everything about another Carolinas GCSA Conference and Show was anything other than perfect,” wrote Matt Lawell, managing editor of Golf Course Industry magazine.

New association president, Billy Bagwell, from Callawassie Island Club in Okatie, SC, tweeted: “What a week it has been! So honored to serve alongside so many great people. The @CarolinasGCSA is made up of many incredible people and we saw this week what happens when people work together to chase the same dream. Thank you for this honor to serve as the next president of the Carolinas GCSA.”

Steve Whitaker, from The WildeWood Club in Columbia, SC, agreed and went so far as to snap a photo (see above) of two of those “incredible people” and thank them for their efforts. Whitaker wrote: “Now I get to share a pic with the true heroes of the #CarolinasShow2021…these ladies do an amazing job for all of us in the @CarolinasGCSA and all the local associations. I feel comfortable in saying thank you from all of the members and attendees. God Bless.”

The love came from far and wide. Kristie Hurst, one half of the Missouri-based musical duo, Midlife, that played at Carolinas Night at the Beach, wrote: “I don’t think @CarolinasGCSA and @TKCarolinasGCSA could have put on a better show this week, and I’m already jonesing to go back next year. I finally got to meet my #TurfTwitter family! Life is good.”

Michigan’s Steve Hammon, a GCSAA board candidate, tweeted: “What an amazing program of world class education, social events and golf. Thank you, Tim @TKCarolinas and your staff for the great hospitality. Thank you to everyone for your sincere support of me and my campaign.”

Early 2022 Events Showcase Working Life of Two Brians

The Carolinas GCSA kicks off 2022 with a big-time double, with the return of the annual winter meeting at Dataw Island Club in January and the annual Southeast Regional Conference at Lonnie Poole Golf Course in March. “It is so good to be fully back in action,” Carolinas GCSA executive director, Tim Kreger, says. “People left Conference and Show on such a high and with so much energy that we’re expecting a great turnout to both these events to get the new year off to a bright start.”

The winter meeting at Dataw, just outside Beaufort on St. Helena Island, on January 9 and 10 features education, a social and a golf tournament that includes the assistant superintendent championship. The championship is guaranteed to have a new winner following the move by Dylan Jordan to The Olde Farm in Virginia. Jordan won the title in 2019 and 2020 while working for Billy Lewis at Dormie Club in West End, NC. Last year’s winter meeting was canceled because of the pandemic.

Hosts for the event are director of golf course maintenance, Brian Hollingsworth, CGCS and superintendents, Chris Newnham and Kevyn Towery, CGCS. The event includes education and a golf tournament that features the associations assistant superintendent championship. Hollingsworth, a former Carolinas GCSA director, has been at Dataw since mid-2005 and has overseen the renovation of the club’s two courses, Cotton Dike and Morgan River. The Tom Fazio designed Cotton Dike will host the golf tournament.

A current Carolinas GCSA director, Brian Green, will host the Southeast Regional Conference at Lonnie Poole in Raleigh, NC on March 14 and 15. The Carolinas GCSA was to head there last March but again the pandemic made that impossible. “Both Brians have gone above and beyond in their commitment to the Carolinas GCSA,” Kreger says. “So, I’m very glad they are finally getting the chance to show off what they can do when they put away the coat and tie.”

GCSAA Honors Farren With Pinnacle Award

Bob Farren’s recognition as the 2022 winner of GCSAA’s newly elevated Col. John Morley Award is another feather in an already well-adorned cap, for Farren, for Pinehurst Resort, and for the Carolinas GCSA. Farren, CGCS director of golf course and grounds management at Pinehurst, will receive the award in a special ceremony during the opening session of the 2022 GCSAA Conference and Trade Show in San Diego, CA in February.

The Col. John Morley Award, named for GCSAA’s founder, was revamped in 2021 to join the status of GCSAA’s other Pinnacle Award, the Old Tom Morris Award, now limited to those outside GCSAA membership who have helped mold the welfare of the game.

During Farren’s tenure, Pinehurst No. 2 earned the distinction as the site of more golf championships than any other course in America, including the U.S. Open, PGA Championship, Ryder Cup Matches, and PGA Tour Championship. Farren has been involved in 14 USGA championships, including three U.S. Opens, and was crucial in the unprecedented double of 2014, when No. 2 hosted the U.S. Open and the U.S. Women’s Open in consecutive weeks. The USGA last year announced Pinehurst would serve as an “anchor site” for the U.S. Open, to be played on No. 2 in 2024, 2029, 2035, 2041 and 2047.

His contributions to the industry extend well beyond high-profile events. Among the other accolades Farren has received include GCSAA’s President’s Award for Environmental Stewardship in 2007; Golf Digest’s Green Star Award for outstanding environmental practices in 2014; ANUVIA’s Legends Award in 2018 and induction into the Carolinas Golf Hall of Fame in 2018. He was Carolinas GCSA president in 1995.

“We’re very proud that a Carolinian has been chosen as the first recipient of the newly elevated award,” says new Carolinas GCSA president, Billy Bagwell. “Bob Farren has given so much to the profession and, indeed, the golf industry. For decades he has been a standard-setter and a great voice for what we do as golf course superintendents. So, as proud as we are, we’re even more grateful to him.”