December 2023

Winter Meeting to Focus on Assistants

The role of assistant golf course superintendents during renovations will be highlighted during a special education session at the Carolinas GCSA’s first event of 2024, the annual Winter Meeting, at Daniel Island Club in Charleston, SC next month. Attendees will hear from two experienced superintendents who successfully negotiated their own recent renovations in the face of significant obstacles.

The education session on January 7 will be led by event host, Joey Franco, CGCS, director of agronomy at Daniel Island, and Carolinas GCSA past-president, Billy Bagwell, from Callawassie Island Club in Okatie, SC. Franco rebuilt and regrassed 37 greens in just six months in the lead up to hosting this year’s U.S. Junior Championship. Bagwell renovated each of his club’s three nines despite losing his golf course maintenance facility to fire.

Their presentation will be followed by another on budgeting from Chris Neff, the new USGA Green Section agronomist in the Southeast. The education precedes a late afternoon reception with a golf tournament following the next morning. The tournament features the Carolinas GCSA Assistant Superintendent Championship and a two-person team competition.

The winner of the Assistant Superintendent Championship automatically qualifies for the Carolinas GCSA’s team in the Virlina Cup, to be contested in the Carolinas in the fall. The Winter Meeting tournament is open to all Carolinas GCSA members, so long as there is an assistant on the team.

“This will be a great opportunity for any assistant superintendent,” says recently elected Carolinas GCSA president, Pete Gerdon, from Grandfather Golf and Country Club in Linville, NC. “This is education geared directly to them. With business so healthy, many facilities are looking to upgrade their courses, so the subject matter – on both renovating and budgeting - is very timely.”

Registration for the annual Winter Meeting will open this week on our website.


Calendar of Events

December 5
TTA Annual Christmas Party - Brier Creek Country Club - Raleigh, NC

December 7
MTA Mendell-Bedenbaugh Memorial Golf Outing - Ponderosa Golf Club

UTA Annual Oyster Roast - The Preserve at Verdae - Greenville, SC

December 9
NSTA Christmas Party - Legion - Charlotte, NC

December 11
Low Country GCSA 7th Annual Mike Carn Christmas Tournament - Hilton Head National Golf Club

December 14
Palmetto GCSA December Meeting - Toys for Tots - Pawleys Plantation Golf Club

Coastal Plains GCSA Christmas Tournament - Shadowmoss Golf Club




Wilkerson’s Award an Incentive for Colleagues

Mitchell Wilkerson, CGCS has been to his share of GCSAA Conferences over the years, but he is looking forward to the 2024 show in Phoenix, AZ in February even more than usual. Wilkerson, from Moss Creek Owners Association on Hilton Head Island, SC will be honored at the show with an award recognizing his commitment to environmental excellence at 36-hole Moss Creek.

Yes, he’s happy to be honored for his efforts but for Wilkerson, a Carolinas GCSA past-president, he says he will be just as thrilled to be representing his colleagues in the region. “I know a lot of superintendents in the Carolinas who are doing great things as stewards of the environment,” he says. “Most of them never get the recognition they deserve. I hope bringing a little of the spotlight to what we’re doing at Moss Creek maybe encourages them to put up their hand for an award next year.”

Wilkerson was honored with first place in the communications and outreach division of the Environmental Leaders in Golf Awards presented by GCSAA and Golf Digest in partnership with Syngenta. He uses a series of informative boards and posters around the golf courses and club facilities to illustrate work that he and his staff do promoting environmental features and wildlife on the property. His win rewards a philosophy he held even before Moss Creek achieved certification as an Audubon International Cooperative Sanctuary in 2012.

“My view with the Audubon certification was that we were already doing everything to qualify, so why not do the paperwork and be recognized for it,” he says. “I think that for some superintendents the prospect of that paperwork can be daunting, just as it might be when it comes to awards like this. But I think it’s important for superintendents to do all we can to tell our good news stories. If we don’t, who will?”


Conference and Show Hits New Heights

There were plenty of winners at this year’s Carolinas GCSA Conference and Trade Show, and none of them more important than the 1,800 members of the association itself. They will be the ultimate beneficiaries of the highest-grossing event in the history of the conference. This year’s show in Myrtle Beach, SC from November 13 to 15 grossed more than $830,000, an increase of about 15 percent over the previous high.

“The great success of Conference and Show means we can continue to deliver the programs and services our members depend on,” Carolinas GCSA executive director, Tim Kreger, says. “And it puts us in a strong position to consider new ways we can bring value to our members. That’s always our goal.”

Kreger points out that the growth in revenues was generated by increased participation rather than cost increases. “There were a couple of $5 increases here and there but overwhelmingly, our event pricing remained unchanged from 2021,” he says. “This was a record-breaking show because so many people and so many industry partners wanted to be a part of it, and the industry is healthy enough for them to do that. It’s as simple as that.”

Total attendance of 1,995 was the highest in a decade behind the high-water mark of 2,006 set in 2013. Education seminars, where 1,511 seats were sold in the program presented in partnership with Syngenta, beat the previous high of 1,366 set in 2019. The golf championship, presented in partnership with Toro and Smith Turf & Irrigation, drew 374 golfers across three courses. The previous record was 358 set in 2019.

“That’s entirely because of the wonderful participation of our members and the support of our industry partners,” he says. “The fact is, in an increasingly online world, people want to be at our Conference and Show, to learn, to do business and to build their professional network.”

Ace Among a Host of Memories Made

A host of individuals made memories for a lifetime at this year’s Carolinas GCSA Conference and Show, not least among them, Steve Agazzi, from Charleston Municipal Golf Course in Charleston, SC. It wasn’t just that Agazzi won his fourth Carolinas GCSA Golf Championship, it was how he capped it off. On his closing hole, the 18th at True Blue Golf Club, Agazzi dunked his tee shot into the water, took a penalty drop, then holed out from the fairway for a remarkable birdie.

That shot sealed a five-under par round of 67 that could have been lower still. “Honestly, I didn’t putt all that great,” Agazzi says. “I definitely left some out there.” Even so, he played well enough to win by five from his nearest rivals, Chase Smith, from Cabarrus Country Club, and host superintendent at True Blue, Kevin Thompkins.

Another memory-maker in the golf championship was Chris DeVane, from the Country Club of Lexington in Lexington, SC, who produced a hole-in-one, his first, on the par-3 11th hole during captain’s choice play at Caledonia Golf and Fish Club.

Ron Kelly, CGCS will never forget hearing his name drawn as the grand prize winner in the 27-Hole Challenge presented in partnership with John Deere Golf, Revels Turf and Tractor and Beard Equipment Company. But he will make even greater memories when he “cashes in” on his prize, a fishing trip for two to Panama. The prize was donated by Ecological Improvements.

Others who will remember this year’s show included Dr. Fred Yelverton, of North Carolina State University, who received the Distinguished Service Award, the highest honor bestowed by the association. Eric Church, from Hound Ears Club in Blowing Rock, NC was named Turf Equipment Technician of the Year by the Turf Equipment Technicians Association of the Carolinas.

One GAP Closed, Many More to Go

In early January of 2023, a group of golf course employees-turned students walked in the door at Sandhills Community College as the inaugural cohort of the USGA’s Greenkeeper Apprenticeship Program (GAP). Full-time golf course employees from 10 golf courses in the Pinehurst area decided to take a chance on themselves and commit to a year of professional development.

For some, it was their first time setting foot on a college campus as an enrolled student. For others, it had been decades and there was some rust to shake off. For everyone however, it was an exciting opportunity to meet a group of people who come from all walks of life with a shared purpose of learning more about greenkeeping.

Each student was paired with a mentor at their golf course. Through the cold mornings in the early part of the year to the hot afternoons in the middle of the summer, students and mentors worked through projects and began to build a bridge between the theory in the classroom and the application in the field. As summer gave way to fall, the students returned to campus to finish their journey and began the process of building a professional growth plan beyond GAP.

As the year comes to a close, 19 professionals ranging in age from early 20s to mid-60s, will complete their GAP journey. From irrigation heads to seed heads, the students learned it all. And as a result, they each earned two local credentials from Sandhills Community College, a journey Worker Card through ApprenticeshipNC and the U.S. Department of Labor, and admiration across the golf course industry as trail blazers.

But just as the students in the first cohort hang up the student cap and become focused professionals again, a second cohort begins their journey in January. If a free, one-year professional development journey in Pinehurst sounds appealing, reach out to Carson Letot at to learn more.

     - Carson Letot, USGA