June 2023

Carolinas Award Hits Home for Yelverton

There was a period earlier this year when Fred Yelverton was the toast of the national golf course superintendent community. Naturally, as the recipient of GCSAA’s Outstanding Contribution Award, Yelverton was justifiably grateful when he was honored on stage at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, FL. The spotlight could hardly have been brighter.

Contrast that with the relative anonymity of where Yelverton found himself in May, during a field visit to Wilmington Municipal Golf Course in Wilmington, NC when he learned he would receive the Carolinas GCSA’s highest honor, the Distinguished Service Award. There he was in shorts and sunglasses when two superintendents approached in similar outfits. One was even in flip flops.

Those superintendents were Carolinas GCSA board members Matthew Smith, from Wilmington Muni, and Brian Green, from Lonnie Poole Golf Course at NC State in Raleigh, NC. “I saw them ride up on a cart and Brian’s steps out in flip flops, and I thought, ‘Oh, he must be down here on vacation,’” Yelverton says. “Then they told me the news. It was so cool the way they did it because it caught me totally by surprise.”

As the news sank in, Yelverton realized that it wasn’t just the informal setting that differed from his time on stage at GCSAA’s Conference and Show. “The GCSAA award was wonderful, and I was very honored but this one (the Carolinas DSA) really means a lot because it comes from people I know and have worked most directly with for years. For them to say, ‘Yeah, this is the guy’ is something I value greatly.”

For nearly 30 years now, Dr. Fred Yelverton, professor and turfgrass weed scientist at NC State, has been a wonderful ally to golf course superintendents. He will receive the Distinguished Service Award at the Carolinas GCSA Conference and Show in Myrtle Beach, SC in November, presumably with no flip flips in sight.

Calendar of Events

October 2-3, 2023
Fall Mountain Meeting Linville Ridge Country Club Linville, NC Registration will open after Labor Day

October 8-10, 2023
Virlina Cup Golden Horseshoe Golf Club Williamsburg, VA

November 13-15, 2023
Annual Conference and Show Myrtle Beach Convention Center Myrtle Beach, SC Booth Sales open in July Attendee registration opens in September



Carolinas Sets New Highs Raising Research Funds

The Carolinas GCSA continues to lead the way raising money for turfgrass research after another bumper Rounds 4 Research auction. Donations from golf facilities in the Carolinas generated more than $140,000 for the annual online event. That netted the Carolinas GCSA a total of $112,986.80 for research programs in the region, a new record and the highest amount raised by any GCSAA chapter.

Highlights of this year’s auction included the fact that about 10 percent of the record 313 total donations were from facilities participating for the first time in the history of the auction. One of them, Wade Hampton Golf Club in Cashiers, NC, where Eric Shomaker is director of golf course operations, attracted a winning bid in excess of $12,000.

It was the first time an item in the Carolinas sold for more than $10,000. Secession Golf Club in Beaufort, SC – one of a select group of facilities that has made a donation every year – sold for $6,800.

“I can’t say enough about the work of our board members this year,” says Carolinas GCSA executive director, Tim Kreger. “They took the entire roster of courses in the two states and made a concerted effort to get as many facilities involved as possible. Every board member made calls, and as always, every donation mattered. I’m proud of the board and of our members who made this year’s auction so successful.”

The Georgia GCSA raised the second most, with close to $50,000. The highest amount paid for any item was $13,010 for a foursome at Ohoopee Match Club in Cobbtown, GA where Carolinas GCSA member and 2003 golf champion, Rhett Baker, is golf course superintendent.

The records set in the Carolinas also helped raise the bar nationally. More than 1,500 items attracted more than 16,000 individual bids that generated more than $544,500 across the U.S. Rounds 4 Research began in the Carolinas before being adopted by GCSAA in 2012. Since then, the program has raised more than $3 million.

Hamilton “Knee Deep” For New Tour Event

With his 50th birthday and 25th wedding anniversary coming up, Steve Hamilton, CGCS knew that 2023 was going to be a big year. But it has turned out to be bigger than anything he imagined. In May, Hamilton learned for sure that a new PGA Tour event was coming to The Dunes Golf and Beach Club in Myrtle Beach, SC where he has been golf course superintendent since 2001. The Myrtle Beach Classic will debut over Mother’s Day weekend next year.

“It is awesome news for Myrtle Beach and for South Carolina. Naturally, we are all really excited, but honestly, we don’t have time for that,” Hamilton says. “There is way too much to get done between now and then to be sitting back thinking about how cool it is going to be.”

Within a couple of weeks of the event’s formal announcement, Hamilton, a Carolinas GCSA past president, was “knee deep” in construction of all kinds at The Dunes Club. To prepare for the Tour event, Hamilton is leveling and regrassing all championship tees, and some are being pushed further back, with minor tweaks to others. All will be converted to zoysiagrass.

“We’ve also got a lot to do in terms of getting our staff levels up for the work that is ahead of us,” he says. “In an ideal world we would have two years to get ready but as of today, we have 11 months. Still, we’re glad it’s happening because given Myrtle Beach’s prominence in the golf world, there probably should have been a PGA Tour event in the city for the past 30 years.”

From 1994 to 1999, The Dunes Club did host the Players Championship on what was then called the Senior Tour. Next year’s Myrtle Beach Classic, the first in a four-year initial arrangement, will feature a purse of $3.9 million.

Carolinas’ Members Prominent In Government Relations Work

Carolinas golf course superintendents continue to forge a strong presence in governmental circles thanks to recent events like National Golf Day in Washington, DC. Several Carolinas GCSA leaders were among the regional contingent that traveled north in May to talk industry issues with lawmakers and their advisors.

“An office in DC may seem a long way from a fairway in the Carolinas but it’s really not,” says Carolinas GCSA president, Chuck Connolly. “Because policies and laws they put together in those offices have a direct impact on what we can and cannot do on the course, not to mention the financial implications of things like tax and immigration laws.”

Connolly, from Savannah Lakes Village in McCormick, SC, was accompanied by secretary-treasurer, Alex Tolbert, from Orangeburg Country Club in Orangeburg, SC. Kyle Gentry, from Finley Golf Club in Chapel Hill, NC also attended as part of the NuFarm Excel Leadership Program. Charles Cecil, who was based in the Carolinas at the time but is now at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, GA was also in the group.

“It’s clear that lawmakers know who we are now because of our industry’s annual presence through Golf Day,” Connolly says. “That is important because it is always easier to do business with people you know. I feel like they trust our perspective and know that we want to be part of the solution, and not the problem.”

National Golf Day followed a similar event in South Carolina in April where Carolinas GCSA leaders and allied golf associations took part in Hospitality Day at the State House in Columbia. That annual event celebrates the game’s pinnacle role in the tourism industry’s economic impact in the state. “Outreach efforts like this in the Carolinas are why our golf was able to stay open during the pandemic,” Connolly says. “We have not only earned a seat at the table, we’ve also established a voice.”

Two Carolinas Veterans Call End to Careers

Two veterans of the golf course superintendent profession in the Carolinas retired recently. Between them, Dyrck Fanning, who spent the past two decades at the Bayonet at Puppy Creek in Raeford, NC and Bob Land, who was a fixture at Oconee Country Club in Seneca, SC combined for nearly 70 years as Carolinas GCSA members.

Fanning grew up in Fayetteville, NC and had his first taste of golf course maintenance during high school at the now defunct Green Valley Country Club. He arrived at the Bayonet in 2001 and two years later took on the additional role of general manager. Before the Bayonet, where he maintained bentgrass greens, the longest tenure of his career was a 10-year stint at Pinecrest Country Club in Lumberton. He joined the Carolinas GCSA in 1987.

Fanning was as adept playing a golf course as he was maintaining one. He won the Carolinas GCSA Golf Championship twice, in 1989 and again, nearly two decades later, in 2007. He also won the Robeson County Golf Championship five times along with the 1981 Cumberland County Amateur Championship.

Land served on the Upstate Turfgrass Association board for 10 years during a career spanning 40 years. His last 33 years were at Oconee Country Club. He was among the first in the region to convert his bentgrass greens to Diamond zoysiagrass and was thrilled with the outcome. “Oh, I loved the Diamond,” he says.

Land says he and his wife, Kathy, who retired at the end of last year after 42 years with Duke Energy, are looking forward to “spending some time together” and keeping up with their seven grandchildren.

Fanning retired late last year along with his wife, Michele, who spent more than 30 years as an environmental health specialist with Robeson County. In typical good humor, Fanning says he plans to spend his retirement “Doing nothing and getting really good at it!”