Carolinas’ Online Conference
Generates Buzz Far and Wide
Conference Comes to You, the Carolinas GCSA’s revamped education platform for 2020, is
generating buzz from the middle of the Pacific Ocean to the heart of England. To date, nearly 40 superintendent chapters from Hawaii to Great Britain have signed on as partners to promote the conference and bring its benefits to members.
Registration opened September 25 for the landmark program of 30 seminars starting on November 2. Conference Comes to You will present one two-hour seminar on weekdays through December 18, with a week off over Thanksgiving break. Participants will also share in $30,000
in guaranteed cash giveaways.
“Just getting to this point is a monumental achievement by our association,” Carolinas GCSA president Brian Stiehler, CGCS, MG from Highlands Country Club in Highlands, NC says. “Our members can be proud that their association is both nimble and adept enough to be able to pull this off. Regardless of how many people participate, this program is a successful demonstration of what we are capable of.”
Stiehler paid tribute to executive director Tim Kreger, who devised the concept when it became apparent there could be no traditional Conference and Trade Show this year because of the coronavirus pandemic. “Tim’s creativity and drive are so impressive and there is such a great
staff behind him that ideas become reality,” Stiehler says. “That’s part of the culture in our
association that has roots going back a long, long way. A lot of smart, dedicated people have
worked tirelessly over our history to make all of this possible.”
Stiehler stresses that he is not only talking about superintendents. “Our industry partners are
integral to everything we do,” he says. “Not every association enjoys the kind of loyalty and
support that we get from so many companies and their people. I hope they feel the same level of
pride I do in seeing this project come alive because they are a big part of it.”
USGA to Make Pinehurst
A Second Home by 2023
Golf course superintendents across the Carolinas will benefit from the USGA’s decision to create
what it is calling a “second home” in Pinehurst, NC by 2023. The USGA plans to employ 50
people in and around “Golf House Pinehurst,” which will be part of a development that includes
research, testing and Green Section operations. There will also be a museum, visitors center and
offices for the USGA Foundation.
“Obviously, this is tremendously exciting news,” says Pinehurst’s vice-president of golf course
and ground management and Carolinas GCSA past president Bob Farren, CGCS. “It’s been a long time coming in various discussions at various levels, but this really speaks to the DNA of
what Pinehurst is, going all the way back to the Tufts family.”
Farren says for the USGA to also commit to Pinehurst as its first “anchor site” for its biggest
championship, the U.S. Open, further validates Pinehurst’s iconic status as the home of
American golf. Pinehurst No.2 will now host the U.S. Open in 2029, 2035, 2041 and 2047 – in
addition to the already scheduled championship in 2024. As part of the announcement, the
USGA also committed to bringing “other premier championships to the state at an increased
rate” including women’s, senior, amateur and junior events.
The focus and attention that kind of scheduling will bring to the region will further enhance the Carolinas’ reputation as a golfing hub and help spotlight the work of Carolinas GCSA members. Farren says there is also enormous potential for collaboration between the USGA and turfgrass researchers at nearby North Carolina State University and Clemson University.
“There are a lot of exciting synergies that we are talking about. We are still envisioning things that can come out of this,” he says. “But it really is huge and the kind of news we are all the
more grateful for in a year like this one.” The USGA will continue to house primary operations
in New Jersey.
Tot Hill's No. 3 Among Best and also Toughest to Maintain
Brian Hill was probably as happy as anyone when Golf Digest magazine recently rated the par
three third hole at Tot Hill Farm in Asheboro, NC as one of the best 18 holes constructed in the U.S. since 2000. Because if Hill and his team have to work as hard as they do to maintain the hole, there should be some pay off. Frankly, the 185 yard downhill hole known as The Rock is as tough to keep up as it can be to play.
“You have to be really careful how you mow the green and spray the green because you just
have nowhere to turn,” says Hill, who came to Tot Hill for his first superintendent job in June
2019 from Oak Valley Golf Club about an hour away in Advance, NC. “Around the left side or
in the front, you have to really study what you’re doing before you get started or you’re going to
end up in the creek.”
It’s not the first time Tot Hill Farm has been acclaimed for its teeth. Golf Digest once rated it the seventh toughest course in the country. Hill will leave that kind of judgment to the players, but he is adamant that Tot Hill is the toughest to maintain of any of the Mike Strantz courses in the Carolinas. Strantz, who died in 2005, designed Tobacco Road, Caledonia, True Blue and Bulls Bay.
“This is by far his hardest to maintain,” Hill says. “We have multiple greens here where there is
no spot to turn around. It’s so easy to box yourself in. We have spots where we have room for
just one pass around a collar then outside that there’s rocks and creeks. We have rocks all over
the place. The weed eating and spraying Roundup around the edges, man, that’s a job in itself.”
Association Recommends Second Term
For Current Board in Difficult Times
With the nation facing what is quite probably the most contentious presidential election in
memory this November, the Carolinas GCSA is at the opposite end of that scale. To provide
stability in the face of the unprecedented impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, members are
being asked to keep the current board of directors for another year.
For the first time since its founding in 1954, the Carolinas GCSA’s annual business meeting at 10am on November 18 will be effectively held in absentia, via Zoom. The online meeting takes the place of the traditional in-person gathering on the final day of Conference and Trade Show, which was cancelled this year because of the pandemic.
“Negotiating our way through this virus is all virgin territory for us,” says nominating committee chair, Matthew Wharton, CGCS, MG from Carolina Golf Club in Charlotte, NC. “It has been an incredibly busy and complicated period, going all the way back to the spring and what it took to keep golf open in both states. Given the experience our leaders gained through that period, we believe it is in the long-term best interests of the association to keep them in place for what may be ahead.”
Wharton says the catalyst for the recommendation came from an off-the-cuff remark on a recent Carolinas GCSA podcast by Jim Evans, senior agronomist with The Cliffs Communities in the
South Carolina Upstate. “I think Jim was just remarking how unfortunate that people serving on
the board haven’t gotten to enjoy the experience in the ways they usually would at events and so
on,” Wharton says. “It got me thinking and the more I thought about it, it made sense to keep
those guys in place if we could.”
Wharton sought input from several past presidents before formalizing the recommendation to
retain the current board. One of them was Steve Sheets from Linville Ridge Golf Club in
Linville, NC who was the last Carolinas GCSA leader to serve a two-year term, in 1992-’93.
Local Associations Break
Virus Meeting Drought
Finally, after months of cancellations led to their own kind of isolation for golf course
superintendents, some local associations in the Carolinas have been able to bring members
together once again. Both the Lowcountry GCSA and Coastal Plains GCSA broke their meeting
droughts with well-attended fishing competitions in September.
“It was good to be able to get together with guys again, after all this time,” says Lowcountry
GCSA president Brad Young from Hilton Head National in Bluffton. “Honestly, it was pretty
deflating having to cancel event after event because of COVID-19. We had so much planned out
that we were looking forward to this year.”
Young says there is at least one more event for the Lowcountry GCSA with the annual Mike
Carn Memorial Christmas Tournament in December. “Maybe we can do something else too, but
I know we can have the Christmas tournament because my club hosts it,” he says. “Still, it was
great to see so many people take part in the fishing tournament because it’s been such a
Young says 45 anglers fished from 15 boats and thanks to Gregg Baxter, were able to gather for
the weigh-in at the dock at Spanish Wells Country Club. Another 22 anglers from eight boats
fished in the Coastal Plains GCSA event around the same time. “A few of the guys have been
getting together here and there over the past few months,” says Brent Bagwell from Snee Farm
Country Club in Mt. Pleasant. “But nothing of this size. It was good to have something official
and get things moving again.”
Also, in September, about 20 members of the Upstate Turfgrass Association in South Carolina gathered for a social event at 3s Greenville Golf and Grill. The momentum continues this month
with the Blue Ridge GCSA, Western North Carolina Turfgrass Association and Piedmont GCSA
all scheduling golf outings.