Show Hits New Highs

Just three years ago at this time, people took lonely education classes on Zoom, and Myrtle Beach Convention Center sat empty because of the pandemic. The contrast with what is taking place at the Carolinas GCSA Conference and Show right now could hardly be greater.

This year’s show promises to blow most previous benchmarks out the door. In fact, it already has. Even before the conference opened yesterday, a total of 1,387 seminar seats were sold and 211 companies bought 405 booths on the trade show floor. Those numbers could grow higher still. On top of that, 376 golfers signed up for the Carolinas GCSA Golf Championship yesterday.

All those numbers represent new highs in the history of the event and point to an amazing renaissance for the golf industry in the wake of the pandemic. Rounds and club memberships that surged so unexpectedly during the pandemic have remained high. That sustained activity is reflected in a spate of new course construction and renovations across the region not seen since the early 2000s.

“This is going to be a special week,” Carolinas GCSA executive director, Tim Kreger, says. “When we set records even before the doors open, you know that something special is happening in the industry. And our people - people in golf course maintenance - are playing a major role in that success.

“For so long, superintendents did an amazing job with shrinking resources to help keep clubs and courses afloat. Our industry partners were a big part of that too in ways most golfers will never realize. But we do, and that’s why everyone here this week – whether they are in a seminar, visiting a booth, or working the booth - deserves to feel good about the job they do.”

This year’s trade show opens at 3:30pm and runs until 7pm, with food and beverages available on the trade show floor with Carolinas Night from 4pm until 8pm.

Agazzi Takes Title No. 4

Steve Agazzi, from Charleston Municipal Golf Course, is this year’s Carolinas GCSA golf champion after shooting a five under par round of 67 at True Blue Golf Club yesterday. Agazzi made five birdies, including four on a back nine of 31, to beat his nearest rivals by five. It was Agazzi’s fourth Carolinas’ title to go with previous wins in 2010, 2012 and 2014.

Those next in line with even par rounds of 72 were host superintendent at True Blue, Kevin Thompkins, and Chase Smith, assistant superintendent at Cabarrus Country Club in Concord, NC. One shot further back was Riley Boyette, assistant superintendent at Carolina Country Club in Raleigh, NC. Like Agazzi now, Boyette is a four-time winner of the championship.

The golf championship presented in partnership with Toro and Smith Turf & Irrigation attracted a record 376 golfers across three courses - True Blue; Caledonia Golf and Fish Club, where Jackson Clemons is director of agronomy; and Wachesaw Plantation Club, where Scott Fretz is superintendent.

Among other highlights to come out of the competition was a hole-in-one on the par 3 11th hole at Caledonia by Chris DeVane, from the Country Club of Lexington (SC). It was the first ace of his playing career and a nice ribbon on his service as a member of the Carolinas GCSA board of directors. DeVane is not seeking re-election at tomorrow’s annual business meeting.

Agazzi is a regular member of the Carolinas team that competes against the Virginia GCSA for the Virlina Cup and was part of the record 8-0 drubbing that the Carolinas team handed out on day one this year to secure the cup. In 2014, he was one half of the winning team in the South Carolina Golf Association’s Mixed Team Championship. Arden Smith, a Carolinas GCSA past president, holds the record for the most Carolinas GCSA championships with six.
Yelverton Recounts “Bombshell” Story

Those who read the cover story in the September-October issue of Carolinas Green will recall how lucky the golf turf world was to even have Dr. Fred Yelverton for a day let alone an entire career. After all, Yelverton - this year’s Distinguished Service Award winner - did break his back falling out of a deer stand at 21 and was almost struck by lightning on a field trip tracking bears as an undergraduate student. Turns out, there was an even bigger close call years before those incidents.

Yelverton was around two years old on the family farm in Black Creek, NC when we very nearly didn’t lose just him but a whole host of other people in the state and likely far beyond. This was back in the days of the Cold War and at the time it was U.S. policy to have a plane with a nuclear payload airborne 24 hours a day.

That may have been a great deterrent to our rivals, but it didn’t help much when a Boeing B-52 Stratofortress carrying two 3.8-megaton Mark 39 nuclear bombs broke up mid-air and everything crashed to earth, just miles from young Fred and his family. Three airmen died and four survived after ejecting but who knows what the toll would have been had even one of those bombs gone off.

“They were like five times more powerful than what was dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki,” Yelverton, from North Carolina State University, says. Information declassified since 2013 shows that one of the bombs was judged by nuclear weapons engineers to have been only one safety switch away from detonation.

As a result, Yelverton lived to tell the tale at a small reception honoring him and fellow turfgrass science legend, Dr. Bert McCarty, at the Aero Club in Myrtle Beach on Sunday night, hosted by Mike Johnson, of Agrono-Lytics Turf Consulting. Both Yelverton and McCarty, from Clemson University, retire next year.

Assistants Event Kicks Off Week

More than 100 people turned out for Conference and Show’s opening event, the Assistant Superintendent Reception at Banditos Cantina on Sunday night. It wasn’t just assistants who turned out. Current president, Chuck Connolly; incoming president, Pete Gerdon; and past president, Don Garrett, CGCS were also there, along with several Carolinas GCSA board members.

“It was such a good time. There was a great turnout,” says assistant committee chair, Ashley Kendall Sutton. “I feel like the event continues to grow in popularity and we really appreciate seeing board members, superintendents and industry partners come along, to celebrate with us.”

Kendall Sutton, from TPC Piper Glen in Charlotte, NC serves on the assistants committee with Luke Baker, from Linville Golf Club in Linville, NC; Weston Dean, from Bald Head Island Club; and Brian Crislip, from Wachesaw Plantation Club. Sunday night’s reception was presented in partnership with Gloves Plus and Motorola Solutions.

Cribbet on Target in Clays

Adam Cribbet, from Old Tabby Links at Spring Island, won this year’s Carolinas GCSA Sporting Clay Championship. Cribbet was among more than 50 shooters who competed at Backwoods Quail Club in Georgetown. The sporting clay championship is presented in partnership with Carolina Fresh Farms, Envu and Harrell’s.

Runner-up in the superintendent division was Alex Berry, from Golden Hills Golf and Country Club in Lexington, SC. Perennial “shooting star” James Duke, of Triangle Turf and Ornamental, won the affiliate championship, ahead of Justin Watts, of Albaugh Specialty Products.