Show Rolls on Like Never Before
Conference and Show is off and running like never before with packed education seminars and a trade show floor buzzing with activity. “This has been an amazing start,” says Carolinas GCSA executive director, Tim Kreger. “Honestly, from an association point of view we could not be happier, and it seems like that’s true for a lot of people this week. I spent a lot of time on the trade show floor and everyone I saw and spoke to was really happy to be here.”
Some of the best is yet to come with a busy morning schedule today followed by more trade show hours this afternoon. Today’s program at Myrtle Beach Convention Center opens with the annual Fellowship Breakfast presented by Corbin Turf & Ornamental Supply and New Life Turf. Guest speaker this year is Larry Feller, who spent more than a quarter-century working with superintendents in the Carolinas, spending many of those years with Syngenta.
That is followed by a busy program in Ballroom E that includes the presentation of the Distinguished Service Award to Fred Yelverton, Ph.D. from North Carolina State University. Given the duration and caliber of service Yelverton has provided the golf course maintenance industry in the region, the room is sure to be packed.
The Carolinas GCSA annual business meeting follows before attendees return to the trade show floor, where they can enter the 27 Hole Challenge presented by John Deere Golf, Revels Turf and Tractor and Beard Equipment Company. The major prize this year is a two-person fishing trip to Panama. Second prize is a check for $2,000. There is also a $1,000 check waiting for the lucky assistant superintendent in the Next Generation challenge. Winners will be drawn on the exhibit hall at the end of trade show hours. Remember, you must be present to win.
Women Making Strides in Turf
The presence of women in golf course maintenance continues to grow and will be highlighted perhaps like never before when more than 30 are expected to volunteer at next year’s U.S. Open Championship at Pinehurst No. 2. In the U.S., women “broke the grass ceiling” as a volunteer corps at the 2021 U.S. Women’s Open Championship at The Olympic Club in San Francisco, CA.
Such a concentration of female golf course maintenance professionals had never been seen before and that generated a lot of publicity. Momentum has grown ever since. David Fruchte, CGCS welcomed a strong turnout of women volunteers to the 2022 U.S. Women’s Open at Pine Needles and that was followed by a repeat showing at this year’s Women’s Open at Pebble Beach.
Thanks to the Women in Turf movement steered by a number of people including Kelly Lynch, of Pure Seed and a turf industry veteran of more than 30 years, rarely a week passes now without the work of women superintendents, assistants, industry partners and others being highlighted in print, online and in social media.
The fact that women will be such a presence on the golf course maintenance team at next year’s men’s U.S. Open will raise that profile even further. “John Jeffreys has been great to work with,” Lynch says of the Pinehurst No. 2 superintendent. “He is excited and so are we. We think we will have 34 women on the volunteer team for the Open next year.”
Lynch is in the Carolinas fresh from attending another landmark event for women, GCSAA’s inaugural Women’s Leadership Academy in Lawrence, KS. She was also one of more than a dozen women who gathered on the trade show floor last night at a Women in Turf Reception that was hosted by Mindy Vereen-Jackson, of Vereens Turf Products.
Turf Equipment Technicians Ring Bell for Church
Eric Church, from Hound Ears Club in Blowing Rock, NC is this year’s Turf Equipment Technician of the Year in the Carolinas. The award comes in Church’s 40th year at Hound Ears and was presented during the Turf Equipment Technicians Association of the Carolinas (TETAC) annual Conference yesterday. Church was nominated by Hound Ears golf course superintendent, Allen Storie.
In his nomination letter, Storie said he “inherited” Church when he arrived at Hound Ears in 2008. “He was very patient, open minded, and understanding of the changes and expectations I had as a young superintendent,” Storie wrote. “And he is still one of the most important reasons why I remain here today, thanks to his talent and skill set.”
Church was chosen from among four candidates who were considered by the 12-person TETAC board of directors. Storie anticipated there would tough competition for the award when he wrote: “I’m sure there are plenty of great mechanics within the Carolinas, but I believe Eric Church to be among the elite.”
Storie cited Church’s ability to adapt to change as one of his greatest attributes: “Within the past 40 years, he has had to adapt to many changes in equipment technology, different routine maintenance procedures to both company owned and leased equipment and brands of equipment. He has also adapted to environmental changes and how they impact equipment…
“Eric has also always kept an open mind to the needs of the golf course and different ways that he can help our golf course maintenance team. When and if our equipment is all running strong with no issues, Eric doesn’t like to twiddle his thumbs. He never hesitates to pick up a cup cutter, blower, mower or whatever might be needed. He understands that a mechanic can’t fully understand how a piece of equipment should operate unless he has operated that machine himself at some point.”
Student Turf Bowl Ends in Dramatic Tie
Bo Barefoot has hosted the Carolinas GCSA Student Turf Bowl for a long time and he’s never seen anything like it. Nor had the 100-plus people in the room who watched the first tie in the history of the event between the Clemson University No. 1 team and Horry-Georgetown Technical College. “We’ve never had a finish that’s ever been anywhere close to that,” Barefoot says. “That was incredible.”
The outcome wasn’t just as close as it could possibly be, it was dramatic too. Clemson had a big lead going into the final jeopardy, so much so that they didn’t put a single point up for risk. Horry-Georgetown, on the other hand, went in hard putting up every point they had.
Then came the question: “Who is at the helm of the Carolinas GCSA?” You may have already spotted the issue. There were, as Barefoot was quick to observe, potentially two answers to the question. Horry-Georgetown went with Tim Kreger, the executive director. Clemson answered with Chuck Connolly, the president. Both were deemed correct, which left both teams locked at 1,200 points.
Things might have been a lot different if a team from North Carolina State University wasn’t less than 24 hours ahead of itself. The Wolfpack team was sitting second with 1,100 points going into the last question and risked 500 of them. A correct answer would have landed them a clear victory. But they answered with the name of Pete Gerdon, who won’t become president until the annual business meeting at 11.15am today.
For Horry-Georgetown, the win was the school’s fourth in a row, the most in the history of the event. The Student Turf Bowl was once again presented in partnership with Precision Labs.
Time to Show a Little Puppy Love
Conference and Show attendees can show a little puppy love during the trade show this afternoon to help decide which Carolinas Canine is best in show. Superintendents, assistants and some industry partners entered photos of their dogs in a new competition presented in partnership with Flyaway Geese. The 30 best pictures are on display in a gallery in booth 117, which is in the far left corner as you enter the trade show.
Attendees can vote for their favorite pooch and automatically be in a drawing for a $100 prize. The dog attracting the most votes will earn its owner $300 with two runners-up each winning $100 for their master. Voting will close at 2pm to allow votes to be tallied for an announcement of the winner shortly before the 27-Hole Challenge drawing.
Among the candidates in the gallery is Bleu, a three-year-old Border Collie, who “works” for Kyle Gentry, from UNC Finley Golf Course in Chapel Hill, NC. Bleu’s “official” title on the job is “supervisor of morale.” “When he gets to the golf course, everyone’s spirits pick up,” Gentry says. “They are just so happy to see him. He is a great companion to have on the job.”
That’s an important role that many golf course dogs play and one of the reasons the Carolinas GCSA wanted to celebrate them with the Carolinas Canines gallery.
When Bleu is not busy boosting morale, he apparently stays busy “running the fairways, chasing golf carts and if there’s geese around, he’ll chase them off too.” “They are such a smart breed,” Gentry says.
Gentry and other owners of dogs featured in the gallery can collect their mounted photos from the Carolinas Canines booth shortly after 2pm.