Big Numbers Matter But it’s About the People

Conference and Show 2023 is in the books and those books are bulging with numbers higher than ever before in a host of categories. More than 1,500 seats were filled in education seminars and the original trade show floor plan had to be redrawn several times to accommodate demand from exhibitors.

“This was as good as it gets,” Carolinas GCSA executive director, Tim Kreger, said. “We couldn’t be more grateful to the incredible support from our industry partners – those close to home and all those who came in from other parts of the country too. And we are just as grateful to our members and visitors from other states who turned out in such great numbers.

“Conference and Show is our single biggest revenue source, generating close to 60 percent of what we take in over a year. So, this is a big deal. But at the end of the day, we hear it and see it over and over, this show is about the people and the bonds they share, personally as well as professionally. It was great to see what played out this week.”

Indeed, people were celebrated constantly throughout the week. At yesterday’s annual business meeting five superintendents were honored with life-memberships after retiring from long careers. They were Guy Davis, who has 38 years as a Carolinas GCSA member; Dyrck Fanning, 35 years; Peter Horn, CGCS 43 years; Bob Land, 33 years; and Richard McDanel, CGCS 37 years.

Earlier, hundreds of members gathered in Ballroom E observed a moment of silence in memory of members who died during the previous 12 months. Those remembered were Bill Anderson, CGCS – a past president and Distinguished Service Award recipient, Nelson Cato, Dick Ferriter, Jason Higingbottom, Donald Parcel, CGCS and Randy Tetterton.






Presidents Pay Tribute to Partners

Anyone who underestimates the importance of a supporting spouse in the life of a golf course superintendent need only have spent a few minutes at the Carolinas GCSA’s annual business meeting at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center yesterday. As the outgoing president handed over the reins to the incoming president, both men choked up when thanking their wives for helping them to get this point in their careers.

First, it was outgoing president, Chuck Connolly, from Savannah Lakes Village in McCormick, SC. Offering a few remarks to close out his term, Connolly thanked a host of people, from fellow board members to the staff at association headquarters in Liberty, SC. Then he said: “My wife is on her way down here now. If it wasn’t for my wife and family … you all just tell her I cried, okay. If it wasn’t for the support of my wife and family I wouldn’t be here because, as those of us who are married know, it is that support system that helps us get up at the hours that we do and do what we do.”

Then it was the turn of new president, Pete Gerdon, from Grandfather Golf and Country Club in Linville, NC. He too thanked a number of people. “What an honor it is to serve as the 50th president of the Carolinas GCSA,” he said. “To the friends that I have made over the time I have been a member…well, it is an honor and a privilege to serve you all as your president. I am truly humbled. My phone and my email are open to any recommendations or issues you would like to see us look into.”

Then, “This is hard for me,” he said. “My wife, DeDe, for 50 years in this industry, she has put up with me…I love you. I thank you. You mean the world to me.”

Look for more on the critical role of wives and families in the success of superintendents in Carolinas Green in 2024.

Yelverton Goes from ER to Accept DSA

It is becoming increasingly well known that Dr. Fred Yelverton has had more than his share of close shaves with fate over the course of his life. Two nuclear bombs crashing to earth near his house (that’s no joke – see Tuesday’s issue of the Show E-Newsletter), a broken back from falling out of a deer stand, struck by lightning, prostate cancer, the list goes on and on. So, perhaps it was not surprising that the night before he was to receive the Carolinas GCSA Distinguished Service Award, Yelverton was in a hospital emergency room.

Turns out, the legendary North Carolina State University weed scientist had contracted a severe case of bacterial conjunctivitis – in both eyes. By the time he’d been diagnosed and picked up his prescription it was 2am. Hardly the ideal way to spend an evening when you know you are going to be in the spotlight in front of hundreds of people in a few hours.

But apart from his red eyes - which could just as easily have been from his lack of sleep - you wouldn’t have known anything was amiss when Yelverton took the stage to accept his award after a wonderful introductory speech by longtime colleague, friend and fellow DSA winner, Dr. Rick Brandenburg. As Brandenburg’s speech foretold, Fred was very much Fred. “You never have to wonder where he is coming from,” Brandenburg said. “He tells it like it is and he’s got the expertise to back it up.”

Indeed, Yelverton’s expertise has taken him all over the world in a career spanning nearly 30 years at NC State’s Crop Science Department. “Fred has made a remarkable contribution to turfgrass science,” Brandenburg said. Perhaps just as remarkably, none of it ever really felt like work to Yelverton. “This award means the world to me,” he said. “But, honestly, what I do really doesn’t feel like a job.”

Kelly the “Ideal” Winner in 27 Hole Challenge

Ron Kelly, CGCS wasn’t being smart when he said he was “probably the ideal guy to win” the grand prize in this year’s 27-Hole Challenge. Kelly’s point was that while someone else might have been just as thrilled to win, no one could have been more delighted than him. For someone who loves the outdoors and hunting and fishing as much as Kelly, the five-day fishing trip for two to Panama is about as ideal as it gets.

Soon after his name was drawn in the annual finale to Conference and Show, Kelly, from the Country Club of North Carolina in Pinehurst, learned that winning brings its challenges. He now has to decide who to take with him. “Believe me, I’ve had more than enough offers in the last hour,” he said soon after his win. “I don’t know who I’ll take. My wife might even want to go. But this is right up my alley, that’s for sure.”

The grand prize was provided in partnership with Ecological Improvements as part of the annual contest, which John Deere Golf and Revels Turf and Tractor have supported so generously for so long. Beard Equipment Company, which bought Greenville Turf and Tractor last year, is also a presenting partner.

Other major prize winners this year included Russell Hill, from Grandover Resort in Greensboro, NC who took home a check for $2,000. In the Next Generation contest for assistant superintendents, the main prize of $1,000 went to Benajmin Osborn, from Pilot Knob Park in Pilot Mountain, NC.

Baxter is Best in Show and Getting Back to His Best

If Ron Kelly, CGCS was the “ideal guy” to win a fishing trip in the 27-Hole Challenge, then Baxter was the perfect pug to win the inaugural Carolinas Canines competition at Conference and Show. Baxter, who belongs to Chris Seymour, from Wild Wing Plantation in Conway, SC, won by just two votes from his nearest rival in a poll that generated, literally, hundreds of votes. “He deserves it,” Seymour said after the result was announced. “He’s had a tough year.”

How tough? Well, tough enough to involve multiple trips to the vet culminating in a four-hour spinal column surgery in Charleston, SC back in May. Today, he’s back on the golf course with Seymour but he has to wear a heavy-duty harness to prevent him leaping off the cart like he once did during Seymour’s rounds.

“He’s getting better. He can run now but we have to be careful that he doesn’t do any jumping,” Seymour says. “Which is a challenge because he doesn’t know he’s a pug. He loves to chase geese and squirrels.” Baxter also doesn’t know he’s not a human, apparently. He also loves to watch TV and before his surgery, Seymour says, he would leap off the couch and “attack” any animal that came on screen.

Baxter was one of 30 finalists on display in the Carolinas Canines contest presented in partnership with Flyaway Geese. For Baxter’s win as best in show, Seymour received a prize of $300, which might seem like quite a windfall until you learn that the cost of Baxter’s medical travails ran to about $11,000.

Seymour, who has been at Wild Wing since graduating from Horry-Georgetown Technical College in 2002, believes that was money well spent. “He’s awesome. Everybody at the golf course loves Baxter. We had to give him a chance,” he says.