2018 SOI: Q&A with WGCSA’s Josh LePine

By |  January 4, 2019 0 Comments
Josh LePine headshot

Josh LePine

Josh LePine
President, Wisconsin Golf Course Superintendents Association
CGCS, Maple Bluff Country Club
Madison, Wis.

1.) Generally speaking, how was the golf season this year?
Not to be a Debbie Downer, but I would say, generally speaking, it was a frustrating golf season for many golfers and golf turf managers in Wisconsin. Despite proper planning, staffing and execution, many of us struggled to provide the course conditions we work so hard to achieve.

The excessively wet season impacted playability, golf cart usage and revenues across the state. Golf courses with poor drainage, high water tables or renovation projects had a really frustrating year. To top it off, the season ended abruptly with unseasonably cold weather in early November, causing the ground to freeze earlier than normal.

Winterizing our golf courses was a bit of a scramble. There was no time to catch up on those rained-out projects from earlier in the season. It was a fitting end to a tough year. The one silver lining would be the rest that the pump stations received, as well as the electricity costs that were saved.

It wasn’t all bad either. There were many stretches of decent weather and great golf. We were all in the same boat, as we kept on paddling and maintaining a positive attitude. That is the Wisconsin way!

2.) How did the weather treat you this season?
In a nutshell, an unseasonable 90 degree Memorial Day weekend opened our eyes. That was then followed by a rainy golf season, along with an abrupt end as we had early frozen ground. I think most would admit it was a tough year weather-wise, and we deserve a nice, mild and steady winter.

3.) How would you describe the disease pressure this year, and what diseases were most prevalent?
I would characterize the disease pressure in 2018 as high. I’m fortunate to be near the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s O.J. Noer Turfgrass Research station. This facility also includes an outstanding Turfgrass Disease Diagnostic Laboratory (TDDL) headed by Dr. Paul Koch, assistant professor in Plant Pathology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Lab Manager Kurt Hockemeyer. As members of the TDDL, we receive disease alerts, summaries of samples received and recommendations on control options. According to Paul and Kurt, this past season has once again proven how unpredictable the weather can be and that unpredictability can lead to turf problems, including summer patch, Bipolaris leaf spot, Pythium blight, anthracnose and brown patch.

4.) What was the biggest challenge your area had to deal with this year?
I think the biggest challenge I hear routinely from colleagues is the diminishing qualified labor pool. It is getting tougher and tougher to find high school and college seasonal help that want to get up at 5 a.m. on weekends to “enjoy the outdoor working experience.” Turf school enrollment is also down throughout the country. Interns are difficult to find, and clubs are struggling to fill assistant superintendent and equipment manager positions. The supply/demand dynamic is not currently balanced.

5.) Are there any success stories from your chapter that stand out in your mind?
Finally, I can be positive. We have a ton of success stories. I can’t take credit for any of them, but I’m proud to promote and share them.

Success No. 1: Hosting the Thornberry Creek LPGA Classic. As one of the 33 LPGA tournaments held throughout the world, this tournament (hosted by Superintendent Steve Archibald) attracts 144 of the world’s best female golfers to compete at the official golf course of the Green Bay Packers.

Success No. 2: Hosting the American Family Insurance Championship. A Champions Tour tournament, the Championship (hosted by Superintendent Phil Davidson) is played at Madison’s University Ridge Golf Course. All proceeds raised have supported the Steve Stricker American Family Insurance Foundation, the American Family Children’s Hospital and The First Tee of South Central Wisconsin.

Success No. 3: Wee One Foundation Hosts its 15th Annual Event at Pine Hills Country Club. Developed to assist golf course management professionals (or their dependents) who have extremely high medical expenses due to a lack of comprehensive insurance or adequate financial resources, the Wee One Foundation has gifted more than $1 million to those in need. The event is currently hosted by Superintendent Rod Johnson, CGCS.

Success No. 4: Overall Positive Direction of the WGCSA. Thanks to great leadership and management, I’m inheriting a thriving GCSAA affiliated Chapter. We have enhanced our scholarship opportunities, continued to fund turfgrass research at the University of Wisconsin, funded a new building addition at our UW Turf Research station, planned and hosted successful golf and educational events and are well on our way to completing a State Best Management Practices manual and website. Our membership is also strong and active.

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About the Author: Chris Lewis

Michigan-based writer Chris Lewis specializes in reporting on golf in the U.S. He wrote about White Pine National Golf Resort for Golfdom in 2013, and part two of the magazine’s annual Plant Health Series in 2014.

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