A return to my beginnings

By |  March 12, 2019 0 Comments
Clark Throssell headshot

Clark Throssell

I had the good fortune in early January to attend the Indiana Green Expo, the turf and landscape conference in Indiana. For me, it was a return to where I started my career.

My first professional position following graduation was teaching, research and conducting Extension programs at Purdue University, from 1985 to 2001. The annual turf conference was and still is the major event for the turf program at Purdue and the Midwest Regional Turf Foundation (MRTF). I was thrilled to attend, and it was great to see many friends. A few things struck me at the conference.

Aaron Patton, Ph.D., Cale Bigelow, Ph.D., and Doug Richmond, Ph.D., are doing a great job growing the turf program at Purdue. In today’s world, it is no easy task to find the funding necessary to support a turf program. They are doing a great job and are conducting innovative research to advance the turf industry.

At least in the hallways, the conversations centered on economics. Some golf courses with which I was familiar have closed, and others are struggling. Too much supply and not enough demand is the overall problem, especially at moderate-to-high-end public golf courses. Several of the more experienced superintendents remarked that before 2007, there was little discussion about the cost of golf course maintenance, but today the cost of maintenance dominates conversations.

Indiana is no different than the rest of the nation; it is difficult to find people to work on a golf course maintenance staff. Low starting salaries are seen as a big obstacle, as is competition for employees from many other industries. Add in the fact that many people are reluctant to take a job that requires being up early and working outside, plus the physical demands of the job, and the labor pool is limited even more.

Brian Chalifoux retired as superintendent after more than 30 years of service to Fort Wayne Country Club in Fort Wayne, Ind. Throughout his tenure at Fort Wayne CC, Brian consistently received the highest compliment one can receive from his peer superintendents; day in and day out, he maintained the best-conditioned golf course in the area. And it wasn’t even close.

Brian had high standards and met or exceeded them every day. He imparted his high standards to all who worked for him, and those whom he mentored carried those high standards to their places of employment. Brian was generous with his time and talents, helping many people along the way, including me. He was and is an ardent supporter of the turf program at Purdue. Thanks, Brian, for all you did for the golf industry and for me.

Rick Latin, Ph.D., was awarded the MRTF Distinguished Service Award. Rick is a turfgrass pathologist and has retired after 37 years at Purdue, where he taught, conducted research and provided Extension programs. He is an outstanding educator and scientist.

As a scientist, Rick has been thoughtful, careful, creative and meticulous in his research. As a result, when Rick offered a recommendation, it worked. You may know Rick as the author of “A Practical Guide to Turfgrass Fungicides,” or maybe you have taken a seminar he taught, so you likely know Rick is passionate about his work and spot-on with his information. I was lucky to work with Rick for many years, and I personally thank Rick for all he did for the golf industry and for me.

The Indiana Green Expo was a fun opportunity to reconnect with former students, former colleagues and many, many friends in the turfgrass industry. The turfgrass industry is great place to call home, and we all should be grateful for the opportunity to be part of it.

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