Off to a Good Start

By |  October 19, 2011

Assistant superintendents learn from the best in the business at the Sixth Annual Green Start Academy

“Everyone seemed to gel here. I came here knowing no one and I’m leaving with all these new friends,” said Chartiers Country Club assistant superintendent Jonathan Dees.

The Pittsburgh resident and native of Sydney, Australia, was recounting his experience at the Sixth Annual Green Start Academy for assistant superintendents, hosted by Bayer Environmental Science and John Deere Golf. Fifty assistants nationwide were hand-picked for the occasion based on essays they wrote.

Golf Supers At Bayer

The two-day event was much more than a chance for assistant superintendents to network with their counterparts from across the country — although that’s a big part of it. It was also a golden opportunity for the golf course maintenance industry’s rising stars to learn from the very best in the business.

This year, Green Start launched with a lighthearted night of bowling at Sparian’s Bowling Boutique & Bistro in Raleigh, N.C., which gave us all a chance to socialize over brews, strikes and gutter balls.

Speakers throughout the two days of presentations — all golf course industry heavies — enlightened us on scientific issues, and shared their insights on how golf is evolving, the challenges the industry faces and how, with tenacity, leadership and business savvy, assistant superintendents can meet those challenges head on.

Thursday started with a trip to the North Carolina State Turfgrass Field Laboratory, where North Carolina State’ s Diane Silcox and Terri Hoctor discussed a pest newly emerging in the United States — the sugarcane beetle; and NC State crop science professor Tom Rufty, Ph.D. talked about the impact of heat stress on turf.

Later it was on to the Bayer Environmental Science Development and Training Center, where the assistant superintendents reaped professional advice from some of the industry’s most reputable superintendents, including Bob Farren, CGCS (Pinehurst Resort, Pinehurst, N.C.); Patrick Finlen, CGCS (The Olympic Club, San Francisco); and Paul Grogan, CGCS (TPC Deere Run, Moline, Ill.).

The best advice he could offer, said Grogan, is “listen. Listen to people. And do the best you can every day.”

Greg LymanSuch words of wisdom were abundant throughout the Academy’s duration, whether it was USGA agronomist Stan Zontek opining on how golf is “becoming a game of practice,” GCSAA director of environmental programs Greg Lyman stressing the importance of environmental stewardship and salesmanship, or Henry DeLozier, a partner at Global Golf Advisors, asking the assistants to be more business minded.

“This is your time,” he said, urging the assistants to find a way to capitalize on the current economic climate. “Make it work for you.”

Whether it was the grand tour of Bayer’s Clayton research farm — a wide open expanse filled with grass, pine trees, roses and holly — Farren’s personalized presentation on the renovation of Pinehurst No. 2, or informative sessions such as John Deere Golf product manager Brad Aldridge’s presentation on spray controller calibration, the Sixth Annual Green Start Academy was one to remember.

What stood out most prominently was the graciousness of our hosts, the deeply rooted knowledge of all those who presented, and above all, the passion and drive of 50 assistant superintendents determined to leave their mark on the field.

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