Working the phones in the pandemic

By |  April 10, 2020 0 Comments
Interviews via Zoom with superintendents like Matt Cavanaugh have become the new normal now. (Photo: Golfdom Staff)

Interviews via Zoom with superintendents like Matt Cavanaugh have become normal. (Photo: Golfdom Staff)


Hello everyone! I hope you, your family and your crew are well. I sit here writing this on an evening I’m typically overindulging in red wine at the annual Golf Writers dinner in Augusta, Ga. But honestly… that doesn’t bother me much. I feel fortunate that my family and I are well, and I’m able to ask, “what would have happened if the NCAA tournament played out?” Because… there was a shot that the Kansas Jayhawks could have won it all.

Seth Jones, Clara McHugh and Bill Roddy with Ariya Jutanugarn, GWAA female player of the year during the Golf Writers Dinner in 2019. (Photo: Golfdom Staff)

Seth Jones, Clara McHugh and Bill Roddy with Ariya Jutanugarn (center), Golf Writers Association of America female player of the year during the association’s dinner in 2019. (Photo: Golfdom Staff)

I know. It wasn’t a foregone conclusion. But c’mon… they were the favorites!!… and then consider that the Kansas City Chiefs already won the Super Bowl?!? Do you know how obnoxious I would have been had we pulled off both championships? A silver lining for the people who know me and are forced to talk sports with me — I would have been incessant if such a drama had unfolded in my favor.

(I’ll take this opportunity to remind the naysayers that the reigning U.S. Open champion is a Rock-Chalk Jayhawk…)

The team at Golfdom, we’re working from home and we’re working the phones. We’re gathering first-person accounts of what it’s like to be a golf course superintendent, a golf industry professional, in the pandemic. It’d be easy to fall into the trap of binge-watching Tiger King, but my team has remained focused on reporting on the industry. Honestly, it’s our passion, and this pandemic, while a crisis, is what we trained for years ago when we were earning our degrees in journalism. I hope that after the crisis, we can look back and be proud.

On that note, I’ll share what I’ve been told in recent days…


Catching up in Rush Creek

Golf course maintenance workers have been allowed to work on the golf courses again in Minnesota, after two-plus weeks of inactivity.

“Even around March 20, we saw a shutdown coming,” says Matt Cavanaugh, assistant superintendent at Ruch Creek GC in Maple Grove, Minn. “The toughest thing is, (the weather has) been so nice. In 2019 I was blowing snow off collars on April 18. Anytime you can open in March, you want to… so we’ve been going crazy. We want to play some golf, we want to maintain the asset. That’s been tough and different.”

The team at Rush Creek was able to get their covers off their greens right before the shutdown came on March 25. Now they’re back at it again, even though they saw snow this week. Golf can’t be played until May 4, as of this writing, in Minnesota.

I have a complete interview with Matt posted here.

No golf in N.J.

Recently caught up with Mike Brunelle, CGCS, Upper Montclair CC in New Jersey.

“There’s no golf in New Jersey… we’re maintaining the property, but there’s no one to appreciate it!” Mike told me. They’re staggering their start-up times there, to keep the crew as separated as possible. His No. 1 goal is to keep his crew safe.

Mike told me that he has only 45 percent of his staff on hand, but there’s no stress because of the key difference-maker: no golf.

“We can just maintain the property … if you’re not raking bunkers, doing course set-up, rolling greens … then what are we doing?” Mike asked me. “We’re maintaining to maintain the property. It’s OK if the rough wilts. Think about this: typically, we only get the first three hours of the day when we’re 100-percent efficient. Once play starts, our efficiency could drop to 20-percent, or it could be 65-percent. If there’s no golf? We’re 100-percent efficient, all the time.”



Graphic: Golfdom Staff

Our Game, Our Crew

Along with the help of our friends at FAIRWAYiQ, we started a new charitable cause… the goal is to raise money for those men and women who have lost their golf course maintenance jobs because of the pandemic.

I won’t go into great detail here, but if you want to learn more, you can watch the video my son and I shot here, or read up on the GoFundMeCampaign here.

We’re calling it “Our Game, Our Crew.” We’ve already had some nice success for the program. I appreciate Dave Vanslette, CEO of FAIRWAYiQ, asking us to help. Even if we don’t raise another penny, it feels nice to try to do something, in our own little way.


Love it or lose it

Our friends at the USGA Green Section Record have an article for golfers to better understand why no superintendent wants to take a month off and let the golf course be on its own.

“Depending on the length of time without water, thinning or even complete turf loss can occur. Any turf loss will require aggressive maintenance practices to restore playing quality and complete renovation and replanting may be necessary in severe situations.”

Click here to see the article.


Spreading the word

As you know, golf has a rich tradition of wanting to help others. So it was no surprise when I got the following email, asking for my help to spread the word. The email is from Jorge Croda, a friend of the game and a friend of the industry:



I know that the current world situation has taken a toll on so many and with golf courses relying on people for every aspect, they are heavily affected.

The following is offered with sincerity, my passion for service, and my passion for the golf course industry and the amazing people who make it what it is. If you can share this message and offering so that it reaches as many as possible in the golf course industry, it would be very appreciated.

These are unprecedented and uncharted times for our world and our industry. I have always, and still believe that people are the key to changing and overcoming adversity. By helping each other in any way, and being innovative during these times to find new and powerful ways to aid others we will come out of this strong and prepared to recuperate.

During this time I want to extend myself; my experience, knowledge, and guidance to anyone who may need it in order to help them and/or their businesses, courses, and facilities weather this difficult time and thrive once it has all settled.

Please reach out to me via email at either or, through WhatsApp, Zoom meeting, or any of my social media platforms. I will help in any way that I am able.

Together we are stronger and can survive through adversity.

Best regards,
Jorge Croda


Well said, Jorge! Happy to spread your kind words.


Uncertainty in Milwaukee

I spoke with an industry expert in Wisconsin, about the current golf situation in the state. As of this writing, only one county was allowing golf in the state and the rest of the state was shut down. Maintenance was still allowed.

Wisconsin is still waking up from the winter, but similar to Minnesota, that’s a state that likes to get in its golf when the weather is good. This has the Milwaukee-area country clubs on edge, my source tells me. There is probably one club too many in the area … a prolonged shut-down could result in a loss of a club.

I wonder how many other cities find themselves in a similar situation?


Stay in touch and stay safe

OK, that’s all for now. Another interesting thing about the pandemic is that every person is impacted in some way. Most of the time when we’re chasing a story, there’s a lot of effort spent on finding the right sources.

In the pandemic, everyone has a story to tell, a useful perspective, an interesting insight. We can hardly keep up… but if you have a story you’d like to share, email me at, and hopefully we can connect soon.

In the meantime, stay strong, stay safe, keep up your social distancing… and I look forward to seeing you out on the golf course soon, when this passes.

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About the Author: Seth Jones

Seth Jones, a 25-year veteran of the golf industry media, is Editor-in-Chief of Golfdom magazine and Athletic Turf. A graduate of the University of Kansas School of Journalism and Mass Communications, Jones began working for Golf Course Management in 1999 as an intern. In his professional career he has won numerous awards, including a Turf and Ornamental Communicators Association (TOCA) first place general feature writing award for his profile of World Golf Hall of Famer Greg Norman and a TOCA first place photography award for his work covering the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. In his career, Jones has accumulated an impressive list of interviews, including such names as George H.W. Bush, Samuel L. Jackson, Lance Armstrong and Charles Barkley. Jones has also done in-depth interviews with such golfing luminaries as Norman, Gary Player, Nick Price and Lorena Ochoa, to name only a few. Jones is a member of both the Golf Writers Association of America and the Turf and Ornamental Communicators Association. Jones can be reached at

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