Sunday, January 24, 2016

Knowledge Is POWER

Caddyshack is one of my all time favorite movies, as it is for most golf course superintendents, but the image of Carl Spackler as a golf course superintendent is what many still see us as.  The image of a untrained, unprofessional, inept person being in charge of the most valuable resource a golf club owns could not be further from the truth.  Golf course superintendents are agronomists, horticulturalists, environmentalists, scientists, financial officers, human resource specialists, psychologists, mechanics, and sometimes miracle workers.

Things are constantly changing in the golf course industry whether it be advances in equipment, new chemical or fertilizer options, or education from research.  I don't think there is any way a golf course superintendent can be successful at his or her job without investing in continuing education.  The investment is not only for your course but also for your career.  There are many options available throughout the year to gain this valuable information, from local or regional conferences, to the national Golf Industry Show, to specialized educational offerings, all of which give the golf course superintendent the knowledge and power they need to be equipped to properly do the job they have been tasked with.  Each owner, greens committee, general manager, and so forth should not only support their superintendent in his or her pursuit of knowledge but should require it.

In December I had the honor of attending the Syngenta Business Institute which is held at Wake Forest University.  This is a unique educational opportunity offered by Syngenta in that it does not deal with any agronomic information but rather deals entirely with the business side of our industry.  Financial management, negotiating, and personnel management are the center of attention of this gathering of 25 golf course superintendents selected from around the nation.  We can all grow grass but getting a refresher course in business is unique and greatly needed.  I would suggest that every superintendent apply for the Syngenta Business Institute.  It is a great opportunity to meet other supers from around the nation and gain friendships that otherwise would not happen in a special setting and I thank everyone at Syngenta for this special learning opportunity.

Earlier this month I had the pleasure of attending the 50th Annual Conference and Tradeshow for the Tennessee Turfgrass Association.  For the past two years I have had the honor and privilege of serving as president of TTA so this made it even more special.  We had a fantastic lineup of presenters including Chris Tritabaugh of Hazeltine National-home of the next Ryder Cup, Ms. Laura Katen of Katen Consulting, Dr. Clint Waltz of the University of Georgia among many, many more great informative speakers.  We also had an extremely successful mock trial, which was the talk of the show and of twitter, which pitted the values of bentgrass greens vs. ultradwarf greens in the transition zone.

Along with great education we had a full tradeshow, with this year the inclusion of equipment for the first time in many years.  Our new venue, Embassy Suites Murfreesboro, where we will be for the next three years at least, allowed us to spread out a little bit more in both our meeting rooms and on the tradeshow floor.  Getting to see some of the new equipment and gather information from the vendors is as important as the education we get from the presenters.  I have to thank all the vendors who support the Tennessee Turfgrass Association throughout the year but especially at the conference.  I know our Association could not hold our conference without your support.

TTA VP Theo Lankford presenting Coach Fulmer with a gift
As it was our 50th Anniversary we decided to have a celebration dinner and invited former University of Tennessee football coach Phil Fulmer to speak to us about his experiences in coaching the Tennessee Volunteers, dealing with the people who maintained Neyland Stadium for all those years, and his life experiences in general.  Coach Fulmer did not disappoint and was very generous with his time and experiences.

Giving back to the TTA in serving as its president for the past two years has been a special moment in my career and I was blessed to be recognized by my peers at the conference as well.  This year the TTA honored one of its best all time ambassadors, Dr. Tom Samples of UT, by renaming our annual Professional of the Year award as the Dr. Tom Samples Professional of the Year Award presented by TTA.  It was my great honor to receive this award and I am truly thankful to all my colleagues for deeming worthy of it.  It is greatly appreciated.

Along with presenting a webinar Marketing Golf through the Environment for Sustainability in Golf and speaking at the Winter Green Express for University of Tennessee Extension Service on The Environmental Benefits of Golf Course, I also had the pleasure this past week of traveling to Greensboro to speak at the 9th Annual Turfhead Summit held at Bryan Park Golf Course.  All three of these educational opportunities gave me a chance to gain valuable information that I can bring back to our golf course to improve it but also gave me the opportunity to tell others about what we are doing and having successes at so hopefully they can implement some of our practices and programs to improve their operations.

Education is invaluable and there are so many ways out there to gain this information these days.  I have to thank our supervisors in Nashville for providing and encouraging us to take these opportunities to better ourselves and invest in our futures.  I also have to thank my staff who maintain the golf course in my absence without skipping a beat.

Now on to the Golf Industry Show in San Diego and the New England Regional Turfgrass Conference in Providence, Rhode Island to wrap up this years educational circuit.

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