Monday, December 19, 2016

Farewell 2016...You Will Not Be Forgotten

As we say goodbye to another golfing season at Harrison Bay I wanted to take a quick look back at the 2016 season.  This summer marked my 25th summer on a golf course and my 16th at The Bear Trace.  Although I consider myself a pretty decent superintendent I have to admit that this summer definitely educated, and humbled me more than any other year I can remember in my career.

In preparation for this season the agronomy staff worked hard during the winter months to make improvements to the golf course.  The biggest projects were the renovation of #3 green  and the extensive drainage project in the landing area of #10 fairway.  We also worked on some bunker renovation, irrigation improvements, and improving drainage along cart paths.  With all these improvements we felt pretty good about the upcoming season as dormancy broke and the growing season began.

#2 Green on April 19 under attack from nematodes
Unfortunately our season got off to a terrible start with a massive nematode infestation that devastated many large areas on our greens.  The original diagnosis of our problem was a root pathogen which was attacking the root system, which was accurate, but this disease was really only allowed to attack the greens root system because the nematodes had weakened the roots to the point that they could not defend themselves or recover quick enough.  As the greens continued to come out of dormancy the nematodes continued to feast on the fresh, new, susceptible young roots that our bermudagrass greens produce each spring.

Putting green Nov 2 recovered from nematode damage
After receiving the results of a soil assay that showed sting and root knot nematode counts drastically elevated we were convinced that the primary concern was not to combat the root pathogen but rather the microscopic nematodes that were reeking havoc on our greens.  After several application of products to reduce the nematode population and provide protection for the root system the greens began to recover.  Over the summer the agronomy staff worked hard to repair areas on the greens that were damaged from the nematode attack including the complete renovation of #9 green.  It has been an long battle by I am proud to say that our greens are back to their championship form that we have been known for for so many years.

After an exciting week hosting the TGA Match Play Championships at the end of July the agronomy staff jumped right back into improving the golf course.  Our aerification of the golf course this August was the most extensive we have undertaken since we renovated the greens back in 2003.  Removal of major amounts of thatch and organic matter from greens, tees, fairways, and the driving range made a tremendous improvement in the course.
All of the activities cataloged in posts about 2016 Greens Aerification and Showing the tees, fairways, and driving range some love.

The fall was a definite reminder that every year is different from the next.  The hottest, driest summer that I can remember that gripped the southeast was unprecedented with Chattanooga breaking long standing records with a total of 108 days with temperatures over 90 degrees and over 7 months without receiving a total of 1" of rainfall in a single day.  This was the first summer I can remember of having to place supplemental irrigation sprinklers around the course just to save wilting 419 bermudagrass.

On the environmental front we welcomed the latest two eaglets HB9 and HB10 to the HBEC family and unfortunately said goodbye to Eloise as we got a new female eagle at our nest, which Hannah named Eliza.  We are currently experiencing some technical issues with the main PTZ camera and sound resulting from the storms a couple of weeks ago but hope to have this resolved in time to watch the next brood of HBEC eaglets enter the world.

Barry supervising Mitch's work in the mini-ex.

The golf course lost two very good employees this year.  Barry Webb passed away unexpectedly on May 29th.  Barry was one of those guys who never complained, always showed up to work, and did his best for the course.  RIP Barry.

We also said goodbye to my first assistant Mitch Sivley. After 17 years of dedicated service to the golf course he left to follow his dream of being a truck driver.  Mitch was a cornerstone of our course and I relied on him greatly throughout the years.  His skill on heavy equipment and with a chainsaw will be missed as will his dedication and passion for the golf course itself.

Outreach, education, and accolades continued this year beginning in January at the 50th annual TTA conference where I received the Dr. Tom Samples Professional of the Year Award.  At the Golf Industry Show in San Diego we were honored by Golf Industry Magazine for our social media presence and outreach with the Dr. John Kaminski Award.  I was fortunate to be able to present our environmental projects and programs to several organizations including the New England Regional Turfgrass Council, Sustainability in Golf, and most recently at the 2016 Carolinas Golf Course Superintendent Association Conference and Tradeshow in Myrtle Beach.

After a long summer we are eagerly looking forward to the dawn of 2017.  This year I have realized that even after 25 years in the business I still have much to learn and that I can not let my guard down at any time of the year.

The agronomy staff deserves all the credit for the turn around in the conditioning of the golf course this year and I am grateful for their continued dedication to the course.

From frustration to elation, from failure to victory, from questioning my future in the industry to remembering why I really love my career.

Farewell 2016...You have been an interesting year and one we will not forget.

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