Wednesday, October 5, 2016

October 5, 2016

Although I didn’t know Arnold Palmer, I met him twice – in 1980 on the practice green at Balustrol, and in 1981 practicing at Merion before the U.S. Open. I remember him as approachable…he had time for people, while many other professionals were happy to ignore those around them. I got to thinking about this today- a lot of memories in my career of meeting and seeing celebrities, yet not all necessarily golf professionals.

There was Bob Hope who would show up at Merion and play, but I could never get near him. Jack Nicholas, who wasn’t happy about the scotch broom that grew wild in Merion’s white faces. Tom Watson who autographed a scorecard for me…

And after coming to the shore, there was Willie Mays who would seek time alone playing a few holes in the evenings. I gave him all the space he wanted- yet after seeing each other many times, we began to wave to each other, and in time exchange friendly hellos. I respected his space, and never bothered him- for that I always received a warm smile when we saw each other.

Clint Holmes, the singer/ entertainer, was one of the friendliness persons I can remember. 

One day I got a call that a cart had broken down on the 14th and could I go get the players. I think the club’s golf pro still regrets that he had no idea it was Michael Jordan. Here I was riding the course with Michael Jordan, talking about greens and grass…Dr. J was very serious when he played, so it was best to stay away. But after his round, the Doctor was as approachable as a best friend. So was Lee Trevino, who once took the time to walk across the 17th green and shake my hand, and thanked me for the course conditions. He was just giving a clinic, but picked me out…

Oh, and LT, Lawrence Taylor. Let’s just say that I pray that by now he has his act together. I won’t tell the story.

There have been many others during my career who I have met (and not met).

But back to Arnold.

We were there to walk the course and see preparations and what goes on behind the scenes at a US Open, as we were hosting it the next year at Merion. We, us interns, were with our “boss” Ritchie Valentine. He and Arnold were doing print ads for a seed company, so we went to the practice green to meet up with him. I remember him as very genuine, and not in any hurry to end a conversation. He talked with us a bit about grass  and about coming to Merion, and he and Ritchie talked about tees being rebuilt and moved back for longer yardages and how Merion was shaping up for the Open. And Ritchie was joking with him about his putting and anything else he could take a little jab at – Ritchie was a character to say the least, but like Arnold, as famous and respected as he was in his field, he never looked down on anyone. He looked up to almost everyone. I don’t remember everything said on the practice green that warm afternoon, but I remember that Arnold put out a radiance of calm friendliness. And I can still picture him standing there with us, as if there wasn’t anywhere else he wanted to be.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

August 20, 2016

On Saturday morning, August 14, so far the hottest day of 2016, the water stopped.

At first I thought maybe a pipe blew, or hopefully, there was a brief power outage. But it wasn’t. The electronic controls in the pump station that control the amperage to the pumps “fatally “short circuited.  The pumps still worked, yet we had to bypass the control system and run the entire system manually in order to maintain correct pressures and flow. Without getting technical and/or complicated, a person had to be here to run the pumps and run the irrigation heads at the same time to match the pumps output. Not an easy task.

To accomplish this, I stayed long into the evening running pumps, controllers, and heads to water the greens and tees. In the morning, the assistants irrigated fairways the best they could, yet with play, mowing, and needed fungicide applications, it was not foolproof.

To add to our challenges (the heat wave and pumps), a leak occurred on the 10” main, which caused us to shut down six holes for approximately ten hours on Monday. After this was repaired, another leak occurred on the same main, and the same holes were shut down Friday for that repair. This same main had developed a leak a week before the pump control went down – three leaks in 10 days. This is a matter of the piping system’s age – 30 years . We also had a leak on a 2” pipe and several heads on the course failed and required replacement.

As to the pumping control, the replacement part was found on Monday and shipped overnight from Wisconsin to our irrigation contractor outside of Philadelphia. Their pump technician arrived at approximately at 3:30pm Wednesday afternoon, and it took until 10pm to have it installed, calibrated, the compatibility bugs worked out, and running.  

Between the pump station not working as it should, two leaks in the main, and the continued above 90 degree temperatures, it was a nightmare week, and fortunately, we only got a few nicks here and there.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

August 2, 2016

 We are battling nasty little creatures named parasitic nematodes.

Parasitic nematodes are microscopic worm like organisms that feed on roots – either by living outside the root and inserting a stylet into the root to feed, or living inside the root and feeding from within. High populations will slowly injure and kill the roots, causing the entire plant to die.

Populations are dependent on soil conditions, providing there is a host plant. During the warmer months, when the soils are warm, populations naturally increase. In the shoulder seasons, populations decline somewhat. If there is a winter with a long soil freeze, populations can decrease dramatically.

In the warmer months, as the plant comes under stress and nematode populations increase, symptoms begin to appear as off color, weak, thinning turf. There are other pests and diseases that cause similar symptoms, so testing has to be done to determine what is causing the damage, and if it is from nematodes.

We noticed symptoms last year on some greens and since then have been testing and going to war with them.

It’s not easy. There are few insecticides labeled for use against nematodes, and some will suppress certain species but not others. So while it is possible to suppress one type, that leaves the door open for the population of another type to explode since it has no competition. Also, when a nematode is killed, it leaves a hole in the root where it had been feeding that becomes an open wound for fungus, bacteria, etc to enter the root and cause even more or worse damage.

We are using a “new product” that has been used in the ornamental industry for many years to control mites, but was given a supplemental label just recently for nematodes. It’s a good product, yet is not very mobile in the soil which makes it safe for groundwater, but harder for us to move down into the root zone. In other words, it can get tied up above the root zone if not watered in immediately with enough water to get it to the roots.

When we have applied this product, we have used rain gauges to measure the amount of irrigation we have used, and by comparing the irrigation amounts to the rise or fall in populations after treatment, we’ve been fairly able to determine the right amount of irrigation we need to use to get it to the nematodes. And of course, each green needs different amounts of irrigation because of the different soil types and different depths of roots. It really becomes involved.

To prevent fungus, etc from damaging the roots, we add a fungicide specific to certain fungi that attack roots.

As with any product, there is never a complete kill. There is suppression. Our goal is to keep the populations in check throughout the year and not let them build up to the point that they cause damage. It easier said than done, but as of now, we are keeping populations in check after a serious rise in populations occurred in late June.

We are not the only course battling nematodes. Many courses in the area are doing the same, as are the top courses in the world. None of us has it easy. 


And by the way, the ten inch main that feeds 6 holes had a break in it Sunday afternoon and the section needs replaced…we are limping along best we can, turning it on as we need it despite the leak, and then turning it off.  As of now the parts are being shipped in. Hopefully by Wednesday we will have it back together.

 Rosanna Dana Dana had it right- 

Saturday, July 9, 2016

July 9, 2016

I am posting videos of last Tuesdays rain so that, hopefully, you'll understand why we go to cart paths only, even if the sun has come out and, on the surface, things look normal. What is unseen, is the saturated soils beneath the turf that a rain can cause. On Tuesday, the soil became so saturated that the rain could no longer infiltrate the soil, and for it to drain through and begin to dry, it took days just to get halfway drained.

11th green, looking up the fairway 

                                                                11th fairway

                                                     10th fairway and cartpath

When the soils become this saturated, roots can no longer breathe, and followed by the relentless heat and high humidity, roots bake in the soil moisture, compromising their health to the point that some areas of turf die off . Its the worst case scenario.

Cart traffic compacts soil in these conditions and creates an even worse, unrecoverable environment for the roots and turf - damage will show up in few days to a few weeks. So many players tell me that their carts don't cause any damage, but what you see on top of the surface is a very different story compared to the damage below, where the player usually never looks.

Bottom line is that these types of weather conditions by themselves create less than perfect turf , and with any more added stress, such as traffic, only make it worse.

(PS. Next time I will hold my phone sideways for videos!!!!!!!!!!!! I'm always learning!)

Saturday, April 30, 2016

April 30, 2016

Things happen. We are all human.

The other week we fertilized the tees and during the process the spreader came out of calibration, unnoticed at the time, but easily seen once the striping began showing on some of the tees days later.  After we became aware of the problem, we used a drop spreader to fertilize between the stripes. We used a rate less than the original so that we could do our best to match up, but it’s purely an estimate based on observation. I can’t for sure say how much fertilizer the tees originally received and didn’t receive, so it’s not a clear fix. And, being the first time I have dealt with this, it’s a new experience, so I don’t have a lot of practice with it – a good thing!

The bottom line is that the fertilizer won’t last forever, and in a little time, the striping will disappear.

Regarding the tees on 7, the areas that were in play throughout the winter and not covered are not healing in very well. It seems the Bermuda cannot take too much wear when it is dormant. This is something I will need to address – I may try another type of warm season grass, cover all the tees each winter, or just expect to sod the wear areas every spring. The reason we are using Bermuda on these tees is that the areas get no air circulation and too much heat in the summer months for cool season turf to survive. It’s better to have turf in summer when it counts, and only the Bermuda has given us consistent results in this respect.  

Overall, the course is coming into early summer very strong. Roots are good, there are no disease concerns right now, and we are pretty much on schedule with our preparations. The weather has been the real challenge – hot days, frost, snow, wind, rain, etc – what weather we have had, has always come unexpected!  So we have done our best to “thread” these needles and to keep up with things the best we can.

Thanks to all of you who have asked about my AK spots which are being treated with cryotherapy. So far so good, except for one area on my ear that is fighting back! The doctor said it’s pretty common to have a spot or two that requires a few repeat treatments. It surprised me that after I published the post, many area superintendents shared stories with me of their experiences with pre cancerous areas, and cancerous areas. Many of our members have also shared their personal stories dealing with this same medical condition. It seems to be somewhat common, so everyone needs to be checked.

One again, I thank everyone for their support and encouragement. We have a great course only because we have a great membership!

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

February 23, 2016

As I sit here at my desk on a cloudy February morning, I catch myself thinking about two spots that are not on any of the greens, but are on my skin – one on my ear and the other on my wrist.

Last month my dermatologist diagnosed these as precancerous cells and froze both spots (cryotherapy). In a few more weeks I am scheduled to go back to the dermatologist to be rechecked. Hopefully this initial treatment has removed the cells, but if she has any reservations, she will have them biopsied, and we’ll go from there.

I get teased a lot because I don’t wear shorts or short sleeves very often, even on the hottest days. Most people ask how I can do that and my answer has always been that I am protecting myself from skin cancer – my mom had it and beat it, yet a cousin, at age 26, left behind a wife and two kids because it was found out too late.

Because I wear long sleeves all year long, I wasn’t expecting her to find a spot on my wrist. I am sure though, now that I think of it, that my sleeves inch up throughout the day so that my wrists don’t stay covered as much as I think they do. And too, sunlight penetrates fabric.  It all starts to makes sense.

One of the things I don’t do is wear a hat, so when the area on my ear began to feel rough, scabby, and a bit painful, I suspected that there could be something going on there.

 I don’t like hats. Hats of any kind have always been uncomfortable to me.  Even in the winter I will let my ears freeze before I put one on, and even then, I will take it off every few minutes. But now, I will have to find a way to change my mindset and deal with wearing a hat, or at the least, use a lot of sunscreen on my ears. It would be best to do both.

Having cryotherapy isn’t that uncommon – I know many people who have had this procedure, but this time, it is my wake-up call. Although I have always taken precautions, I will have to take the sun even more seriously now and wear a hat and use a lot more sunscreen, while continuing to wear long pants and long sleeves. You’ll be able to tease me a bit more, but that’s ok – to me it’s worth it.

I thought I would share this experience and what I am thinking because as cautious as I have been, it wasn’t quite enough. We may think that we are doing all the right things, but it still may not be enough. It’s best to get screened at least once a year, even for those of us who aren’t outside all day. And if anything seems suspicious, its best to get it looked at. Waiting too long, or ignoring it, is the worst thing anyone of us can do.

The best thing to do, is to take care of yourself.