Taylor Swift was honored as “Artist of the Decade” by the American Music Awards late last year. It seems like only yesterday a young Taylor was introducing herself to the world along with her acoustic guitar, Tim McGraw and Faith Hill. Whether or not you like her or her music, she has swiftly grown into an iconic and influential pop artist.
Last year was incredible. I swear I packed a decade’s worth of experience into one year, both professionally and personally. It started with a trip to the United Kingdom and a chance to play the Old Course at St. Andrews and an opportunity to speak before my peers at the BIGGA Turf Management Exposition. Following the overseas trip, I received another speaking opportunity at the Golf Industry Show in sunny San Diego. Life was good.
Weather-wise, the rain never stopped last winter and life at the course was getting depressing. There really isn’t much worse than saturated, dormant Bermudagrass. Throw in the departures of three rising, young turf students, and suddenly our numbers were thin.
As the weather started to break and spring arrived, I was batting .000 for new hires. Then, the unthinkable happened. I lost a dear team member April 3 to a sudden heart attack. My assistant found him on the course, called 911 and initiated CPR. I was alerted and immediately vacated a meeting with the green committee to arrive on the scene, as did the paramedics. I’ve never seen a group of individuals work so hard to save someone’s life, but it was to no avail.
Most of the team, along with former employees, club members and our general manager attended the funeral for Cleother Young, Jr. Having both past employees and members from the club in attendance really made the event special. We were so short-handed at that time, so there was nothing to do but work. We didn’t have time to mourn because we were so far behind.
I finally made a new hire on April 25. Four days later, I attended the Carolinas Golf Hall of Fame ceremony in Pinehurst to see Bob Farren, CGCS, become only the second golf course superintendent to be inducted, joining George Thompson, CGCS. Donald Ross is also a member of the hall, but he wasn’t inducted for his greenkeeping skills. And I traveled to our nation’s capital to participate in National Golf Day. I thought maybe the tide was turning.
Since 2011, I’ve managed my own blog page, The Greenkeeper (www.carolinagreenkeeper.blogspot.com), and prior to that I wrote monthly newsletter columns to keep club members informed about the course. Whether it’s explaining how the weather impacts course conditions, describing projects or just giving a heads up about agronomic practices and their potential disruptions, it’s a great way to get the word out. I have even sprinkled in the occasional personal item, whether it’s industry involvement and travels, or personal golf items of interest.
I honestly didn’t know there were folks who might view a blog page as excuses and pats on the back, but I do now. When I learned of this, I didn’t flinch. In fact, I felt nothing at all. Then, my assistant left, granted with my blessing, because the opportunity was too good to pass up. And I’m proud of him. I promoted Eric to senior assistant, which is another story of grit and perseverance. But I digress.
I hired two additional young assistants and we refocused our efforts to attract and recruit more help. We had one dry month, May, and then the summer thunderstorms kept finding their way to us. We had more than 18.5 inches of rainfall from June through August, including five inches in one week! Hot and wet is not ideal for growing bentgrass in the Transition Zone.The rain then stopped. For 50 consecutive days, nary a drop fell in the region and the heat cranked to even higher levels, topping out at 99 degrees on Oct. 2. Yes, Oct. 2. I wrapped up the year in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, passing the Carolinas GCSA presidential gavel to good friend Brian Stiehler, CGCS, MG. I’ve continued to support my team and provide them the environment to be successful.
Anyone who thinks they are going to please everyone at their golf facility every single day is kidding themselves. There is way too much beyond our control, plus this old saying: “You can please some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time.” So, what sage advice do I have for you in 2020? It’s simple, just keep doing what you know is right and shake it off!