Well, with winter in our rearview mirror and spring on the horizon, I thought this might be a good time to reflect on lessons learned — virtually, of course — over the past couple months.
I wrote two years ago about “conference season” and this year was a season unlike any other. With the Carolinas GCSA offering 30 seminars over 30 days in November and December and GCSAA offering 88 education sessions as part of the virtual Golf Industry Show, I am certain your teenage children would tell you that is a lot of screen time! Even my BIGGA friends overseas held a three-day virtual conference followed by five days of additional classes to meet the education demands of our profession.
One thing I noticed this year is the increasing trend of mental health and mindfulness topics. I am certain many of you remember the Ron Whitten piece in the September 2019 Golf Digest that highlighted the struggles of some of our peers. Admittedly, I was not initially thrilled with that long essay.
Golf Digest’s audience is average golfers, not golf course superintendents, and I feared golfers at my facility might get the wrong impression. How shortsighted of me. I eventually came to realize the story was courageous on the part of those willing to tell their story. If it helped even one person overcome their own struggles, it was successful.
But Golf Digest was not the first. I loosely touched on the topic nine months earlier with my third contribution to the annual Turfheads Take Over in December 2018. That issue included similar contributions from my peers. But I cannot take credit for the trend. I am just happy to see my peers are willing to talk openly about the challenges that come with caring so deeply for a piece of property somebody else owns.
That is kind of maddening when you think about it. Why do we pour so much of our blood, sweat, tears and passion into something that does not belong to us? It is baffling, yet a trait shared by most successful superintendents.
So, after a year like 2020, it is no surprise the topic was on the docket at the online events previously listed. And in case you missed it, Paul MacCormack (aka the O.G. Mindful Superintendent) hosted an additional mindfulness series in January and February through the Carolinas GCSA. No, the Carolinas is not expanding to Prince Edward Island, but we do have members in the Dominican Republic!
This series featured five talks on topics ranging from self-awareness to resiliency. Each lasted 90 minutes and was basically like eavesdropping on a conversation between Paul and his guests.
Guests included Sean Reehoorn from Aldarra Golf Club outside Seattle, former superintendent Callum Haugn from Halifax Seed Company, Leasha Schwab from Pheasant Run in Ontario and Carlos Arraya from Bellerive Country Club in St. Louis. Chris Tritabaugh from Hazeltine Golf Club in Chaska, Minnesota, was joined by his sister Emily. Paul Robertson from Victoria Golf Club in British Columbia and Miranda Robinson from nearby Cordova Bay opened up to viewers. And we were all treated to everyone’s favorite pig farmer, Dr. Frank Rossi from Cornell University and Ontario-based golf course architect Ian Andrew.
Each week the introduction stated there were no points for these sessions. They were simply for your takeaway and benefit.
As the series progressed, I detected a simple, underlying theme. Our peers openly talked about lessons learned the hard way. Sound familiar? When we were teenagers, didn’t our parents and grandparents try to warn us about the potential pitfalls and heartaches of adulthood, because they loved us and did not want us to make the same mistakes they made?
And, like true teenagers, we likely ignored their advice and subsequently learned the same lessons the way they did — the hard way. Hopefully, this new breed of assistants and superintendents will listen more closely than we did growing up and heed the advice of some veteran grass growers and make better life decisions. If not, then we can expect this topic to resurface in the future when those newbies-turned-veterans try to convince the next younger generation.
Before I go, I will leave you with one other thought. I think it is good folks are talking and willing to share. But, on the flip side, I cannot help but wonder if we might have a negative impact on young folks who desire a career in turf. With all the labor-related issues and declining enrollments at our universities, could this conversation be hurting as well as helping?
Just something to think about. Take care of yourselves.