The year of 2016 certainly threw its fair share of curveballs at our Agronomy Staff. As we kicked off the New Year our team waited in limbo on the green light to begin an encompassing renovation to the back nine of the course. As we waited Mother Nature greeted our staff with record rainfall in February, forcing progress on our drainage projects to advance at snail’s pace. Finally the light turned green on the renovation and we started…….3 days later. As renovations came to a close in May, Mother Nature was kind enough to greet us again with nearly 1.5 acres of Meyer Zoysia fairways that failed to transition out of winter. Sod projects ensued just in time to get us to the next cross road of 2016 – exceptional drought levels.
We spent the remainder of the summer continuing to grow and challenge ourselves to elevate course conditions year over year. This year we incorporated monthly verti-cutting and topdressing on our fairways, included an additional dryject process on greens (on Memorial Day), and started a HOC adjustment on a nearly biweekly rotation in our roughs.
There are many other things I could continue to banter about; however the reasoning for this post is simple. We try to hold ourselves as a department in a humble, genuine manner. No matter how good the course conditions we create are, we always know there is room for improvement and strive to get there. This year we were able to create the best playing conditions on record for the TOUR Championship. As we reflected upon our hard work we had to ask ourselves, what made the difference? Simply put, and as we all often know, it was the team we had developed within our department.
I would like to briefly point out the changes and impacts each of these individuals had on our success.
First, we terminated our intern program and developed it into a full time Assistant in Training Program. The selected candidates were Davis Watts, Auburn University, and Codie LaPlante, University of Massachusetts.
Davis was responsible for Irrigation Management throughout the summer. I have yet to meet an individual as young as Davis who has the extensive knowledge and capabilities to manage moisture as Davis does. We struggle annually to achieve adequate moisture and coverage in our fairway drain lines. Davis expertly managed the moisture levels on the course in a drought stricken year using sustainable watering practices (a moisture meter and a hose), and did an outstanding job.
Codie was responsible for the majority of the plant protecting applications throughout the golf course, but primarily for making all of the greens applications. Codie grew tremendously over the course of the summer and developed his ability to make accurate and wise decisions when applying products throughout the course.
We incorporated a new Second Assistant Superintendent into the team. This was Dustin Bucher. Dustin came to us from the University of Georgia Golf Course and had past tournament preparation experience preparing for the back-to-back U.S.
G.A. Men’s and Women’s Open Championships at Pinehurst.
Preston Watts was hired on as our Golf Course Landscapes Manager/Arborist. Preston spent copious amounts of hours renovating our golf course landscape beds and performing surgery on trees throughout the course. His efforts created a playing canopy which allowed players to advance their ball, while still penalized by a poor shot. His efforts have greatly increased the aesthetics of the property and his attention to detail shined through during the TOUR Championship.
Second Row L to R: Preston Watts, Hector Arborleda, Jaime Marcia, DeShontey Berry, Tour Championship and FedEx Cup Champion Rory McIlroy, Charles Aubry, Davis Watts, Dustin Bucher, Saul Lopez-Herrera
Third Row L to R: Zaire Lemond, Colin Spellman, John Julian, Ralph Kepple, Jason Tharp, John Banks Woodrick
Not Shown: Mandy Rowell, Chris Lewis, Howard Horne, Kevin Vassar, Hector Lopez, Chris Smith
Assistant Golf Course Superintendent