June was a busy month in the Northwest region, starting with three First Green events in the first five days! The first field trip led me to Spokane, Wash., where the godfather of First Green, Jeff Gullickson, CGCS, hosted his favorite group of middle schoolers for a full day of activities. He started with a morning session out on the golf course where they learn how to calculate stream flow, learn about water pressure, identify bugs, and learn about the local electrical coop and how energy is made.
Following lunch, more activities were planned, including soils with an emphasis on water cohesion and adhesion, light and the spectrums within, and a fun round of Jeopardy where they were tested on what they learned from the day.
While in town, I made time to visit with Zach Bauer, CGCS, who is new to the region, recently relocating from Denver. Zach now manages Coeur d'Alene National Reserve, which is along the south end of Lake Coeur d'Alene. I was also able to visit Tom Walker at the Coeur d'Alene Resort, Dan Frederickson at The Club at Blackrock, and Kal Zarnec at Circling Raven.
From Spokane, I drove across the state to Bellevue, where our second godfather of First Green was hosting his perennial school for their annual event. The highlight of this event was connecting with Karen Armstead, Lynn McKay, and Jeff Shelly from the original First Green team. We had lunch, and I was able to get them caught up on the progress of First Green since being adopted by GCSAA. They are all so glad it is in great hands!
On June 5, the Oregon GCSA had a new First Green field trip at Persimmon Country Club. Superintendent Mark Miller overcame his first-time nerves and pulled off a fantastic event. It was a group effort with lots of help from Alexis Wenker and Stan Presley from Wilbur Ellis.
Later that week, I traveled to Bend, Ore., and spent the day visiting with FFA students at Mt. View High School with Pronghorn's director of maintenance, David Freitag. David sought out the teacher from the school and asked if he could come out and talk about careers in turfgrass management. I felt this was a great way to introduce the career to high schoolers will have positive results down the road.
I couldn't pass up the opportunity to gather some GCSAA members while I was in town, and I sent out a call for an informal happy hour gathering at the local brewery in Redmond. It was great to see Bob Fluter, CGCS, Connor Olsen, Derrick Stelle, and Shan Harford. I feel we, as superintendents and assistants, need to do this more often. Getting together to network and share experiences has benefits for all.
The RMGCSA Memorial Tournament was held on the 13th at Plum Creek Golf Club in Castle Rock, Colo. It felt kind of strange flying out of Oregon, where it was dry and brown, and into Colorado, where everything was so green and lush. For a change, the spring has treated the RMGCSA members well and has blessed them with ample amounts of precipitation. Anyway, it was good to see so many superintendents who weren't worried about when the next rain was coming; it has made for a great spring to recover from the usual winter damage. I had a great time at the event and enjoyed playing with Tim Hallam, who scored an eagle on the 14th from a side-hill lie 160 yards away!
I spent the following week in the heart of Oregon's grass seed industry, attending the WERA-11 conference with Dr. Alec Kowalewski and attending three outstanding grass seed field days.
The WERA-11 group of researchers gets together annually to discuss ongoing and potential research in the turfgrass industry. Much of the discussion evolved around water use and how warm-season varieties could potentially be used in the northern tier in conjunction with cool-season species. Another great point that was brought up was that there is a need to integrate social science into our ongoing research to learn how to best communicate our results to the populations who have adverse opinions of turfgrass and the use of inputs.
I have been attending various field days since the late 80s and have always found it interesting how new varieties have evolved and become a part of our industry. Grass seed companies have been working with universities such as Rutgers, and Penn State, who have bread and selected varieties that show disease and drought resilience, as well as color and playability. These varieties then come to the Willamette Valley to be grown for seed and used by golf courses around the world.
Within the last decade or so, a strong emphasis has been placed on drought tolerance with the formation of groups like A-List (Alliance for Low Input Sustainable Turf) and the TWCA (Turfgrass Water Conservation Alliance). Companies will submit their most promising varieties to these groups, which are then put through the wringers to determine their ability to withstand drought and low inputs. As I was looking at the various plots, the varieties that had one of these stamps of approval seemed to stand out among the others. Look for these logos for outstanding drought tolerance.
The three grass seed companies that I would like to call out are Mt. View Seeds, DLF/Pickseed, and Pure Seed/Tee2Green. I attended each of their field days and enjoyed their wonderful hospitality and education. These companies are strong supporters of our industry and work hard to bring you the highest quality product available.
I concluded the month of June with visits to Spokane and a trip to Salt Lake City. It was so great to see so many new faces at the Inland Empire GCSA Summer Outing. This year the event was held in Spokane at Manito Country Club, hosted by superintendent Jacob Teaford. Jacob recently took over the reins from Tim Ansett, who served the Club for 34 years. Tim attended the event and had great things to say about Jacob and the job he's been doing. I must say, the course was in incredible condition, and the greens rolled like glass!
Later that week, I traveled down to Salt Lake City to present to the Utah assistant superintendents. Lately, there has been a buzz around the Assistant Superintendent Certificate Series (ASCS), and the Utah members were anxious to learn more. I presented that as well as First Green and the value of what these programs are to them and the industry. Some have already taken part in the ASCS and had nothing but great things to say about the program.