Friday, September 18, 2015

A Difficult Time!

Hello and welcome to "The Greenkeeper"!  Today is Friday, September 18th and there is much to discuss about the golf course, recent weather, and upcoming agronomic activities, however there is something I need to say first if you will permit me this opportunity (I promise I will try to be brief). When I started this blog in November 2011 the purpose was simple, to share information about golf course maintenance activities and course conditions with you.  But, I didn't want to bore you with dry scientific lingo about growing grass (believe me, I once wrote a Masters Thesis), so I have tried through the years to weave and inject my personality and sense of humor into the words.  Over time, I think people have gotten to know me through the blog and I have appreciated the opportunity to express myself.  

In December 2013 (CLICK HERE) readers of "The Greenkeeper" were introduced to the most special man in my life, my grandfather John M. Hankins, Jr.  What many of you don't know is my mother and I lived with my grandparents and to say I was raised by my grandparents is an understatement.  I will not bore you with all the details of my life, but needless to say my love for the grand game of golf flowed through him, and I owe my entire college education to him (he always said, "Matt, you can't have too much education.").

One week ago today the world was reflecting on the events of 9/11.  I changed holes early that morning then returned to the office to code invoices and update the blog.  Many people were posting inspiring messages on Twitter last Friday and one I saw in particular from Terry Davio* inspired me to include my whereabouts on that fateful day in my blog post. 
I started writing and was nearly finished recounting my experience as an Assistant Superintendent of Augustine Golf Club in Stafford, Virginia (about 50 miles south of Washington, D.C.) when my phone rang.  It was my mother and she called to tell me my grandfather had passed away, and the world once again stopped turning!

Needless to say I never completed what I was writing as my wife and I hurried to Virginia.  I received many condolences via text, email, and tweets the past week and each has been special (it is good to know you have friends in this world that truly care about you).  They say you can count your true friends on one hand, but a close friend of my grandfather told me at the visitation, "Matthew, Johnny didn't have enough hands!"  

I'm happy to be back at Carolina and thankful I have a wonderful team that worked so hard in my absence.  One of the certainties about being a professional turfgrass manager is grass doesn't know what day it is.  Those of us in the business that share the passion call it turf life, and I wouldn't trade it for the world.  As of this week, the USDA Drought Monitor unfortunately reveals more of North Carolina under abnormally dry or moderate drought conditions than one month ago, but the good news is Mecklenburg County has been downgraded from severe to moderate status.

In fact, with the recent rainfall the past two weeks (1.95 inches) you wouldn't realize the golf course had been enduring severe drought conditions if not for the dying trees scattered around the property. The drought has really taken a toll this year on red oaks.  Last month we removed nearly a dozen dead trees from the golf course and currently there are nearly a dozen more in need of removal. Before my staff can begin safely removing dead trees we have some major work to accomplish first.

This coming Monday and Tuesday (September 21st and 22nd) the golf course will be closed all day for greens aeration.  This is a major agronomic event involving the removal of large cores, topdressing heavily with sand, and knowing when the greens heal they will once again be the best in town.  I can hardly wait!  We will also take advantage of this time Monday and Tuesday to wrap up our sod project.  The staff has been busy this week "buttoning up" random areas throughout the golf course with new turf, most notably cart path edges because it's human nature to "pull over" when parking thus always driving over turf with two tires.  Maybe someday I will make a capital request for concrete curbing around tees and greens, but until then turf is going to wear out and need to be replaced.  Of course, not all the sod is being used to repair worn areas adjacent to cart paths.  Some of it was used to replace a cart path.

Upon completion of greens aeration it will be time to make our fall pre-emergent herbicide application in order to prevent poa annua from inhabiting our dormant turf canopy this winter season.  We also have one more fertilization treatment to make to all bermudagrass areas, so you can see this is a busy time in Golf Course Maintenance.  It is my goal to complete all necessary projects in a timely fashion so you may enjoy some of the best golf conditions of the year. After all, nothing could be finer than fall golf at Carolina!  

See you on the course,

Matthew Wharton, CGCS

*Terry Davio is a graduate of NC State and previously worked at Greensboro Country Club.  He is now golf course superintendent of Lake St. Catherine Country Club in Poultney, Vermont.