Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Geico, Eddie and the Cruisers, and Gratitude!

Hello and welcome to "The Greenkeeper"!  Today is Wednesday, November 25th, the day before Thanksgiving (my favorite holiday of the year).  In a moment I will share with you a small list of things I'm thankful for this year.  I guess you could say it has become an annual tradition, but before I do I want to review the policies regarding Thanksgiving Day golf and then share some perspective why there is more to be thankful for this year than in the past.

Tomorrow Carolina Golf Club is closed.  The gate at the street will not be open and the clubhouse will be locked (we will at least make sure the restrooms adjacent to the snack bar are open).  All club employees are off in order to spend time enjoying Thanksgiving with their families.  I do not know if you fully understand the significance of this gesture, but let me assure you my staff truly appreciates the opportunity to catch up on a little sleep and spend quality time with their loved ones.  When you work in the golf industry you spend your holidays at the golf course [it's what you do ;) ] because that is when the folks we work so hard to please all year are off work and desire to play this game we all love and enjoy.  But on this day folks wishing to get in a quick round before the turkey, or maybe a quick nine afterwards are welcome to do so, but it is golf in its purest form, people walking and enjoying the grandest of games simply for the love of it, and maybe to get out of the way in the kitchen at home.  

My Thanksgiving day starts with a cup of coffee (okay, two) and a drive through the clubhouse gate. I patrol the entire course making sure everything is in order and nothing is out of place.  If there is no concern for frost I will exit through the back gate by the Turf Care Center and return home to my family.  After all, grass doesn't know what day it is.  If there is a likelihood for frost I will hang around behind the clubhouse and converse with whoever arrives to ensure no one inadvertently damages the turf before the frost lifts.  The forecast for tomorrow morning calls for a temperature in the lower 40's meaning no frost expected tomorrow, so come early if you wish and if I don't see you, Happy Thanksgiving!

When I was in high school there was a popular movie on HBO called Eddie and the Cruisers.  The 1983 cult film was centered around a popular 60's rock band and the mysterious "death" of its leader, Eddie Wilson.  The band was trying to create a follow up album to their smash debut, but it seems problems swirled around the band and the studio sessions for the never released Season In Hell.

As I reflect on the events that will forever mark 2015, there have been times when I thought this was a "Season in Hell".  My team and I managed the golf course through multiple weather extremes such as winter kill, heat and drought, and flooding rains.  We've dealt with internal personnel issues and said goodbye to former coworkers.  And my family and I have endured the death of my grandfather, my mother-in-law fell and broke her hip, and recently my aunt underwent surgery to remove kidney cancer.  I do not share these things with you to invoke pity or sympathy, but merely to say this year was definitely more difficult than others.  You see, it's easy to be thankful in a year of prosperity like last year (CLICK HERE), but it's the truly difficult and challenging years that strengthen you and make everything more worthwhile.  Despite the challenges and setbacks of 2015 the golf course has come shining through, and my team's hard work continues to produce the best product in the city for your enjoyment!  

This year I am thankful for:

10. The Carolina Panthers!  Hey, the Panthers are 10-0 and on the cover of Sports Illustrated.  Having grown up in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, I never had a hometown team before.  When my wife and I moved to Charlotte ten years ago I was not a Panthers fan, but over the years my love for my "hometown" team has grown and evolved.  Besides, everyone in the Queen City is so much friendlier when the Panthers win. #KeepPounding

9.  Frank Beamer!  In February of 1997 I walked into Frank Beamer's office to introduce myself.  I was the new graduate assistant sports turf manager and I noticed his door was open.  Coach Beamer had just won the Sugar Bowl over Texas in '95 and was a few weeks removed from going toe-to-toe with Tom Osborne's Nebraska Cornhuskers in the '96 Orange Bowl.  Coach Beamer took the time to make me feel welcome and explain my role would be important in our program's future success.  I have never forgotten that moment and I am thankful for everything he did the past 29 years for our beloved alma mater, Virginia Tech! Ut Prosim! #ThanksFrank

Virginia Tech Fighting Gobblers!

8.  The USGA!  A few weeks ago the USGA announced the 2018 Mid-Amateur Championship is coming to Charlotte Country Club, but we will play a significant role as we serve as the companion course during the stroke play portion of the tournament.  After successfully hosting the 2014 NC Amateur I didn't think it possible for Carolina Golf Club to be part of something on a larger scale, but a USGA national championship is about as big as it gets!  Let the countdown to the 2018 #USMidAm begin!

7.  Recognition!  Earlier this year I mentioned how Carolina Golf Club received some recognition in Tom Doak's new book, The Confidential Guide to Golf Courses, Volume 2.  What we have at 2415 Old Steele Creek Road is special, and now folks outside are starting to take notice.  Kind of gives you that warm and fuzzy feeling folks sometime mention. 

6.  Jordan Spieth!  The 2015 PGA Tour Season was one for the ages with Jordan winning 5 times including the Masters and U.S. Open, then falling one stroke shy of a playoff for the Open Championship at St. Andrews.  With the likes of Mr. Spieth, Rory McIllroy, Jason Day, and a host of others I think the future of the game of golf is in good hands.  You can catch Jordan in prime time and late night this week as he defends his Australian Open Championship down under!

5.  My Staff!  I alluded earlier not everything was a bed of roses this year in golf course maintenance land, but through it all there still exists a dedicated and loyal staff working their tails off making me look good!  We endured a lot this year and I genuinely appreciate each and every one of them.  When you see them on the course please let them know you appreciate their efforts too!
Golf Maintenance 2015
4.  Support!  I can't thank the Board of Governors, the Greens Committee, and Roger Wolfe, CCM enough for their support this year!  As I stated above this was one for the ages as we endured multiple weather related hardships all in one calendar year.  I know I am very fortunate to work for a group of people that love golf like I do, and put the golf course first and foremost in their hearts. Thank you all for your support this year!

3.  Golf!  I list it every year because quite simply without this grand game invented centuries ago none of this is even possible.  I thank God every day for the game of golf, it is not just a game you and I play, but it is the life I live!  

2.   Faith!  I mentioned the Man upstairs just moments ago and I am not worthy of the blessings He's bestowed upon me since I arrived on this piece of property over ten years ago.  A young Natalie Wood once told Maureen O'Hara, "Faith is believing in something even when common sense tells us not to."  Years like this one can test a man's faith... and I'm thankful mine is stronger than ever!

1.  Family!  This is the part when my vision gets blurry because I can't express eloquently enough the true love and appreciation I have for Mrs. Greenkeeper!  She has been a rock this year supporting me through a challenging year fighting the elements, supporting me in the loss of my hero, and supporting her mother in a difficult time of need.  I am so thankful for her and everything she does for our family! Later tonight our children and grandchildren will arrive to celebrate Thanksgiving with us.  I can't wait to join hands around the table tomorrow and tell each of them how much I love them, how thankful I am for them, and tell them how much I love their mother!

    Happy Thanksgiving,

    Matthew Wharton, CGCS

    Friday, November 13, 2015

    Big News, Saying Goodbye, and No Time To Rest!

    Hello and welcome to "The Greenkeeper"!  Today is Friday, November 13th and earlier this week some exciting news I vaguely hinted about in January (CLICK HERE) was finally announced.  That's right, I'm talking about the United States Golf Association bringing the 2018 Mid-Amateur Championship to Charlotte Country Club in late September of that year.  Carolina Golf Club will serve as the companion course for the 36-hole stroke play portion of championship qualifying before the field is cut to 64 players advancing to match play at Charlotte Country Club.  Here is the LINK to the official press release courtesy of the USGA and here is the LINK to the story as it appeared in the Charlotte Observer earlier this week.  Granted Charlotte Country Club is hosting the championship, but believe me any level of involvement with a USGA national championship is major league.  The tournament countdown has already started at Golf Course Maintenance!

    In other news, today I said goodbye to four young lads that have been just an absolute joy to mentor. Sky, Sing, Pong, and Aek (pronounced Ache) are heading home to Thailand.  This marked the sixth consecutive year we used international interns through the World International Student Exchange to serve as seasonal staff.  Over the past six years we have hosted young men from Ukraine, Moldova, Ireland, England, Thailand, and Philippines.  This year's class was our best ever with these four young men from Thailand joining two others (Joe and Gift) from the Philippines.  Joe and Gift will be with us a few more weeks.
    From L-R: Sky, Aek, Pong, Sing

    Group Selfie!
    The photos above were taken back on April 11th.  That's Joe in the red cap turned backwards and Gift sporting the throwback Montreal Expos cap.  Notice how much dormant turf was still evident in the rough, what a strange weather year 2015 has been!  

    Speaking of weather, did you know we received just under six inches rain in the month of October (5.71") and thus far we received an additional 7.17 inches in November!  That's right, over 7 inches rain just in the first two weeks of November this year.  Seems our usual wet summer and dry fall decided to switch places on us this year.  As the growing season for bermudagrass comes to a close things have definitely been challenging with regards to making pre-emergent herbicide applications, Spring Dead Spot fungicide applications, and winter colorant applications.  Thankfully we decided to split the pre-emergent applications this year so we do have the first one under our belts.  We will get cranking again soon now that conditions permit our 300 gallon sprayer on the fairways without damage.

    With the traditional busy fall golf season now in the rear-view mirror (save for the upcoming Pig Roast Shotgun next weekend) you might think there would be time for us hard working superintendents to rest.  Quite the contrary as education season kicks off next week with the annual Carolinas Golf Course Superintendents Association Conference and Show.  As a member of the Carolinas GCSA Board of Directors, not only will I be attending the conference this year but I will also play a role behind the scenes.  Assistant Superintendent Ben Albrecht will be with me in attendance as we represent Carolina Golf Club and attend various seminars, lectures, and the trade show.  This year I'm also a speaker as I will be joining Tony Nysse, Golf Course Superintendent of Old Marsh Golf Club in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida and Pat Jones, Publisher and Editorial Director of Golf Course Industry magazine in presenting a professional development class on communications.  The three of us will attempt to help other superintendents and assistants better understand the role social media plays in today's society, and how they may be able to better use the various platforms to their advantage. Funny, it was this time two years ago (CLICK HERE) I joined Twitter and now they have me teaching a class on it, not sure what to make of that!

    Oh well, hope everyone enjoys the sunshine while it hangs around a few more days.  Brace for the cold temperatures moving in and don't be surprised if we have a frost delay either morning this weekend.  We pride ourselves at Carolina for making the effort to get you, your fellow members, and your guests on the course as quickly as possible.  We only ask you be patient and enjoy a second cup of coffee!

    See you on the course,

    Matthew Wharton, CGCS