Wednesday, November 22, 2017


Hello and welcome to The Greenkeeper!  Today is Wednesday, November 22nd and I want to quickly remind everyone although the club is closed tomorrow for Thanksgiving the golf course is available (walking only) for those wanting to squeeze in a quick round before dinner, or perhaps you need to "walk off" some turkey and stuffing later in the day. Either way I hope you enjoy your time on the course should you choose to come out.
Thanksgiving is a holiday steeped in traditions and over the years has become my all-time favorite holiday.  I love leaving the house quietly each year on Thanksgiving morning with a fresh cup of coffee and making my journey to Carolina Golf Club.  The streets are quiet as the city enjoys the day off and I ride through the course to ensure everything is in order and nothing out of place.  It's a quiet and peaceful time to reflect on the many blessings of the past year.  If there is no potential for frost I exit out the back gate by the Turf Care Center and return home to a house filled with visiting family (now you know why it has become my favorite holiday).  If there is potential for frost I linger behind the clubhouse and engage early arrivals in conversation and holiday cheer in order to prevent inadvertent turf damage before the frost sufficiently lifts.  Currently the forecast tomorrow morning calls for temperatures in the low to mid-30's so I wouldn't be surprised if we have some frost.  Come early and maybe I'll see you, and if we don't cross paths this year, Happy Thanksgiving!

Just prior to Thanksgiving in 2010 I penned a short list of things I was most thankful for that year, and since that time I guess you could say it's become a tradition.  Inspired by the lists of legendary golf writer Ron Green, Sr. that annually appear in the Charlotte Observer I enjoy taking time to reflect on the year and recognizing some memorable moments.  I am well aware my lists pale in comparison to his but without further ado, this year I'm most thankful for:

10. BTME! The BIGGA Turf Management Exposition is the largest professional turfgrass conference outside the U.S. and what a thrill it was to attend the conference earlier this year.  Not only did I have the opportunity to meet and fellowship with my peers across the Atlantic, but this was actually my first time travelling outside the U.S.  Mrs. Greenkeeper and I had a wonderful experience and look forward to attending again sometime in the future, maybe I'll get invited to speak one year, that would be special.
Harrogate International Centre 
9. Chris Buie! The author of The Life and Times of Donald Ross befriended me earlier this year and shared many of the cool finds from researching his book including an Associated Press story from 1933 that chronicles how Carolina came to be the golf course we all love and enjoy today from its humble dairy farm origins.  That story appears in his book by the way.  He also shared coming across a reference to a match played at Carolina in the early 30's between Walter Hagen and Joe Kirkwood.  At this time I've yet to unearth evidence of that match but the search continues. 
The Life & Times of Donald Ross
Original Ross Routing

8. Timely Rains! This year we received over twenty inches rain at Carolina Golf Club between April 1st and June 30th and although I love firm, fast playing conditions even I had to agree the bermudagrass turf looked its best ever this summer.  The plentiful and timely rains boosted soil moisture reserves creating a dense bermudagrass turf canopy unlike we've seen post restoration and the definition this year was second to none.
16 Green Foreground, 3 Approach & Green Background
Nest of Bunkers & Mounds Holes 6 (R) & 7 (L)
Hole No. 8
7. Mentors!  I dare say none of us would be where we are in life today without the assistance and guidance from someone we look up to.  I have been fortunate in my profession to be blessed with several mentors and what a treat it was for me this year to spend time during PGA Championship week showing off Carolina Golf Club to a few fellow superintendents and industry peers, and they all loved it!
6. Kris Spence!  Kris has been consulting and working with Carolina Golf Club since before I was your superintendent.  I've been blessed for the opportunity to work closely with him and I'm proud the relationship he shares with Carolina Golf Club today is as strong as ever.  It was just this time last year he assisted us in the design and location of our two newest fairway bunkers left of hole No. 7 and earlier this year he was the feature interview on the popular golf course architecture discussion website, Golf Club Atlas.  CLICK HERE to read what Kris had to say about becoming involved with Carolina and the club's subsequent transformation.
5. Sunrises! One of the greatest benefits to being a golf course superintendent is being on the property at a time when most aren't and capturing those moments.  I've seen countless beautiful sunrises over Carolina through the years but these two photos below contain colors I don't recall ever seeing before.  Oddly enough they were taken only three minutes apart back in late September from the operator's seat of my fairway mower.  #nofilter 
6:59 am Sep 25th
7:02 am Sep 25th
4. Ed Oden!  How does the chairman of the Greens Committee replace an outgoing chairman of five years?  Exactly like Mr. Oden did it this year.  He assembled a great group consisting of a few new members while keeping a few tenured ones for continuity.  He even made the effort to play the course (walking) with me the day prior to several of our monthly meetings.  These informal "course inspections" really helped shape and facilitate our discussions with the group each time the next day.  Thank you Mr. Oden for your leadership and guidance this year and I look forward to continuing our work together next year!

3. Billy Cleveland!  Recall this time last year the club was engaged with a firm assisting with the selection and hire of our next General Manager.  Regardless of the process and subsequent negotiations, I believe things happen for a reason and I'm truly thankful we landed Mr. Cleveland!  Since mid-February he has brought an unprecedented knowledge and experience to Carolina and I'm excited for what the bright future holds in store for the club.  
Solar Eclipse 
Just last week while attending the Carolinas GCSA Conference and Show I was approached by several individuals who recognized the name Carolina Golf Club on my badge and asked me about Billy Cleveland.  It's an honor to be associated with someone so well thought of throughout the industry.  Thank you for your leadership Sir!

2. Carolina Golf Club!  As I alluded to briefly above, this time last year we were without a General Manager and the lack of leadership at that time made for some challenging times.  However, throughout those times you constantly reassured me and my family here is where you want us to be.  I count my blessings each day I remain entrusted to care for the best golf course in town.  I cannot believe I get to do what I do everyday and call it work.  It's not work when it's your passion and this course contains my blood, sweat, and tears so why would I want to be anywhere else. 

1. My Staff!  Each year I've always thanked my staff, usually somewhere between numbers four and five.  Mostly because I reserved numbers one and two for faith and family but this year I thought I would do something different.  Many of you have stated this year you believe the golf course was the best it has ever been.  I don't disagree, the overall condition and daily presentation of tees, fairways and rough was by far the most consistent in our post restoration era.  I will forever remember 2017 for a strong year of turf conditions and course presentation, but we did so in a year with tremendous turnover.  When negative forces impact team chemistry it's necessary to make changes and I made a significant change to my management team just as the growing season arrived.  Shortly after, I lost two additional experienced equipment operators to other job opportunities and suddenly we were short-handed.  Without hesitation I successfully recruited Matt Claunch from Pine Tree Golf Club in Boynton Beach, FL to return home to Charlotte and join my staff.  A month later Colby Engert returned from Arizona after a near 20-month hiatus walking through the door exclaiming, "I'm home Boss".  Together we guided what turned out to be the best group of international interns we've ever had.  These young men from the Philippines have spoiled me this year with their knowledge, talent, work ethic, and pleasant demeanor.  We might look like a ragtag band of misfits in the photo below but I will forever be proud of the team I assembled in 2017!  I thank each and every one of you for all your hard work and effort!  
2017 Carolina Golf Club Greenkeeping Team
Okay, I really do need to mention two other things I'm thankful for this year.  I'm thankful for movers and realtors.  Granted, I would never recommend to anyone the company that moved us after that experience, but our realtor was awesome so I would happily recommend her if you're in need.

Did you really think I would omit the most important people in my life from this year's list?  I'm most thankful for my loving and supporting wife and our family.  This past year was a stressful one at times, especially with the move and ongoing renovations ;) but it only brought us closer together.  I truly love what I do for you and your guests each and every day, but the inspiration to wake and seize the day is the unconditional love of my family.  Whether it's enjoying one another's company at the beach or watching my little Princess (she's not so little anymore) play softball, they are the constant beating of my heart.  I love you all most!  
Catcher 2024 USA Softball 

May God Bless and Happy Thanksgiving Carolina Golf Club!   

See you on the course,

Matthew Wharton, CGCS, MG

Friday, November 10, 2017

Seasons Change!

Hello and welcome to "The Greenkeeper"!  Today is Friday, November 10th and much has changed since my last update.  We wrapped up a warm and mostly dry (3.76 inches rainfall) October with a fabulous Fall Member-Guest and Tough Day.  We encountered our first "official" frost on Monday, October 30th but only in the rough as closely mowed areas remained frost free that morning due to soil temperatures.  The frost did manage to initiate the dormancy process in the rough and over several days things began to change.  
Each year as the color begins to fade in the rough I receive a few comments and questions.  The color contrast creates a unique look to the course that many find appealing, albeit none of us wish it looked that way year round.  I'm also asked why it turns brown in such an irregular pattern.  The short answer is convection, but rather than attempt to explain that phenomenon I thought I would link a one page article that will satisfy your curiosity better than I can. CLICK HERE to learn why the rough looks like "Tiger Stripes" each year after the first frost.

Pretty cool huh, I keep thinking our good friend Brad Panovich is going to feature the frost/convection/tiger stripes phenomenon on the news one evening, definitely a good science nerdy segment just waiting to happen.  Could even use some cool footage of Carolina and the Charlotte skyline, just saying.

Last weekend closed the books on the 2017 Tournament Season with a thrilling sudden death playoff finish to the annual Carolina Invitational.  Our winners this year were the team of Joe Jaspers and Jim "Bubba" Aughtry with a winning score of -13.  
Jim Aughtry and Joe Jaspers
They defeated River Run's Steve Harwell and Greensboro's Justin Tereshko when Jaspers calmly sank a short but breaking putt for birdie on No. 18 moments after Harwell's relatively short birdie bid stayed out.  This was the third Invitational title for the team of Jaspers and Aughtry having previously won in 2009 and 2012.  If you're thinking the name Tereshko sounds familiar it's because earlier this year he won the North Carolina Amateur contested at River Run CC after previously finishing runner-up each of the past two years.   

The golf course definitely held it's own with the strong field only playing to a stroke average of 70.71 in round 1 and 69.89 in round 2.  Tough hole locations were definitely the talk of the competitors but Mother Nature didn't make it any easier with a back-door cold front bringing cooler temperatures on the heels of near record highs earlier in the week.  Saturday morning was also a bit breezy as the front arrived making it difficult on the players.  Our own Stephen Woodard and Brett Boner finished 5th after a brilliant final round 64, unfortunately the defending champions got off to a slow start on day 1 that left them too far back.
Keeping on the subject of change, one other is the recent time change.  The end of Daylight Saving Time each year signals a change to our range usage procedures.  For those unfamiliar with our "off-season" policies we close access to the Back Tee (far end of practice range) and all participation at the Primary Tee is limited to mats only Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.  We overseeded the Primary Tee and will open the grass for use Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays weather permitting.  This has worked well the past few years enabling folks to enjoy hitting from natural turf through the winter months while protecting and preserving turf for use come winters end.  In other words, our tee simply isn't large enough to accommodate daily use throughout the winter when turf isn't growing and recovering.  Thank you for your understanding and cooperation.

Before I go, I have one more change to announce, and it's a big one.  I have a new assistant because former Senior Assistant Ben Albrecht is now the golf course superintendent at Birkdale Golf Club in Huntersville.  Ben served as Senior Assistant since December 2014 and had been a member of my staff dating back to 2008.   I want to thank Ben for his tireless effort the past nine years and wish him the very best as he embarks on this next chapter of his career.  I'm very happy to announce Matt Claunch has been promoted to Senior Assistant.  You may recall I introduced all of you to Matt (CLICK HEREwhen he joined our staff in late May.  Eric Sosnowski has been promoted to Assistant Superintendent.  Eric has worked tirelessly as our Assistant-In-Training since joining the team in September 2013.  
Eric Sosnowski
Originally from State College, PA he is a 2013 graduate of Penn State University with a B.S. degree in Turfgrass Science.  He loves NASCAR, the Philadelphia Eagles and has even been known to wow the patrons at the Hickory Tavern in Steele Creek on Friday nights with his karaoke talents.

Well, that's all for now.  With tournament season in the rear-view it's time for refreshers and seminars as conference season kicks off next week.  Matt and I are headed to Myrtle Beach for the annual Carolinas GCSA Conference and Show.  We're looking forward to representing Carolina Golf Club as we learn about the latest trends and emerging technologies in golf course management, all in an effort to make Carolina even better next year.  

The coldest air of this fall season arrives in town tonight, so don't be surprised if we have a brief frost delay tomorrow and possibly Sunday morning this weekend! CLICK HERE for a brief video courtesy of the United States Golf Association explaining the importance of why starting times are delayed when frost is present on the golf course. Thank you for your patience!

See you on the course,

Matthew Wharton, CGCS, MG