Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Grateful For Golf!

Hello and welcome to The Greenkeeper!  Today is Wednesday, November 25th and it's time for what I believe has slowly grown into a Carolina Tradition, my Thanksgiving list.  Did you know this marks the 10th annual list to appear on this blog page, my goodness, how time flies.  But before we get down to the business of gratitude I will remind each of you although the club is closed tomorrow, the golf course is available (walking only) for those wanting to squeeze in a quick round before or after your Thanksgiving dinner.  I believe we're in for some colder weather early next week, so if you can get away come on out and enjoy a round of golf tomorrow.

Those of you that have made it a point to play on Thanksgiving the past several years know my day starts with a quick ride through the course to ensure everything is in order.  And if there is no frost I typically exit out the back gate and return home before everyone wakes.  This year we do not have family visiting and there is no threat of frost tomorrow, so you may see me with some hickory clubs in tow.  Also, we may have some lingering showers in the early morning, so be prepared.

Now, on to this year's list.  I've been thinking about this list for months.  In a year that brought us lockdowns, quarantines, self-isolation, social distancing, and uncertainty.  Followed by civil unrest, peaceful protests, riots and a contentious election what could one possibly be thankful for?  It would be easy to declare 2020 the worst year in memory just for the toilet paper shortages alone.  

But I feel I must highlight and give thanks for any and all good things, no matter how trivial or impactful that occurred this year, otherwise it would be impossible to survive 2020.  So here are a few things I'm thankful for this year:

  • Black and White photography - When Philadelphia golf course photographer Jon Cavalier (A.K.A. Links Gems) visited the course on his way to Florida just after Christmas last year, I was unsure how a dormant CGC might look.  Not only that, but we had encountered significant rainfall (1.5 inches) just three days before he played and we all know how messy that can be.  A few days later I was pleasantly surprised to see the Links Gems tweet on Jan 5 in black and white!  Well done Jon!
  • The Fried Egg Podcast - Toro sponsored a Superintendent Series of the Fried Egg Podcast in 2020 that featured guys like fellow Master Greenkeeper Steve Cook from Medinah, Australian Stephen Britton from Chevy Chase, and good friends Tony Nysse (Mountain Lake) and Josh Lewis (Sharon Heights) to name a few. Back in February I had the pleasure of sitting down with Andy Johnson, along with Edric Funk of Toro, in the Toro booth at the Golf Industry Show in Orlando.  Thanks for including me Andy! CLICK HERE FOR PODCAST
  • Streaming - Thank goodness for Netflix and Amazon Prime because if we couldn't binge on Vikings, The Crown, Yellowstone, and most recently The Queen's Gambit how on earth would we have survived! ;)

  • Approved Outdoor Activities - In late March when the world changed for all of us and golf courses across the country and other parts of the world closed their doors we were fortunate in North Carolina that golf was an approved outdoor activity.  Golf is important to North Carolina's economy and a coalition of industry leaders made up of owners, professionals and superintendents made a powerful case to keep your courses open when other places did not.  I stated on more than one occasion I felt golf had the potential to be a beacon of hope for members of the community.  A place to escape the insanity and stress by breathing fresh air and exercising the body and mind.  I am so thankful we were able to continue providing you and your families and guests this outlet in a manner as safe as possible!

  • The Virginia Tech >> Purdue Connection - Dr. Cale Bigelow is a professor of horticulture at Purdue University.  He is also a graduate of Virginia Tech.  Although our times at VT did not overlap we did share the same major professor, Dr. David Chalmers.  And this connection has led to a special kinship for more than 20 years.  Assistant Superintendent Matthew Rollyson came to Carolina Golf Club from Purdue University in 2019 and this year Jarret Price was our summer intern.  JP's arrival in mid-May could not have been more timely considering the headache that was employee recruitment and retention this year!  We are definitely thankful for his contributions to our operation in 2020, and wish him well as he is currently continuing his studies in West Lafayette, IN.
  • Zoom - Prior to 2020 I had never heard of this platform but it's become a staple in a short time.  Whether it's a meeting with the Green Committee, the Carolinas GCSA Board of Directors, or even a social hour with friends from other parts of the country, its good to see people, even remotely.

At some point during late summer, as limited guest play was reintroduced along with the conducting of club events, things started to feel somewhat more normal.  The temperature cooled in September and the stress level in the Turf Care Center subsided enough for me and members of my team to catch our breath.  Mrs. Greenkeeper and I found some opportunities to play late on weekend afternoons at other facilities within a short commute.  To be honest, things were probably feeling too normal and then there was a bruise, that led to a self exam, that led to a follow up mammogram, that led to a biopsy, that led to where we are today.

Since her diagnosis 39 days ago I've been reflecting inwardly way more frequently and trying my hardest to be thankful for all the stuff I took for granted.  In a year that saw so much taken away from so many, how could I have possibly continued to take life for granted.  I'm so sorry it took my wife's cancer to make me stop and realize every day on this earth is a blessing.  And despite what may appear as tragic, it is only tragic if you allow it to be.  So here are some other, more important things I'm thankful for this year:

  • Golf - I'm thankful that last year's trip to Ireland re-sparked an interest in the game for us both, and although difficult to procure tee times due to the increasing demand brought about by the coronavirus, we managed to make time to be together on the golf course this year and made some wonderful memories!  I look forward to our next round together in 2021 when she is cancer free!
    Thanks For Playing With Me!

  • Professional Golf - I'm thankful the PGA Tour was able to resume in late June and help pave the way for other tours to follow suit.  Without fans the game looks a little different, but we can see more of the course.  In a year that early on seemed destined to be wiped from the record books, we eventually crowned three major champions, and who will ever forget the Masters in November! I thought it was just what the doctor ordered for 2020!
  • Sunrises - October is known as breast cancer awareness month and is symbolized by pink ribbons.  I've been wearing a pink wristband to support my wife and others fighting their battles.  It was downright awe inspiring to see that color dabbled across the sky nearly every morning since her diagnosis.  The things I've witnessed recently long before sunrise have been simply breathtaking and give me strength and hope for a positive outcome!

  • The Turf Industry - The brother and sisterhoods that make up professional turfgrass management is a tight-knit family and the love and support they have provided over the past month since learning about what Darless is facing has been overwhelming!  Cards, flowers, emails, texts and more have my wife telling me I am blessed with amazing friends!  You all are the best and your love and support is helping us both see this through!  Thank You!

  • The Members of Carolina Golf Club - You too have poured much love and support into our home the past month showing Darless how much you genuinely care.  Thank you for stopping me to ask how she's doing! Thank you for the messages, texts, letters, cards, flowers, and emails.  Your support means more to us than anything!  
  • Your Patience - You've been without bunker rakes since March.  The practice tee and clubhouse was closed for more than a month this spring.  And you went without golf carts for more than forty days.  I saw folks walking that I had never witnessed with clubs on their shoulders in fifteen years!  But through it all you continued to play golf.  Whether it was a verbal acknowledgement or a friendly text or email, you took time to express an appreciation for the staff as everyone tried our best to navigate this "new normal".  Thank you for your patience, really!

  • CGC Agronomy - This year saw several new faces come and go.  They endured a reduction in hours as we attempted to mitigate our potential risk of exposure.  We've enacted many changes to their otherwise normal routines as they relate to the daily distribution and sanitation of tools and equipment.  They've spread out and sometimes take lunch on a mower in order to distance themselves from one another.  And somehow, despite all these challenges and obstacles, they managed to produce a product I'm very proud of.  It hasn't been easy this year and I know some of these guys are ready for some much deserved time off, but through it all they managed to help encourage this golf course to be the best it can be each and every day!  Thanks Team!

Of course I'm most thankful for the love and support of my family, along with the support of the Green Committee, Board of Governors and Mr. Cleveland!  Without them none of this possible.  I am honored to be your golf course superintendent and each day at CGC truly is a blessing.  Thank you for providing us with the tools and resources that allow us to improve the golf course each season.  And thank you most for the opportunity to serve you and your guests and I hope each of you have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

See you on the course,

Matthew Wharton, CGCS, MG


  1. Matthew,
    I always read your blog, this one took me aback. Please let Darless know she & you are in our thoughts & prayers.
    Best, The Ford family.

  2. Happy Thanksgiving! We are thankful for all you do to make Carolina the fabulous course it is. It truly has been a peaceful oasis during these COVID times. Praying for Darless and looking forward to the time she is cancer free. Helen & Gene

  3. Matthew (and Mrs. Greenkeeper!)
    Your blog is one of the few I ever read and I love it! Your "holiday" versions are always poignant and thought-provoking, but none like this one. You and Darless will be in our thoughts and prayers ...and standouts on our Thankfulness List this year!
    Warmly, the deVrieses

  4. Matthew,

    Praying for you and Darless. Our Sunday group asks about her often. We are pulling for her to beat cancer.

    Don Moss

  5. Prayers for Darless. You two are a wonderful couple. Thank you for everything you do.