U.S. Open Prep is a Team Sport
As Justin Rose finished the final round of the U.S. Open two strokes ahead of Jason Day and Phil Mickelson last month, it was the successful conclusion to preparations Merion Golf Club and its local John Deere distributor, Finch Services, began shortly after the 2012 U.S. Open.
Finch Services helped Shaffer prepare by loaning Merion the extra John Deere equipment it needed to get the course ready for its close-up, including E-Cut Hybrid Fairway Mowers, Triplexes , Walking Greens Mowers and Electric Gators. When rain halted the first day of practice rounds, Finch Services responded quickly by bringing in additional John Deere equipment to help dry the course.
But Finch did more than just drop off equipment, the distributors’ employees also volunteered on the crew.
“They support us every day, but for this event, they went way above and beyond,” says Matt Shaffer, Director of Golf Course Management at Merion Golf Course.
Watch this four-minute video to see how Shaffer, his Equipment Manager Robert Smith, and East Course Superintendent Arron McCurdy prepared for the U.S. Open.
Golf Leaders Share Ideas
The most recent Leadership Summit in the series of meetings around the country was hosted by John Deere May 16-17 at The Grande Del Mar in San Diego. The Southwest Leadership Summit brought golf visionaries from the region together to discuss industry challenges and potential solutions. It revolved around three main themes: preparing for the future, growing the game, and trusted performance.
Preparing for the Future
The Summit kicked off with an update from Craig Kessler from the San Diego Golf Industry Water Conservation Taskforce. He reinforced the importance of working with authorities on water conservation and other efforts before they come knocking.
“His main point was to be proactive and build relationships early,” said Steve Vincent, North American sales manager, John Deere Golf. “Don’t wait until there’s an issue.”
Other discussions on the future of the golf industry at the Leadership Summit involved:
Growing The Game
After a break, a panel discussion formed around the concept of growing the game.
Marty Remmell, CEO of Pro Kids | The First Tee of San Diego, shared her experiences at the Colina Park Golf Course, which serves more than 1,500 children per year. Its mission is to “challenge underserved youth to excel in life by promoting character development, life skills, and values through education and the game of golf.”
Bruce Bennetts, CCM, former president of The Golden State Chapter of the Club Managers Association of America, also participated in the panel. Bennetts, who has been in the private club industry for almost 40 years, is currently general manager at The Farms Golf Club in Rancho Santa Fe, Calif.
Joining Remmell and Bennetts in the discussion was Nicki Gatch, PGA Player Development regional manager. Gatch is the spokesperson for PGA's Get Golf Ready program, which helps bring new golfers into the game.
“The key points brought up in the panel included how to develop a pipeline of younger golfers who are passionate about the game,” said Vincent. “That passion could carry them through their 30s and 40s when they may become too busy juggling work and family responsibilities to keep up with their game.”
Two trends emerged from the discussion. One involves more courses using carts instead of caddies, which have traditionally been a source of young players who are dedicated to the game of golf. Another is the increasing difficulty of courses. Average green speeds have gone up across the board, as regular golfers demand faster green speeds and more challenging courses that may deter potential players.
“Some superintendents are looking at making their courses more playable for higher handicap players,” said Vincent.
The first day of the Southwest Leadership Summit wrapped up with a discussion of how John Deere can maintain golf course superintendents’ trust. The forum is just one way John Deere ensures it is communicating with the industry and meeting superintendents’ needs.
Attendees discussed the importance of:
The first day of Southwest Leadership Summit concluded with a tour of Petco Park by Luke Yoder, the Padres’ head groundskeeper. The tour was followed by great seats at the baseball game.
The Summit ended the next morning with a round of golf at The Grand Golf Club, a 7,160-yard, par-72 course designed by Tom Fazio.
The next John Deere Leadership Summit in the series is being planned. Stay tuned.
Educating Golf Course Equipment Managers
The International Golf Course Equipment Managers Association (IGCEMA) has come a long way since being founded in 2006. It’s looking for ways to expand its reach and fulfill its mission to better educate technicians.
The association recently approved a certificate program that covers the competencies used by people employed in the golf course equipment manager, equipment technician and related services industries, says Stephen Tucker, CEO of IGCEMA. It covers cutting units, drivelines, electrical systems, hydraulic systems, internal combustion engines and sprayers.
We saw a huge need to develop these core competencies,” said Tucker. “Technicians are being hired to manage millions of dollars worth of equipment. Right now, superintendents may not know exactly what knowledge equipment managers have. The certificate program can be used to qualify technicians for positions and allow them to show employers the knowledge they have.”
In addition to the certificate program, the IGCEMA board is also planning to offer in-person training to equipment managers and technicians over the winter months.
“That’s something our association is looking at putting together by the end of this year,” Tucker says. “We know where it’ll be and have the classrooms and labs all set, now it’s just a matter of timing and funding.”
Part of that funding will come from a new product the association released at the Golf Industry Show. The association developed a height of cut gauge that can’t be flexed or otherwise manipulated, so it provides consistent measurements no matter who is using it.
“It’s being sold to members and non-members via the Pro Shop on igcema.org,” Tucker says. “We are using it as a membership tool. By coming to the site and buying the tool, equipment managers learn about us as well.”
Tucker says initial sales are strong, with some of the top clubs in the country using the height of cut gauge, including Pine Valley Golf Club, PGA National Resort & Spa, Four Seasons Dallas (where Tucker is equipment manager), and many more.
At the Tipping Point
The association, which is run by an all-volunteer, global staff, is at a crossroads.
“We’ve grown enough that it’s time to start hiring staff to push our association forward,” Tucker says. “We’re trying to find ways to fund that. The big push for us has always been to help educate technicians. The focus now for us is building relationships and figuring out innovative ways to do what we want to do. We feel that education programs will be a large part of it.”
Some of that relationship building includes working with the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA) and local chapters to see how the organizations can help each other.
“We’re looking to see if it makes sense to introduce a new classification into existing superintendent chapters,” Tucker says. “We think that it would bring more value to superintendent associations to have equipment managers included.”
The IGCEMA is also broadening its footprint globally.
“We just became a supporting partner in the Asian Golf Industry Federation,” Tucker says. “We’re looking at ways to expand our reach outside the U.S.”
The innovative ways the IGCEMA continues to grow stems from a primary trait of many equipment managers: resourcefulness.
“It’s what we do,” Tucker says. “Equipment managers look at how equipment is designed and then have to figure out how to make it do exactly what we want it to. If we want to continue growing and keep technicians engaged, we need to come up with innovative ways to accomplish our goals.”