Volunteers Make It Possible At TPC Sawgrass
The TPC® Sawgrass Stadium Course is in the spotlight every year as 600 million people tune in to see golf's top professionals take on the challenging 7,215-yard course in Ponte Vedra Beach, FL. The public course gets ready for its close-up each year with a small army of volunteers who ensure tournament play goes smoothly — or as smoothly as possible. Mother Nature doesn’t care about tee times.
“In 2011, we had a significant thunderstorm come though during the tournament,” recalls Clay Breazeale, golf course superintendent, Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass. “There were trees on tee boxes, a lot of wind damage … We were able to get the course ready to play 45 minutes after the storm passed so the players could finish on Sunday. If we hadn't had the volunteers, we couldn't have done that. And with TV coverage and ratings, finishing on Monday would not have been good.”
Even when the weather cooperates, the 70 to 80 turf volunteers on hand this year from a half dozen different countries will be invaluable.
“The volunteers allow us to pay attention to the minute details that take us to the next level,” says Breazeale. “For example, we have large fairway bunkers that we hand rake for the tournament. It takes 30 to 40 people just to do that. We're under the magnifying glass, and the volunteers help us look good.”
The volunteers, who include agronomy students and professionals, sign up to learn how to organize and run a large tournament. They are responsible for their own airfare, and this year volunteers are flying in from Columbia, Argentina, South Africa, Canada, and the UK.
“They're doing us a huge favor, so I want to make sure they're getting value back from us,” Breazeale says. “We couldn't do it without them. That why we appreciate John Deere's sponsorship of the program.”
Breazeale says John Deere’s involvement allowed Director of Golf Course Maintenance Operations, Tom Vlach, and his team at TPC Sawgrass to enhance the volunteer program in a number of ways.
John Deere’s financial support will go toward housing, uniforms and meals for the volunteers. In addition to providing extra equipment, equipment expertise and financial support, Breazeale says John Deere staff is helping to organize the event this year — from registration through career development presentations.
“One thing we're really proud of is the student involvement in the volunteer program,” Breazeale says. “We like that from the standpoint that it helps us attract new talent and we’re giving back to new professionals in the industry. This year John Deere is sending the GCSAA Collegiate Turf Bowl winners from the University of Massachusetts Amherst team here to participate in the volunteer program.”
Breazeale says John Deere is also supporting TPC Sawgrass' social media efforts, which have proved popular in past years. TPC Sawgrass hosts a blog that provides some behind-the-scenes access to the tournament, including photos.
In Maryland, Hybrid Technology Is A Natural Fit
When a golf course sits on the largest estuary in the United States, the Chesapeake Bay, environmental stewardship naturally drives every grounds management decision. When that course is owned by The Bricks Companies, which includes environmental leadership at the heart of its mission statement, stewardship becomes a way of life.
John R. Anderes, CGCS, director of Golf and Grounds at the 36-hole Queenstown Harbor has risen to the challenge. From its fleet of electric golf carts that are powered by a recently completed solar array, to its containment of drainage and runoff, to its integrated pest management program, Anderes’ focus on sustainability was recognized by the 2012 Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA)/Golf Digest Environmental Leaders in Golf Awards (ELGA). Queenstown Harbor won in the National Public category.
"Environmental friendliness is something The Bricks Companies has always strived for," says Anderes, who has been with the company for 12 years, eight of them at Queenstown Harbor. "We ramp it up even further at Queenstown Harbor because of where it sits on the Bay."
The golf course is proof that financial, social and environmental sustainability go hand in hand. When Anderes got the go ahead to update Queenstown Harbor’s fleet of equipment, reducing the impact on the environment was part of the reason he chose John Deere’s E-Cut Hybrid mowers, but not the only reason.
"The potential fuel savings are certainly appealing," Anderes says, who is looking forward to using the new John Deere equipment this season. "The hybrid technology has come a long way in the last few years."
Introduced in 2005, E-cut Hybrid technology now includes second-generation motors and design features, like separating controllers from the motors to prevent possible overheating. In addition to eliminating the possibility of hydraulic leaks in the reel circuit, the electric power ensures reel speeds are consistent, even when throttled down to save fuel and reduce noise levels.
"It seemed like a natural fit for us and, honestly, the overall value was there," Anderes says. "We were able to get more equipment from John Deere for the same price, and the equipment serves us the way we need it to."
Kicking Up Environmental Friendliness
While Anderes' order of John Deere mowers, Gators and tractors has just arrived, another Maryland facility is meeting its needs near a different type of environmentally sensitive area: Washington, DC. Like Queenstown Harbor, the Maryland SoccerPlex and Discovery Sports Center places the environment at the center of its corporate culture. Maureen and John Hendricks, the founders of Discovery Communications, established the Maryland Soccer Foundation, the non-profit corporation that built and maintains the 22-field soccer complex.
"We have as much equipment as a lot of golf courses,” says Jerad Minnick, Sports Turf Manager at the Maryland SoccerPlex. "And we have a major push to be as environmentally friendly as we can be…Our John Deere equipment gives us the opportunity to further that environmentally responsible approach.
Minnick says the SoccerPlex is one of the most highly trafficked sports facilities in the country. It hosts more than 600,000 visitors and 7,500 events a year, from local soccer clubs to Major League Soccer Open Cup matches to Olympic qualifiers. As a non-profit, Minnick has to juggle costs, day-to-day operations and the need to keep fields in camera-ready shape for large, televised events. One of the ways he does that is by lowering fuel costs and eliminating the risk of hydraulic leaks using John Deere"s E-Cut Hybrid mowers.
"Very soon, people will see that running hybrid mowers is not only environmentally responsible, but it also saves money on diesel fuel,” he says. "John Deere advertises the E-Cut Hybrid Technology as letting you save 30% on fuel costs. We"ve done studies on those mowers, and they have decreased our consumption by 50%."
Minnick recently ordered an additional 7500 E-Cut Hybrid mower, as well as two 8800s TerrainCut Rough Mowers that he runs with B20 biodiesel, two tractors, 10 Gators, including five TE all-electric Gators, a 2000 Aercore, and a TC125 sweeper. He also uses John Deere irrigation equipment and plant materials from John Deere Landscapes.
Now that he knows how much fuel E-Cut technology can save, Minnick has begun a study to see how much fuel his new all-electric Gators will save. "We"re definitely saving money with those as well,” he says. "Over the next four months, we"ll track them to see how much. They"re also easier to maintain. We just have to plug them in two or three times a week, then check and maintain battery water levels once or twice a month.”
"John Deere has been a huge part of our four-year process to transition over to a solid environmentally sustainable program,” Minnick says. "Our distributor, Finch Services, has provided great support on biofuel. Their service team is the very, very best. John Deere"s technology fits right into what we need to do.”
Queenstown Harbor"s Anderes agrees that that the E-Cut Hybrid and TE Gators are a perfect match for his focus on environmental stewardship. He also likes where the company is headed.
"It appealed to me that John Deere as a corporation has environmental consciousness at the forefront of their thinking,” he says. "From my perspective, some of the research and development going into hybrids and their future technologies was something that made me think they"ll be good long-term partners."