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September 2010

The S.T.A. Research Tournament is now history. We were pleased with turnout – the weather was great and we made some much needed money for turfgrass research. Pat Kachur and Don Best were perfect hosts and had their golf course in excellent shape as well as preparing an excellent banquet.

We played the Skins Game at Pierre Vezeau’s Course in Prince Albert. This was also a good day and Cooke Municipal really looked after us. I visited the course in mid-May to look at the winter devastation which was unbelievable. To see it in mid-August, it was equally unbelievable how Pierre and his staff brought it back to the condition we are used to seeing at Cooke. I sure hope the golfers appreciated his efforts.

Mitch Davedson, Mike Kupchanko's assistant at The Wascana, has moved on to a similar position at Kananaskis. We wish Mitch all the best in his new position. He will be a fine superintendent in the near future. Mike Kupchanko deserves credit also for his guidance and patience in bringing Mitch along to tackle his added responsibilities at Kananaskis.

Its probably old news by now, but Laurie Unruh is retiring after about 20 years with Oakcreek Golf and Turf. Laurie will be missed in our province for his efforts in supplying the industry with his equipment and golf cars. As well the S.T.A will miss his always-helping hand with our various events. Rumor has it Laurie and Donna will spend their winters in Costa Rica, where they have a home and business interests. Also they will learn to speak Spanish to go with Laurie's other language, which is quick, long and sometimes boring.

Author Dr. James Harris has what people say, a magnificent book
on the History of the Lobstick Golf Course in Prince Albert National Park. It is a book that should be read by serious students of Saskatchewan history, and the people of the province because it convincingly argues that Stanley Thompson, a person of historic interest in Canada, designed the Lobstick Golf Course – placing it among his masterpieces. Harris also has written a book about Cooke Golf Course in Prince Albert. Both books are said to be excellent reads.

Sara Williams writes in the Saskatoon Sun on several advantages to using organic fertilizers which often cost more per unit of nutrients (and are sometimes more bulky) than inorganic fertilizers. They have several advantages not found in inorganic products. They may stimulate soil microbial activity, improve soil structure, increase the water- and nutrient-holding capacity, increase soil porosity, and are generally renewable. Available organic fertilizers are animal manures, bone and blood meal.

Just read an article on temporary greens. Golfers will accept a temporary readily if they know the reason they must play a temporary. A little trick you can use that will put a smile on a golfer's face is to use a larger-than-normal cup on a temporary green. Use an 8” hole auger for the initial cut and then place the regular hole inside it. Even a square hole can be used to give an unusual twist to a temporary green. By rights, you should prepare a temporary green about two months before its intended use. Temporary greens should be about 3000 square feet. Groom it regularly by slowly lowering the cut, fertilize it moderately and top dress it on a regular basis. If the reason for a temporary green is the rebuilding of an existing green, it is important that the temporary green has a near-perfect putting service. There will be less pressure on the superintendent to open the new green prematurely if birdie putts are frequent on the temporary green.

The walk-behind greens mowers are returning with a vengeance. Most courses have both walkers and tri plex riders in their maintenance buildings. There are a few tricks when cutting a green with walk behinds. 1. Check the basket for clippings. Clippings tell a story; uneven distribution within the basket means the cutting unit is set improperly. 2. Empty the basket before it comes too full. A heavy basket affects the height and quality of cut. This applies to tri plex greens mowers as well.

There is a golf course north of Toronto which does not have ball washers. It's the Devil's Paint Brush. It is the superintendent's idea and he believes no one would putt with a dirty ball. He believes that since putting is the last action prior to teeing up again, there is no need for ball washers. Almost all golfers carry a towel to clean their clubs after use. Why not use the same towel to clean the ball.

I think I will miss Laurie, particularly his 6:30am phone calls.
I wonder if he'll have a retirement party before he heads to Costa Rica and Spanish lessons. He owes us that and everyone should remind him he should do this. The Boss may pick up the tab.

Bronwyn Eyre a writer with the Saskatoon Star Phoenix,
had a recent article re: “Pesticide Ban Boon To Bed Bugs”. She writes that back in 1939, after four years of work, a Swiss chemist developed a synthetic-insecticide called D.D.T. This was basically safe for humans but deadly against malaria-causing mosquitoes, typhus-causing lice, plague-spreading fleas and yes, you guessed it, bed bugs. D.D.T. was banned in 1972, despite evidence of its safety. In 2006 the World Health Organization acknowledged D.D.T. ought not be banned. In 2009 the United Nations Environmental Program announced its intention to rid the world of D.D.T. by 2020. These people who tell you what a great thing banning D.D.T. is, find no problem in the deaths of millions from malaria and other insect-caused illnesses.

Fungicide spraying is upon us. Make sure you know the product being used by a licensed pesticide applicator.
If you are contracting it out, make sure his tank is clean from other pesticides such as Round-Up. When filling the tank, it is best to first fill half the tank with water then add the medicine while the agitator is running, and finally top off the tank. Empty pesticide containers should be thoroughly rinsed at least 3 times and the rinsate returned to the spray tank. The containers should be sliced or crushed before being discarded in a designated area at the local dump.

Recently I received a call on how to kill poplar stump so they don't send up a forest of shoots from their root systems. Later in the newsletter, horticulturist Brian Baldwin at the University of Saskatchewan tell us about reliable ways of killing tree stumps.

No matter how fast greens are, they are never fast enough. More time, energy and money have been spent over the years to produce fast greens, but golfers still want more. Gradually, the pace of play grinds to a halt as golfers plumb-bob their fourth putt. In the end, the quest for fast greens leaves in its wake dead grass and unemployed superintendents. Whatever happened to the goal of smooth greens with reasonable pace?

Golf course ratings or who is in the top 100 are, in my opinion, dumb.
They don't tell you how much they spend each year on course maintenance, how old the golf course is or what part of the country they are in. Golf should be a game where you can have fun. Who is in the top 100 is worth diddly squat.

As you know, the S.T.A. is a partner with the Saskatchewan Golf Association and the C.P.G.A. in starting the Saskatchewan Golf Hall of Fame. This inauguration will be hosted by the Willows here in Saskatoon. There will be 19 inductees who have contributed to the great game of golf in our province. Peter Semko, an S.T.A. life member, will be inducted for his contribution to golf. We will encourage S.T.A. members to attend.

They go up and come down, so you don't have to be a physicist to classify golf balls as flying and falling objects. If you agree with that, and work on a golf course while hacks like Laurie Unruh are at play, you should be wearing a hard hat of some description. If you're not wearing a helmet on the course, you could be cited for breaking the rules in the eyes of Worker's Compensation. Having said this, I don't think many golf course workers are wearing hard hats.

I continue to read articles regarding the skills golf course superintendents need to be successful. Better communication skills are always near the top of the list, particularly among golf course officials. These articles often say that maintaining turfgrass is often the easiest part of the job. Interacting with people (golfers, etc.) is the most difficult. These two statements provide a great insight into the relationship between the golf superintendent and, particularly, golf course officials.

Alice Dye, wife of golf course architect and one herself says this about forward tees. “Shorter yardages are not meant to take the challenge out of the games. Instead, its goal should be to adapt the playing characteristics of the holes to the ability of the player.” In other words, doesn't hesitate to roll out the “play the course as it is intended” speech. Good players want back tees to play their courses as architects meant them to play, so why not use the same logic with forward tees?

I continue to read numerous articles on how superintendents pay tribute to their mothers,
crediting them for helping with their chosen professions and shape their lives. Perhaps I've missed something, but what about their wives? No mention was made about the sacrifices the wife has to make if she is married to a golf course superintendent.

I still think Oakcreek, and particularly Barry Carpenter, should put on a retirement party for Laurie Unruh. Whether he deserves it or not is another question. It would give us one last opportunity to throw some shots at Laurie. A good venue may be Jackfish Lodge. I think I'll call Carpenter, or maybe not, as he may be happy to be rid of him. By the way, it's imperative Oakcreek buys.

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About the STA

  • Saskatchewan's Turfgrass Association, founded in 1979, is a non-profit organization. The S.T.A. was organized by a group of Turfgrass Professionals which has grown to include people from Parks, Golf Courses, Sod Growers, Cities and Commercial Companies.