Developing Professionals

By Chris Hartwiger and Patrick O'Brien, agronomists, Southeast region
June 20, 2012

(From left to right) Turfgrass students Matt Elmore and Bob Cross had the opportunity to spend time with a variety of industry professionals including superintendent  Joel White and Ryan Brickley at Rocky River Golf Club in the Charlotte, N.C. area.

Each year, Pat O’Brien and I have the opportunity to select two student interns studying turfgrass management to travel with us for a week. Our interns this year were Bob Cross, a Masters candidate at Clemson University and Matt Elmore, a PhD candidate at the University of Tennessee. One of the goals of the internship is to expose aspiring turfgrass professionals to areas of the industry they may not have seen during their academic training.  

This year, Bob and Matt spent a week with us traveling to courses in the Charlotte, N.C. area. We visited daily fee, resort, and private clubs during and discussed a host of agronomic topics. As these students learned, there is an agronomic, economic, and political component to almost every decision made on a golf course. These young men were surprised to learn of some of the challenges facing superintendents. One example is the difficulty keeping golfers content with bunker conditions. The view that bunkers can play the same every day is still alive and that better bunkers are as close as locating a better sand. In the end, clear communication and education about the role bunkers play in the game of golf is never complete. 

On another note, several superintendents took advantage of our offer to provide professional development training for agronomy staff members. We would tour the course in the morning discussing key issues with course officials and the superintendent. In the afternoon, we spent time on the golf course with key personnel other than the superintendent and assistant superintendent. We reviewed many topics including course marking, basics of The Rules of Golf, irrigation practices, and new maintenance techniques and trends in the region. This program was enjoyed by all and we made sure to end the afternoon with plenty of time for answering questions. 

As we wrapped up the week, our interns had seen another side of the industry. We were also pleased to see how a half day of professional development training infused knowledge and enthusiasm into the turf teams at several golf courses. In a busy world, it is easy to forget that all of us can benefit from spending time with others who can help us learn and develop as turfgrass professionals. The USGA Green Section Turfgrass Advisory service is an ideal way to invest in your employees. We are happy to assist you in setting up a half day of training with your staff. Please call or email either one of us.  

Chris Hartwiger ( , 678-591-7410) and Patrick O’Brien (, 678-591-7340)

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