Notebook: Green and yellow extension

Notebook: Green and yellow extension

John Deere used the visibility associated with sponsoring a major sporting event to make a bold announcement: The company had reached a long-term contract extension with the PGA Tour.

August 20, 2015
GCI Staff
Cultivation Editor's Notebook People News

Green and yellow extension

GCI visits with a top John Deere executive after the company makes a major golf announcement.

Golf wunderkind Jordan Spieth won the John Deere Classic. The title sponsor might have won the week.

John Deere used the visibility associated with sponsoring a major sporting event to make a bold announcement: The company had reached a long-term contract extension with the PGA Tour.

The agreement means:

  • The John Deere Classic will remain part of the PGA Tour schedule until at least 2023
  • John Deere will remain the official equipment supplier to the PGA Tour and TPC Network, official landscaper product supplier of the PGA Tour, and official golf equipment leasing company of the PGA Tour until at least 2023.

Jim Field, president of John Deere’s worldwide agriculture and turf division, made the announcement two days before the start of the 2015 John Deere Classic and two days after he addressed a group of industry professionals as part of the annual John Deere Golf Pro-Am. GCI’s Guy Cipriano chatted with Field about the extension and the condition of the golf industry following the formal announcement.

What does this announcement signify about John Deere’s commitment to the golf industry?

“In many respects, at least for those outside of Deere, it’s a strong, strong demonstration of reaffirmation to our commitment to the golf industry. We have long been very, very committed, and I think that’s demonstrated through multiple avenues, including our industry partnerships and this PGA Tour relationship. This is just a reaffirmation and the re-strengthening to those outside of the company of our commitment to the golf industry.”

What do you want golf industry professionals thinking about this announcement?

“A couple of things. We understand our destinies are collectively linked. Sure, we are in the equipment side and solution side of the business, but we understand at the end of the day, it starts with somebody who wants to play the game and it has to work all the way back. That will generate golf courses, which will generate all sorts of things, which ultimately generate the possibility for us to serve the golf course industry. I would say, from the superintendent’s perspective, it’s really two-fold. One, is that we are very much committed to advancing the game forward at all levels, including the highest level of golf. I would secondly say our continued association with the PGA Tour will help us create better products to make us better and to hopefully make us a better potential supplier for them. I think the third point that shouldn’t be lost on folks is that the PGA Tour has a very, very important brand. The fact that they are willing to endorse and recognize Deere as their equipment provider of choice is not an insignificant choice from their perspective and provides tremendous validation to our products and our position in the industry.”

We’re halfway through 2015. How we would you assess things on the golf end of the business and what are some of your focuses in the second half of the year?

“For us, as we think about where we are today and where we are going forward, our biggest challenge that we go to work every day working on is how can we continue to distinctively delight customers. Do we understand all of their pain points and do we understand what it is that they really are after and are we delivering that? As I think about 2015, that happens every single day in terms of how we are serving folks. The golf industry itself, as we are halfway through the year, because it is such a weather-impacted business, it’s very tough to give any projections of what the industry looks like for a year. But I’m very optimistic at least relative to prior years in terms of how the industry will fare.”

You have precision applications in a lot of the markets you represent. Do you see that moving more and more into golf?

“I think what really sets Deere apart is our ability to share technologies across multiple equipment platforms and precision technology and precision application technology. Precision information is something that we are deeply investing in. We are very hopeful as golf embraces this more and more that we will be uniquely positioned to provide precision solutions for the golf business, leveraging the scale that we have in the ag business and the construction business.”


High hopes for low inputs

By Guy Cipriano

Separate coasts. Same objective.

Oregon-based Mountain View Seeds is using the research facilities at New Jersey-based Rutgers University to test its current and future offerings. The company and university showcased their work during a field day July 15 at a pair of research farms.

Attendees dodged raindrops, observed wear and divot simulating machines, and examined a slew of bentgrass, bluegrass, ryegrass and fescue trials. They also repeatedly heard a phrase frequently entering industry vernacular: low-input turf.

Focused efforts to develop seed requiring less of every imaginable resource started around 2008, according to Steve Johnson, a breeder for Peak Plant Genetics, the research affiliate of Mountain View Seeds. Johnson has worked closely with Rutgers researchers since 1996, and Dr. William Meyer and Dr. Stacy Bonos are among the researchers who participated in the field day.

Mountain View and Rutgers are key participants in an organized movement to bring attention to low-input offerings. The Alliance For Low-Input Sustainable Turf (A-LIST) launched in 2013 and is increasing its visibility in the industry. A-LIST represents an industry initiative created by seed companies and university partners to identify and market sustainable turf varieties. University cooperators include Meyer, North Carolina State’s Dr. Grady Miller, Purdue’s Dr. Cale Bigelow and UC-Riverside’s Dr. James Baird. Mountain View Seeds, Lebanon Seeds, Seed Research of Oregon, DLF and Pickseed are the alliance’s industry partners.

Seed varieties and blends meeting water and fertility guidelines established by cooperators are eligible to receive the newly created A-LIST approved designation. Nine varieties are currently positioned to receive A-LIST approval. Final decisions on initial approvals will be made this fall, and superintendents should begin noticing the designation when placing seed orders for next spring. Data will be incorporated with National Turfgrass Evaluation Program results to ensure approved varieties don’t look like “garbage,” says A-LIST executive director Jeremy Husen.

Husen says awareness of the A-LIST approval has started to build among superintendents living near participating universities. The four research sites are allowing the A-LIST to develop national guidelines based on conditions in four distinct regions. “Getting quantifiable data is the key,” Husen says. “That’s the end result. It’s more than just a story. I want hard facts, I want numbers.”


Rock solid

Blasting more rock and moving piles of dirt through steep hills didn’t deter Pete Dye from returning to Pennsylvania lumber titan Joe Hardy’s posh resort.

Dye visited Mystic Rock, the golfing centerpiece of Nemacolin Woodlands Resort, last month to trade banter with Hardy and his daughter, Maggie Hardy Magerko, offer opinions on multiple industry issues and smack a gold ball resting between two gold tee markers using a gold driver into the Southwestern Pennsylvania woods.

Along the way, he discussed his newest project: The addition of nine holes to Mystic Rock, a 20-year-old course that hosted the PGA Tour’s 84 Lumber Classic from 2003-06. “All I know is that there are 18 holes out there,” Dye says. “I don’t know where, but it’s out there somewhere. It’s still there isn’t it?”

Yes, Dye’s original 18 holes at Nemacolin Woodlands still exist, although they were tweaked and stiffened multiple times in preparation for the PGA Tour’s stint at the remote location. The 89-year-old Dye will work with some familiar faces at Mystic Rock, including associate Tim Liddy and the crew from MacCurrach Golf Construction. Liddy aided Dye when Hardy decided to renovate Mystic Rock in the 2000s. Director of golf and turfgrass Alan Fike, golf course superintendent Andy Bates and construction superintendent Greg Iversen are among the Nemacolin Woodlands employees who will work closely with Dye and Liddy.

Preliminary works started last December. It didn’t take long for Dye to make an impression with resort supervisors who are young enough to be his grandchildren. “I met him one day when he was initially designing the layout,” Bates says. “It really took him 15, 20 minutes and he had a plan on a map. He threw his pencil down and said, ‘All we need to do is throw a par 3 in there, and now all you have to do is pay for it.’”

The new nine will cost $6 million, include 84 acres of turf and stretch to 3,500 yards. Projected opening is summer 2017.


From the Feed

We started our summer travels by visiting Southern Indiana, Eastern Iowa, Western Illinois, Southwestern Pennsylvania and New Jersey. A soggy reality greeted our arrival in each place: pestering rain. We had a hunch the superintendents we visited weren’t the only ones pushing water, so we asked our followers to reveal their rain totals from June 1–July 9. Here’s how rain gauges across the country looked.

Christopher D. Navin @Chris_turfgrass
As of today, Bulle Rock has 22.1” since May 28th. Another round of storms tonight will just add to the misery.

Ryan Howard @TWRyanHoward
Jul 9 20” since June 1, 26” since May 17 northeast of Baltimore, MD

Scot Dey @scotdey
How many ways can I say zero? Zip, zilch, nada, nothing, 0, nix, nought, nil, diddly-squat #YesIGoogledIt

Zach Bauer @ZBTurf411
7.44” since 6/1/15 and 21.03” since 5/1/15. YEARLY avg is 13.5”. Wet wet year.

Brian Burke @S3Cgolf
After viewing some of the RT’s I don’t feel so bad about our 9.23” for June.

Ryan Cummings @RCummings38
8.35” since June 1. Feel fortunate since 25 miles south from here 4-6 inches more have fallen.

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