Albaugh, LLC has strengthened its presence in the turf and ornamental business by completing its acquisition of the assets of Prime Source from Excelsior Equity.
“Prime Source has been an exceptional player in the turf and ornamental market, with a remarkable passion for service and providing solutions to their customers,” said Spencer Vance, President of Albaugh North America. “Today marks the beginning of an exciting new chapter for Albaugh LLC, one where we will be able to build upon this legacy by expanding our presence in the T&O market with a focus on tailored customer solutions that improve profitability, flexibility, and are more convenient to use than the leading brands.”
“As a family-owned business with a culture similar to our own, we feel Albaugh is the best choice to take Prime Source to the next level,” said Exum Lewis, founder and chairman of Excelsior Equity.
Albaugh is a family-owned business started 40 years ago and recognized as one of the leading manufacturers and suppliers of crop protection and seed treatment products in North America. The company has a manufacturing facility in St. Joseph, Missouri.
“There is little doubt that this transaction will be smooth for all parties as a result of Albaugh’s strong commitment to the Prime Source brand, the T&O market, and our customers,” Excelsior Equity CEO Keith Montgomery said.
The Carolinas GCSA announced that close to 2,200 seminar “seats” were sold and more than $30,000 was mailed to industry professionals over the holidays as part of its Conference Comes to You alternative to its annual in-person Conference and Trade Show. The number of seats sold eclipses the traditional conference high of 1,379.
“Most importantly, we delivered on our mission statement despite the pandemic,” Carolinas GCSA executive director Tim Kreger said. “Our association exists, first and foremost, to provide educational opportunities for the continual advancement of the profession of the golf course superintendent in the Carolinas. We’re proud we were able to deliver.”
The cash giveaway on Monday, Dec. 21 was the culmination of the conference that began on Nov. 2. There was a weeklong break for Thanksgiving. Attendees who watched a series of brief promotional videos from conference partners were eligible for the drawing. Winners of prizes ranging from $100 to $2,500 were from as far afield as Hawaii and Ontario. In November, another $10,000 was given away among early registrants.
Mark Storby from Oneida Golf and Country Club in Green Bay, Wisconsin, didn’t learn of his $2,500-win until he received a call from the Carolinas GCSA. “Wow. That’s incredible,” Storby said. “I’ve never won anything that big. When it comes to anything with money involved, I usually don’t win a thing.”
Storby took four seminars and couldn’t have been happier with the experience. “You guys did really well with this,” he said. “It’s been a long time since I’ve taken any seminars, but you had a really good lineup with good topics. I was really impressed with the whole experience. I need to thank our own chapter leaders for taking part.”
The other $2,500 winner was Shannon Peterson, CGCS from Mountain Air Country Club in Burnsville, North Carolina. In all 82 prizes were awarded in the grand drawing.
“Believe me, nobody wanted to cancel our Conference and Show but there really was no choice, given the pandemic,” Kreger said. “What we did have a choice about was whether to take the easy path and do nothing or find a way to deliver on our mission. Thanks to our incredible industry partners, we did that, and we provided value to many.”
Nearly 40 companies stepped forward with financial support for the virtual conference. A similar number of superintendent chapters and the British International Golf Greenkeepers Association also signed on as partners to promote the event to their members. In return, they received a share of each seminar fee paid for by their members.
“That kind of support from industry partners and our allied chapters speaks volumes for the credibility the Carolinas GCSA has developed over decades,” said president, Brian Stiehler, CGCS, MG from Highlands Country Club in Highlands, North Carolina. “Conference Comes to You was an untried idea in the middle of extremely uncertain times, yet our partners stepped right up. The board is extremely proud of our staff for developing the concept then bringing together all the elements to make it a reality.”
Golf Datatech unveiled the results of its National Rounds Played Report for the month of November 2020. According to data compiled directly from golf course owners and operators, rounds of golf at public, private and resort courses nationwide were up 57 percent for the month and over 13% year-to-date through November 2020.
“Since golf returned from a near national shutdown in late spring due to COVID-19, we’ve recorded double digit growth every month for the last seven months” said John Krzynowek, partner, Golf Datatech. “November was another excellent month for rounds, up an astounding 57 percent over the same month in 2019. Typically, it's a time of year when much of the country is starting to wind down for winter and it can be uncomfortable to be outside to play. This year, however, we had above average weather for playing the game, continuing a lengthy streak of minimal precipitation and warm temperatures.”
Krzynowek said, “Due to the continuation of limited play and attendance of youth sports, college and pro football, as well as minimal travel and restrictions on other activities, people kept coming to their golf courses to play in November. Golf is the perfect social distancing outdoor recreational activity for any and every member of the family.”
In 1999, Golf Datatech undertook the task of creating the golf industry’s first monthly projections of rounds played by state and region around the country. The Company’s objective from day one was to provide accurate estimates of the health of golf by tracking rounds, which are the engine that drives almost every other aspect of the business. The company also receives support from the National Golf Foundation (delivering course data) and WeatherTrends (weather data) in an effort to provide the industry with granular detail at the market level.
November’s rounds data indicated that only three states, Hawaii, Florida and New Mexico showed negative results for the month. This is due to a season long decline in golfer travel to Hawaii, while Florida, especially southern Florida, was hit hard by rain caused by tropical storm Eta that hit in the early part of the month and caused flooding in some areas. Additionally, New Mexico was under a statewide order to close non-essential businesses including golf courses Nov. 16-30.
“Based on our analysis, since the start of the pandemic and related lockdowns, international and long-distance travel remains a challenge for many (but not all) resort facilities, particularly in markets like Hawaii where rounds are down over 35 percent YTD,” Krzynowek said. “Public facilities have been consistently packed with players post lockdowns, and private club membership has skyrocketed. In fact, public course rounds played are up nearly 12 percent year-to-date, while rounds at private courses are up nearly 19 percent year-to-date. We expect this trend to continue at least into the first half of 2021, as the pandemic keeps people confined to their local communities looking for socially distant activities that they can enjoy outdoors.”
Krzynowek concluded, “Each month we’re able to provide data so that our industry partners can keep their finger on the pulse of the golf industry, both nationally and regionally, and right now support for the game itself is strong. In late January 2021 we will provide detailed insights into both rounds and golf equipment sales trends for all of 2020. We anticipate the look back on the year, despite the pandemic, will be quite positive."
Spectrum Technologies has extended its product offering with the release of the FieldScout TDR 250 Economy Soil Moisture Meter. The new model enhances the well-adopted TDR product and represents an attractive option for turf managers who are looking to capture spot measurements for hand-watering or syringing greens for consistent turf health and quality.
The TDR 250 measures soil moisture (volumetric water content) in less than a second, with settings for standard, hi-clay, or sand texture soils. With a rugged, T-handle frame and exclusive LCD display, the user-friendly TDR can capture accurate measurements across the green or sports field. Data logs (up to 124,000 measurements) can then be downloaded and transferred via a USB flash drive. All of Spectrum’s TDR meters offer interchangeable soil probes at varying lengths, so customers can choose the best option for their turf root zone.
“Spectrum Technologies is responding to what the turf market has been asking for,” President and CEO Mike Thurow said. “The TDR 250 has been specially designed for courses with lower maintenance budgets. With the TDR 250, turf managers will receive Spectrum’s precision measurement technology while investing 20 percent less.”
Through use of the TDR 250, golf course managers can conserve water and reduce labor costs. Data can objectively be collected, resulting in more effective decision-making around irrigation and pesticide scheduling.
You have to pause, reaaaally pause, to reflect upon the career of Frank Dobie. And, when you think about the man himself, you have to smile. Dobie led as superintendent and general manager at The Sharon Golf Club in Sharon Center, Ohio, for 56 years, including two years of construction before the course opened in 1966. This private, 18-hole course with bentgrass fairways and greens plays between 6,400 and 7,200 yards and was designed by architect George Cobb in 1963.
Cobb was the only architect to work on the course until 2020. Over the years, Dobie and his crew were happy to execute projects such as dam modifications (to keep the 15-acre lake up to code), constructing a new hole, creating forward tees (25 years ago, before it was trendy), redesign the bunkers (and add some, too) and more. Dobie credits his long career to great leadership by president M.G. O’Neil, an outstanding staff and a culture that promotes respect for employees and members alike. “I learned early on that you cannot micromanage people and have them be satisfied,” he says.
Dobie hired problem-solvers, people who wanted to contribute. Many staff at TSGC have worked there for decades. Dobie also hired several retirees, some who have now, remarkably, been with TSGC for more than 25 years. “We tailored some of our routine practices for retired people,” Dobie says. “For example, we triplex greens and tees instead of hand-mow them.”
He over-hired on staff so everyone could take time off (even summer vacations!). He also allowed employees to play golf six days a week. Employee golf privileges are a great incentive and promote awareness of course conditions. People are having fun and working hard. That success feeds itself. “Even when there were labor shortages, we never had that problem,” Dobie says.
Dobie was empowered by O’Neil. They had an understanding. “He would give me a direction and let me figure out how to get it done,” Dobie says. “Our meetings rarely lasted more than 20 minutes. When he hired me, he said, ‘We are not going to have any committees. I want to talk to only one person and that person is going to be you.’”
The singular relationship fostered freedom, trust and productivity, where some of his colleagues had to devote more time to diplomacy, particularly when management and committees changed. “All my energy was focused on creativity, where much of their effort was tied to surviving,” Dobie says.
There are very few properties where being a superintendent and GM can be a joint position, as it was for Dobie, but TSGC has always been solely focused on golf – it’s not a social club and events are limited. Dobie warns against the idea that becoming a general manager is the promotion it is perceived to be. “I have counseled people about this route,” he says. The hours are different. General managers typically spend less time outside and they spend more time managing the overall business and staff. Anyone considering becoming a general manager needs to thoroughly understand the expectations.
Some technological advancements Dobie noted as very useful are moisture meters, degree-day software and stimpmeter. His team stimped greens every day to help maintain the speed and consistency members desired. Dobie believes texting and social media have a place in the industry, but they must be balanced with face-to-face conversations for optimal productivity. Another advancement Dobie enjoys is PowerPoint and the direction it has moved presentations and the sharing of information. Dobie is interested in promoting education through various media and he is working on a video to help players increase their pace of play.
Dobie will also continue participating in the Penn State Alumni Association that he helped start and continue his leadership of the Musser International Turfgrass Foundation as president. Another effort close to Dobie’s heart is to preserve the history of superintendents, starting with the creation of the Northern Ohio GCSA Historical Library and Hall of Fame Committee. There are so many wonderful careers to learn from and celebrate. His advice for young people in the industry is to “take care of your story by updating it annually.” Though most superintendents don’t like to talk about themselves, you should be proud of what you have achieved. Your story is worth sharing.
Together, O’Neil and Dobie maintained an operating profit at TSGC for 54 consecutive years with O’Neil’s wise tenet that if you don’t have it, don’t spend it. Keep it simple.
Dobie has more advice gathered from his own storied career and from interactions with his mentors Joe Duich, Eb Steiniger, Bob Williams and others. “It was Dr. Duich who told me not to always rely on conventional wisdom to solve problems but go outside that realm by ‘living in the question,’” Dobie says.
He believes in managing your staff so the average work week is about 44 hours, including yours. Everyone needs to spend time with friends and family. Consult older colleagues and learn from their experience. “Acknowledge your staff, sincerely,” says Dobie, and remember during job interviews that questions should be asked by both parties. “Be positive and keep the job fun,” he says. “If you can’t, change jobs.”
When you next see Frank Dobie, pause, smile and live in the question.
Lee Carr is a Northeast Ohio-based writer and frequent Golf Course Industry contributor.