Comeback Carolinas GCSA Show proves ‘hugely successful’
Carolinas GCSA immediate past president Brian Stiehler and current president Billy Bagwell.
Trent Bouts

Comeback Carolinas GCSA Show proves ‘hugely successful’

Regional event attracted a passionate crowd of almost 2,000 people.

December 3, 2021

There have been more successful events in the nearly 60-year history of the Carolinas Golf Course Superintendents Association Conference and Trade Show, but likely never one more significant than this year’s. Nearly 1,800 people attended the Carolinas GCSA comeback show in Myrtle Beach, S.C. from Nov. 15 to 17. After a year off because of the COVID-19 pandemic, that turnout and the breadth of industry partner support confirmed the event’s status as the pre-eminent regional gathering for golf course maintenance professionals.

Yet Carolinas GCSA executive director Tim Kreger says there was something even more notable about this year’s conference.

“For once, we didn’t break any records, but by any numerical measure — attendance, exhibitor support, overall participation, you name it — it was still a hugely successful show,” Kreger said. “Most important though, we brought people together again, face to face, and they loved it. We all loved it. From start to finish, the atmosphere was incredible.”

Like so many organizations in so many industries, the association canceled last year’s in-person show, its largest revenue generator and, in its place, staged an online alternative, Conference Comes to You. Selling more than 2,200 seminar seats, Conference Comes to You was among a host of innovations and adaptations that enabled the association to get through the peak of the pandemic without tapping into financial reserves.

“None of what happened last year and what happened at the show this year would be possible if there was a weak link in the chain,” Kreger said. “Where we are today as an association is because our members, our industry partners and our researchers are in sync and totally get the idea that real success is a collaborative effort. And that’s not new in the Carolinas, it has been the culture all along. We are extremely grateful.”

As much as this year’s show was a long-awaited opportunity for friends and colleagues to reunite, it was also the first chance to shake hands for many new friends made over social media during the pandemic. During the show and in the days afterwards, Twitter was covered with photos and messages of these friends meeting for the first time.

As Kristie Hurst — one half of the Missouri-based musical duo, Midlife, which played at Carolinas Night at the Beach — wrote: “I don’t think @CarolinasGCSA and @TKCarolinasGCSA could have put on a better show this week, and I’m already jonesing to go back next year. I finally got to meet my #TurfTwitter family! Life is good.”

Among other highlights of this year’s Conference and Trade Show:

  • A total of 192 companies occupied 377 trade show booths and 1,341 seminar seats were filled in the education program presented by Syngenta;
  • Billy Bagwell, from Callawassie Island Club in Okatie, S.C., was elected president and Jeremy Boone, CGCS, from Springdale at Cold Mountain in Canton, N.C., and Daniel Knight, from Grandover Resort in Greensboro, N.C., were elected to the board of directors;
  • Entomologist Dr. Rick Brandenburg, from North Carolina State University finally received the Distinguished Service Award, the association’s highest honor, that he won the year before;
  • Earlier that day, Brandenburg spoke to nearly 200 people at the fellowship breakfast, presented by Corbin Turf and Ornamental Supply, about his near-death experience from complications with malaria treatment in 2017;
  • Riley Boyette, from Carolina Golf Cub in Durham, N.C., won his third Carolinas GCSA golf championship, presented by Toro and Smith Turf and Irrigation, as one of 300 golfers who teed it up across three courses;
  • About 350 people partied at Carolinas Night at the Beach, presented by TSP and Vereens Turf Products, beside the Atlantic Ocean at The Dunes Golf Beach and Club;
  • Industry veteran Andy Apple, VP and director of agronomy with Atlantic Golf Management, won the $3,000 grand prize in the 27-Hole Challenge, presented by John Deere Golf, Greenville Turf and Tractor and Revels Turf and Tractor, then immediately donated it to Scott Martin, CGCS, of Corbin Turf and Ornamental Supply, who spent weeks in the hospital overcoming COVID-19;
  • Horry Georgetown Technical College won the Student Turf Bowl presented by Precision Laboratories, retaining the trophy the school won in 2019;
  • Past-president Adam Charles, from The Preserve at Verdae in Greenville, S.C., won his third sporting clay championship, presented by Bayer and Carolina Fresh Farms.

Feel like you missed out? Mark your calendar: Next year’s Carolinas GCSA Conference and Trade Show is scheduled to be back in Myrtle Beach from Nov. 14 to 16.