Insects are difficult to spot at Winged Foot Golf Club because of a sophisticated agronomic program. When they are noticed, co-workers buzz Vincent Taylor’s radio.
Entering his fifth season as an assistant superintendent at the club, Taylor brings entomological thinking to daily maintenance. “I’m a big bug guy,” he says. “I quiz all the interns and show them the bugs. Any time somebody has a bug, they will find me and ask me what it is.”
Taylor’s numerous responsibilities include monitoring Poa annua playing surfaces for annual bluegrass weevil activity. No pest has potential to cause more damage to low-cut turf in the New York City Metropolitan area than ABW. Damage caused by the pest was first observed in 1931 and legendary UMass turf entomologist Dr. Pat Vittum spent four decades monitoring its activities at Winged Foot until her retirement in 2016.
“ABW and anthracnose are our two No. 1 potential problems on Poa,” Winged Foot director of golf courses Stephen Rabideau says. “When I first got here, we were always calling Pat and she would help us. She loves Winged Foot. She’s wealth of knowledge. It’s a hard insect. It’s a nightmare. It’s crazy.”
Winged Foot’s tradition as an epicenter for ABW research continues with its participation as a monitoring site in Syngenta’s WeevilTrak program, which alerts superintendents of activity. Beginning in March, Taylor performs soapy flushes for counting purposes on a small fairway sward and tracks Growing Degree Day numbers behind a green. He then inputs numbers into a spreadsheet and sends it to independent turfgrass consultant Steve McDonald. Data from Winged Foot and 31 other WeevilTrak monitoring sites help superintendents determine insecticide application timing.
“We know how important (WeevilTrak) is for the people in the area who might not have the budget that we do or don’t have the resources that we have.” Winged Foot U.S. Open superintendent Weston Neff says. “It’s awesome to help others out.”
Comprehensive scouting and a calculated spray program, including applications of Ference and Provaunt insecticide, limit ABW damage at Winged Foot.
“We empower Vinny with WeevilTrak,” Rabideau says. “He gets everything to Steve (McDonald) and Steve shows us how to scout for it. And thankfully we have some good chemistry for controlling it. It’s our No. 1 issue, but it’s gotten better. Ference is a great chemistry and it’s been the biggest addition to our program. We’re counting for ABW, but you have to nail it.”
Winged Foot’s new turf care facility includes a designated area for pest and disease research. One of Taylor’s favorite instruments — a microscope — rests behind a table built into the wall.
“I love working here,” says Taylor, whose parents own, operate and maintain a par-3 golf course in Bloomington, Indiana. “We’re never complacent and that’s what we have to learn as young superintendents and assistant superintendents. You can’t go home at 2 o’clock every day and expect the golf course to be the quality that we give the members.”