Problem solving in San Diego

Departments - Notebook

March 11, 2019

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John and Jodie Cunningham

Imagine a golf therapy session … in a room filled with hundreds of your colleagues.

The “Solutions Center” educational seminar at the 2019 Golf Industry Show played like an open-aired empathy assembly to a standing-room crowd.

“I think it hit on many of the big topics in the industry right now,” says panelist Chris Tritabaugh, superintendent at Hazeltine National Golf Club. “Things like taking care of yourself, creating culture and getting people to work well together are all big things right now.”

As attendees sent in problems/question via text message to facilitator Carol D. Rau, PHR, Career Advantages (Lawrence, Kan.), the seminar’s six-person panel took on a diverse range of subjects matters ranging from labor and work/life balance, to Twitter and turf tips.

Terry Buchen

“My hope, when I do a seminar, is that there are maybe one or two things that somebody will walk away with,” Tritabaugh says. “Whether it’s something I said, or something one of the other panelists said that can help somebody.”

The topic of golf’s labor issues and engaging a younger generation of staffers proved paramount during the two-hour discussion.

Forrest Richardson, Pedro Guereca Gurrola and Lester George

Advising a need for patience with millennials, Carlos Arraya, CGCS, Bellerive (Mo.) Country Club, suggested to the room a strategy to heed labeling, and to give younger workers the time and opportunity to develop.

“I think the subject of millennials is talked about a lot right now,” Tritabaugh says. “You have to do it differently. If a person is going to manage in a way that they did, say, 10, 15 or 20 years ago – you’re not going to have success in leading a high-performance team. Leading this younger generation is about creating a culture of enjoyment.”

Per complementing one’s work force with the senior set, Tritabaugh adds that “free coffee and a free newspaper” had done wonders to bring in divot-filling volunteers.

Anthony Williams and his son, Anthony

Managing personal wellness was almost foremost among the discussion.

“When you leave work, leave work. When go home, go home,” emphasizes panelist Troy Flanagan, director of golf maintenance at the Olympic Club. “Yeah, this is our livelihood, but we need to remember that it’s just grass.”

Panelist Dr. Doug Soldat, professor of soil sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, earned a collective head-nod from the room when noting that part of his own balance may be achieved by simply turning off e-mail notifications when away from the workplace.

Chuck Totten and Rodney Sparks.

The topic of social media also earned ample play among panelists, with most confirming that use of respective mediums can be a great tool – so long as characters of caution are part of one’s Tweets.

Multiple panelists warned to avoid “shaming” guests or members for poor course maintenance when Tweeting, and also suggested to ensure club policies before sending out opinions or images.

“It’s too bad that social media has trended toward a negative tone in general,” Tritabaugh says. “The ability to use it for information or conversing with colleagues, like a lot of people in this industry do, is pretty awesome. And it’s amazing to me how different this event is now compared to when I first started coming – and that’s because of the advent of social media. You’d come here and know a few people, and now it seems like everybody kind of has a general idea of who everybody else is.

Toro is celebrating its 100 years in the golf industry in 2019.

Toro, Turfco celebrating milestones

A pair of Minnesota-based companies are celebrating longevity in the golf industry this year.

Toro has reached 100 years in the market, while Turfco is using 2019 to honor the Kinkead family’s century in business.

In 1919, Toro developed the industry’s first motorized fairway mower, the Toro Standard Golf Machine, for The Minikahda Club, in Minneapolis. The company’s first president and co-founder John Samuel Clapper, agronomic pioneer Dr. James “Doc Watson” and irrigation visionary John Singleton are among the innovators responsible for helping Toro establish longevity in the industry.

George and Scott Kinkead are celebrating a family milestone this year.

“Without a doubt, we owe much of our success to the Toro employees who have helped shape the golf industry with countless innovations,” says Rick Rodier, vice president and general manager of Toro’s Commercial Business. “But we wouldn’t be here today without the Toro customers across the globe who put their faith and trust in our products every day.”

Toro was founded on July 10, 1914, and for the first five years focused primarily on providing engines for the Bull Tractor Company and other tractor and truck companies. The company developed the first Toro-designed piece of farm equipment – the power cultivator – before shifting focus to mowing products.

People are also at the forefront of Turfco’s longevity in the industry.

The Kinkead family’s presence in the turf industry extends to Robert Stanard Kinkead, a World War I veteran who founded the St. Paul-based National Mower Company. Robert entered the business by making reel-type, sickle bar and pull-behind lawn mowers that could be hitched to horses or tractors.

Working closely with local superintendents, Turfco created the first mechanized topdresser in 1961. John Kinkead Sr., while still working at National Mower, led the introduction of many other turf innovations. Turfco is now owned and operated by John’s sons, George and Scott Kinkead.

“It’s been an honor and a privilege to be part of an industry where everyone loves what they do, and we look forward to working together with our customers in the next century,” Scott says.

Tartan Talks No. 32

Even after 45 years in the business and successfully completing projects in a dozen countries, Rick Robbins hasn’t strayed far from his North Carolina roots.

Robbins, who spent his childhood around World Golf Hall of Famer Peggy Kirk Bell and her husband Warren “Bullet” Bell at Donald Ross-designed Pine Needles Country Club, discussed his past, how an architect views the Rules of Golf and design ideas on a Tartan Talks podcast. “The journey has been interesting to say the least,” Robbins says. “Growing up in the mountains of North Carolina, I never thought I’d see the see places that I’ve seen.”

Robbins describes himself as “semi-retired,” although he remains busy renovating practice facilities for clubs. One of his recent projects, Compass Point Golf Club, an 18-hole course opened in 2016, is where Robbins now lives. With guidance from Robbins, the Leland, N.C., course has used its par-3 19th hole, 9-hole putting course and chipping and sand-play greens, to create revenue-generating events. “If I can find a way to make it fun, golfers will want to spend more time practicing their short games,” Robbins says.

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