Conference Season

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Growing up I was a fan of “Looney Tunes.” Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Elmer Fudd and Yosemite Sam just to name a few. There was one skit where Elmer Fudd would be rabbit hunting and Bugs would try to convince him it was duck season and it was unlawful to shoot a rabbit out of season. Bugs and Daffy would always square off with their classic back-and-forth, “rabbit season, duck season, rabbit season, duck season, duck season, rabbit season …” Sorry, I digress. What I really want to discuss is conference season.

I believe one of the greatest aspects to the golf course superintendent profession is the ever-present yearning for knowledge and improvement. My late grandfather once told me, “Matt, there is no such thing as too much education.” He was right, and when the golf season finally ends for those of us not working in Florida, we can turn our attention to continuing education and turfgrass conferences. Have you ever bothered to look in the back of industry publications during the winter months at the list of events available to us conducted by state and regional chapters, turfgrass associations and others?

Each conference or expo contains a plethora of opportunities to broaden our horizons, sharpen our minds and accrue valuable pesticide recertification points. It’s also a great chance to step away, and share experiences and swap ideas with our peers, expand our networks and just catch our collective breath. For me, things start a little earlier than most as the Carolinas GCSA Conference and Show is always the third week of November. But we’re not alone as the Rocky Mountain and Inland Empire GCSAs also conducted events in November last year.

This conference season I’m attending three events. I just returned from my second journey across the pond to attend the BIGGA Turf Management Exposition (BTME) in Harrogate, England. If you get the chance, I would highly recommend going. The educational offerings presented by BIGGA, which they call “Continue to Learn,” in conjunction with the trade show component of the expo is fabulous. Harrogate is a wonderful, old town that has reinvented itself as a convention destination. Wonderful food, drink and shops all within an easy, short walk of the convention center. And you can’t beat the friendly and welcoming atmosphere displayed by all.

But like every good sports season, we need a special event to wrap things up. The Super Bowl of industry events is GCSAA’s Golf Industry Show and this year it just happened to be in sunny San Diego, Calif. I first attended the GCSAA Conference and Show (forerunner to GIS) while a graduate student at Virginia Tech in 1999. I was overwhelmed by the sheer size and scope of it all. I became a golf course superintendent in the spring of 2002 when I was hired by Swan Point Yacht & Country Club in Issue, Md., and I couldn’t wait to attend the Conference and Show again. I made the 2003 event in Atlanta, the first of what is now 17 straight events, including this month’s show in California.

Over those past 17 years, I’ve traveled alone, with my wife, and sometimes the kids joined us in Orlando. I look forward to GIS for many reasons, obviously the continuing education but also reuniting with friends and colleagues. Each destination has something different to offer and we always try to make time to experience the culture in some fashion.

And if you weren’t fortunate enough to make it to GIS this year, don’t fret. There are more opportunities available this month and next. Several chapters, including our good friends and neighbors to the north (the Canadian Golf Superintendents Association) are having conferences and events. My advice to you is the same for GIS. I encourage you to attend and make the most of the entire experience. Attend seminars, free sessions and talk to people. Sometimes the best lessons are the ones that happen during casual conversations whether it be during a seminar break, over a cold beverage or even in the airport on the way home. And keep your eyes open on the trade show floors for something different. Enjoy yourself, because after a year like 2018, you deserve it. But also remember to be professional and courteous. It’s OK to have fun, but be respectful of others and, most importantly, yourself.

That’s all folks!

Matthew Wharton, CGCS, MG, is the superintendent at Carolina Golf Club in Charlotte, N.C., and President of the Carolinas GCSA. Follow him on Twitter @CGCGreenkeeper.