Saturday, October 31, 2015

Eye Opener

       This past week, I took a group of Technicians from the Philadelphia area to visit the Jacobsen Factory in Charlotte, NC. It is never easy to set up a travel event, and over the past few years, it has gotten harder and harder. So when we pulled out of Merion GC at 5:30AM, with a shuttle that was greatly appreciated, with all travelers accounted for, it was a great start!
       Once we got to Charlotte, we had a nice lunch and some discussions with some Jacobsen personnel and then a tour of the distribution center. It is always impressive to see the volume of products that are being shipped out. From there we headed to Ganassi Racing. Ganassi is a corporate partner with Jacobsen and it enabled us to get a behind the scenes tour of their facility. Now, I am not a big NASCAR guy, but to say this was a learning experience, is an understatement. The amount of people, and money that go into their program, was incredible. From vehicle production, to testing, to how the engines are provided to each team, was something I never knew.
      The next morning, we were up early for the factory tour. If you have not had the chance to tour one of the manufacturing plants, it is an eye opener. It is amazing how much planning is involved in having the parts available for the build, the amount of hand work that is done by people on the assembly lines and what processes you need to make sure things are right.
With a few guys who had had the chance to see some other equipment manufacturers, it was chance to compare. Some had not seen any manufacturing facilities before and were truly amazed. We are very lucky to have the factory that accessible to us.
       A big thank you to Mark Pena and the team a Jacobsen for a great trip!

               Thanks to Diego, Ed, Joe, Robert & Shawn for taking the time to make the trip!

Mark Pena of Jacobsen showing our group some of the features of the new Truckster XD
Our tour guide, Ryan, discussing the final steps before the product is shipped

Robert Smith with his purchase from the gift shop!
Happy Halloween!

Sunday, October 11, 2015

How Did I Get Here?

This is an article that was published in the Philadelphia Association of Golf Course Superintendents' monthly newsletter "The Bonnie Greensward" in 2007.

Editors Note:
The article below is a tribute to two PAGCS members who left this earth in 2007. Richie Valentine passed away on May 29th  and his dear friend Barney McFadden passed away on July 31st. 

And you may find yourself living in a shotgun shack
And you may find yourself in another part of the world
And you may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile
And you may find yourself with a beautiful house and a beautiful wife
And you may ask yourself, well.....How did I get here?
-From the song "Once in a Lifetime" Talking Heads

       We all reach a point in time when we reflect on where we are in life and whether or not we are where we thought we would be . Sometimes, this reflection borders on a birthday with a zero on the end or accompanies the passing of someone who has had an impact on us and our career path. Recently, as I was driving along, and was one of the few times I was not thinking about what I would do with my future Powerball winnings, I began thinking about " How did I get here?".
       When you talk at length with anyone in the turf industry, the conversation always comes around to how you got started and who you worked for over the years. For me, my first connection to the golf industry was through my older brother, Joe, who had worked for Richie Valentine at Merion Golf Club during the 1981 US Open.
        In 1987, I was looking I was looking for  new job. Yes, the thought of Augustus Gloop working in the chocolate factory for Willy Wonka came to mind. Instead, my brother called Richie's' right hand man, Charlie Carr, and helped me get a job at Merion. I was lucky to be on the crew for the 1989 US Amateur. This job helped lead me to my job with the Philadelphia Turf Company by introducing me to Barney McFadden.
      When you connect the dots and look at where you have come from and how you got to where you are, there are always key people at turning points in your life who have had a major impact. Along with many in the Philadelphia area, Richie Valentine was one of those people for me.
       The older I get, the more I realize how fortunate I was to have worked for a legendary figure such as Richie. While working at Merion, and came to the conclusion that my plans to be a radio DJ were fading, I decided that I wanted a sales job in the golf business. This is where Barney McFadden comes in.
       I would always see Barney on his sales calls to Merion and ask him to get me a job with Toro. Ok, maybe I would yell to Barney "get me a job!". When there was an opening in Central Pennsylvania, Barney helped me get the job and later helped me with sales training. Barney retired from PTC in 1997 after 42 years of service. He received the Master Salesman Award from Toro. (Only one award is given each year to the top salesman in the United States for Toro,)
       Barney and Richie were great men. The similarities between them are striking. Both were great fathers; they both had incredible wives and historic careers, and both had been bitten by the fishing bug. I can still remember pulling into work and seeing the Toro truck in the corner of the parking lot. We all knew that meant Barney and Richie were having a meeting somewhere down the Jersey shore.
       I consider myself very luck to have had these two great men as a part of my career. With the passing of an influential person in your life, you always wish you had done more to say thank you. I hope that by writing this piece, it might be a way of posthumously saying to Barney and Richie: "thank you to two legends who are probably sitting boat somewhere up in heaven together enjoying the best fishing ever."


Saturday, October 3, 2015

Why Do You Think They Call It Roxborough?

       On Monday & Tuesday, this past week, for the second time in the past few years, we held the Philadelphia Association of Golf Course Superintendents Aeration Days, at Walnut Lane Golf Club, Home of The First Tee of Greater Philadelphia. While a week before was a little concerning on having enough people, the turnout was just right to get tees and fairways aerated and the greens sliced with the Graden. With the process slightly different from your standard aeration, we scrambled a little bit with the cleanup early, with not having the right equipment, but as the first day went on, things were moving as more back pack blowers arrived.
       While the event was really an exciting couple of days for the people involved with TFTGP & Walnut Lane GC, it seemed to be just as exciting for those who volunteered. Everybody just pitching in and saying, "Whatever you need me to do!" This was the phrase of the two days. From clubs loaning equipment, to clubs sending staff over, even when they were shorthanded, to John Chassard and his guys, from Lehigh CC, making the long trip down and arriving at the perfect time to give volunteers a break to eat so the work could keep moving....Priceless!
       I cannot say thank you enough to all those who helped to support The First Tee, Walnut Lane & Bob Sawicki, Superintendent! We received donations of products from multiple companies from seed, fertilizer and tines and my employer, Lawn and Golf, was nice enough to supply most of the equipment needed. The greens would not have gotten done, as Bob had planned, if it had not been for the work of Mike Janzer, of Plantfood, with his Graden demo unit and getting another Graden that was loaned to us by Merion GC. Thanks Mike!
And a final big thank you goes out to Suanne Gardiner, Editor of the PAGCS Bonnie Greensward Newsletter, who help to get the word out and reminded everyone how important this was!

Jon Urbanski & Charlie-Biderman GC
Rob Nolek+Staff-Cedarbrook GC
Joe Agnew-The Bucks Club
Chase Rogan-GCSAA
Giancarlo Sarullo & Nathan Kupstas-Bala CC
Joe Liebsch
John Chassard+Staff-Lehigh CC
Jon Noyes & Mike Fahringer-The Ace Club
Steve Keller-Meadowlands
Nick Tristani & Brayen Wilkens-Merion GC
Mike Janzer-Plantfood
Matt Brown & Sumner Cross-Lawn & Golf
Dean White & JC Clevenger-Fertl-Soil
Sean Cullen & Brent Mounts-Tesco
Pocono Turf-Chris Friel
Primo Products-Rich Hendrickson
Montco Products-Ben Poole
Fisher & Son
Shreiner Tree Care Service
SynaTek-Alfie Gardner
Grigg Bros-John Wiblishauser
Seeton Turf-Steve Rudich
Lawn & Golf Supply Company


A group of First Tee participants with a nice Thank You wish to the PAGCS!
Matt Brown of Lawn & Golf operating the Redexim Carrier
And the biggest lesson I learned this past week.....Why do you think they call it Roxborough!

President of the PAGCS, Jon Urbanski, running the Core Harvester

Rob Nolek, VP of the PAGCS, running the Turfco Torrent Blower

Chase Rogan of the GCSAA dragging fairways after aerification. (No he is not angry just focused!)

Jay, Technician at Walnut Lane GC, switching out some tines on the Redexim Carrier

Shreiner Tree Care Service doing their part by donating a day of badly needed stump grinding.

Nick Tristani from Merion Golf Club running the new Jacobsen Truckster XD & Turfco 1550 Topdresser

Saturday, September 26, 2015

In The King's Castle

      This past week, I had the opportunity to play at Arnold Palmer's Latrobe CC, in the western part of  Pennsylvania. The chance to see some of the great memorabilia, in the clubhouse of Arnold Palmer's incredible career, is really special, but to be a foot away from one of the biggest names in sports is priceless! We were not sure if Mr. Palmer was still in town, but as we spoke to the locker room attendant, he said to be careful heading into the men's grill because that is where Mr. Palmer sits at lunch, right by the door.  As our foursome finished up lunch, with no word of a sighting, we headed out to our cars to grab our clubs. One minute later, one of our foursome came over and asked, "Did you see him? You missed him by about a minute..." With that I headed back inside and cut through the men's locker room and as I walked out of the men's locker room, Mr. Palmer turned and looked at me and I just said, " Hello Mr. Palmer,". He nodded and turned back to his table of friends.
       I am not an autograph collector or someone who is really into the celebrity worship, but I have to say it was pretty cool. To see one of the icons of golf, who still is one of the top money earners in sports, within a foot of you, is something I will never forget.


Sunday, September 20, 2015

Training Days

       This past week, we held a training event, for our sales group, and then a demo day for customers at Blue Bell CC & Normandy Farm Conference Center. The opportunity to have all our primary vendors come into town to a first class location, for one on one training, with the sales team, was priceless! Hopefully, the mix of classroom work, with in the field product training, over a few days, was as productive as the planning that went into it. Manufacturer representation from Jacobsen, Ventrac,Turfco, Smithco, Redexim, AquaMaster & Turflux were all there participating. We are very lucky to have the strong Representatives who work with our dealership! One of the things I have learned since I have come to Lawn & Golf, is that their factory reps know their products inside and out. Most of them have their own demo units and can go head to head with anyone.
       On Thursday, Steve Johnson from Smithco & Andy Billing of Turflux stayed around for an extra day, so we were able to do a sprayer demo day for customers. Speaking to a group of Superintendents, Assistants and Technicians, Steve and Andy briefly reviewed the Smithco and Turflux products. Every time I see GPS spraying in action, I have to admit, it is really amazing.
       A big thank you goes out to all our factory representatives, Denis Bergey, Superintendent of Blue Bell CC, the staff at Blue Bell CC and Normandy Farm Conference Center and all the staff at Lawn and Golf for a great week!

 Chuck Hicks of Redexim giving product training to Jeremy Weand & Bob Angell of L&G
         Mark Pena & Andrew Sickenberger of Jacobsen training Steve Hesser of L&G
            Chris Francis of Turfco giving training on the new Turfco 1550 to Matt Brown of L&G
                 Steve Johnson of Smithco talking sprayers
                  Andy Billing talking about Turflux technology


Sunday, September 6, 2015

Make It Rain!

       As we head into the official end of summer, summer must not have gotten the memo. With another week with multiple days of temperatures in the 90's and not much chance of rain in the long range forecast, most Turf Managers in the Mid-Atlantic have had enough. After the last measurable rain, when you took a core, the turf was moist the for the first few inches down and powder just below that. What started out as an average year, has turned into a especially long season.
     This week the information regarding the Philadelphia Area Golf Course Superintendents Association Aeration Days at Walnut Lane Golf Club will going out. On September 28th & 29th, the home of The First Tee of Greater Philadelphia will be getting the course aerated with volunteers from the PAGCS. On top of members donating their time, vendors donate seed, fertilizer, tines and equipment for the aeration process. We did a similar event, a few years ago, and it was really great to see it all come together. Hopefully, the weather breaks our way and Bob Sawicki and his staff will have an overflow of help!


Sunday, August 30, 2015

Own It

       This past week, what had been announced privately to the employees of Lawn & Golf Supply Company has finally been made official. Lawn & Golf Supply Company is now employee owned! Bob Holman had a dinner for all the employees on January 22nd. The reason for this special dinner was to discuss the future of the company. I have to admit when he stated, "There is going to be a new owner of Lawn & Golf", my heart dropped a little bit. After seeing the transition already from one owner to another once in my career, it was not something I was hoping for. Then in the next sentence Bob stated, "It's is YOU!",  I don't think it sunk in. Bob Holman was gifting the company to the employees. The company, that his father started in 1937 and that he and his brother ran, was now being giving to the people who made it go. Me, being with the company only a short time, I did not really understand how the amount of long term employees had been the basis of the culture. With 20 year & 30 year and even 40 plus year employees, that always indicates, to me, that it is a good place to work.
       This past week, the paper work was completed and with the blessing of lawyers and the IRS, Lawn & Golf Supply Company is now employee owned. But one of the original parts of the plan had slightly changed. Bob had spoken about being involved for another 3-5 years back in January. He has now decided that in October, 2016 he will be stepping away from the position of President of the company. With that being said, there were some other things that would change too. Ken Jeinnings, current Vice President/Sales Manager, would be transitioning into the Presidents role, as originally planned, just sooner. I will be transitioning into the spot that Ken had.
       Truly, pretty amazing; After a few years of not being happy with where I was working and trying to pursue different opportunities,  I will have a chance to manage the sales group at the oldest turf equipment dealer in Philadelphia is unreal. I had tried starting my own distributor, interviewed with multiple manufacturers for a factory representative positions, and in the end, it was hearing from two friends in the Turf industry, who's opinions I respected, that suggested calling Ken to talk. That is started the wheels in motion. I am really grateful to Bob and Ken for this incredible opportunity!