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LATEST NEWS

The Fivesome: Larry Gilhuly is Presented With The 2019 Paul Backman Distinguished Service Award

May 15, 2019

Bill Ackerley, Executive Director, congratulates Larry Gilhuly upon receiving the 2019 Paul Backman Distinguished Service Award

When it comes to pillars of the NW golf industry, one name stands alone. Larry Gilhuly has served superintendents, green committees and state golf associations as the NW agronomist for the USGA over the last 35 years. A strong resume for certain, but for so much more, Larry

Gilhuly was deemed the 2019 recipient of the Paul Backman Distinguished Service Award, presented at Sahalee Country Club to close the Annual Fivesome festivities.

A native of Kelso Washington, Larry began his golf career in 1968 at the Longview Country Club. Larry earned the Chick Evans Scholarship for Caddies in 1970, then he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in agronomy and turf science from Washington State University. In 1973 he became an intern at Seattle’s Broadmoor Golf Club, then became assistant [Superintendent] at the Seattle Golf Club in 1975. Larry then joined the USGA Green Section in 1983 where he has remained since.

In his career, Larry has visited courses in fourteen states and eight countries including the Canadian provinces of British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. He has easily tallied over two million miles by car and air and has seen over 1,100 unique golf courses.

David Phipps, the GCSAA’s Northwest Regional Representative, was asked to present the honor to Larry, and explained how it was the “so much more” than Gilhuly’s résumé which defined his contributions to the WWGCSA. “Larry’s warm personality and incredible sense of humor has endeared him to everyone whom he has met. His insight into golf course maintenance has been instrumental in assisting the superintendent, and has assured the success of those whom have had the privilege to work with him.”

Phipps continued, “Larry has been a proponent of junior golf in the State of Washington and helped ward off a tax that would have put a burden on all high school golf teams who received complementary access to local golf courses. He has also been a huge proponent of The First Green, assisting in field trips wherever and whenever he could. However, retirement will probably not keep Larry away from that. It is with great honor that on behalf of the Western Washington GCSA, this award is given to Larry for his extraordinary career in the golf industry.”

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It’s That Time of Year! Fivesome To Be Played at the #1 Golf Course in Washington

The WWGCSA Annual Fivesome Tournament will be played at Sahalee Country Club on May 9th. Sahalee has a rich, albeit not so long, history . . . especially for a course in the Northwest. It has hosted major championships for the PGA, LPGA and Champions Tour. It has also been a highly sought after venue for Northwest golf championships. Golf Digest routinely lists Sahalee as one of America’s Top 100 Courses, and ranked it #1 amongst Washington courses for 2017-2018.

The course was originally designed by Ted Robinson and has gone through multiple renovations by Rees Jones—in part to get the course ready for the many championships it hosts. As you may be aware, the name “Sahalee” comes from the native Chinook meaning “High Heavenly Ground”, which seems very appropriate given Sahalee’s geographic and topographic location. The Club opened in 1968, and its first golf course Superintendent was Louis Schmidt, who served in that capacity for ten years. Today, Tom Huesgen is the Director of Golf Course Operations, working with Superintendent Marcus Harness. The two of them work the other key members of the Sahalee management team: General Manager Jim Pike, Head Golf Pro Mike Montgomery and Clubhouse Manager Justin Keener.

Tom Huesgen looks forward to seeing you all, “As Turfgrass Managers, we pride ourselves in providing quality golfing conditions on a regular basis at our facilities.  This pride and gratification is elevated with the honor of hosting fellow industry peers and operation managers to enjoy our club.  We are excited to welcome everyone to Sahalee for this year's Fivesome event!" Don’t miss your chance. Sign up for the Fivesome, to be played on May 9th, by registering here.

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Coffee Breaks Are For You

Justin Ruiz of Planet Turf leads discussion on matters important to Superintendents of the Kitsap and Olympic Peninsulas.

WWGCSA’s second Coffee Break took place last month at Kitsap Golf and Country Club, thanks to the support of Planet Turf USA. Coffee Breaks have been created as smaller, “closer to your course” events to foster face to face networking for Superintendents. Corporate Partners of WWGCSA get involved to underwrite the gatherings, and get their own face to face time with multiple Superintendents at once. “I think these coffee breaks are a great idea,” says Jason Krogman, Superintendent of Kitsap Golf and Country Club. “The main thing I liked was just getting to meet others in the area. I’m still trying to get to know other Sup’s in our area. Learning some tricks from some of the older guys also helped. It got me thinking of a few things to do differently.” Ryan Hammer, Superintendent at Trophy Lake Golf and Casting, adds “I enjoyed the fact that it was close to me and not an all-day meeting that would keep me away from my own course for the day.  It was great to meet some of the local Superintendents that I had not previously met and pass around some ideas.” Planet Turf USA was represented by Justin Ruiz, who enjoyed the chance to meet with multiple Superintendents in a roundtable setting. Planet Turf USA will present another Coffee Break sometime this year in the Olympia area. Also planned is a Coffee Break in the northern part of our region that will be presented by Wilbur Ellis. There’s room for a couple more before the end of this calendar year, so if you would like a Coffee Break to come to your club, let Bill Ackerley (WWGCSA Executive Director) know. Because, as John Hicks, Superintendent at Canterwood says, the benefit of the Coffee Breaks for Superintendents is “the ability to talk with fellow superintendents in my area on what they are experiencing and also learn about new products or services from vendors [without] tying up your whole day.” A Coffee Break can come to you simply for the asking. Let the WWGCSA know if you’re interested.

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Washington and Oregon Golf Course Superintendents Help Veterans

Nearly 65 volunteers, a collection of Golf Course Superintendents from the states of Oregon and Washington working together with Military Veterans, prepared the American Lake Veterans’ Golf Course for Spring in a large, collaborative effort on March 14th. This all- volunteer labor force provided time and equipment to aerate greens and tee boxes, while also cleaning the debris remaining on the ground from a harsher winter than normal. In less than 5 hours the course was ready for its spring rush of golfers.

The effort was a collaboration of the Oregon Golf Course Superintendents Association (OGCSA) and the Western Washington Golf Course Superintendents Association (WWGCSA). Each is a regional chapter of the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA). 40 members of the two chapters were joined by 25 volunteers, veterans of American Armed Forces, who regularly help maintain the course – and they do so for no compensation, other than seizing the opportunity to provide a refuge for both active and retired, abled and disabled, military personnel.

American Lake Veterans’ Golf Course, which was built after World War II in the mid-50s, is on the grounds of the VA Hospital in Lakewood, WA. Its mission is to “provide much-needed rehabilitation and recreational outlet for the growing population of veterans, many of whom are disabled…” It has served patients healing from all types of injuries for many years. In 1995, after the US government withdrew all funding for the course’s operation and maintenance, volunteers offered to take up the challenge of keeping the course going.

Gabe Hughes, president of the OGCSA, expressed it this way: “American Lake is not simply there as a leisure retreat, but a place for rehabilitation, therapy, and socialization, to assist our Veterans. Any way that we can give back to them, is an honor for me and my fellow Superintendents.” Hughes’ counterpart, Sean Reehoorn, the president of the WWGCSA said simply, “ . . . an amazing day at American Lake Veterans’ Golf Course, Oregon and Washington members working together, I’m so proud to be a part of this group.”

Randy Moen is the Superintendent at the American Lake Veterans’ Course, and he’s also a volunteer. His reaction to the special day? “The course is in great shape thanks to unselfish professional generosity of the Washington and Oregon Superintendent Associations. Our Veterans that we serve, are most grateful. [The Superintendents] have made me an instant Rock Star with all of the “Heroes” I get to serve, for this, I THANK YOU!!!”

Getting the course ready for Spring with the help of the Golf Course Superintendents, who greatly admire the veterans that the American Lake course serves, is symbolic of the thanks that all Americans have, and a chance to provide some extra hope in an environment as beautiful as a golf course.

Watch this video produced by Washington Rock Quarries to get a feel for the day: Veterans' Service Project Mission Accomplished.

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How the American Lake Veterans’ Course Service Project Came To Be

It's always interesting to look back at how certain ideas come to fruition. When it came time in the Fall of 2018 to plan a retreat for this fiscal year’s WWGCSA Board, our President Sean Reehoorn suggested that we find a way to hold a joint meeting with the Board of the Oregon Golf Course Superintendents Association. The OGCSA was up for it, and so the WWGCSA Board drove to Corvallis in October and broke bread with their counterparts in Oregon. The goodwill from that gathering led to the desire to start more than a new tradition of getting together, but rather a new tradition of working together for the betterment of those associated with the golfing world in our region.

A joint service project was suggested, to be held in each state in alternating years. Helping the American Lake Veterans’ Course get ready for their Spring and Summer seasons was a natural first project. Gabe Hughes, the President of the OGCSA, puts it this way, “not only does this joint service project give Superintendents from Oregon and Washington a chance to interact and get to know one another, it affords us the opportunity to share our professional knowledge in a way that will help support and enhance the lives of those who were willing to give all in the defense of our great nation.”

As many as 40 or more Oregon and Washington Superintendents, crew members and industry suppliers will team up with 25-30 of the volunteers who maintain the American Lake Veterans’ Course on a regular basis. “We hope to be able to grow the bond between our two associations as well as help educate the many volunteers outside of our organizations who maintain the Veterans Course on a daily basis throughout the year,” said Scott Phelps, the Immediate Past President of the WWGCSA. “We have the skillset, tools, and people who appreciate the service all of the men and women of the armed forces who have secured our freedom and defended others around the world. It is a very small gesture on our part, to try and help provide the veterans and our active military with a beautiful place to recreate, rehabilitate, and play the game we all love.”

March 14 is the day when the seed of a fresh idea to simply renew old bonds sees the fruit of Superintendents getting together with a group of volunteers to make a season of golf more enjoyable for Military Veterans. “American Lake is not simply there as a leisure retreat, but a place for rehabilitation, therapy, and socialization, to assist our Veterans,” says Hughes “[so] any way that we can give back to them, is an honor for me and my fellow Superintendents.”

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American Lake Veterans’ Course: A Chance to Help Those Who Helped Us

This may be hard to read, but it’s true: 22 a day. That’s the number released by the Department of Veterans Affairs in February. 22 veterans take their own lives every single day. The fear is, the actual number may be even higher. What’s a country to do? What are we, as individuals, to do?

Veterans, over the course of their career, take on a heavy toll. They deal with things on a daily basis that us regular folk insulate ourselves from. We read and hear on our local news about individuals who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder related to horrific events that they are exposed to in their domestic lives. Now multiply that by an unknown number, and we begin to understand what is asked of our veterans of conflicts away from home, who are exposed to gruesome stuff time and again, with little or no refuge.

VA hospitals are set up to take care of veterans who suffer not only from physical injuries, but emotional and psychological wounds as well. Once such hospital is the VA Hospital in Lakewood, Washington. Thousands of U.S. service men and women have returned from active duty in Iraq, Afghanistan, Viet Nam and Korea with severe physical and psychological wounds that will haunt them forever. Some are single or double amputees, trying desperately to learn to use prosthetics or to survive without limbs. Some have intact bodies, but their minds are shattered by the traumas they have experienced. Lakewood’s VA Hospital has served them all. Like the rest of us, the VA Hospital is always looking for ways to help their veterans find a comfortable transition back to domestic life. Too often, the injuries suffered during their service get in the way of that transition.

One asset that the Lakewood VA Hospital has at its disposal: a golf course on its own grounds. Built in the 1950s, and situated on 377 acres, it was originally viewed as simply a place of relief for those that could enjoy the game. But over the years, American Lake Veterans’ Golf Course has also become a source of healing, as it helps with the rehabilitation and needs of the disabled veterans as well. Nonetheless, in 1995, the US government withdrew its financial support for the operation and maintenance of the course. After a decade of decline, the course began to bounce back thanks to the efforts of a cadre of volunteers.

By 2003, a non-profit organization was formed to help raise funds for the course. Sometime in or near 2010, Ken Still, a former PGA Tour Pro, sought help from Jack Nicklaus to design a new nine holes, and renovate the original nine. Nicklaus Design did so, providing its design services at no charge. In 2015, the course ranked Number One on Golf Digest’s list of the “the 9 most cheerful courses to play in America.” In 2016, the new nine opened, serendipitously becoming Nicklaus Design’s 400th golf course worldwide. Today, according to Nicklaus Design, American Lake is the nation’s only golf course designed “specifically for facilitating the rehabilitation of wounded and disabled veterans.” The course is run by 200-plus volunteers without any federal funding or paid employees. By 2020, the improvements on the original nine should be completed to provide greater accessibility to disabled players. The course is open to all veterans, their families and guests.

The stated mission of the golf course is “ to provide much-needed rehabilitation and recreational outlet for the growing population of veterans, many of whom are disabled . . .”

This is where we try to answer “What are we, as individuals, to do?” It starts with a special collaboration of as many as 40 Golf Course Superintendents from the states of Oregon and Washington who will be gathering at the American Lake Veterans’ Golf Course on March 14, to provide volunteer labor and equipment to help get the course ready for the upcoming Spring and Summer Seasons. Don’t you want to be a part of it? You can, by simply registering here.

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The Canadian Golf Course Management Conference

The Canadian Golf Superintendents Association (CGSA) is hosting the Canadian Golf Course Management Conference within the Canadian Rockies in Banff, Alberta, known for its hospitality and adventure. The conference runs from March 4–7, 2019. 

We are hoping you would share this information with your members as we feel The Canadian has lots to offer. Beside the top-notch education in an intimate setting; this year we are honouring Mark Kuhns, CGCS, Superintendent at Baltusrol Golf Club in New Jersey and former GCSAA president, with the prestigious John B. Steel Award. The John B. Steel Award is the CGSA's Distinguished Service Award.  Although an American, Mark has been a CGSA member for 12 years and has enjoyed attending the CGSA's events throughout those years.  We hope that some of our colleagues from the US will be able to join the CGSA in celebrating Mark during the awards ceremony.  

Registering for an All Access conference package includes over 15 hours of education sessions; including some familiar names from the US as well as numerous networking opportunities including food & beverage and the largest trade show of its kind in Canada. All this for only $559 Canadian, (approximately $418 USD).

Please visit the conference website at (https://golfsupers.com/en/banff2019) for conference details or contact Barb Manifold at 416-626-8873 ext. 25 (Ontario) with any questions.

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Local Coffee Breaks Coming to a Spot Near You!

New for 2019: The WWGCSA will be holding a series of Coffee Breaks across our region throughout the year. The concept is to enable Superintendents to gather for informal conversation with their peers without a lot of travel or any cost. The Coffee Breaks will be supported by various Association Partners. What’s in it for the Partners? We will invite them to get the conversation going with a 5-10 update on what’s new with their assortment of products and services, and then they get to sit back and enjoy learning about what’s on your mind. The range of topics are unlimited. At least one WWGCSA Board Member and our Executive Director will be present to keep the conversation flowing. The range of topics is entirely up to you. It may focus on how all of the rain and wind has put stress on your labor hours and then divert to how exciting it is that the Seahawks turned a rebuilding year into a playoff appearance. It’s entirely up to you. The number one objective is to get you together with fellow Supers, maybe even ones you don’t know, even though they’re close in proximity.

Expect the Coffee Breaks to last somewhere between 90 minutes and 2 hours (again, that’s up to you). Coffee and small food items will be provided. There is no charge to you as a member of the WWGCSA, thanks to our Association Partners. You just need to get there, wherever a convenient opportunity may present itself. We will have enough coffee breaks that you will be able to get to at least one over the course of the year without driving more than 30-45 minutes. We are targeting attendance to be 8-10 Supers per Coffee Break. Small enough that everyone can participate.

The first Coffee Break will be hosted at Aldarra Golf Club, presented by Wilbur Ellis, on January 10 in the morning. Exact times will be posted on the website calendar as the date gets closer. If you’re nearby, we’ll want to see you. If not, a Coffee Break will be coming to a Spot near you sometime over the course of 2019. Happy New Year!

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Chapter Delegates Meet With the GCSAA

The GCSAA recently hosted the Annual Delegates meeting in Kansas City/Lawrence, Kansas in November. The GCSAA is made up of 99 chapters that has a voting delegate to represent the 18,000 plus members of the association. Most delegates arrive on Tuesday for dinner and a “State of the Association” address from Rhett Evans, CEO of GCSAA. The association is under great leadership with Rhett at the helm. Partnerships with other industry organizations continue to grow in both exposure and strength. Our association continues to endeavor to be the leader in the global golf industry as many know the dedication and time Superintendents put into their jobs and organizations.

Leadership of GCSAA is focused on two large initiatives, first Best Management Practices (BMP) and membership growth and expansion. BMPs will give each chapter a seat at the table as environmental restrictions are passed down through state, and even federal, legislation. Being ahead of the curve here has already benefited many chapters and will benefit more in the future. Membership growth strengthens our presence as there is true strength in numbers.

The annual meeting for GCSAA takes place during the Golf Industry Show, which will be held in San Diego in 2019. (Orlando in 2020, Las Vegas in 2021.) The membership feedback on GIS is to keep a three-year rotation with San Diego, Orlando, and a city to be determined in between. Las Vegas got the nod in 2021 and where it goes in 2024 has not been determined yet.

Part of the gathering included a one-hour bus ride to the GCSAA Headquarters in Lawrence, Kansas. The day is packed with presentations on Government Relations, Initiatives, Task Group Reports, Round 4 Research plans, and speeches from each of the Candidates for office in 2019. Rafael Barajas will be GCSAA President in 2019 and John Fulling will serve as Vice-President. Four candidates are running for three open Board of Director positions in 2019. T.A. Barker, Superintendent of Fore Lakes Golf Course in Utah and Jeff White, Superintendent at Indian Hills Country Club in Kansas are running for re-election in 2019 after serving a 1-year term as a Director. Paul Carter, Superintendent at Bear Trace at Harrison Bay in Tennessee and Doug Dykstra, Superintendent at White Mountain Country Club in Pinetop, Arizona are the other two candidates.

If you have any questions or comments about topics discussed at the delegates meeting please contact our chapter’s delegate, Sean Reehoorn, at sean@aldarragc.com or 425-222-3662.

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Alex Hedlund of Sahalee Wins Superintendents' Cup

The air was smoky around Aldarra Golf Club, with ash falling from the sky and sticking to anything in its way, just as it was across the entire Puget Sound region in late August from the wildfires in the Cascades, Olympics and Canadian ranges. But that didn’t dissuade 70 golfers from taking on a tough golf course as part of the festivities surrounding the WWGCSA’s annual meeting.

Alex Hedlund, Assistant Superintendent in Training from Sahalee, overcame a strong field of golfers shooting a 9 over par score of 80, defeating Tom Robinson (Bellevue Golf Course) and Jon Fullmer (Jackson Park Golf Course) by a single shot. Sean Reehoorn (Aldarra) was three shots back. Hedlund’s name will be added to a new perpetual trophy that he will get to display at Sahalee until at least next year’s rendition of the Superintendent’s Cup.

Ross O’Fee of Empire Turf finished with the lowest net score of 72, beating Chris Thornton of Auburn Golf Course by two strokes.

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New Board Members Elected at WWGCSA Annual Meeting

Sean Reehoorn, Superintendent at Aldarra Golf Club, was elected the new Board President of the WWGCSA at its Annual Meeting. Held August 20, coincidentally at Aldarra Golf Club, Reehoorn was elected along with new Board Members Steve Meyers, Superintendent of Maplewood Golf Course, and Rick Michel, Assistant Superintendent at Broadmoor Golf Club. Meyers and Michel join Reehoorn, Greg Van Hollebeke (Jackson Golf Course) and Jason Otto (Wilbur Ellis) each of whom were re-elected to the Board.

Scott Phelps (Newcastle), though stepping down as President after two terms, will remain on the Board in the post of Immediate Past President. Rolling off the Board after completing their terms of service are Thaddeus Lalley (Assistant from Everett Golf Club) and Michael Goldsberry (Immediate Past President, from Wing Point GCC).
Returning to the Board with r


emaining terms are Ryan Semritc (Willows Run), Clint Goold (Druid’s Glen) and Jason Krogman (Kitsap Golf and Country Club).

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