Written by Guy Cipriano
A turf manager doesn’t need to work for a top-100 lawn care company, elite golf course or professional sports team to share an idea at the Ohio Turfgrass Foundation Conference & Show.
The 51st edition of the event ended Thursday with dozens of relatable moments at the Greater Columbus Convention Center. In the sports field management room, a quartet of managers from the municipal sector – Mayfield Village’s Paul Byrne, Fremont School District’s Cory Hull, Reynoldsburg Park & Rec’s Brian McGuire and Hudson City Schools’ Chris Kelling – participated in a discussion led by Ohio State’s Pamela Sherratt and Central Farm & Garden’s Matt Duncan. Byrne and McGuire started their careers in golf, Hull worked for the Toledo Mud Hens before arriving at Fremont, and Kelling has spent 26 years at Hudson.
The size of scopes of the quartet’s respective operations varies. Hull jokes he maintains two grass baseball and softball fields and an artificial football field with a “crew of one.” Attending the OTF Conference & Show introduced Hull to the professional development opportunities offered by the foundation. “Something I didn’t realize I needed to do was the promotional side of myself,” he says. “I’m an average high school guy who’s trying to make his way through the job.”
Kelling, by contrast, leads a team responsible for the maintenance of Hudson’s outdoor and indoor facilities. The outdoor portion of the job includes 200 acres, including 120 that require mowing. Kelling calls the annual “highlight of the job” is hosting Ohio State Athletic Association district and regional baseball tournaments on the varsity field.
Golf course superintendents understand the challenge of preparing playing surfaces for events. Their final OTF Conference & Show session included the annual “Breakfast with the USGA” session. Attendees from facilities of all levels spent two hours seeking and absorbing insight from USGA Green Section agronomists Bob Vavrek, Zach Nicoludis and John Daniels. Frequently discussed topics in the Midwest Region this year included proper wetting agent usage, earthworm castings, nematodes, and establishing and maintaining native areas.
The Columbus-based Nicoludis says nematodes are becoming “more of a topic further north.” Responding to this concern, OTF organizers included more than an hour of nematode education in this year’s agenda. Valley Brook (Pa.) Country Club’s John Shaw and Ohio State University Golf Club’s Dennis Bowsher shared how they handled the frustrating pests on their respective courses, while Ohio State’s Joe Rimelspach and Horacia Lopez-Nicoria addressed nematodes from a researcher’s perspective. “This is one of the most difficult things to diagnosis,” Rimelspach says.
The four-day conference and show attracted nearly 1,600 attendees, a 3 percent increase over 2016, according to OTF executive director Brian Laurent. A silent auction conducted Tuesday and Wednesday raised more than $7,000 for the Ohio Turfgrass Research Trust. OTF officials used the event to announce the Buckeyes for Environmentally Sustainable Turfgrass (BEST) initiative. The web-based training and certification best practices program launches in January.
The golf and lawn care segments of the industry will return to Columbus Feb. 27-28 for the annual Spring Tee Off.