9 things we saw, learned


For golf-course superintendents, Orlando was the place to be earlier this week.

josh sens

ORLANDO, Fla. — Music pulsed. People danced. The mood in the air suggested anything might happen. If you think that things in Scottsdale have been wild this week, you should have taken in the scene at the Orange County Convention Center, about a 20-minute drive east of Disney World. A swarm of turf-care experts had swept into town.

Every industry has its Woodstock. In the world of golf agronomy, this was it: the annual Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA) Conference and Trade Show. What’s that you say? Sounds about as riveting as watching grass grow? Think again! FOMO is what you should have been feeling.

To rub it in, here are 9 things you missed.

1. Electric opening ceremony

Who says that turf nerds can’t get wiggy? At a welcome reception that could have passed for a snippet from Survivor, GCSAA CEO Rhett Evans and board president Kevin Breen plunged into a pool and raced through waist-deep water, winding up in a finish so neck-and-neck that neither man got kicked off the island. Not to be outdone, neon-clad dancers opened the indoor portion of the show by going full Footloose on the convention floor. The festive vibe was so contagious, even a security guard joined in.

2. No light, no soil. No problem

As proof that these folks can grow grass anywhere, the GCSAA joined forces with the USGA and the Golf Course Builders Association of America to build a 20,000-square foot natural putting green on the convention center’s cold, hard floor. Augusta National it wasn’t, but still, what an effort.

Josh Sens

3. Robot mowers are coming…

Like cars and vacuum cleaners, mowers are moving toward automation. Among the eye-catching machines on the floor this week were robotic maintenance workers like this Spider Mower, capable of everything from trimming fairways to picking range balls in the dead of night.

Josh Sens

4. …and so are the robot golf balls

Another glimpse of the future came from the USGA, which unveiled its latest advent, the GS3: a space-age, golf-ball shaped device capable of gathering more than 15,000 data points via internal sensors, allowing it to give instant readings on a green’s firmness, smoothness, trueness and speed.

5. America’s (supers) got talent

Ventriloquy. Guitar-making. Oil painting. And on. Superintendents have enough side hobbies to sustain their own reality-TV show. Consider, for instance, the not-so-hidden talent of Paul Sermersheim, superintendent of Danville Country Club, in Ill., and licensed auctioneer.

6. Do we hear $40 for the fungicide?

Speaking of auctions, the silent one this week had all kinds of goodies — if you’re into spray nozzles, turf colorant and aluminum cups.

7. Destiny’s children

Does the name make the super, or the other way around? The list of attendees this week included turf-care experts with the fitting surnames Grass, Stem, Ball, Hogan and Read.

8. Fairways to the runway

At a convention where most everyone was dressed like a golfer or a farmer, David Jones was unafraid to stand out. The superintendent from Indian Springs Country Club, in Oklahoma, Jones says he inherited his flashy fashion sense from his grandfather. He has an outfit of this ilk for every day of the year.

Josh Sens

9. Doglegs of a different kind

A goose dog is a superintendent’s best friend. And no one supplies more of them to the industry than Rebecca Gibson, of Flyaway Geese, in North Carolina. As she does each year, Gibson brought a bunch of border collies to the convention, not just to give live demos but also to give away one of the trained dogs by way of auction. Mark Patterson, of the Briars Club in Florida, was the lucky winner this year.


Josh Sens Contributor

A golf, food and travel writer, Josh Sens has been a GOLF Magazine contributor since 2004 and now contributes across all of GOLF’s platforms. His work has been anthologized in The Best American Sportswriting. He is also the co-author, with Sammy Hagar, of Are We Having Any Fun Yet: the Cooking and Partying Handbook.

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