Are You The Man with a Plan?

The flooding of September 2011 in upstate NY is one that Rocco Greco, Superintendent at En-Joie Golf Course in Endicott, NY, site of the Dicks Sporting Goods Open Senior PGA event, is unlikely to forget anytime soon. “Having lived in the area most of my life, I knew there was flooding”, Rocco said, “but I never imagined 16 of my 18 holes would be submerged under 15-20 feet of water.”

Aerial view of En-Joie Golf Course September 2011. Note only two greens NOT flooded.

Sometimes I forget the unprecedented access I get to not only fascinating operations but dedicated and unique professionals. Rocco is a soft-spoken guy, graduate of Delhi Turfgrass Program and for the last few years Superintendent of En-Joie (short for Endicott-Johnson City as well as Endicott Johnson Shoes). As we were driving around, the course that is currently closed and for all intent and purpose is under reconstruction and grow-in, we chatted about the methodical process of running pumps for 30 straight days, hand washing 5 to 8 inches of silt off the greens, re-seeding dead greens, fixing the levee, etc.

Nothing prepares you for this and by Rocco’s own admission, “It has been an exciting experience, but I don’t really need to do it again, once is enough.” But like many superintendents I know, problem-solving is at the core of their success. They see what needs to be done and establish a plan, even if it is not written down there is a plan, and then resourcefully work to resolve the problem. The best part of this flood was there was no one nearby to blame.

Viewing a renovated fairway previously submerged under 15 feet of flood water.

Often superintendents find themselves in situations where decisions were made and plans implemented to control seedheads, eliminate annual bluegrass, overseed greens, core cultivate, and turf loss occurs. The blame game starts and instead of pulling in the same direction, the fingers start pointing. The flood was nobodies fault and when you see it as that it makes the recovery less stressful. I wonder with the challenges we know we will face with the rapid onset of the 2012 growing season do you have a plan or do you just react to what comes?

This is not going to be the year where you want to get behind and you don’t want to push too hard too early. A good plan looks at a growing season as a marathon with a good pace and then times when you ramp things up and get back to your pace. If you want to finish strong identify key events and stress periods and pace yourself up to them and plan to recover from them. It does not have to be complicated but as Harry Truman once said, “I believe in plans big enough to meet a situation which we can’t possibly foresee.” I’m sure Rocco has one now!

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