EGR Awards Case Study

Francis "Bud" O'Neill III, CGCS, formerly of Wild Quail Golf and Country Club, Delaware

Francis J "Bud" O'Neill III, CGCS, formerly of Wild Quail Golf and Country Club, now a managing principle of Peak Performance Construction & Agronomic Services of Smyrna, Del., has been active for the past five years showing government officials and the public how golf courses should be viewed as environmental assets and not polluters.

In 1999, lawmakers in Delaware enacted a Nutrient Management Law in order to regulate nutrient applications in the state. Although the law's intent focused on addressing poultry manure, it had an impact on all fertilizer users including golf courses. The law requires any person applying nutrients to 10 or more acres to become a certified nutrient handler; it also requires individuals to develop a Nutrient Management Plan for properties where nutrients are applied and are 10 acres or more. The nutrient management plan is a tool for addressing nutrient needs, keeping accurate records and maximizing the efficiency of nutrient use. The law will be phased in over a five-year period starting in 2005.

At the same time the Nutrient Management Law was enacted, golf course superintendents in Delaware were dealing with an extreme drought. New Castle County was especially hit hard. The governor had declared a drought emergency and several superintendents felt compelled to join together to address the drought restrictions on a unified front. O'Neill took the lead role on this initiative. He proposed the idea of creating a Green Section to Delaware State Golf Association (DSGA) members. DSGA members embraced the idea and quickly worked with O'Neill to create the Green Section. The section included O'Neill as the chairman and five other superintendents representing all Delaware counties. Golf course superintendents had the opportunity to work collaboratively with influential golfers and present a larger voice to policymakers through the Green Section.

The Green Section was successful in its efforts in that state officials made a place for a representative from the golf industry on two very important state commissions - the Water Supply Coordinating Council and the Nutrient Management Commission. Paul Stead, CGCS at Deerfield Golf & Tennis Club in Wilmington, Del., originally served on the Nutrient Management Commission. When he stepped down, O'Neill volunteered to take his place. During his time on the commission, O'Neill worked with 19 individuals to develop, review, approve and enforce regulations governing the certification of individuals engaged in the business of land application of nutrients and the development of nutrient management plans.

O'Neill's involvement on the committee was crucial as the commission established nutrient limits. He was able to educate commission members on actual golf course management practices and show them how golf courses strive for lean not lush conditions. His efforts in educating committee members allowed greater flexibility for nutrient applications for superintendents across the state.

O'Neill was the first superintendent in Delaware to voluntarily draft a nutrient management plan, which allowed him to help other superintendents formulate their plans. When the first four golf courses were selected to comply with the law, he sat down with his peers and went over his plan to educate them on the law's requirements. He also encouraged fellow superintendents to attend seminars sponsored by state officials on becoming certified nutrient handlers. Because of O'Neill's efforts, the golf course industry was one of the first to certify all its constituents.

Because of O'Neill's work on the Nutrient Management Commission, golf course superintendents in the state are dealing with more time consuming but less restrictive nutrient management requirements. Restrictions and limits on nutrient use are fairer to the industry and positive relationships have been established with individuals who can have an impact on the industry in the future.

O'Neill remains politically active in the state beyond his continuing work on the Nutrient Management Commission. He championed the idea for the Department of Agriculture's pesticide container-recycling program, which allows pesticide compliance department officials to stop by participating golf courses once a month and pick up empty containers to be recycled. This program has resulted in hundreds of containers being diverted from landfills annually.

Excellent working relationships with individuals in all state government agencies involved in the golf industry have been created thanks to O'Neill's efforts. At the same time, residents in Delaware know that the golf course industry is doing its part to keep state waters safe from nutrient pollution.