If you visit the GCSAA’s website search engine and type in the word “TAN”, many of the responses will pertain to exposure of the sun. But TAN also represents the Technical Assistance Network, a program created by the GCSAA. TAN was formerly known as the Limited Budget Outreach program (LBO). Its mission is “To help fellow superintendents enhance course conditions in order to help grow the game of golf”.
The program was initiated in 2000 as the brainchild of former GCSAA president Dave Fearis, CGCS. Fearis recognized and believed that it is often the courses with the smallest budgets that are making the greatest contributions toward the game of golf. Former President Fearis challenged the GCSAA to take a hard look at how the GCSAA is serving those golf facilities that offer accessible and affordable golf.
Ravenna Golf Club(Neb);
Larry Heathers(Supt) middle; John Hadwick, CGCS, mentor(right)
The program was established to provide advice and assistance to those golf facilities that can benefit from additional knowledge and experiences of the GCSAA and their members. These facilities are the breeding ground for golfers that this industry will desperately need in the future to maintain the financial health for the game of golf. The success of the program rests primarily on the use of chapter volunteers who can offer technical information regarding maintenance practices.
The GCSAA supports the program by providing the necessary forms and information to get the program started. The GCSAA provides complimentary information packs that can be ordered by the participating facilities. The association also offers three complimentary GCSAA memberships per year. Chapters can award them to superintendents whose facilities are participating in the Technical Assistance Network program. The Nebraska GCSA (NGCSA) also randomly selects a participant to receive a complimentary NGCSA membership. The NGCSA also offers every TAN participant the opportunity to join the chapter for half-price of a normal membership.
Ravenna Golf Club;
John Hadwick, mentor(left); Larry Heathers, supt(right)
In Nebraska, 45% of all registered golf courses are members of the NGCSA. Many of these courses are lower budget, 9-hole facilities that are located in sparsely populated areas of the state. It is these courses that have been identified as potential TAN participants.
Since the advent of the TAN outreach program, local involvement in the NGCSA has been significant. According to Larry Hergott, CGCS, TAN chapter coordinator, volunteer superintendents have visited approximately 60 courses. Although the program was officially instituted at the national level just a few years ago, the concept has always existed in our profession. Helping, advising and supporting fellow superintendents has always been the norm. This type of networking in Nebraska has proven to be one of the most significant methods of distributing technical knowledge and assistance.
Gibbon Valley View GC(Neb);
Roland Spencer, supt(left); John Hadwick, mentor(right);
Examining Localized Dry Spot
The success of the Nebraska TAN program can be credited to the willingness of its chapter volunteers who are ready to offer advice and assistance to receptive facilities. In Nebraska, the profile of the volunteer superintendent is an individual with 20 years of experience who has been very active within his or her local chapter. Nebraska has 14 volunteer superintendents who have committed their knowledge and energies to this program. These volunteers are able to offer assistance to any facility that contacts the local chapter. However, most of Nebraska’s success has been achieved by the volunteer superintendents taking the initiative to contact qualifying facilities. Most contacts are not made ‘blindly’, but rather after the volunteer and facility manager (not necessarily a superintendent) have developed a relationship.
Participants in the TAN Program in Nebraska have especially benefited from the informal gathering of groups of course managers to discuss concerns and activities at their small, local clubs. These groups are not affiliated or organized with the NGCSA or other group. They do not collect dues or elect officers. Many of those attending are not members of any regional chapter or GCSAA.
Gibbon Valley View GC(Neb);
Roland Spencer, supt(left), John Hadwick, mentor(right)
These informal groups often refer to themselves as the “Central Nebraska Superintendents” or other geographic collection of superintendents. A majority represents 9-hole facilities. Annual maintenance budgets for these facilities range from $25,000 to $150,000. The group will gather, visit, and share concerns and ideas. Often a topic of immediate concern will prevail. Most of these “meetings” are being hosted at nine-hole facilities. Attendance can range from 10 to 20 people. These smaller course managers have indicated that they feel much less intimidated in this small and informal setting compared to attending a chapter meeting where they often feel the topics and cost of solutions to problems are irrelevant to their operation. It is in these settings that new relationships have been established. Many of these relationships have been nurtured into trust and friendship.
John Hadwick, CGCS, 30-year GCSAA member and superintendent at Jackrabbit Run Golf Course in Grand Island (Neb.), has been one of the more active volunteer mentors. Hadwick has visited more than 20 facilities since the program began. He says, “It’s pretty amazing how resourceful many of these smaller operations are. The quality of the courses in relation to the limited resources is sometimes pretty astounding. It is one thing to have 10-25 people maintaining a course — it is quite another to be the only employee! The only thing that gets done is what you do yourself. These positions are truly a labor of love.”
Hadwick says many of his visits have originated through the informal groups as mentioned above. He also has expressed many of these individuals are not only considered the superintendent but also carry multiple titles of managers, owners, sole employee, and some are even volunteers themselves. Other contacts have evolved through introductions with a chemical, fertilizer, or equipment sales representative. These salesmen have worked with our state association to recognize and identify facilities to become involved with the TAN mentoring program.
Rod Ostrander of the Ord Golf Course (Neb) is one of the more recently mentored facilities by Hadwick. Ostrander had worked on the Ord Golf Course part-time while attending high school. He enjoyed being on the maintenance staff, but did not pursue the profession. Instead Rod managed an auto parts store in Ord. However, six years ago, he was encouraged to serve on the golf board. Because of his love of the game and his introduction to golf maintenance in high school, he became very active in the course management. When the existing superintendent resigned, Ostrander was encouraged to manage the course. He accepted the position and is “loving every minute”.
Ostrander credits neighboring superintendents for encouraging him to attend the informal “Central Nebraska Group” where he met Hadwick. “John (Hadwick) helps me out. TAN is a great program. I’ve contacted him about my white grub and mole problems.” Ostrander is now a member of the GCSAA and NGCSA.
Paul Croghan followed a different path into the turf industry. He too feels he has benefited greatly from the TAN mentoring program. Croghan is the superintendent/manager of the Arnold Golf Club. Arnold is a small community in north central Nebraska with a population of 800. Croghan was born and raised in this small community where his father operated the local Mobil gas station. Croghan earned a teaching degree and taught school for 38 years in Idaho and Nevada. While teaching school in Carson City, Nevada, he worked during his summer vacations at the Eagle Valley Golf Club. He retired from teaching in 2002 and returned to his childhood home and agreed to manage the course. The club has 83 members with annual dues of only $250. Hadwick has also mentored Croghan. Croghan says of Hadwick, “He’s been so helpful and has been willing to help in any manner. We are a very small operation and we have old equipment.”
Printed at the bottom of every GCSAA web page and letterhead is the GCSAA mission statement. “The Golf Course Superintendents Association of America is dedicated to serving its members, advancing their profession, and enhancing the enjoyment, growth, and vitality of the game of golf.” The TAN Program supports the mission statement by recognizing and supporting those smaller courses with limited resources, and can be considered a major component in the growth and advancement of the game.
Does your chapter have willing volunteers who are able to offer advice and assist receptive facilities? Do you have members who are willing to invest a small amount of time and “give back” to an industry that has provided them a rewarding career? Do you have members who are willing to support the advancement and growth of the game? Mentor John Hadwick sums up the program best, “I can honestly say I’ve learned more from my collective visits than I’ve been able to teach or ‘pass on’. I believe I’ve become a better superintendent by simply ‘knowing’ and having visited these facilities!”
Submitted by William K. Bieck, CGCS, Nebraska
To share your chapter's success stories, please email them to Leann Cooper.