Last Update :12/5/2018
VGCSA Announces 2018 Award and Scholarship Winners
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, Monday, December 3, 2018
Press Contact: David Norman, VGCSA Executive Director
The Virginia Golf Course Superintendents have announced their award winners for 2018. Sterling Caudle of Golden Eagle GC won the President's Award for Lifetime Service. Jeff Berg of Chantilly National G&CC won the Distinguished Service Award. Mike Augustin of Belle Haven CC won the Environmental Stewardship Award. And Morgan Furlong won the Buy Sod Scholarship.
Caudle Wins Presidents Award for Lifetime Service
Sterling Caudle of Irvington, VA is the winner of the 2018 VGCSA Presidents Award for Lifetime Service. The VGCSA's highest award is "to honor those superintendent pioneers who were instrumental in state and local affairs, but who may no longer be actively involved in the VGCSA. Qualifications include twenty years or more of service to the turfgrass industry, at least ten of which were as a superintendent". On all accounts, Caudle has earned the distinction.
Caudle grew up in Richmond and began playing golf at age 12 - his parents were members at the "old" Hermitage Country Club (now Belmont GC). If you wanted to play golf back in the 1960's and 70's in Richmond, you had to be a member of a club - public golf was limited. His first job in high school was at nearby Jefferson Lakeside in 1974, working for Tilden Hankley ranking bunkers doing grunt work. At Lakeside there was no automatic irrigation - Caudle was one of three guys who would water six greens in the morning, then hand-water the same greens in the afternoon.
When he graduated in 1975, his parents were pushing about his future plans - he told them he liked the work on golf courses. He heard about Lake City College in Florida, which had a turf program that required a full year of experience to apply. Caudle got an opportunity to earn that experience, when Hankley moved to Salisbury CC in 1975 and invited him to work there for a year.
Caudle enrolled in the program at Lake City, and over 1977-1979 he earned a two-year degree in golf course operations. The first year was a mechanics program, which was required for graduation. Then during the first summer, he worked at the Jekyll Island golf facility in Georgia, a state-owned property, which gave him good experience at a 63-hole facility.
The summer of his second year at school, Caudle returned to Salisbury CC for his internship. When he graduated from Lake City in 1979, he decided to come back to Virginia, and he took his first job as assistant superintendent under Steve Vessells at Lake Monticello Golf Club. Working for Vessells (who was just a year older), Caudle became very good friends with Dick Fisher and Bob Ruff, who became mentors to him.
In March, 1982 Caudle was recruited and hired by The Tides Inn as superintendent at The Golden Eagle Golf Club. Owner Bob Lee Stephens was like a second father to him, since he was only 24 when he got the job. Stephens had been frustrated that prior superintendents had not helped him reach a goal of admiration for his course, but Caudle was able to deliver that. The Golden Eagle became his home the rest of his career (36 years and counting), and through the ups and downs of the resort, he always loved being there. During his time, he hosted three state amateurs and numerous other state events and even a visit by a sitting President.
When President Clinton came to visit in 1999 for a Democratic conference at the Tides Inn, Caudle was brought into the inner circle with secret service agents to ensure the President's safety. He recalls the Presidential motorcade, the snipers in the trees, the clearing of all play within nine holes, as well as the famous multitude of mulligans Clinton was known for. When the President arrived, he gave Clinton a Golden Eagle shirt and welcomed him. Clinton was weary, having come there directly after the Columbine shooting - in fact he was so tired that wrote down the wrong date when he autographed some items for his kids. The secret service told him that Clinton loved the Golden Eagle course.
As a volunteer leader in turf, Caudle served on Board of the Old Dominion GCSA, before advancing to Vice President, then President in 1989. Later he was recruited into leadership with the Virginia Turfgrass Council as a Board member, then Vice President, then President in 1997-1998. He completed a "trifecta" by then serving the Virginia Turfgrass Foundation, serving as President 2008-2011. Caudle enjoyed his service in those organizations and got to meet a lot of people and build relationships. He remarked, "When you get involved, don't feel like you must reinvent the wheel, just give it effort, be there and participate."
Something Caudle enjoyed about the business was attending association meetings, which was the way to education yourself before computers, cell phones, etc. He regularly attended ODGCSA, TTA and GCSAA meetings. Through his network, he always had colleagues to bounce ideas off of and they collaborated to solve problems. He added, "The golf course is a great place to be -- seeing the turf, wildlife and the people in the industry. I feel fortunate to have had four guys (Hankley, Vessells, Fisher, and Ruff) as early mentors in my career."
He was asked what this award means to him, being honored by his peers. He answered, "Just being involved in the associations has been rewarding and fulfilling. I did not get involved to win an award, but receiving this validates all of the hard work throughout my career."
Berg Recognized for Distinguished Service
Jeff Berg of Winchester, VA has been recognized by the VGCSA with its Distinguished Service Award for 2018. The award is "presented to a member who has given his time unselfishly in promoting golf course management and unification of the Virginia Golf Course Superintendents." By all accounts, Berg earned the distinction through his professionalism and integrity, and his interaction with his fellow superintendents, as well as his leadership in numerous state initiatives.
Berg fell in love with being on the golf course, tagging along with his Dad Leonard, CGCS who was a longtime superintendent, now retired in Chicago. Growing up in Chicago, Berg earned a turfgrass science degree from Penn State. Once graduated, he skipped the assistant superintendent job, being hired as superintendent at age 22 at Venango Trail Golf Club in Pittsburgh. He spent a few years there before moving to Goose Creek, a KemperSports property in Leesburg, where he honed his skills. After four years, they made him General Manager, a post he held for 10 years more.
When the owner of Goose Creek sold off part of the course to area developers, Kemper quickly moved him to Timbers of Troy to oversee and complete a $4.5 million renovation at the course in the southwest Baltimore suburbs. Of course Berg always consider Virginia home, and he has been very supportive of everything that has gone on in the industry. Thus when a great opportunity presented itself, he resigned recently at Timbers and took the General Manager position at Chantilly National G&CC, with a start date of December 5, 2018.
During his time at Goose Creek, Berg got involved with the Greater Washington GCSA and came onto the VGCSA board as their External VP in 2005. He quickly advanced and was named VGCSA Vice President in 2007. Berg served as VGCSA President 2010-11. In addition, he has been on three national committees for GCSAA -- most recently the bylaws committee, in addition to serving on the public relations and government relations committees.
During his tenure as VGCSA President, Berg shepherded the Best Management Practices initiative in Virginia, the largest research projected ever undertaken by the VGCSA. Berg remarked, "The past and then-current board set each other up and passed the baton to new leadership to run with. It was a monumental team effort." It earned national recognition from GCSAA and other turf organizations. Key to its success was the partnership with state agencies, giving credibility to the document. He recalls meeting with Secretary of Natural Resources Doug Domenech, as well as Governor Bob McDonnell. Berg's involvement in this major undertaking was fulfilling, and it all came together very nicely.
Also during Berg's tenure, the Mid-Atlantic Golf Council was formed among all allied golf associations in Virginia, Maryland and DC. It strengthened the relationships between all of the organizations. The collaboration produced an Economic Impact Study for golf in the region.
Looking forward in the profession, Berg remarked, "The superintendent now has be more engaged in the business side of the golf. The contraction and closing of courses makes it even more imperative. People's time is being diced up and stretched out, as they look for entertainment options. We need to focus on how can we, as an industry, bring more people to our clubs and get them engaged."
Berg was asked what the award means to him. He remarked, "The award is personal recognition from an organization that I spent a lot of time with and one that gave a lot back to me. I made a lot of close relationships and friendships. I'm honored to receive this award."
Augustin Recognized for Environmental Stewardship
Mike Augustin of Alexandria, VA has been recognized by the VGCSA as winner of the VGCSA Environmental Stewardship Award. The award is presented "in recognition of distinguished and meritorious service in the environmental stewardship of Virginia golf courses, and in grateful appreciation for unselfishly promoting the profession of golf course management, which led to the advancement of the association." Augustin is the Golf Course Superintendent at Belle Haven Country Club in Alexandria, situated alongside the Potomac River.
Augustin cultivated his interest in the game and entered the University of Maryland's turf program, graduating with a four-year degree in turf urban agronomy. His first internship on a golf course was as an assistant at Indian Spring Country Club in Silver Spring, MD working under Rhys Arthur. Then he became assistant at Bethesda Country Club under the legendary Dean Graves in Bethesda, MD. Graves was a great mentor and Augustin also learned to treat the golf course as if it were his own. After three years at Bethesda, he was ready for the top job at Belle Haven Country Club - he has been there for 21 years.
When your club sits in a flood plain on the Potomac River, with an adjacent highway carrying thousands of eyeballs daily, that's the definition of "pressure" for a Golf Course Superintendent. Augustin counters, "From day one, we had a mindset to be environmentally sensitive. You simply MUST do the right thing."
Marrying a commitment to environmental stewardship with the demand for superior golf course conditioning is not an easy task. Programs such as buffering ponds, tree removal and tree addition all contribute to ensure aesthetics, playability and responsible golf course management.
"Our goal is for water to leave our property cleaner than it entered," notes Augustin. He has a Storm Water Management Plan to capture runoff in buffers before entering the flood plain of the Potomac. Combine that with the natural filtering characteristics of turfgrass which absorbs nutrients, and you can achieve this goal. And of course - inputs are expensive - so applications are set conservatively.
In 2002, Belle Haven undertook a major golf course renovation. This included pond improvements which incorporated best management practices for pond management. All water drains into the ponds first, where they can treat, allow sediment to settle, and then the nutrients to be absorbed. Pond aerators keep fish healthy and deter surface algae. Quarterly water samples are a key tool in maintaining pond health. In fact, the Club agreed to keep extensive records as part of their water permit.
The Club added a new pond at the clubhouse entrance as another environmental area. The Club's Horticulturist created floating wetlands, featuring irises and other wetland plants with roots extending into the pond's base. These floating wetlands help remove nutrients from the water which in turn helps mitigate unwanted nutrient release into nearby streams.
Like many courses, Belle Haven is prone to problems with Canadian geese. The Club's commitment to protecting wildlife often clashed with maintenance standards. Their humane solution was a combination of Border Collies and a laser light system that does not harm geese.
The Club is actually a haven for wildlife. American Bald eagles and ospreys patrol the trees adjacent to the Potomac. On any given day, you might see blue herons, eastern bluebirds, mallards, wood ducks, Asian ducks, red tail hawks, turkeys, deer, red fox, coyotes and more. Fish species include bass, bluegill, eels, carp and sunfish. Members may fish "catch and release" during non-golf times.
Augustin noted that the club has a special tree masterplan. During the course renovation, the Course Architect collaborated with an Arborist and added 1,500 trees. Now as trees are maturing, they are selectively removing weaker trees.
Green staff is trained to be responsible with defined areas of disposal of chemicals, being aware of buffer zones around water features. Staff is diligent to keep equipment clean and to eliminate unwanted discharge of leftover chemicals.
With Belle Haven's location on the Potomac River, pumping water sometimes becomes necessary, and they have to ensure it is clean water. "No one wants to be on the wrong side of their neighbors and community," said Augustin. "Our members expect our staff to be good stewards." Pesticides are not applied when there is a risk of runoff.
One truly unique feature of sustainability is the set of six beehives on the property. A local company is hired to tend to the hives, which produce honey used by the Club Chef and offered for sale in the Golf Shop. They started with just one hive, and the program grew. He notes the Club's commitment to pollinator protection.
The Club also has vegetable and herb gardens under Augustin's responsibility. The herb garden is near the clubhouse, so the Chef can easily access it and offer an organic menu.
The past few years, there has been a push from the board on creating a sounder recycling program in the clubhouse and with trash going out of the property. This has created a trickle-down effect in the membership and employees about being more responsible stewards of the environment.
When asked what the award means to him, Augustin remarked, "It is an honor. I'm surprised to receive an award like this, because it recognizes things we should all be doing or already do. This would not be possible without a great staff and supportive membership!"
Morgan Furlong Wins Buy Sod Scholarship
The Buy Sod VGCSA Scholarship program was established in 2012 by Buy Sod, Inc. as a means to support the children of qualified golf course superintendents, who plan to attend an institution of higher learning, following graduation from highs school. High School seniors who are the children of Class A or B members in good standing of the VGCSA are eligible for the program. The program is based on sales to customers in Virginia. Neil Jones is the Golf & Athletic Field Sales manager for Buy Sod.
This year the Selection committee has named Morgan Furlong of Gainesville, VA as the 2018 recipient of a $2,000 scholarship.
Morgan Furlong is the daughter of Scott Furlong, CGCS of Robert Trent Jones Golf Club, and earlier this year she graduated from Battlefield High School in Haymarket, VA. This fall she entered Indiana University of Pennsylvania as a freshman. Furlong works hard on her grades, and is also a college athlete. She has the drive to give 100%, no matter how hard a task may be.
Remarking on the scholarship, she said, "Winning this scholarship will help me reach my dreams of finishing school as a college athlete and to have a good jump start towards my adulthood and professional career."
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