January 19—It’s been a busy winter for Connecticut’s golf course superintendents—and not only because mild weather has them working on-course well into January.
Three members of the Connecticut Association of Golf Course Superintendents Association (CAGCS) have been honored this winter for service to the game and to the profession. A fourth helped win a rare honor for his course.
The awards are the latest examples of continuing CAGCS leadership nationally, both in establishing best course-care practices and in environmental stewardship.
This month Jim Pavonetti, Golf and Grounds Superintendent at Fairview Country Club in Greenwich, and Jeffrey Reich, Superintendent of TPC River Highlands were both recognized as Environmental Leaders in Golf by the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America and Golf Digest. They were first and second runners up in the Conservation of Natural Resources category.
In November, longtime Yale Superintendent Scott Ramsay learned that Yale had made Golf Magazine’s list of Top 100 Courses in the World, at No. 83, the only Connecticut course on it. Ramsay, who came to Yale in 2003 from The Orchards, just recently moved to the Country Club of Farmington. He announced the award to the world through his very active Twitter feed, for which he won an industry award last year.
Finally, the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America bestowed its prestigious “Excellence in Government Affairs Award” on Peter Gorman, former Wampanoag Country Club and Pine Orchard Country Club superintendent, now technical representative for Atlantic Golf and Turf, a leading supplier to New England superintendents. A former Vice-President of the CAGCS, he remains a member.
GCSAA annually recognizes a chapter, coalition or superintendent for outstanding advocacy or compliance efforts in government affairs. Gorman’s selection is significant, and based on an impressive record of service. He has for several years led an effort to create a best management practices (BMP) document for Northeast superintendents. It is nearly complete. He has served as a GCSAA Grassroots Ambassador, a program that matches superintendents with members of Congress to build strong relationships between them. And he’s been an especially effective advocate and witness at hearings of the Connecticut Legislature involving pesticide use and water conservation, two issues that the BMP addresses.
For all of this, Gorman was formally recognized Jan. 29 at the 2020 Golf Industry Show in Orlando. He sees his advocacy as part of the game’s continuing effort to make legislators and community leaders understand golf’s positive role.
“It’s important to find common ground and common values and work from a position of cooperation,” Gorman said of his advocacy efforts. “The more you break down barriers and the more you get to know people, you find that they are just as passionate as you are.”
As a result of superintendents’ advocacy, and documents such as the BMP, Gorman says, Connecticut legislators have come to see the industry as a resource and in some cases an ally, not the as problem child they once may have regarded it. Gorman works closely with CSGA Executive Director, Mike Moraghan, and Mike Dugan of Capitol Consulting, a lobbying firm employed by the CSGA on behalf of all golf courses in Connecticut.
“We’ve developed a good working relationship, and I like to think a good level of trust with a number of legislators,” said Gorman. “Frankly, they’re more worried about lawn care companies and others” that may not be making the effort superintendents are to curb pesticide use and conserve water. That, he says, is the result of continuing communication of the industry’s efforts.
When the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection offered the Connecticut AGCS a seat on its Water Planning Council four years ago, Gorman was chosen to represent the golf industry. During his time on the council, Gorman has met with representatives from various government, industry and environmental groups; testified in a public hearing at the State Capitol and helped develop the Water Plan. He has spent hundreds of hours on the project.
“Originally when I went to water events, I was the golf guy,” Gorman said. “Now when I go to golf events, I am the water guy.”
The State Water Plan was approved by the Connecticut General Assembly on June 5, 2019. “Peter is a great example of how golf advocates can make a true difference at every level,” said Rhett Evans, GCSAA chief executive officer. “I congratulate him. We are fortunate to have such an engaged member, and golfers in Connecticut are the beneficiaries of his tireless efforts, as well.”
Gorman and his committee, which included Pavonetti, have worked with the University of Connecticut, UMass and the University of Rhode Island to make sure that every aspect of their best-practices document is science-based. New England superintendents and state associations, including the CSGA, which has contributed the $10,000, have spent about $50,000 on such research.
The efforts of Gorman and many others, as part of CAGCS and the GCSAA initiatives, have made golf more sustainable and safer. More water is being conserved and re-used. The use of pesticides, which years ago were applied “like a nuclear bomb” says Gorman, are now targeted to such an extent that a chemical aimed at a given type of insect, for example, won’t become active until ingested by that type alone, not harming other fauna. And the sheer quantities of chemicals is far less. “Once we measured these in parts per thousand,” he says. “Now we measure them in parts per acre.”
Gorman, Ramsay and recent past president of the CAGCS Marc Weston have also been part of the annual Connecticut delegation to National Golf Day, promoting the environmental benefit of golf’s open spaces and breaking down the sometime image of golf as an environmental problem.
Gorman’s next project: Take the nearly complete Connecticut best management process document and help facilities create a document tailored to their individual course. “We want to take that state level BMP to the facility level,” says Gorman, who seems to be always looking for the next thing.
When Governor Lamont recently announced the protection of green space land in several towns, another light bulb went off. “We’re working on calculating how much water is retained, absorbed, filtered and returned to water table by golf courses instead of running off,” he says, excited, as always.