On Course

After two and a half years as compliance coordinator for International Golf Maintenance (IGM), a Meadowbrook Golf company, Lyne Page is still excited to go to work every day. “I have to pinch myself,” she says. “I started out as a spray tech and look where I am today.”

Where she is, exactly, could be at any one of IGM's golf courses across the United States. Page is responsible for ensuring that all of IGM's courses achieve certification under the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary's Program for Golf Courses.

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She was promoted to compliance coordinator for IGM in 1999, a job created for her by the company. “They formed my position because they care about the environment so much,” says Page. “I have always been an environmental activist, so it's a perfect fit.”

Page became enamored of the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program ACSP when she was an assistant superintendent at The Habitat at Valkaria (Malabar, Fla.). She assisted in getting the course certified, and has since helped IGM get 11 of its other courses fully certified as well.

In addition to her job as compliance coordinator, Page serves as a steward for Audubon International, working on an as-needed basis for those in her surrounding area with an interest in any of the four programs offered by Audubon International. Page has become so dedicated to the program that she has even had her backyard certified under the ACSS Program for Backyards.

ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP

According to the ACSS Web site, they were formed in 1991 to “educate people about environmental stewardship and motivate them to take action in their daily lives that will enhance and protect wildlife and their habitats and conserve natural resources.” Under the auspices of Audubon International, the ACSS has devised four programs tailored for homeowners, businesses, schools and golf courses.

The golf course program is managed through a collaborative effort with the U.S. Golf Association (USGA). Courses can become certified in six areas: environmental planning, wildlife and habitat management, chemical use reduction and safety, water conservation, water quality management and outreach and education. If a course successfully becomes certified in each category, it receives national recognition as a Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary.

When Page is not traveling cross-country to visit the various courses involved in the Audubon program, she is able to work from her home. “My favorite part of the job is working with the superintendents. My second favorite part of the job is traveling and meeting new people.”

NATURAL SELECTION

IGM selected twelve of its courses to work toward certified in 2002. Like all golf courses, each is unique, and, in that regard, has its own set of obstacles in achieving certification — which is where Page's experience comes into play. She works directly with the course superintendents or IGM regional managers to assist them in all facets of the Sanctuary certification process.

Initially, every superintendent has to complete a site assessment plan. They document existing habitats and wildlife that make their home on the course, as well as current pesticide use, water management, etc. “The site assessment is the perfect introduction to the Audubon program,” says Page. “Normally, when a superintendent drives his course, all he ‘sees’ is the turf. When they complete the site assessment they'll say, ‘I didn't realize all this (wildlife) was out here!’

“The site plan directs us where we need to take the course to get it certified,” says Page. “It helps establish our game plan.”

Cottontails, jackrabbits, coyotes and bobcats are just a few of the animal species that make their home at Silverstone Golf Club (Las Vegas, Nev.). Coots, mallards, wood ducks, hawks and osprey have also been spotted here.

Silverstone is a 27-hole facility that opened in June 2001. Natural areas planted with wildflowers and native grasses were part of the original design and help to sustain the variety of species mentioned above. Because many of its criteria were incorporated as the course was built, Silverstone is well on its way to certification, having completed the Site Assessment and Environmental Planning phases.

Water conservation is crucial to this desert-style course. Drip irrigation minimizes water usage, and is employed in all landscaping, which, at present, is in the neighborhood of 5,000 plants, each with its own driphead. A computerized weather station ensures the course uses only the amount of water needed. “It's calculated down to the minute,” says Brad Rook, West Coast regional manager for IGM. Silverstone will switch to recycled water as soon as it is available in the area.

“With all its native vegetation, Silverstone really is an oasis in the desert,” says Page. “But it's also an oasis with a conscience.”

Paul Haines, former superintendent at The Montgomery Country Club (Montgomery, Ala.), and his team have begun creating habitat areas and building birdhouses as part of the Outreach and Education portion of the Audubon program.

During their site assessment, Haines discovered a species of bird making its home on the course, literally. “We have killdeer here,” he says. “They nest in the grass, so every time we see a nest we flag off the area until the hatchlings have fledged.”

Like most superintendents, Haines is a strong advocate for golf and the environment. “As golf course superintendents, we've gotten a bad image over the years. Most of us in the profession are college-educated people who are very concerned about the environment. You can have recreation and conservation on a golf course. We can, and do, exist in harmony with nature.” He feels the Audubon program is important because it helps get “the real story” out to the public.

Since, Haines has been promoted to regional superintendent for the Greater Tampa Bay area in Tampa, Fla. James Shaddix, formerly Haines' assistant at the club, was promoted to superintendent at The Montgomery Country Club and continues to work towards certification at the course.

The team at The Gauntlet at Curtis Park (Hartwood, Va.), is well on its way to becoming certified by year's end. “We're finishing the outreach and education portion of the program now,” says John Burns, superintendent at the 18-hole, semi-private club. “We're working with kids from Hartwood Elementary; they're building birdhouses for us. A grad student from William & Mary will be out next month to do a bird count and survey.”

Deer, bald eagles and hawks currently reside at The Gauntlet. The 91-acre lake on the property has a healthy bass population. Burns is also busy installing a buffer zone between the turfgrass and the woods, which surround the property. Broom sedges, he hopes, “will make a nice transition area and provide a fertilizer barrier.”

Burns, who is currently working on his master's degree in horticulture with concentration in turf from Virginia Tech, feels environmental conservation is important “because we're rapidly running out of green spaces. Golf courses provide a nice, natural place for wildlife.”

Van Mitchell, superintendent at Highland Lakes Golf Course (Palm Harbor, Fla.), has an odd obstacle to completing the Audubon program: the course itself. Highland Lakes is composed of 27 executive holes constructed within an exclusive retirement community. It's a tight fit: “There's a 100 feet between the property lines and fairways, and all 27 greens are constructed on just three acres,” says Mitchell. His course averages 150,000 rounds per year. “The other IGM superintendents kid me about whether or not I have any grass on the course,” he says.

“We tried to create some natural areas, but that didn't go over well with the membership,” he said. “They didn't want high grasses interfering with their lies.” Fortunately, the course does have a wetland area adjoining nearby Lake Tarpon. Deer, opossums and raccoons are common to the course, as is a flock of parrots.

Mitchell has been successful with his outreach and education portion of the program. “The ladies golf league has conducted a wildlife survey, and several other members have built birdhouses for us, which is great.”

Like the other superintendents mentioned, Mitchell is a great advocate for golf and the environment. “Most superintendents are superintendents because they love the land,” he says. “We're extremely careful — and regulated — about pesticide use and water management. We all want to make the golf course work as a place for recreation and as a habitat for wildlife.”

“Lyne has been vital in my quest to become certified,” he continues. “She's visited my course on several occasions and advised me how best to earn designation and fill out the paperwork properly.” Once a course has completed a portion of the Audubon program, the superintendent sends his or her paperwork to Page, and she sends it to the ACSS.

“The thing that strikes me about Lyne is that she has an obvious passion for her work. You like to see that in people because it means they'll do a better job. IGM picked the right person for this job when they chose Lyne Page,” continued Mitchell.

The Isles Golf Club at Cahoon Plantation (Chesapeake, Va.) completed the entire Audubon program this past spring and is now a certified sanctuary. Cahoon is the only bentgrass golf course, from tee to fairway to green, in the Virginia Beach corridor. It is unique in the area because it is designed in the traditional Scottish links style with wide fairways, few obstructions and limited water interaction.

Tyler Minamyer, Mid-Atlantic regional superintendent and golf course superintendent at Cahoon, detailed what his staff did to reach certification. “For Integrated Pest Management, our focus was to improve soil and turf health, which produces a plant that is better able to withstand stress. To do this, we instituted the use of slow-release fertilizers and created no-spray zones.”

“For Water Conservation, we reduced irrigated turf area through the installation of part-circle irrigation heads. We also hand water as opposed to broad cycle, and we use wetting agents, which are chemicals that enhance that make water absorption more efficient.”

To improve water-quality management, Cahoon minimized chemical and fertilizer run-off in water features by installing vegetative buffers as well as no-spray zones.

“For Wildlife and Habitat Management, we utilized native plant material in our landscaping and we naturalized an additional 10 acres.” The natural habitat at Cahoon consists of prairie-style landscape.

Herons, red fox, deer and at least one bald eagle have been spotted at the golf course.

Page and Minamyer met with Dr. Mike Mitchell, science department chairman and biology professor, and Lisa Behm, adjunct biology teacher at Tidewater Community College, located nearby, about getting involved in the Audubon program. “They signed right up to help Tyler,” says Page. “Dr. Mitchell and Lisa are the leading catalysts for Tyler's Resource Advisory Group. Because Tidewater got so involved in the program, IGM and Meadowbrook adopted their school and paid the Audubon dues for the first year.”

Tidewater students assisted Minamyer and his staff in bird-watching, wildlife surveying, nest box surveying and birdhouse construction. Tidewater CC students are also assisting in the development of a nature guide.

Once a course is fully certified, the staff is expected to continue all phases of the program, according to Page. After two years, the course must be recertified. “To do that, the staff completes a case study, site assessment and environmental planning,” she says.

Whether she's traveling, walking a course with a superintendent, photographing wildlife or filling out ACSS paperwork at home, Page thinks of her good fortune. “I'm a single parent with two kids who's worked my way into a job I love. Not many people can say that.”

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© 2014 Penton Media Inc.

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