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I’ve been hearing good things about the turfgrass management program at Brunswick Community College.
So last Friday, I drove to Supply and spent the morning with Dean Bennett, director of the horticulture and turfgrass management program, and Jace Myers, an instructor in the program.
These are two nifty young men who are enthusiastic about both the expansion of Brunswick Community College and their role in growing the horticulture and turfgrass program there.
“The turfgrass program here is 12 years old. Horticulture came in 2002 under Dr. Bruce Williams, who has since retired,” explained Dean.
“There is some overlap in the program. Certain classes like plant identification, pest control, applied plant science, soils and fertilizers are requirements of both majors.
“Our students range in age from 18 to over 60 years old. Some of our students actually have four-year degrees in business or English or music, but decided to escape the office cubicle or move out of a teaching job. One of our students has a master’s from Oxford University, but he’s learning turfgrass management. Most of them want to be outdoors, to be creative, to be part of nature.
“Whether you are in turfgrass or horticulture, you are dealing with living entities, and there is magic in that.”
Dean came to his position by a winding route, as did some of his students. He graduated from Florida State with a degree in marketing.
“I got tired of the office and went back and got a second degree in horticulture from the University of Georgia, then later a master’s from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University.”
Jace came to turfgrass management by a similar route, getting a degree in marketing from UNCW.
“I had worked on golf courses every summer when I was growing up and I loved it. So I went back to college and got an associate degree in turf management.”
According to Dean, there are numerous jobs available for horticulture and turfgrass school graduates. The most obvious is working as a golf course superintendent, and most courses now require a two- or four-year degree for that head position.
Besides maintaining the golf course, many superintendents of golf course communities take care of parks, common areas, entrances and even homes in the community.
“High-end courses have special needs with elaborate plantings and trees, fountains and gardens,” Dean said. “You need a lot of expertise these days, even in design work.”
In addition to golf courses and golf course communities, graduates find work in landscaping, greenhouses, sports complexes, environmental areas (like building dunes with sea oats), maintaining ponds, equipment sales, garden centers and installing irrigation systems.
“There’s an entrepreneurial spirit in the industry, and a lot of cooperation between the community and our students,” Dean said.
Students at the BCC turf school must put in 320 hours in cooperative work. This is a program where students work in an affiliated industry, similar to an internship, but they do get paid.
“This gives practical experience to our students. We set goals and see if they are met. For example, we may require a student learn to cut a green on a golf course. Sounds easy, but it’s not just running a mower back and forth any whichway. It’s an art, and they must learn it.”
Recently, the BCC turf school hooked up with The First Tee of Brunswick County, and now its home course at Cinghiale Creek (just outside Shallotte) is being used as a living laboratory for BCC students.
It all began last fall when The First Tee hosted a reception for three area chambers of commerce.
Mike Reaves, retired president of Brunswick Community College and current president of the board of directors of The First Tee, invited the turf school professors to come and use the course for instructional programs.
“We were amazed and delighted,” said Dean. “We couldn’t believe they would allow our students to use their course as a hands-on learning center. A few weeks ago, Jace brought his students to paint one of the greens.
“This may be the wave of the future, versus over-seeding with rye grass for certain golf courses,” Jace explained. “The green paint is sprayed on, and since the Bermudagrass is dormant now, it stays on all winter. You don’t need to water Bermudagrass now (which saves on irrigation costs), and there’s no need for mowing or pesticides or fertilizer during the winter. That reduces maintenance costs immediately.
“Spraying works well on courses that have large greens and low rounds of play during the winter months. One drawback is that the greens become very fast and the soil becomes compacted because we cannot aerate when the grass is dormant.
“However, there are disadvantages to over-seeding also. The warm weather Bermudagrass becomes contaminated with the rye grass, and the transitional season in the spring is always a problem as the two grasses fight each other. Bermuda that has been sprayed is often healthier in the summer because there has been nothing foreign added to it.
“Twenty years from now, we may find a lot of courses painting greens, tees and even fairways.”
While at BCC, Dean and Jace proudly showed me the new 8,000-square-foot Applied Plant Science Building, which will be finished later this year. Until now, they have been sharing quarters with the aquaculture program.
In November of 2004, a $30 million bond was passed, and now, Brunswick Community College is expanding rapidly with a new Athletic and Aquatics Center, Early Childhood Education Center, Student Center and an addition to the Odell Williamson Auditorium.
The entrance to the Applied Plant Sciences Building was carefully cut through a stand of natural pine trees, which will be kept intact. Paths and gathering areas will be placed in the forest.
“Our tree-hugging teachers and students were out there making sure only essential trees were cut down,” Dean said.
“We are using a lot of natural products in the building. For example, our ceilings are naked pine, the floors will be stained concrete without tiles or the usual overlay of linoleum. Colors will be earth tones and we will have a large glassed-in sitting area for both students and teachers. We found that a lot of learning goes on during informal discussions, and we want to encourage that.”
There are three large classrooms, a mechanical room, offices and the gathering area. In the back there will be two greenhouses and, of course, Cinghiale Creek is only minutes away for a real hands-on experience.
Sounds like everything is coming up roses for the Horticulture and Turfgrass Management School at Brunswick Community College.
Golf Gab Groaner
An elderly golfer decides it is time to finally get a hearing aid. He goes to the doctor and is fitted with two tiny hearing aids.
A month later, after finishing his round, the golfer goes back to the ear doctor for a checkup.
“Congratulations,” the doctor says. “Your hearing is perfect. I’ll bet your family is pleased that you can hear again.”
The old gentleman replies.
“Oh, I haven’t told them yet. I just sit around and listen to their conversations. I’ve changed my will three times in the last month.”