Operators and superintendents at a few Grand Strand golf courses and representatives of the Dow Chemical Company say they are still trying to determine what caused apparent damage to some greens this winter.
The application of the herbicide Kerb that is used to rid Bermudagrass greens of the invasive cool-weather grass poa annua is at the root of the conundrum.
Superintendents at Eastport Golf Club and Legends Golf Resort say they had areas on greens that experienced a delayed return from dormancy and remained brown longer than normal. The owner of Meadowlands Golf Club said areas of his greens experienced a darker discoloration, and the damage at Thistle Golf Club was more serious and widespread.
It caused the course to lose rounds in the vital and lucrative spring season, as some package providers moved golfers to other courses. Representatives of Thistle declined to comment on the situation.
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Because Bermuda grows and spreads quickly in heat, the handful of area courses that were affected have either fully recovered or are on the verge of it.
Golf courses in the area have been using Kerb for years, though Dow AgroSciences, a subsidiary of Dow Chemical, added the current formulation of Kerb – SC T&O – to its portfolio in 2012 in place of an older formulation.
Legends superintendent Michael Bankert, who oversees maintenance at three courses at the resort, knows of at least another six superintendents in the area who used the product without any apparent ill effects.
“I couldn’t come up with a common theme why mine was delayed and others were not. Maybe it had something to do with fertility or soil difference,” Bankert said. “It makes you wonder what were the other factors that caused this product to hurt us?”
Dow released a statement to The Sun News regarding the apparent damage that read, in part:
“Concerns regarding the application of Kerb SC T&O specialty herbicide and delayed golf course greening on the greens of six courses in and around Myrtle Beach, SC, were brought to our attention on February 24th and comprehensive quality tests were immediately conducted on the product lot number in question (Lot # F470G53012).
Tests of this lot were conducted on reserve samples taken at the manufacturing plant and from a container taken from the field. This product lot was tested for the amount of active ingredient, particle distribution and contamination. Test results showed no abnormalities, and both samples met quality specifications for the product.”
The statement added that its products “must meet our stringent analytical measures before being distributed to the marketplace,” and that “Dow AgroSciences is confident in the integrity of the Kerb SC formulation. We will continue to work with golf course superintendents and university extension representatives in this region to develop potential solutions for these golf courses.”
Meadowlands owner W.J. McLamb said there was a color distortion on his greens that lasted about six weeks. He said the areas treated with Kerb became darker than the rest of his Bermudagrass.
“We were fortunate I think in a lot of ways,” McLamb said. “We had a color variation but we didn’t get any grass kill. We were concerned when we first saw it but it never got real bad. As far as smoothness and the way it played it never affected us.”
McLamb said Meadowlands still plans to use Kerb but will be cautious and apply it lightly at first.
McLamb said he doesn’t believe the impact on his course warrants the pursuit of compensation. “I don’t think that will be reasonable at this time,” McLamb said. “If we had areas of greens that were killed we might have gone after some compensation, but I don’t think it affected our play.”
At Legends Resort, Bankert said he sprayed Kerb in December and it effectively killed the targeted spots of poa annua in the greens. Legends did not overseed its greens with a winter grass and the greens went dormant with a short cold snap in January. Bankert said some areas remained brown longer once the weather warmed back up.
“We had areas that didn’t green up fast, but no real damage to the greens,” Bankert said. “We never had a lasting impact and no damage to the collars of greens.”
Bankert said a knock on Kerb is that it can move a little laterally in the soil, so it might spread beyond the targeted area depending on weather conditions. “It’s just not something guys use a lot because it moves sideways and can hit some non-targeted areas,” Bankert said.
At Eastport, part owner and superintendent Joey Vereen said his only significant issues occurred along the lines where sprayings overlapped and the areas got a double dose of the herbicide.
“Where I have single coverage the damage wasn’t too bad. Where we overlapped a little bit it killed some of the Bermuda and knocked it out,” Vereen said.
“It’s still up in the air what happened,” Vereen added.
Light’s on at Open
Tyler Light, who lived in Little River for about 18 months to further his golf career before moving to Lantana, Texas, in February 2016, was one of five alternates who earned entry Monday into this week’s 117th U.S. Open at Erin Hills in Wisconsin.
Light was the first alternate from his sectional qualifying site in Springfield, Ohio, where 77 players competed for four spots and he shot a 6-under 66-68–134 to finish a shot out of a tie for fourth. He prevailed in a playoff to earn the top alternate spot.
Light, 26, is a native of Massillon, Ohio, who played at Division II Malone University in Canton, Ohio. He had full status on the Mackenzie Tour-PGA Tour Canada in 2015 while based in Little River and made three cuts in 11 events while ranking fourth on the tour in driving distance with an average distance of 323.3 yards.
He is competing in his first U.S. Open and is one of 21 players who advanced through both local and sectional U.S. Open qualifying this year.
The USGA reserved six spots through the weekend for players who finished the week in the top 60 in the Official World Golf Ranking and aren’t otherwise exempt for the tournament. Because only Englishman Chris Wood filled the criteria at No. 60, that opened the door for five alternates.
The alternate pecking order is determined by Jeff Hall, the USGA’s Managing Director of Rules and Open Championships, who ranks the 12 sectional qualifying sites – 10 domestic and two international – by strength of field.
The Columbus, Ohio sectional was deemed the strongest field, so that site’s first alternate, Michael Putnam, got into the U.S. Open when Ryan Moore withdrew Thursday. Light’s sectional was deemed the fourth strongest.
Light moved to Lantana to live at the home of a family that hosted him during a mini-tour event. He did not advance through the First Stage of the Web.com Tour Qualifying Tournament last October.
Player in waiting
Based on Hall’s sectional pecking order, the first alternate from the sectional at Canoe Brook Country Club in Summit, N.J., is awaiting the next withdrawal by an exempt player.
So he’s essentially waiting on Phil Mickelson to officially withdraw from the tournament.
The golfer in waiting is another former Grand Strand resident, Roberto Diaz, who lived in Myrtle Beach for seven years through 2016 and still represents the Greg Norman Champions Academy at Barefoot Resort.
Diaz is 11th on the Web.com Tour money list and lost out on the final U.S. Open spot from Canoe Brook in a playoff with Matthew Campbell after both shot 7-under 135s. There were five spots available out of 80 players.
Mickelson said a couple weeks ago that he was going to withdraw from the U.S. Open to attend his daughter’s high school graduation and commencement speech in Carlsbad, Calif.
The USGA has given Mickelson an outside chance to make his tee time by giving him the third-to-last time Thursday at 2:20 p.m. Central Daylight Time, which is the equivalent of 12:20 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time. Amanda Mickelson’s commencement begins at 10 a.m. Pacific.
Mickelson estimated Sunday he would need a four-hour delay or suspension of play prior to his time in order to tee off.
According to The Weather Channel, there is a 60 percent chance of morning thunderstorms on Thursday.
Diaz will be fully prepared for the tournament if he gets in. He was at Erin Hills on Monday playing a practice round and using the practice facilities. This is the first year the USGA has allowed alternates to play practice rounds. In recent years they were allowed to use the practice facilities but only walk the course.
Diaz doesn’t get into the field with just any withdrawal. If a sectional qualifier withdraws, an alternate from that same sectional gets the spot.
The Mexico native and USC Aiken graduate has a runner-up and third-place finish on the Web.com Tour this year. He missed three of his last four cuts but played well in the 36-hole qualifier last Monday.
Diaz moved to Ponte Vedra Beach late last year in part to improve his putting by working with Ramon Bescansa, a Jacksonville, Fla., resident and North Carolina alumnus who has become a putting guru. The two met while playing mini-tour events in the Carolinas.
Hougham steps down
The PGA Tour’s Wells Fargo Championship in Charlotte will be run by someone other than Kym Hougham next year for the first time.
Hougham has been the tournament’s executive director since it was first played in 2003 but has resigned, effective June 30. He essentially moved to Wilmington, N.C., for a few months this year to conduct the 2017 tournament at Eagle Point Golf Club from May 1-7.
The tournament is operated by the Champions for Education charity, which has donated more than $19 million for charitable causes through the event.
The Wells Fargo received unprecedented back-to-back “Best in Class” awards from the PGA Tour in 2009 and 2010. Hougham was President of the PGA Tour Tournament Advisory Council (TAC), a Board of Directors that represents all official events on the tour, and is a past chairman of the FedExCup task force and a member of the 2007 President’s Cup Committee, the World Golf Hall of Fame Advisory Council and the Hall of Fame Selection Committee.
Prior to his role at the Wells Fargo, Hougham was the tournament director of the John Deere Classic in Moline, Ill., starting in 1996.