As a result of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the Carolinas Golf Course Superintendents Association will replace its annual Conference and Trade Show with an online event centered on education.
“This is a sad day for our association, but it is the right thing to do,” says Carolinas GCSA president, Brian Stiehler, CGCS, MG from Highlands Country Club in Highlands, NC. “The health of our members and the many industry partners who support them is our primary concern.”
Since its inception in 1962, the Carolinas Conference and Show has grown into the largest regional gathering of golf course superintendents in the country, attracting some 2,000 attendees to Myrtle Beach, SC every November. The three-day event features a golf championship for more than 350 players, nearly 30 education seminars and a trade show with around 200 companies covering more than 100,000sq.ft. of exhibition space at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center.
“Clearly, this is a major blow for our association and our members in many ways,” Stiehler says. “But it is also a blow for all of golf in the Carolinas because Conference and Show are like an in-person Google for what worked and what didn’t work on golf courses in the previous 12 months. There is an incredible amount of information, tips, and solutions that won’t be passed around this year because we cannot come together as we normally do.”
The decision to cancel comes after the 1,800-member association surveyed members, industry partners, and educators to discern their likely participation in a traditional Conference and Show in the current health climate.
“Not surprisingly, a significant percentage of people had serious concerns,” Stiehler says. “And it wasn’t just superintendents. Some companies aren’t letting their representatives travel and the same is true for many of the university scientists and researchers who lead our seminars.”
In the meantime, the association is working to deliver formal education via online platforms this fall. This ongoing education is necessary for superintendents to keep up to date with the latest research findings and to maintain various licenses.
“I’m confident we will be able to provide access to high-quality education, just in a different format and perhaps over a longer period than the traditional show dates,” Stiehler says. “Trust me, like superintendents always do, we will make the most of this challenge and look forward to coming back with a great Conference and Show next year.”
Stiehler draws some of his optimism from the fact that golf in the Carolinas has remained open for play despite the virus. “Our members and the golf industry at large should be very proud that we have been able to keep courses open throughout this time,” he says. “We said we could do it safely and we have. I want to thank our governors and our legislators in both states for putting that trust in our industry. As a result, the game has provided a critical outlet for many people and saved a lot of jobs.”