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07 Jul
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Methodist University Golf Course Superintendent Steven Dockery Insists on Providing His Students Premium Conditions But Has to Stretch A Dollar; Using Geoponics Products Allows Him to Do Both

Thank you for taking time to meet with us today. I’d like to start out by asking how you found out about Geoponics and why you decided to trial our products.

I first learned about the company through my Geoponics technical representative. I already had a personal relationship with him from his previous job, and I also knew he had been a superintendent. I know Sam Green down at Eagle Point from when he was in the mountains, and saw he was a customer. Because of those two things, I was comfortable enough to give the Geoponics products a try.

Which product did you decide to try first and why?

My previous golf course down in SC had a $1.3 million budget; my first year at Methodist it was $180 thousand. Obviously I knew going in that it wouldn’t be feasible to use my old program here, but I wasn’t just going to go and jump on the cheapest stuff out there. I wanted to find a company with a complete line that offered a happy medium between quality and price, which is what I was evaluating when we first used the Agriox, Carbotien and Terrain on our greens.

What was your initial impression of their effectiveness?

Well, we got good results right away, so we knew the products worked, but to be honest I didn’t expect it would last. I thought, “How can this stuff be cheaper than the rest of the premium brands and still give better results? But it didn’t peter out quickly like I thought it would; we got 3 to 3 1/2 weeks of good strong color from that single application.

When you have a small crew like I have, that’s huge because going out every seven days is not something you want to have to do. The compatibility of it is great too. Some of the more pricey products take forever to mix up, but in a real world situation you just don’t have time for that. We have a 175 gallon sprayer, and when we’re putting out the Geoponics products we don’t even have to cut the water down when filling the tank.

Besides the Grizzly Pro-Turf Program you are using on your greens, have you treated other areas of the course?

We have twelve acres of 419 sprigs that went out the second week of June, when we were in the middle of 100 degree heat. Needless to say, we really wanted to get them grown in as quickly as possible. They all were treated with Carbotein, and I believe it has helped the granular to do that. l plan on continuing to use it on the fairways, because the tees have really tightened up since we started spraying them, which is great because we get tons and tons of play. They are fairly small, so we’re really looking forward to improved wear tolerance.

Have the golfers noticed the improvements you’ve mentioned?

Well, we have been doing a major greens renovation here, so we aren’t getting play right now, but everyone is paying close attention to the course. My bosses are the President and Vice President of the university, and it’s my neck that’s on the line. If I didn’t trust the Geoponics products, if I didn’t believe in them, there would be no way I would buy it. Our sister course was about to go on a competing program when I told the superintendent there about the Geoponics products. He’s started using them and is really liking what he sees as well. I’m on the board of the Sand Hills association, and I’ve told those guys about it too.

That about covers it. Is there anything you’d like to add?

Most people don’t know this, but Methodist University has the largest PGA golf management program in the country. The neat thing about it is that the students take classes in every aspect of the industry, from food and beverage to golf shop operation. I teach the agronomy class their junior year, and I truly think it has been a win-win situation because the work study students and interns around the shop have been able to see improvements being made with just a few affordable products. With the way things are in golf now where the general manager sometimes has just as much say about which fertilizer or equipment is used as the superintendent, that will be valuable information for them to have once they become the decision makers.

We couldn’t agree more. Our belief at Geoponics is that an informed customer is a happy customer…

Right. The product is one thing, but the customer service is important also. Not only can the Geoponics’ Representatives answer a question without having to look in a binder, they come in and take a real interest. There are times when I feel like other chemical companies look past us, but that wasn’t the case with Geoponics. I was lucky that one of my mentors instilled in me the belief that to get the best results you have to keep everyone in the loop. I don’t keep anything from my crew, so they are all knowledgeable and very capable. They know the products, but more importantly my Geoponics representative knows them, where some salesmen won’t give them the time of day. I really think that makes a big difference.

Located in the Sandhills of North Carolina, Methodist University is one of a select group to offer PGA Golf Management accredited by the PGA of America