Purdue class aids local golf course

Saturday, October 16, 2010
Banner Graphic/JARED JERNAGAN Dr. Aaron Patton (third from left) and Purdue seniors Peter Kilanowski, Brittney Ray and Erik Harlow gather information for potential capital improvements projects at Windy Hill Country Club recently.

GREENCASTLE -- New college graduates often find themselves in a familiar conundrum following graduation: They can have all the education in the world, but what an employer is looking for is experience.

For a group of turf and grass science majors from Purdue, some hands on experience at Windy Hill Country Club is providing both.

Dr. Aaron Patton spent the last several weeks bringing groups from his capstone course in turf and grass science to the club. The idea is to give them an idea of exactly what it's like to be in a position like a greens keeper.

"If they were in (Windy Hill greens keeper) Travis Daniel's shoes, what would they do?" Patton said.

A project of this nature is on the agenda each year for Patton's class of seniors. He selects a course within an hour's drive of West Lafayette and then lets them get some field experience.

The project has three parts. The students first collect any pertinent data they can about the course, including information about the soil, grass and pests.

With this data, the students individually come up with their own course management plan.

The third part of the project is for small groups of students to work together on some sort of capital improvement project. Groups might work on improving the driving range, cart paths or upgrading equipment.

Each of the groups' studies what is already in place at the course and analyzes what improvements might best suit the course's needs. From here, each group puts together a presentation the three cost range scenarios and presents it to the greens committee.

"It's a good experience for the students," Patton said. "They get the chance to interact with the board and membership like the would as a course manager."

But the benefit isn't merely to the students. With what Windy Hill learns from the class and its presentations, the club's leaders can develop a care plan for the course without the cost of outside consultants.

"It's part of my job to go out and help golf courses and athletic fields around the state," Patton said.

The professor was instrumental in making a recent change at the course that will have a long lasting impact on the health of its fairway grass.

Up until Labor Day, the course's fairways were composed of Kentucky bluegrass. While the grass has met the course's need, it has left the fairways susceptible to the disease pythium blight.

The disease is especially problematic during hot and humid weather, which the area experienced in the early part of the summer. Microorganisms attack the grass and can spread quickly, devastating an entire fairway in days.

With the help of Dr. Patton, Windy Hill board member Keith Gossard was able to convince the board and members of the need to switch to bent grass fairways.

"Most nicer courses do the bent," Gossard said. "It may cost more than the blue or rye, but it's easier to maintain."

The key with bent grass is not that it is immune to pythium. Instead, it is much better at spreading, so it can fill damaged areas back in faster.

"(Dr. Patton) was adamant about this being the only answer for us," Gossard said.

With Patton's help, the members got on board.

"We were very lucky. The majority of our membership jumped in and contributed to this project," Gossard said.

And some project it has been. The first step was to kill the old fairway grass. This was done on Labor Day, with sprayers applying Roundup to all fairways.

The fairways were then aerified and re-seeded with the bent grass.

The course re-opened the following Saturday, golfers had to play from the rough for several weeks. While this isn't exactly convenient, it beat closing the course for a month.

"We do what we can to be member friendly," club president Amy Wells said. "We don't want to shut it down and take it from our members."

The real goal is a better course. The board and members hope the help from Dr. Patton and his students are helping them achieve the goal.

"These bent fairways make us unique in the area," Gossard said. "With the economic times, not many people are going the direction we are to improve the product."

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  • Windy Hill - best little 9 hole (only) course around.

    -- Posted by Geologist on Sat, Oct 16, 2010, at 6:55 AM
  • well i have been excited too play for several weeks. started out 18 holes in Cloverdale for the Cloverdale boys basketball scramble. then about 430 took my buddies too Windy Hill to finish out the night. the fairways are awesome and the bent grass feels really good. got 14 holes in and we were impressed. great decision Windy Hill

    -- Posted by badboy46120 on Sat, Oct 16, 2010, at 9:31 PM
  • Per Capita the personal annual income of a Putnam county resident is $30,200.Household income is $50,463 with an in-county poverty rate of 11.7% as of 2008 stats.I would be astonished when the new statics come out if those numbers were any better.The cost of single membership at the semi-private Windy Hill is $900/year plus green fees, cart rental if you like and if you want to use the pool its $200 for an adult and $25 each additional person.These prices are for in-county residents per their website.If you live outside the county all these prices are cut in half. Way to take care of your local community Windy Hill. Charge the locals double what you charge anyone else.I don't have that kind of money to spend on playing golf in these economic times and I'm guessing I am not alone.As for a couple Purdue student's connection making grass greener, Purdue is over an hour away from this community. No disrespect to Purdue fans but we have a local college here called Depauw . Whats Depauw up to with our local community ?

    -- Posted by lindam7766 on Sun, Oct 17, 2010, at 8:15 AM
  • Lindam, half-ignorant, angry rants like yours are what take the level of discourse down on this site. You did a good job in presenting some facts, but then just jumped to unwarrented conclusion filled with snark about why the club charges more for out of county residents when you just could have asked why. Windy Hill is a private club, not a municipal. Municipals are city/county owned and receive taxpayer funding, so local residents get discounts. Privately owned courses charge money based on how often you play. Local members pay more because they play more. The out-of-county discount is to attract more members who would not pay the full rate since they would be playing their local club more frequently.

    As for the Purdue/DePauw thing, please read the article again. This is a CLASS at Purdue. Purdue has an Ag school, DePauw doesn't. Purdue has professors who are payed with our tax money to be experts in this field so that they can teach students who wish to become professionals. They also help our communities through the Extension office by using that expertise to educate the public. Oh, and FYI, DePauw's golf coach, Vince Lazar, has made great contributions to the club in capital improvements to the driving range and in providing instruction. Maybe you could go sign up for a lesson.

    -- Posted by boilerup on Sun, Oct 17, 2010, at 9:50 AM
  • Boilerup, where did you go to school? I'm guessing you have another wasteful AG degree that you have absolutely no use for except selling farm insurance or working for Midland Co-op.My "half-ignorant, angry rants" as you put it are to shed light on the fact that articles like this have absolutely no connection or relevance to the local community as a whole. Only the privileged few like yourself, I'm guessing, that can afford the luxury of a Semi-Private course with Million dollar greens.. As for the rest of us, if we want a Golf outing, we will all meet across the street at the public course where our local money would be better served, because it is returned directly to OUR COMMUNITY.Maybe Purdue can look at upgrading the greens that are more widely used by the working community. Thanks for your reply, Boilerup

    -- Posted by lindam7766 on Mon, Oct 18, 2010, at 7:44 AM
  • I would invite Purdue to work on the GHS soccer field...equally challenging if not overwhelming. For those of you that just have to say something negative...It could even be NPHS soccer field..but not South Putnam or Cloverdale (they don't have soccer) Why should they... a limited number of kids play soccer... (soccer,remains the country's most popular youth sport, numbers have risen from about 15 million in 1987 to more than 17.5 million in 2002, the latest date for which numbers are available, according to U.S. Soccer).

    In Pop Warner Football, participation has nearly doubled in the last 15 years, from about 130,000 players to 260,000 players, according to the organization. The cheerleaders, who have competitions of their own, are now 140,000 strong.

    Curiously, the one sport that has seen a decline is Little League Baseball, America's pastime. There has been a 1 percent decrease in enrollment every year since its peak in 1996. The organization attributed the decline to the myriad other options available to kids. That said, there are still more than 2.2 million kids playing baseball each year ( minus 1% each year)

    Wait... a lot of kids do play soccer... more than football and baseball combined...These comments seem too biased and are pushing a personal agenda and that is not right when so many other contributors avoid judgement and personal agendas.

    And in that spirit I have a better idea... Purdue can come and work on my yard.

    -- Posted by LitNup on Wed, Oct 20, 2010, at 8:46 PM
  • another poorly written article

    -- Posted by A Mad Bovine on Fri, Oct 22, 2010, at 2:02 PM
  • What has DPU done for the community?

    Here is one article, for starters:


    I believe that saved the city around $10,000.

    Just use that fancy little search box on the top right corner of the page, DPU does a lot for the community. Stop your ignorant rambling.

    -- Posted by anonymous101 on Sat, Oct 23, 2010, at 4:24 AM
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