Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 6/10/2017 (1473 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
It’s been 44 years since Clear Lake Golf Course superintendent Greg Holden had a "life-changing experience" that would shape the environment-first mentality he now lives by.
Holden was in his early 20s when he headed south on a motorcycle expedition with a friend from Vancouver. They met in Portland, Ore., and continued on down to Mexico where they met a Spanish man in Mazatlan.
The man was looking for crew members to be part of his expedition, which would leave Ecuador and sail across the Pacific Ocean to French Polynesia and then to Australia.
"The trip itself was very, very exciting and there were some very frightening moments," Holden said. "We had three rafts and we spoke French, English and Spanish depending on which raft you were on.
"It was a life-changing experience six months of living right on the ocean, and I think that’s where — I think it happened earlier in life — but that’s where my eyes and my spirit was really opened up to the environment and how amazing and how important it is to respect it."
On Sept. 28, Holden was named the Canadian Golf Superintendents Association/Bayer superintendent of the year, a culmination of his years spent working for the Clear Lake Golf Foundation since 1993.
The award recognizes a member of the CGSA who has held the position of golf course superintendent for a minimum of five years and has distinguished her or himself through dedication to the profession, performance as a golf course superintendent and contributions to their profession and their community.
The 65-year-old, who was instrumental in writing the environmental section of the bid to Parks Canada that eventually won the foundation the contract to operate the course, fits that description to a tee but still couldn’t believe the honour had been bestowed on him.
"I was absolutely stunned; I was speechless for a few moments," Holden said Thursday. "I was just in shock and in a daze and wasn’t sure how to respond. I’m very, very honoured to have been chosen for the award. There’s lots of other superintendents across the country that do amazing things, bigger things and with bigger budgets and their hearts are in it as well. I was just very honoured to receive it."
He will be presented with the honour at the 2018 CGSA awards ceremony in Quebec City during the Canadian golf course management conference in late February.
"Greg Holden is probably known as the most adventurous golf course superintendent and truly one of the most vigilant of the environment," CGSA president Jim Flett said in a statement. "I had the privilege of calling Greg to inform him of winning this award and with this being Greg’s final season as superintendent at Clear Lake Golf Course before retiring, what better way to add to his already astounding career."
In addition, Holden will get a chance to play in the inaugural Can Am Cup in New Jersey later this month, which will be jointly held at Baltusrol Golf Club and Canoe Brook Country Club. He will receive a tour of the Bayer Environmental Science research facility and bee care centre in Clayton, N.C., a trip for two to the iconic Pinehurst Resort, and a site visit from a Bayer specialist to discuss Holden’s needs to design a $10,000 complimentary plant protection package for Clear Lake.
Holden hasn’t really thought about how the plant package will be used at Clear Lake but is excited to jet off to the Can Am Cup and play Pinehurst, which has hosted several United States Golf Association events.
"My golf game is somewhat lacking in terms of the calibre of golf that I’ll be looking at down there," Holden said with a laugh, "but that’s OK. I’ll suck it all up and enjoy it and learn.
"You take a look at other golf courses and you always compare what they are doing with what you’re doing and how it works out in the end."
He has implemented a handful of environmentally forward-thinking programs at Clear Lake, including being the only superintendent in Manitoba who collects upwards of 10,000 litres of used cooking oil from around Wasagaming to make bio-diesel run in seven pieces of maintenance equipment.
Holden admitted that program is in a brief hiatus because the reactor that was used in Rapid City was sold. There’s ongoing discussion with Parks Canada about building one on the golf course to get it back up and running.
There’s also the composting toilet system that was installed on the golf course that saves Clear Lake 300,000 to 400,000 gallons of water per year.
"The waste materials all get composted and reused in different areas, not so much on the greens and the fairways but more in the flowerbeds and different places where people aren’t moving around in," Holden said.
Holden and Clear Lake has received many distinctions during his tenure, including winning the Eco Network Environmental Stewardship Award, being a finalist for the 2009 Parks Canada sustainable tourism award and being named the Manitoba Golf Superintendents Association (MGSA) superintendent of the year in 2012 for his outstanding contributions to the industry.
Holden has been a CGSA member since 1999 and even served as its president in 2010, but after so many years, and nearing the end of another golf season in Riding Mountain National Park, Holden is stepping down from his role as superintendent. Craig Atkinson, who has been Holden’s assistant for more than a decade, will be taking over as superintendent next year.
Nonetheless, Holden, who operated a small organic farm on his property prior to coming to Clear Lake, will still work as part of the maintenance crew, albeit in a smaller capacity.
"We have a very strong environmental management program that I want to see continue and grow and get better every year … and Craig is very enthusiastic and excited about that too," Holden said. "I’d like to keep that direction and help as much as I can in that area."
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