Superintendent Magazine - October, 2012


The Industry Buzz

What's going on with your golf course or company? E-mail with your news.
By Larry Aylward

Nevin McDougall

BASF Expands Its Horizons

Company adds new product line by acquiring Becker Underwood and announces new education program at Pinehurst

BASF has been on the move this fall. In September, the company announced its plans to acquire Becker Underwood. Then, on Oct. 1, BASF announced it would be conducting a new education program at Pinehurst Resort.

Golf course superintendents know BASF for its fungicide, herbicide and insecticide products. But they can soon add turf colorants, turf spray indicators, lake/pond management products, wetting agents and other products to that list.

BASF will get those products when it officially acquires Ames, Iowa-based Becker Underwood for $1.2 billion. Becker Underwood is also a leading provider of technologies for biological seed treatment, seed treatment colors and polymers, as well as products in crop protection, horticulture and other areas. Becker Underwood employs almost 500 people at 10 production sites. Becker Underwood is expected to achieve sales of $240 million for fiscal year 2012, ending Sept. 30. The transaction is expected to close by the end of the year.

As part of the acquisition, BASF's Crop Protection division will create a strategic global business unit called Functional Crop Care. The unit will merge BASF's existing research, development and marketing activities in the areas of seed treatment, biological crop protection, plant health, and water and resource management with those of Becker Underwood.

Nevin McDougall, BASF's senior vice president of crop protection in North America, told Superintendent that Becker Underwood's portfolio will broaden the range of solutions that BASF can offer its customers to meet their needs.

"When we look at the different customers we serve in different sectors, their needs are wide ranging beyond just traditional crop protection," McDougall said. "So, certainly the portfolio and technologies within Becker Underwood really complement our offering to the market and help address a wide range of needs that our customers have across the board."

An example of that is Becker Underwood's colorants, which are popular with superintendents who paint turfgrass. It's one of the company's technologies that will complement BASF's technologies, McDougall said.

BASF will also acquire Becker Underwood's biofungicide, Subtilex NG.

"The area of biofungicides is growing," McDougall said. "We've been investing in that area the past couple of years in basic research. Again, there's a very complementary fit in Becker Underwood's existing technologies and development activities in that area that will help us broaden and expand biological offerings that we might have in the future."

McDougall said BASF will offer a larger research and development platform to further expand Becker Underwood's existing technologies and bring even better solutions to the marketplace.

McDougall said it was too early to comment on whether Becker Underwood's products would still have the same brand names or if Becker Underwood would become a subsidiary of BASF.

"We are just initiating the integration, planning and concepts," he added.

BASF is also moving its education program for turf and ornamental professionals closer to the North American headquarters of its agricultural products business unit. The new program will bring customers to Pinehurst Resort and will include an educational and recreational component, and also allow for visits to BASF research and development facilities in Research Triangle Park, N.C., and Holly Springs, N.C.

For the past five years, BASF held its education program at FarmLinks at Pursell Farms in Sylacauga, Ala.

Tom Hill, communications manager for BASF's specialty products division, said FarmLinks served BASF well, but BASF wanted to take advantage of the facilities closer to its headquarters. Pinehurst is one of the top golf destinations in the country.

"The name 'Pinehurst' is synonymous with a terrific golf experience," Hill said.

Brian Lish, business manager for BASF Professional Turf & Ornamentals, said in a press release that BASF plans to bring about 350 end users annually to Pinehurst to learn more about BASF and its products.

"We are excited about this new relationship with Pinehurst Resort and our continued focus on education with our customers," Lish added.

Bob Farren, Pinehurst' s director of golf course maintenance and grounds, said in a press release that he has always admired the commitment that BASF has to supporting the continuing education of turf professionals.

"The programs they will offer at Pinehurst will be another step forward in their commitment to the industry," Farren added. "With [the] proximity of Pinehurst to the BASF facility, superintendents will have a great opportunity to see the entire picture."

The new BASF turf education program and customer visits at Pinehurst Resort will begin in January and continue through 2013. BASF will continue at FarmLinks through 2012.

Going Undercover

Jacobsen's vice president of sales poses as equipment operator on Alabama golf course

In an effort to get some unfiltered feedback from the field, Jacobsen's Vice President of Sales Ric Stone recently worked undercover as an equipment operator for a week at Kiva Dunes, a top resort course.

Inspired by the CBS' hit television show "Undercover Boss," Stone's idea was to work alongside a real maintenance crew for an entire week without them knowing his true identity. He believed his anonymity would give him an authentic experience and provide honest user feedback on Jacobsen equipment.

Kiva Dunes uses a fleet of Jacobsen turf equipment, including ECLIPSE walking greens mowers and ECLIPSE 322 riding greens mowers. The course, sprawling across the narrow peninsula of Gulf Shores, Ala., has been named the state's top course and is ranked as one of Golf Digest's Top 60 Resort Courses.

Kiva Dunes Superintendent Mike Rienzi played along perfectly with the ruse and introduced Stone as a new member of the maintenance crew on the first day.

"Nobody suspected anything," Rienzi said. "But they probably wondered why I was working him so hard. He held up pretty well, except for the blisters."

Ric's gnarled hands were the result of some very hard work: He was tasked with bunker raking, hole cutting, floor sweeping, greens and fairway mowing, machine maintenance and a handful of other odd jobs around the shop.

At the end of the week over a pizza lunch, Rienzi revealed the true identity of the new rookie. After a moment of stunned silence, the room filled with gasps, laughter and head shaking.

"What I learned from the operators was invaluable. They love using our machines, but there are little things we can do to make them even better," Stone said. "I will take that feedback directly to our engineering department.

"Above all else, I came away with a great respect for operators. They have a true passion for presenting world-class conditions for their customers. It was an awe-inspiring week that will be with me for a long, long time."


Syngenta Brass Takes to Pinehurst to Do a Little Greenkeeping

You might call Tim Kroenke "a suit." He is, after all, the head of Syngenta Lawn & Garden in North America. He has a few spiffy ties and sport coats in his closet.

But on this cloudy, and humid late August day, Kroenke is a hardworking and perspiring greenkeeper on Pinehurst No. 2 - cutting cups and raking bunkers on the course's 12th green. He is also dead serious about performing a good job on one of America's greatest tracks.

Tim Kroenke can cut a mean cup. The head of Syngenta's Lawn & Garden in North America did so in August on Pinehurst No. 2.

Kroenke's effort was part of Syngenta's first On the Course event at Pinehurst (N.C.) Resort in August. As part of the event, Syngenta executives from lawn and garden, and turf and landscape spent time on Pinehurst No. 2 performing various turf maintenance duties.

It was clear that Kroenke, dressed in khakis and a blue Syngenta polo, was enjoying his time out of the office. He said he was thoroughly impressed at the "shocking level of detail" that the Pinehurst staff takes to distinguish the course from others. For instance, the bunkers surrounding the hole aren't what you would call finely manicured.

But that's the look Pinehurst is after in achieving its brand for the 1907 Donald Ross design, which was restored recently to give it a throwback-to-its-era look. Kroenke said he understands what Pinehurst is trying to achieve.

"It's about understanding what the course's brand is, and how they market it," he adds.

It's the same way with Syngenta.

"Our solution can't be the same for every course; we're not just a company that puts stuff in a jug," Kroenke says. "We have to work with users to come up with solutions together."

It was the first time that Kroenke has ever cut a cup, but it wasn't the first time he has been on a golf course to soak up all he can learn about golf course maintenance.

"In my position, I try to get out several times a year with sales reps to visit a few courses," he says. "I don't go to them to play golf. It's more about listening to superintendents and the issues they are facing, from agronomics to economics."

In addition to Kroenke, Bert Wagemans, Syngenta's head of development and technology for turf & landscape in North America; Scott Reasons, head of turf & landscape, North America; Shawn Potter, head of marketing for turf & landscape, North America; and Lane Tredway, senior technical manager for turf & landscape, North America, participated in the event.

"This is the kind of thing we don't get to experience being in the office," said Reasons, who performed various duties on the 13th green. "Spending time out here with the superintendent and the crew allows you to understand what's going on in a broader context."

Wagemans got to mow the famed course's No. 2 green.

"This is something I can cross off my bucket list," a smiling Wagemans said. "I was very glad to have the experience."