Jon Pitoniak – Ballyneal Golf Club

May 30, 2015 in 2-year, Internships, Teaching

Well if you read my last internship visit and travel updates then you saw that I was stuck in LAX for an extra 3 hours which meant a Denver arrival of 1AM. Instead of trying to drive east towards Ballyneal GC, I crashed for about 4 hours at the airport hotel and woke up bright and early to make the 3+ hour drive east.

Ballyneal Golf Club

I arrived in the town of Holyoke (it’s a little like Mayberry from the Andy Griffith Show) and quickly realized that they must have had some bad weather within the last day or two. Turning on to County Road FF to head to the golf course, I quickly realized that it must have been a severe storm. For any of you who have never been on the county roads in the eastern part of Colorado, you’re missing out. When dry, they are a simple dirt road. After a rain storm, however, they tend to have severe washouts and even in areas that appear OK, they are like driving on a 2 inch oil slick. Cars get sideways even when going 10 mph and here I was in the only car left in the rental facility that had a USB port…a convertible Camaro. It’s amazing that I made it to Ballyneal Golf Club at all.

I bring the storms

When I arrived, I met with my student Jon Pitoniak and the golf course superintendent (Lance). I was quickly informed that a major storm had passed through just the day before and resulted in a few tornadoes that touched down and about 2 inches of golf ball-sized hail that did severe damage to the greens. It was a little reminiscent to the tornadoes that passed through the areas on my last visit just a year before.

NOTE: Check out footage from last year’s storms here.

Internship Visit #3 at Ballyneal Golf Club

Jon, a native of Northeast PA and former CC of Scranton employee, gave me a tour of the unique links property. The course is predominantly fine leaf fescue on both the fairways and the greens. Unfortunately, an unusual temperature change while the turf was still growing in the fall resulted in severe winter injury to the putting surfaces. The temps changed from the 70’s to -14 F in a 24 hour period last fall and resulted in significant death to much of the surface. Lance and his crew were making great progress on the recovery by pounding bentgrass seed in an attempt to convert the greens when the storm hit and did additional damage.

Despite the setbacks (or maybe because of them), Jon has been taking the opportunity to learn to deal with the challenges that Mother Nature can through at a golf course superintendent. He’s fortunate to be learning from an excellent mentor and looks to learn a lot from his experiences on the fine leaf fescue course this summer.

Week 2 (Internship Visits 4-7) in PA/NJ

So this marks the end of my “west coast swing” of @PSUTurf internship visits. On Monday, I head out to a talk at the Scranton Canoe Club and then make my way south to visit students in PA, NJ and Deleware. This is my week of “2-a-days” where I double up on my visits. It’s a total nightmare to to this, but I’m looking forward to seeing at least 2 new courses that I’ve never been to.

NOTE: Follow @iTweetTurf for live updates of my visits to the @PSUTurf students.

Check out some images from Ballyneal Golf Club: