Golf Course Superintendents vs. Multiple Sclerosis

13.11.28-VIGSA.logoBy Rick Munro

On November 13th and 14th, the Vancouver Island Golf Superintendent Association (VIGSA) held their annual Professional Development Day and Silent Auction in support of the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Vancouver Island at Bear Mountain Golf Resort in Victoria, BC.  The event was a two day seminar and silent auction featuring three guest speakers who each brought a vast amount of experience and expertise to share with the 70 turf managers and industry personnel from the island and lower mainland.

The first speaker, sponsored by Turf Canada, was Carmen Magro from Stephens Water Monitoring Systems Inc. who enlightened the crowd with his talk entitled “Utilizing Technology To Optimize Plant Health”.  Magro brought with him a wealth of knowledge and experience from his years as a Golf Course Superintendent, a turfgrass educator and a lifetime in the turf industry. Starting with the basics of growing healthy turf, Magro’s presentation explained how proper irrigation and correct soil moisture leads to healthier turf using fewer inputs such as pesticides, fertilizers and water. 

As turf managers we are constantly looking for ways to improve the sports fields or golf courses we are charged with maintaining with ever shrinking budgets and environmental concerns, particularly water usage. These days many turf managers are using soil moisture sensors to help make daily irrigation decisions.  While most, if not all of us in the room have been trained how to visually inspect the turf to help determine whether or not to irrigate and how much, Magro introduced us to new technology in the form of hand held soil moisture sensors.

The particular sensor that Magro had was fascinating as it could be linked up to a smart phone and the information collected by the sensor immediately downloaded to the phone. From this information a turf manager can make educated decisions based on the moisture, temperature and salinity of the soil resulting in healthier turf at a lower cost.

The second speaker at the event, sponsored by Agrium Direct Solutions was Doug Middleton, Principal at Ocean Organics, who brought valuable information with his presentation “Understanding High Value Nutrition for Intensively Maintained Turfgrasses.”  Ocean Organics is a family owned enterprise that has been in business for several decades.  Middleton’s explanation of how fertilizers created from seaweed offer an organic approach to turf management was informative and timely in this era of environmental concerns.  Middleton’s obvious understanding of turf management helped bring his scientific background full circle to the needs of the turf manager.

The final speaker at the seminar was Jack Vanderbasch from Coast Environmental who spoke about the compost being produced by his company right here on the island. Jack’s thorough explanation of the process by which Coast Environmental uses waste bi-products to produce compost that can be used to grow healthy turf, gardens or vegetables was informative and entertaining.

While all in attendance gained a great deal of education from the speakers, I believe the true goal of the event was attained with the MS Society being the ultimate benefactor.  All proceeds from the event which included a silent auction, a 50/50 draw and a raffle as well as the cost for attending went to help fight MS. In total upwards of $45 000 was collected from the seminar.

Beginning in 2008 VIGSA has been hosting annual seminars as well as a fundraising event to support the MS Society. To date VIGSA has raised  $600 000 to fight this crippling disease. This total is sure to increase when VIGSA hosts its public gala in support of the MS Society on January 25 at Bear Mountain.

For more information on the gala or to contribute contact Dean Piller at 

Multiple Sclerosis is an autoimmune condition that attacks the central nervous system of 75 000 Canadians. Each year nearly 1 000 Canadians are diagnosed with MS. MS attacks nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord that affect their ability to communicate. Although the cause of MS remains unknown, this crippling disease is more prevalent in countries that are located further away from the equator. Symptoms of MS can take on several forms as almost any neurological system can be affected. The disease often progress to physical and/or cognitive disability. The symptoms occur in discrete attacks (relapsing forms) or slowly accumulate over time (progressive forms). Symptoms associated with MS have been known to go away for periods of time but permanent neurological problems occur as the disease advances. Those diagnosed with MS can expect to live as long as those who do not have the disease. For now, there is no known cure for MS but with your help and the help of organizations like VIGSA, Multiple Sclerosis can one day be defeated.