Corey Pavin on Taking a Shot at Making Golf Greens More Green - Kanebridge News
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Corey Pavin on Taking a Shot at Making Golf Greens More Green

By JOHN SCOTT LEWINSKI
Wed, Jun 26, 2024 11:04amGrey Clock 4 min

Though golf courses offer long acres of lush grass, tall trees and rippling ponds, they’re not the most popular venues among environmentalists. Citing their effect on wildlife and the potential impact on a venue’s water table, those worried about conservation and sustainability find much to dislike on any 18-hole tract.

For more than a decade, 1995 U.S. Open champion Corey Pavin has worked to improve golf’s relationships with the world hosting it. Known as one of the more amiable and self-effacing players on the PGA Tour (and, currently, the Champions Tour), the 64-year-old native of Southern California remains one of the leading proponents of sustainability in golf.

During preparations to play the 2024 Senior PGA Championship at Michigan’s Harbor Shores—a course built on a reclaimed industrial dumping ground in Benton Harbor—Pavin explored what brought him into the sustainability movement and why he continues to push more environmentally responsible golf courses.

Penta : You claimed a Major Championship, won 15 times on the PGA Tour and captained a Ryder Cup team during four decades of professional golf. How did you find an interest in sustainability along the way?

Corey Pavin: I grew up in California, so recycling was always a big deal there before the movement expanded across the United States and around the world. So, I came into golf already aware of the need to recycle and look after the environment.

What brought you into a leadership position working toward environmental sustainability in golf?

I do most of this work due to my association with Dow Chemical. I’ve been with them for 15 years now, and they started a big program for sustainability and recycling. They’ve done a lot to make me aware of what needs to be done and helped me to reduce my own carbon footprint. … I also worked with the nonprofit GEO Foundation for Sustainable Golf, which is dedicated to making golf and the golf community ecologically friendly.

Have you found there to be tension between the sport of golf and the environmentalist movement?

I knew growing up the environmental effects of golf and golf courses was a huge concern and a cause of a lot of conversation. There were debates over the chemicals used on a course and how they can affect groundwater and other elements.

I think a lot of strides are being made with what materials get used on a golf course with an eye toward what effect they could have on the environment. There’s been a lot of work in the last two decades to make courses less harmful.

What advancements have golf operations made in course design, building, and management?

First of all, there’s been a push for years now with course designers to avoid bringing in any outside species such as grass or other plants that could change the ecology of an area. You’re seeing so many more courses now that use only native elements. There’s also been a lot of strides made on how courses are maintained, what grasses they use, and how the greens crews treat the grasses.

Is it difficult to balance environmental factors with efforts to provide a quality golf course?

You want to design and build a quality course and keep it in good shape, but we have the means now to eliminate negative environmental impact from a golf course being built or operating. For example, concepts such as using recycled, non-potable water for the grass or choosing salt-resistant grasses that can be fed with brackish seawater keep fresh water preserved and entirely off the course.

Beyond water usage, what positive effects can a modern golf course have on the environment?

You also have to consider the adjacent land near a course. The presence of golf near a forest or marshland can lead to an effort to preserve that space that wasn’t a priority earlier.

Are you seeing efforts to update or reimagine golf courses built before the environmental movement came to the fore?

Yes, there are so many modification ideas a golf course can use to limit or reduce the amount of grass that needs to be watered. I’m seeing courses add natural waste areas of plants that require very little water or more sandy areas that require no water at all. Over the last decade, I’ve seen courses all around the world shifting to those designs. Beyond saving water, those ideas also reduce the amount of necessary maintenance and save energy.

Way back when, crews used to just bulldoze everything and transform an area into a course without giving thought of what that could do. Once it became clear that we could build golf courses that can involve more of the natural habitat and disturb much less of the natural environment that was already in place, I think it became obvious there was no reason to design or build courses any other way.

As a player, does it just make you happy seeing these sustainable changes?

I love seeing it, not just because I’m aware of how important clean water is, but because I’ve always liked golf courses that have a natural look to them.

The 2024 Senior PGA Championship was at Harbor Shores this year—a course developed on wetlands reclaimed from an industrial waste site. Could we see golf actually restoring the environment in cases like we find in Benton Harbor, Mich.?

I think that’s a great example of responsible course building and management. Initially, [Harbor Shores] was more a case of recycling and reclamation, but it operates now within those wetlands as a sustainable model. We can see more cases of dump sites becoming courses because you’re dealing with land that can’t really be used for much else. Once the ground is cleaned and treated, I can’t think of any better place to build a golf course because just the act of creating the venue cleans that garbage from the land.

We can now make golf courses that look like they were always supposed to be there from the beginning.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.



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Leaders with epic hobbies seem to squeeze more hours out of the day than the rest of us

By Callum Borchers
Fri, Jul 19, 2024 4 min

Many of us can barely keep up with our jobs, never mind hobbies. Yet some top executives run marathons, wineries or music-recording studios on the side. How can they have bigger responsibilities and more fun than we do?

It can seem like ultrahigh achievers find extra hours in the day. They say they’ve just figured out how to manage their 24 better than the rest of us.

They also admit they take full advantage of the privileges of being a boss—the power to delegate and the means to do things like jetting to Denmark for a long weekend of windsurfing.

Dan Streetman trains as many as 20 hours a week for Ironman triathlons in addition to his job as CEO of cybersecurity firm Tanium. It’s a big commitment for anyone, never mind a corporate leader who travels to meet with customers every week. He pulls it off by sleeping fewer than seven hours a night and waking around 5 a.m., planning his exercise sessions months in advance, and switching his brain from work mode to sport mode almost as fast as he transitions from swimming to cycling during a competition.

“I tend to work right up until the day of the race,” says Streetman, 56 years old. “I remember being on a board call on a Friday night, and Saturday morning was an Ironman. That’s just part of it.”

Ahead of business trips, he maps running routes in unfamiliar cities and scouts nearby pools, often at YMCAs. He rides stationary bikes in hotel gyms and, if they’re subpar, makes a note to book somewhere else next time he’s in town.

Leaders who eat, breathe and sleep business can appear out of touch at a time when employees crave work-life balance and expect their bosses to model it. Today’s prototypical CEO has a full life outside of work, or at least the appearance of one.

Their tactics include waking up early, multitasking and scheduling fun as if it were any other appointment. When you’re a top executive, hobbies tend to disappear unless they’re on the calendar. One CEO told me he disguises “me time” as important meetings. Only his assistant knows which calendar blocks are fake.

Ben Betts calls himself a “spreadsheet guy,” which is a bit like saying Michelangelo was a paint guy. With Excel as his canvas, Betts creates cell-by-cell checklists for just about everything he does, from cooking Christmas dinner to building a coop for newly hatched ducklings.

Betts, 41, is CEO of Learning Pool, a professional-development software maker. The duck home is part of his ambitious effort to restore an 18th-century farmhouse in England. He’s been renovating for about five years and aims to finish this fall.

On a recent Saturday, Betts’s spreadsheet called for stripping overhead beams by 5 p.m. so he could refinish them. Otherwise, the task would have to wait until the following weekend, throwing off his whole timeline. His vision of the home as a cozy enclave—completed in time for the holidays—can only come true if he sticks to a precise plan.

“Sometimes I stand in the doorway, and my wife probably wonders what I’m staring at,” he says. “I’m picturing us on a corner sofa with our two kids and the dog, watching a film in front of the fireplace I installed.”

Back in the swing

John Sicard , president and CEO of supply-chain manager Kinaxis , got back into drumming many years after he let go of his dream to become a professional musician. He practices almost every day, but his sessions sometimes last only 20 minutes. He rehearses with bandmates two or three times a month. That’s enough to prepare Sicard, 61, to play Foo Fighters and Led Zeppelin covers at occasional charity gigs.

He also built a studio in his house, where he records up-and-coming artists. He finds time by sticking to this management philosophy: “The most successful CEOs do the least amount of work.”

For Sicard, that means letting his lieutenants take charge of—and responsibility for—their divisions. Many corporate leaders work harder than they need to because they micromanage or hire poorly and pick up the slack, he says.

Thomas Hansen , president of software maker Amplitude, is back to windsurfing, a sport he competed in as a teenager. He lives near the ocean in California but gets out on the water only about once a month, when the waves are just right. Hobbies don’t need to be daily activities to be fulfilling, he says, especially if they require training regimens.

To stay in shape for windsurfing, he rises at 4:30 a.m., seven days a week, for an hour of exercise. Hansen, 54, also guards his Saturdays and Sundays like the crown jewels of Denmark, his native country, limiting himself to two working weekends a year. Things that feel urgent can almost always wait till Monday, he contends.

‘Like a badass’

When Christine Yen isn’t calling the shots at work, she’s circling a racetrack at 80 mph on her Honda CB300F motorcycle. The co-founder and CEO of Honeycomb, which helps engineers diagnose problems in their software, took up racing a few years ago.

Prepandemic, her motorcycle was strictly for commuting in San Francisco—and making an impression. She loved pulling up to investor meetings in her hornet-yellow helmet and leather riding suit.

“It fits me like a glove, and it makes me feel like a badass,” says Yen, 36.

The keys to spending full days at the track are planning and being willing to work at odd hours, Yen discovered. Her favorite track publishes racing schedules in 10-week batches. As soon as a slate is released, she circles the dates when she expects her workload will be lightest, aiming to participate in roughly half of the events.

“I have also been known to bring my laptop to the motel and get some work done in the evenings,” she says. “It sounds boring to say hobbies can be scheduled, but that’s how I protect my time.”