A successful superintendent learns early on to make the most of what they have. Michael Vessely has done just that at the R. Stuart Dickson ‘47 Culver Academies Golf Course. Despite having a crew of just three people, including himself, Vessely maintains one of the premier nine-hole golf courses in the world.
The layout serves the students, faculty, staff, and alumni at Culver Academies, a private institution in Culver, Indiana, located roughly 40 miles south of South Bend and a 90-minute drive west of Fort Wayne.
The golf course, which dates back to 1922, was designed by William Langford and Theodore J. Moreau, a tandem that was responsible for some 200 courses in the years between the two World Wars, the vast majority of them in in the Midwest and South. Langford, a fine amateur player himself, brought artistic vision to the partnership. He was a charter member of the American Society of Golf Course Architects and served as its president twice. Moreau’s talents lay in the area of construction and engineering.
The pair envisioned creating 27 holes at the Academy in conjunction with the construction of an inn, but only nine were actually built due to the Great Depression and over time course conditions deteriorated.
In late 2013 however, Vessely, a Penn State graduate, was hired as the superintendent and not long after, architect Bobby Weed was retained to refurbish and renovate the layout.
Within a year, Vessely was managing the turf at a club that Golf Club Atlas in 2017 called “arguably the finest nine-hole course in North America,’ and that Golfweek ranked as the second-best campus course in the U.S., behind only the layout at Yale University, which ironically was William Langford’s alma mater.
Vessely first heard of Aquaritin in the winter of 2021-22.
“I was called on by a salesman that I’m close with,” he recalled. “He asked me if I’d ever heard of nanotechnology I said I’d heard of it.
“He sent me some literature and suggested I look into it. I looked at it from the ag side which is where most of our products start. I know they’ve been doing a lot with it on the ag side.”
Even before he applied Aquaritin Defend for the first time, Vessely recognized some tangible benefits.
“It seemed to make sense,” he said. “I like to try different things, and wherever I can save money and not apply as much product, that’s what I like to do.
“We’re nine holes with a three-person crew. So, time is of the essence and if I don’t have to load bags or do all that jazzy stuff, it’s better for us.”
Vessely applied Defend to his four-and-a-half acres of greens and green surrounds for the first time in May of 2022 at the prescribed rate of 6oz/acre and continued making applications every 14 days.
Vessely was impressed with the results he got from Defend from the day of his first application.
“I talked to a couple of users through social media about what they were doing,” he said, “and one guy said he was using 19 and Defend together at the full rates. So, I started doing that about the middle of June and it just floored me.
“The performance was good with just the Defend but it just seemed to be better after I started adding the 19, which I believe is the nanotechnology and the ability for the nitrogen to get into the plant quicker and more of it.”
Vessely has also noticed enhanced performance from his PGRs.
“I think they’re having an effect on those as far as making them better and more efficient, he said.
Vessily’s faith in Defend and Aquaritin 19 only grew as a long, hot Midwestern summer wore on.
With the arrival of the 2023 season, Vessely expanded his use of both Aquaritin 19 and Defend.
“It will be on all short-grass areas in 2023,” he said. Apart from the performance of his turf, Vessely says relying on the Aquaritin line saves him time and allows him to do his job more efficiently.
“It comes down to the ease of the bottle use and the low use rate,” he said. “Not loading a hopper with 50-pound bags a few times a year; just pouring 18 ounces in a tank and going out makes it quick.”
Prior to the start of his 2023 golf season (the course is closed during the winter) Vessely anticipated that utilizing Defend and Aquaritin 19 would eliminate the need for a laborious preparatory process prior to an application.
“(Previously), I would melt my own urea or ammonium sulfate in the tank,” he said, “and all the micros as far as iron and magnesium, and manganese; I would melt them from a 50-pound bag myself and pour it the tank. Some I would have to do the night before, put them in buckets and mix them up so they would break down a little bit. “The alternative to doing that was buying two-and-a-half gallon jugs, which basically means you’re paying for water to put your product in.
“The ease of not having to take the time beforehand to do the preparatory work and just pouring half a bottle in the tank and going out is going to make a huge difference.”