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Volunteers Help Prep Connecticut Course

Varsity - 2010 Season
Posted Sunday, April 18, 2010 by TurfNet

For as long as he can remember, Dan Rackliffe, CGCS, 
has relied on extra help preparing Longshore Club Park Golf Course for play as winter winds down and golfers suffering the effects of cabin fever turn their thoughts toward heading outdoors. 

Each year, anywhere from 30 to 50 volunteers from Westport, Conn., help clean up the municipal golf course where Rackliffe has been superintendent for 23 years. 

“I’m not sure how it started,” Rackliffe said. “It’s been going on since before I got here, and it happens every year.” 

Each year, the men’s club at the town-owned course sends out an e-mail soliciting help to remove debris from the course and expedite the opening. Weather permitting, volunteers come out for a day in late March or early April for three or so hours – weather permitting – mostly to rake debris from the golf course. The volunteers leave neatly stacked piles of debris around the course and the crew sweeps through and removes them. The effort does not go unnoticed by golfers or Rackliffe. What they are able to accomplish in a few hours might take Rackliffe’s staff of nine 10 days or more. 

“It’s the old adage, ‘many hands make light work,’ ” Rackliffe said. “You can’t make up how helpful this really is.” 

This year, the group came out March 20, and the extra help was especially welcome after a Nor’easter on March 13 took down 25 trees at Longshore and left bits and pieces of many other scattered across the property.

“I’ll tell you, it’s really helpful,” Rackliffe said. 

“Especially this year. We got hammered. Just after we had the course cleaned up from winter this came through.” 

Most of the affected trees were white pines. 

“It was just a blanket of white pine boughs,” Rackliffe said. “Not the big ones, but the tiny ones that are a nuisance to pick up.” 

Volunteers typically include golfers from the men’s club and others, including members of the boys and girls golf teams from Staples High School in Westport. Both teams practice and play there for free throughout the season. 

"The boys golf team is very grateful to the Town of Westport for their generosity in allowing us to use the course," said Staples' boys golf coach Tom Owen. "We feel it is important to be active and contributing members in the Westport golf community." 

Helping clean up the course is a way for the golf teams at Staples to give back to the community and the golf course, and it provides another opportunity for team bonding, said girls coach Bob Byiteck. 

"The Staples girls' golf team takes pride in representing the Town of Westport, and it was the natural thing to do, to help ready our home course for the season," Byiteck said. "The Team greatly appreciates the use of Longshore for matches and practice. It was also a lot of fun and good team building." 

Those who volunteer in the annual clean-up effort are paid back by the town, not with a cash reward, but with a guaranteed spot in Longshore’s highly coveted Gilardi Kickoff Tournament. 

The volunteer crew is a hard-working bunch, often completing tasks before Rackliffe can secure specialized equipment such as a York rake that would make the clean-up process easier. 

As golfers suffering from cabin fever turn their thoughts toward migrating outdoors, pressure to open the course as early as possible can be stiff. The clean-up effort gives Rackliffe an opportunity to get know Longshore’s golf clientele, and it gives the golfers a chance to learn more about what the maintenance staff faces on a daily basis. 

“To some extent, some come out and were surprised that we had already started cleaning up. They were happy that the golf course was almost ready to go,” Rackliffe said. 

“It’s been a good PR move for us to touch base with these guys on a different level.” 

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