The Venn diagram charting those folks passionate about cycling and those infatuated with golf course best management practices (BMPs) converges at the most miniscule of points.
That’s where you’ll find Ken Benoit, CGCS, at least metaphorically. Physically, starting Friday, Aug. 14, you’ll find him somewhere between the United States’ east and west coasts, championing the latter of those two passions from atop the saddle of the former.
Benoit, a former two-decade-plus golf course superintendent, immediate past president of the Metropolitan GCSA, executive director of the New York Golf Course Foundation and a 26-year GCSAA member, plans to pedal his way across America while peddling the benefits of facility adoption of BMPs.
“The impetus was, initially, my trying to figure out the next step in my professional career,” says Benoit, 56, who last year left the day-to-day business of working as a golf course superintendent to start his own company, Eco Turf Consulting. “I started up this business, and I was having a hard time finding some direction. To be frank, I wasn’t thinking with true clarity, and I had felt that way for a while. Then this COVID hit. It was a tough go for everybody. So I had this lack of clarity, and I had always wanted to ride my bike across the country. That had been a goal of mine, and I came up with this idea, of being isolated and blowing the carbon out, essentially, and approached my wife with the idea. She instantly said yes. She recognized that I had been struggling a bit.”
At that point, Benoit’s bike tour was just that: a bike tour. As he started pondering the logistics of a self-propelled trip across the U.S., thoughts of his other passion project, golf course BMPs, kept creeping in.
Long a champion for BMPs — the state-centric guidelines to promote environmental stewardship and sustainability on golf courses — Benoit played a key role in New York’s establishment of BMPs, and the New York Golf Course Foundation was an offshoot of that. GCSAA’s goal is to have BMPs established in all 50 states by the end of this year, and as that initiative reaches its conclusion (37 down, 13 to go), Benoit turned his BMP thoughts to the next step: the establishment of BMPs, using the state model, at the facility level. And he thought about using his trip as a platform.
So it was back to wife Melodee, and again, she was all for it.
Benoit mentioned the tour to a few of his superintendent friends, and one in particular — Nathan Wattier, a former intern under Benoit and a three-year GCSAA member in his first year as superintendent at Oeschberghof Resort in Donaueschingen, Germany — had an epiphany.
“He said, ‘Ken, I have a great idea: You should offer a free BMP consulting visit for every course who wants one along the route,’” Benoit recalls. “I thought that was a great idea. This is a platform for promoting BMPs, and a way to promote that platform is by doing consulting. That jumpstarted the process I wanted to start from the beginning, to gain some clarity in my life. I’m super excited. I feel I have direction again.”
Technically, that direction is west.
On Friday, Aug. 14, Benoit plans to dip his rear tire in the Atlantic Ocean in Greenwich, Conn. If the Connect to Protect Tour proceeds as expected, 40 days (and 3,300 miles) later, he’ll dip his front tire in the Pacific in Coos Bay, Ore.
Between those ceremonial acts, Benoit plans to pedal and preach, not necessarily in that order. He’ll cycle roughly 100 miles per day for 33 days. He’s allowing for rest and weather days.
When not on his bike, he’ll be perched on his proverbial pulpit, consulting with superintendents about ways they can adapt state BMPs to fit their specific conditions — and importantly, he says, ways in which they already do. As of the end of July, Benoit had seven course visits scheduled.
At night, tucked away in his (wired) tent, he’ll knock out blog and vlog posts about his trip and his visits.
“I don’t anticipate writing a big, long, formal report,” he says. “I look at the visits as a way to interact with superintendents. They’re interested, obviously, in BMPs. I’ll use my experience to review their facility and make recommendations to them, which they can take or leave. And I’ll take a BMP that they’re already excelling at and create a blog about it. It’ll be positive. Ultimately, the goal is to raise awareness. But the visits have two main goals: One is to help superintendents better align their facilities with BMPs, and the other is to highlight what they’re already doing well in regards to BMPs.”
Trip planning was relatively straightforward. The Connect to Protect Tour — Benoit has started a GoFundMe fundraiser to help defray costs — starts in Greenwich, just south of Benoit’s Bedford, N.Y., home. Coos Bay was identified as the western terminus because that’s where his sister lives. Benoit also wanted to roll through State College, Pa., to pay a visit to buddy and noted turfgrass scientist John Kaminski, Ph.D., who has volunteered to help upload blogs and vlogs — professional and also those more personal in nature — to Benoit’s website.