Jan 19

Embracing Challenges

By: Pat Jones | How agronomic reps like Keith Bennett embraced the crazy challenges of 2020 with a new focus on plant health and nutrition with Redox. 

Keith Bennett was a New Jersey township boy who loved the woods and his high school job at the local golf course. He figured out pretty quickly that he was not cut out for the cubicle world: “I wasn’t going to spend 50 years of my life looking at a computer screen in an office,” he says.

While at Penn State, Keith discovered the hands-on nature of turf management and agronomy and fell in love. He finished school while interning for the legendary Mark Kuhns at Baltusrol and then went on to build his career at Royce Brook GC and then in the Monmouth County Parks System at Hominy Hills and Charleston Springs South. 

Then five years ago he pulled into his parking lot to find the legendary Ken Kubik of Grass Roots, Inc., waiting for him. The Grass Roots owner was there to recruit him for his sales team. “I honestly couldn’t believe he even knew who I was,” Bennett recalls. “Being a salesman was something I never really saw myself doing. However, the more I thought about it the more it seemed like a natural progression to stay active in the industry I loved and still spend time with a growing family.” 

When he signed on, he had a ton to learn about Grass Roots’ huge portfolio, including Aquatrols products he hadn’t used as a super.

“The biggest thing that turned me into an advocate for Revolution and their wetting agents was getting into the science behind it and how they actually work. Learning the technology and the science behind it blew me away. I also learned pretty quickly that Aquatrols actually proves what they say through research and has the kind of tech reps — like Tom Valentine — who know these products inside and out.”

What was the biggest thing he’s learned in five years of working with Aquatrols’ water management products?

“You hear the old saying, ‘often imitated, never duplicated’ and that’s absolutely true for Revolution. It’s just better. And the great thing is they have publications and research to prove it works how they say it does. That’s one of the things that separates Aquatrols from the rest – salespeople and customers can rely on them for the science.”

For Bennett and the team at Grass Roots, the addition of Redox to the mix came last June in the middle of the pandemic golf boom and a nasty summer. He immediately noted how well it performed for customers with stressed-out annual bluegrass.

“The Poa was not happy this summer so we started trying the Redox products. We saw a good response and customers did too. Right away.”

Bennett worked with Valentine to make the Redox Abiotic Stress Program part of the Grass Roots consultative approach. The basic ABS program he used combines K+ Micro Crystal, OxyCal, NatureCur and TurfRx Si.

“We liked it because you could give the turf some immediately available phosphorus or potassium about every two weeks and the plants responded. You didn’t get the big flush of growth, just a good plant physiological response.”

He tries to boil down the approach as simply as possible:

“This technology works differently. It’s focusing on carbon complexes, what’s available to the plant and what’s in the soil. Once supers see it work, we start adding more elements to the program. It’s a really neat thing.”

So neat that Bennett’s overall sales grew nicely despite all the craziness. Redox was welcomed warmly by many supers who were trying it for the first time. 

“I also quickly found out I had customers who’d been using Redox for years and they already knew a lot about how it works,” he says. “I’ve been able to pick their brains about the finer points of the products and they were happy to see Redox supported by us.” 

So how will he move forward next year knowing what he knows now?

“Last year was reactionary. We’d see a problem and give them a solution. Now that we have a season under our belts we can really create programs that build in some of the other products. The ABS program is a great example. It got a lot of folks interested and now they want to do a season-long, planned approach. Once supers try this they really begin to get it.”

Bennett is also a fan of Aquatrols’ flexible Approach rewards program.

“EOP kind of leads to October exhaustion. It’s tough because the season is still going, you’ve just survived a tough summer with huge numbers of rounds and you’re probably understaffed. They are just exhausted and so they get their core programs done because the savings are so good you just can’t not do it.”

The later start and flexible timing for Approach helps.

“I like the fact that you have more time to think about things like wetting agents and nutritionals and what fits best with your overall program. That’s huge. Their double points last through March as well so you can talk with your rep and do it right.” 

Bennett’s big focus moving forward this year?

“Quality products, research that backs it up, and a fertilizer that doesn’t fill you up with nitrogen. More people are going to try it. There’s a buzz about it on those group text chains and happy hour get-togethers and on Twitter. That’s because people who try it really like it.”

How cool is it to grow this business and help your friends in the area?

“It’s fantastic. Guys need great service and advice from trusted reps they know now more than ever, so it’s really rewarding to be a part of that.”

To learn more about Aquatrols products and programs, click here.


About The Author

Pat Jones has been writing about the golf course business for 33 years. He also teaches and speaks regularly on the state of the industry and trends in the market. Jones is no stranger to working with the Aquatrols brand having served as an advisory member of the company’s board of directors from 2002-2010. Today, his firm Flagstick LLC provides content, research and strategy to companies, distributors and associations in the market.