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Posted on Jun 10, 2014

Return of the Native

The future of golf may lie in its past, where rolling fairways have brown edges that fade into varieties of native plants, not the water-sucking monotony of four-inch Bermuda rough.

That’s the look Pinehurst No. 2 sports once again thanks to a restoration launched four years ago by noted golf course redesigners Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw with a little help from NC State researchers. The course is getting international attention over the next two weeks as the United States Golf Association conducts for the first time in history its two premier championships, the U.S. Open and the U.S. Women’s Open, at the famed course built in 1907 by Donald Ross.

It looks nothing like the course where the men played their championships in 1999 and 2005. It’s more reminiscent of the 1940s and ‘50s, when the course was Ross’ backyard, before others began to replace naturally occurring plants with acres and acres of Bermuda grass to create the orderly, kept appearance of an arboretum.

“A course as historic as Pinehurst No. 2 doesn’t have to be manicured to within an inch of its life. It can be a little wild.” — NC State crop scientist Danesha Seth Carley.

But that well-groomed look takes a lot of maintenance, chemical fertilizer and, most importantly, water. And solving water issues, says USGA Executive Director Mike Davis, is the most important challenge facing the golf industry.

“The biggest threat, long-term, to the game is water,” Davis says. “Whether it’s right now in certain parts of the country, or a hundred years from now, water is going to be the thing that ultimately is going to affect the game the most.”

That’s no small issue for North Carolina’s 556 golf courses, 52 stand-alone driving ranges and 44 miniature courses, which infuse $2.6 billion a year into the state’s economy and provide some 53,000 jobs. According to a 2011 study, golf’s direct revenues are comparable to agricultural crops ($2.6 billion); science, research and development services ($2.9 billion) and semiconductor components manufacturing ($2.9 billion).

So making the industry economically and environmentally sustainable is critically important to the state’s economy. And that’s the focus of NC State assistant professor of crop science Danesha Seth Carley’s research for Pinehurst over the last four years, as Coore and Crenshaw used aerial photos from the 1940s to recreate the original look.

With funding and corporate research support from Triangle-based Bayer CropScience, Carley and her students have helped Pinehurst identify the plants that have returned to the course since nearly 40 acres of manicured turf and some 700 irrigation sprinkler heads were removed. Other than 10,000 sprigs of wiregrass, native to the Sandhills, the course was a blank slate for returning native vegetation.

Carley created guidebooks for the Pinehurst maintenance staff to quickly identify the plants that were desirable to keep, like Eastern prickly pear, pine weed and toad flax. And she showed the staff which non-native, weedy and invasive species to eliminate before the plants took permanent root.

The native plants are generally less flashy, but easier to maintain in their natural habitat, Carley says. So spectators may not see the blooming azaleas or a sea of green of The Masters in Augusta, Ga., but they could be seeing the next generation of golf course maintenance and design.

“One of the things I hope people will walk away with after the two Opens is that the traditional idea of a Southern country club golf course will be changed,” says Carley, who received her undergraduate degree in biology from Earlham College in Indiana, her master’s degree in entomology and plant pathology from Tennessee and her doctorate from NC State. “A course as historic as Pinehurst No. 2 doesn’t have to be wall-to-wall Bermuda grass, manicured to within an inch of its life. It can be a little wild.

“Most courses don’t have the resources to do a whole scale renovation the way Pinehurst No. 2 did, but anybody can start with a little area and do some of what Pinehurst did, if they are interested. This is an inspiration to reform their thinking about what golf courses need to look like.”

The new roughs at Pinehurst No. 2 feature native plants such as Eastern prickly pear, pineweed and pigweed.

The new roughs at Pinehurst No. 2 feature native plants such as Eastern prickly pear, pineweed and pigweed.

Pinehurst officials are quick to point out that the restoration of No. 2 – one of the oldest and most important public courses in the country – was done simply to take the course back to its original state. But they couldn’t be more pleased that by taking out the turf, removing much of the artificial irrigation and returning the rough to a more natural state, the course has reduced its water usage from 50 million gallons a year before the redesign to a little over nine million gallons last year.

“Pinehurst wasn’t doing it for the economics of it,” says Carley, who did her postdoctoral work under NC State professor of environmental plant biology Tom Rufty. “They were taking it back to the original look of the course for that historical perspective. But from an economic standpoint, it is a great example of what could be done by courses across the country.”

The Pinehurst story will be told many times over the next two weeks, as the men begin their 72-hole championship on Thursday and the women begin play next Thursday. It’s the first time in history that the USGA will hold its two premier championships on the same course in successive weeks.

So the golf course, with two major championships and six days of practice rounds, will be under scrutiny as the USGA will push course superintendent Kevin Robinson, a graduate of NC State’s turfgrass management program, to create fast and firm fairways and greens.

It’s a look that has been four years in the making, with research that could help change the way golf courses look for many years to come.

“This may look like golf in the past, in terms of the presentation of the course, but in so many ways, this is golf of the future,” Coore says. “In today’s world, with water issues, environmental impact issues, the costs associated… the majority of courses are going to have to go more in this direction.”

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Posted on May 2, 2014

Fashioning Solutions

High design meets high-tech tools and heavy-duty materials at Art2Wear, an annual fashion showcase for NC State design and textiles students.

In this year’s collections, 3D printers, laminate flooring components and automotive primer took their place alongside sewing machines, needle and thread, and dyes.

Senior art + design major Gillian Paige’s collection utilized nontraditional materials and unusual modes of manufacturing. When she started working on the first dress in her collection, she incorporated a foam typically used as a sublayer beneath laminate flooring.

“The guys at Home Depot gave me a funny look when I picked it up and told them what I was using it for,” Paige said.

The foam was too thick and heavy to sew through, but she found another place for it elsewhere in her collection. The lessons of that first piece informed her subsequent efforts. Seeking a similar effect for a jacket, she replaced the foam with pellon, a lighter polyester material used in quilting.

Paige turned to a cutting-edge tool to make necklaces and bracelets for her runway models to wear: the 3D printer in the Makerspace at Hunt Library. She worked with fellow art + design student Andrea Danchi and industrial design student Will Marrs to create digital versions of her jewelry for the printer to use.

Once the printer had created her jewelry, painting and sizing it posed a challenge, but Paige came up with a solution: She used the aforementioned automotive primer and metallic paint to put a chrome finish on the plastic pieces.

“I was amazed I was able to have jewelry after one day from the 3D printer,” Paige said. “I think they turned out really amazing.”

A 3D-printed bracelet designed by Gillian Paige

A 3D-printed bracelet, designed by Gillian Paige.

The same bracelet, after priming and painting.

The same bracelet, after priming and painting.

Science meets fashion

Senior Sarah Cannon is equally immersed in both art and science. Some of the funding for her Art2Wear collection came from a National Science Foundation grant that’s also supporting research in chemical and biomolecular engineering.

The engineering side of that project focuses on creating two-dimensional materials that fold themselves into three-dimensional shapes when they’re exposed to heat and light. Folding was a major theme of Cannon’s collection.

“I was trying to figure out a way that these materials could fold around themselves on top of the human body and have their own self-movement,” Cannon said.

As an Anni Albers Scholar, Cannon is working toward two degrees, one in art + design and one in textile technology. Shuttling back and forth between studio-based courses at the College of Design and research labs at the College of Textiles has given her a unique perspective on the relationship between materials and fashion.

“I’m learning how to design textiles, how to knit and weave them,” she said. “And in my studio-based design courses, I’m using them to bring my (fashion) ideas to life.”

Student designer Sarah Cannon (left) and faculty advisor Justin LeBlanc (center) inspect a dress at Art2Wear.

Student designer Sarah Cannon (left) and assistant design professor Justin LeBlanc inspect a dress at Art2Wear.

The couture and craftsmanship evident in this year’s collections present a sharp contrast with Art2Wear’s early years, said faculty advisor Katherine DiuGiud. Now an assistant professor of art + design, DiuGiud was a design student and Art2Wear participant in the mid-2000s. She remembers seeing dresses held together with staples back in those days.

The artistic and technological advances made in students’ collections since then are a reflection of NC State’s focus on experiential education, Paige said.

“The College of Design always pushes us to find new ways of doing things, to look for new materials,” she said.

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Posted on Mar 31, 2014

North Carolina Literary Festival Reading List

The 2014 North Carolina Literary Festival will bring dozens of authors from across the nation to NC State’s Hunt Library for a weekend of readings, performances, panel discussions and more. For a taste of what’s on tap, check out these capsule reviews of just a few of the books by the best-selling, award-winning authors you’ll see at the festival.

oscar-wao-ftrThe Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Junot Díaz

What kind of reader are you? Are you the kind who likes an intimate, frankly revealing narrative about the torments of adolescence, à la Catcher in the Rye? Perhaps you enjoy books by people who write about immigrant experiences, like Bharati Mukherjee, or books by Hispanic authors, like Sandra Cisneros. Or maybe you just like novels about smart people who are way too much into comic books, like The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. If any or all of the above apply to you, then you’ll love The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Junot Díaz’s richly entertaining story of a chubby Dominican boy, his family and friends, and the centuries-old fukú (curse) that has afflicted an island and its children all the way down to the present day.

sportswriter-ftrThe Sportswriter, Richard Ford

“Life is not always ascendant.” This line from The Sportswriter could serve as an encapsulation of the novel’s themes: life is not always ascendant, and sometimes that’s your fault and sometimes it’s not, and what matters is what you do about it. In some ways the novel is just that straightforward as it follows the mostly unremarkable life of divorced sportswriter Frank Bascombe over a single weekend. He interviews a former football player, he takes his girlfriend with him on a business trip, he hangs out with other divorced men, he talks with his ex-wife. But everywhere he brushes up against the aftermath—or the threat—of loss: Frank’s young son died a few years back, and that former football player is in a wheelchair now, and the relationship with his girlfriend becomes increasingly precarious, and a divorced friend of his is not doing well in the mental health department. Ford’s observant eye and well-crafted prose lend a luminous touch to this tale of the everyday.


Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald, Therese Anne Fowler

F. Scott Fitzgerald, author of The Great Gatsby, is a household name — a fate that would have thrilled the young army officer who had yet to publish a single short story in 1918, when he met Zelda Sayre, the woman who would become his wife. Zelda was a beautiful, intelligent, talented, headstrong woman who left her Alabama upbringing behind and plunged headlong into a world of artistic salons, literary rivalries and jazz age decadence. In the process, she acquired a reputation as Scott’s wild, mentally disturbed wife, but Z sidesteps the stereotypes to tell Zelda’s story with psychological nuance and literary flair without sacrificing historical accuracy. Fowler holds a master of fine arts degree from NC State. Her deft descriptive touches and skillful evocation of the period bring Zelda to life.

magicians-ftrThe Magicians and The Magician King, Lev Grossman

Imagine, if you will, that the wizard school in the Harry Potter books has a real-world higher-ed counterpart, an elite, secret college for magicians in upstate New York. Imagine also that one of the students who gets admitted to this school has always loved an old series of British fantasy novels similar to the Chronicles of Narnia, but set in a magical land called Fillory. This student, a teenage boy named Quentin, has always wanted to believe that magic is real because he loves the Fillory books so much. He gets his heart’s desire when he finds out that magic is real and he can do it himself. Then he finds out that Fillory itself is also real. Heart’s desire times two, right? The truth turns out to be vastly more complicated than that in The Magicians and The Magician King, the first two novels in a trilogy that provides a decidedly adult take on two classic young adult series.

good-lord-bird-ftrThe Good Lord Bird, James McBride

John Brown’s attempt to end slavery by raiding a federal arms depot in Harpers Ferry, Va., in 1859 has inspired many authors to write about it, but none have done so with the flair and panache of James McBride. His novel The Good Lord Bird is told by Henry, a slave boy swept up in Brown’s wake during nasty fighting between “Pro Slavers” and “Free Staters” in Kansas Territory. The small, smock-wearing Henry is mistaken for a girl, “Henrietta,” and he doesn’t correct the misconception, lending a surreal air to events that are already much larger than normal life. This darkly funny novel has drawn comparisons to The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and Henry’s rich narrative voice imparts a full-blooded humanity to a violent, absurd, important chapter in our nation’s history.

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