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Educational therapy: Kreger reflects on trying year, successful show

Carolinas GCSA conference and show holds special meaning for the group's executive director after a year of health challenges.


IMG_1047 Carolinas GCSA Executive Director Tim Kreger (second from right) poses with members of the Clemson turf bowl team that won the regional competition Tuesday during the association's annual conference and show in Myrtle Beach, S.C. Photo by Scott Hollister

The annual Carolinas GCSA conference and show has always been the highlight of the year for that group's executive director, Tim Kreger.

But in his decade at the helm of that organization, it's safe to say that none of those events has been as cherished by Kreger as the 2017 version, taking place this week in Myrtle Beach, S.C.

"It's hard to talk about what this all means to me without getting emotional," Kreger says.

Those familiar with Kreger's story can certainly understand that. To put it mildly, 2017 has been a challenging year for Kreger and the small full-time staff that runs one of GCSAA's flagship affiliated chapters. In late May while playing a round of golf with several members of the chapter's board of directors, he suffered a heart attack that required emergency surgery to clear three blocked arteries.

Then in late August, just a few weeks after helping out superintendent Keith Wood and his team at Quail Hollow during the PGA Championship, Kreger was in serious four-wheeler accident that left him with a broken leg, foot and ankle.

To add insult to injury, 2017 dealt the organization another blow when it's education coordinator, Cindy Baldwin, was involved in a car accident that left her injured and out of commission for a lengthy period of time.

"It was a tough, emotional year, no doubt," Kreger says. "But you couldn't ask for a better healing process than to come together at something like this with a couple thousand people who really, genuinely care about you. It's really been something."

Despite those challenges, the Carolinas GCSA hardly skipped a beat in its service to members and its preparations for this week's conference and show — the largest regional event in the country — something that is clearly a source of pride for Kreger.

"If you've called us, signed up, registered, bought a booth, really did anything related to the show, there's one of three or four people in our office that you've talked to," he says. "Then you take two of the five of us out of the loop for a couple of months combined … it's all pretty remarkable.

"The product has not been affected at all, which is what blows me away. We sold more booths than we have since 2007, when the economy went backwards. We've got more attendees signed up than we have any other year in our 51-year history. You want to take some of the credit for it, but at the same time, I can't take any credit for this year. I want those girls to be recognized for the fact that they can build a nationally recognized event out of a small town, a couple thousand people, in South Carolina."

That an educational conference trade show can prove therapeutic might come as a surprise to some, but in the case of Kreger and the Carolinas GCSA, it's definitely appropriate. And in what might be considered a bit a karmic payback for Kreger and the challenges he dealt with in the past year, his time in Myrtle Beach got even better when his alma mater, Clemson, brought home the trophy in the annual regional turf bowl competition.

"I'm going to owe some people a few free lunches," he said with a laugh while posing for a photo with members of the winning team."

After his 2017, that's a debt that Kreger is only happy to pay off.

Scott Hollister is GCM's editor-in-chief

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