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Texas titans highlight #GIS18 opening, closing events

Big Tex — the gigantic and iconic greeter at the annual State Fair of Texas — will have some company next month when it comes to legendary figures in the state.


Ernie Els son Ben
GCSAA’s 2018 Old Tom Morris Award winner Ernie Els with his son, Ben. Photo courtesy of Ernie Els

At GCSAA’s Opening Night Celebration, presented in partnership with Syngenta, on Feb. 6, several prominent individuals will be honored for their extraordinary contributions to the game and industry. One of them — major golf champion Ernie Els — will be given GCSAA’s highest honor, the Old Tom Morris Award, which is presented annually to a person who, through a continuing lifetime commitment to the game of golf, has helped to mold the welfare of the game.

“It’s a great honor,” says Els, who in 2009 launched the Els for Autism Foundation and followed it up by leading the charge to build The Els Center of Excellence in Jupiter, Fla., which is a 26-acre campus for those affected by autism. Els, who is also a golf course designer, has a special place in his heart for golf course superintendents. “They are as vital to this game as ever, and as vital to this game as anyone,” he says.

Hosted by GCSAA President Bill H. Maynard, CGCS, the Opening Night Celebration will recognize many others. Two veteran turfgrass scientists will be honored with the Col. John Morley Distinguished Service Award: Leah Brilman, Ph.D., and Rick Latin, Ph.D. Brilman, the director of product management and services for DLF Pickseed in Halsey, Ore., is heralded as an expert in turfgrass breeding. Latin, a professor in plant pathology at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind., may be best known for his book, “A Practical Guide to Turfgrass Fungicides.”

Also honored will be Frank Rossi, Ph.D., who will receive GCSAA’s 2018 President’s Award for Environmental Stewardship. Rossi, an associate professor at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., was a key contributor in the development of “Best Management Practices for New York State Golf Courses,” serving as the lead author for the guidelines.

Other honors that will be officially presented during the Opening Night Celebration are the Leo Feser Award, given to the author of the best superintendent-written story published in GCM; the GCSAA/Golf Digest Environmental Leaders in Golf Awards, which are presented in partnership with Syngenta; and GCSAA’s Excellence in Government Affairs Award. The 2017 class of Certified Golf Course Superintendents will also be recognized.

The Closing Celebration, presented in partnership with John Deere Golf, is set for Feb. 8. Actor/comedian Darrell Hammond, who spent 14 years on “Saturday Night Live,” will perform. Impressions of John Travolta and Presidents Donald Trump and Bill Clinton are part of his extensive repertoire.

Another highlight of the Closing Celebration will be the unveiling of the results from the annual GCSAA Collegiate Turf Bowl, while the 2018 GCSAA Board of Directors will be also be introduced.

Howard Richman is GCM’s associate editor.