GCSAA, EPA partnership keeps a good thing going

A longstanding relationship between the two entities is formalized with the signing of a landmark agreement focused on environmental stewardship.


EPA and GCSAA signing ceremony
The Environmental Protection Agency and GCSAA formalized a long-standing relationship with an official memorandum of understanding on Monday, Sept. 19. GCSAA CEO Rhett Evans and EPA Mid Atlantic Regional Administrator Adam Ortiz signed the agreeement. Photos by Scott Hollister.

Langston Golf Course sits on about 145 acres on the east side of Washington, D.C., a green oasis on the banks of the Anacostia River surrounded on three other sides by the trappings of one of America’s biggest cities. Since its founding in 1939, Langston has catered to a largely Black audience, offering them and other urban golfers a spot to enjoy the game, the environment and an idyllic greenspace normally dominated by concrete, honking horns and railroad tracks.

Considering all that, Langston seemed an appropriate host for an event that would codify a relationship that for decades has strived to make golf greener and, by extension, more attractive to a diverse base of golfers. Calling it a “pinnacle moment,” GCSAA on Monday signed a memorandum of understanding with the U.S. EPA pledging a commitment to environmental stewardship on golf courses everywhere.

“When Col. John Morley founded GCSAA, he famously said, ‘No life is or can be self-existent. We depend upon each other,’” said GCSAA CEO Rhett Evans in remarks at the signing ceremony. “I think Mr. Morley would be proud of this moment where GCSAA, a group of superintendents 19,000 strong around the globe, are coming together in a partnership with the EPA.”

The relationship between GCSAA and the EPA is not a new one. For years, the association’s advocacy efforts have focused on forging relationships with legislators and regulators with the goal of creating a better understanding of golf course management and the job of the superintendent.

The agreement signed Monday enhances that commitment to share information on environmental issues, best practices and industry challenges to promote best management practices on golf properties that protect and enhance the environment.

“Our biggest advances in protecting human health and the environment come from working together,” said EPA Mid Atlantic Regional Administrator Adam Ortiz.  “This partnership with GCSAA will go a long way in benefitting surrounding communities while also enhancing our ongoing dedication to greenspaces, clean water and healthy air.

“This is not just a piece of paper. It represents partnership, it represents history, it represents sustainability.”

Rhett Evans speaking at MOU signing event
Rhett Evans said in remarks at the signing event that this agreement represents a moment of union between the EPA and 19,000 golf course superintendents around the globe.

The MOU outlines partnership opportunities for the following priority EPA areas:

  • Environmental stewardship, including controlling stormwater runoff and sustainability.
  • Environmental justice.
  • Improved pollinator sites.
  • Children’s and public health.
  • Environmental and STEM education.

Samantha Beers, the EPA’s director, office of communities, tribes and environmental assessment, has been on the front lines of previous conversations between the EPA and GCSAA. She says the goals and objectives shared by the two entities were clear from the start, which paved the way for Monday’s announcement.

“We had a couple of beginning conversations and realized just how much of an overlap of goals our organizations shared,” she said. “Anytime we find that overlap, we try to figure out how to keep it going, and GCSAA’s openness and willingness to entertain an MOU was huge for us. The signing of the agreement today allows us to continue the dialogue and share additional information, which is what this is all about.”

Others who spoke during the signing ceremony included Chava McKeel, GCSAA’s director, government affairs; Drew Matera, a 21-year GCSAA member who is the Class A director of agronomy for the city’s three public golf courses, including Langston; Craig Kirby with Golf. My Future. My Game; and Tommy Wells, the director of Washington D.C.’s Department of Energy and Environment.

Scott Hollister is editor-in-chief of GCM.