Bob Farren wins GCSAA’s inaugural Col. John Morley Award

An extensive résumé of industry service has complemented the 41-year GCSAA member’s distinguished career at Pinehurst Resort.


Bob Farren Pinehurst Resort

Bob Farren Jr., CGCS, director of golf course and ground management at Pinehurst (N.C.) Resort, will be honored with the 2022 Col. John Morley Award from GCSAA.

The Col. John Morley Award, named for GCSAA’s founder, was revamped in 2021 and will now be presented annually to an individual who is or who has been a GCSAA Class A or B superintendent member and has made a significant contribution to the advancement of the golf course superintendent profession. The contribution must be significant in both substance and duration.

The Morley Award joins the status of GCSAA’s other Pinnacle Award, the Old Tom Morris Award, which will now be limited to those outside of the GCSAA membership who have helped mold the welfare of the game.

Farren, a 41-year GCSAA member, seemed destined to be in the golf industry as he grew up watching his father, Bob Farren Sr., serve as superintendent at Big Bend Golf Course in Tornado, W.Va.

“I really never had any desire to do anything but this,” Farren says. “I don’t know why — probably because I spent so much time at the golf course with my father and his friends. They were like uncles to me, so it was like one big family. I just grew up going there since I was 8, 9, 10 years old. In my high school years, I worked on the golf course, then we’d play on the golf course. It was just a big fraternity of people.”

Upon graduation from Marshall University, Farren went to work as supervisor of golf courses and grounds for Kanawha County (W.Va.) Parks. Three years later, Pinehurst came calling. In 1982, Farren became assistant superintendent on Pinehurst’s No. 1 and No. 4 courses, and he was promoted to superintendent of No. 4 for 1983-84. After a nine-month stint at Barry Hills Country Club in Charleston, W.Va., Farren returned to Pinehurst for good in 1985. It has been a steady climb ever since: superintendent on No. 2 and No. 6 in 1985; assistant director of golf courses and grounds from 1986 to 2001; director of golf courses and grounds in 2001; and director of golf course and grounds management since 2008.

During Farren’s tenure, Pinehurst No. 2 earned the distinction as the site of more golf championships than any other course in the U.S., having hosted the U.S. Open, PGA Championship, Ryder Cup and PGA Tour Championship. Farren has been involved in 14 USGA championships, including three U.S. Opens, and was crucial in executing the unprecedented double of 2014, in which No. 2 hosted the U.S. Open and the U.S. Women’s Open in consecutive weeks. And there are more to come: The USGA announced last year that Pinehurst would serve as an “anchor site” for the U.S. Open, to be played on No. 2 in 2024, 2029, 2035, 2041 and 2047.

Farren’s contributions to the golf industry extend far beyond high-profile events. Among the other accolades Farren has received include GCSAA’s President’s Award for Environmental Stewardship in 2007; Golf Digest’s Green Star Award for outstanding environmental practices in 2014; Anuvia’s Legends Award in 2018; and induction into the Carolinas Golf Hall of Fame in 2018.

“Bob truly embodies all that the Morley Award represents,” says GCSAA CEO Rhett Evans. “His impact on the game has been seen by millions around the world who have watched televised championship events at Pinehurst, but he has had a more direct influence on those whom he has mentored and the many ways he has volunteered his time to give back to the industry.”

In addition to being involved with the GCSAA Foundation for years and serving on various GCSAA committees, Farren is or has been a USGA Green Section committee member, on the Green Start Academy advisory board, a member of the Musser International Turfgrass Foundation board of directors, a board member of the First Tee of the Sandhills, and chair of the Village of Pinehurst Historic Preservation Commission.

“I hope I’ve been a positive mentor to people,” Farren says. “I’ve found that you intentionally pay it back, that it’s second nature to you, only if you truly enjoy what you’re doing. I feel strongly about that, regardless of your profession. I always try to make the point with my assistants in particular, that it’s important to be part of the community. When you’re part of the community, people look at you in a different light. You’re part of the community, not just the guy who takes care of the golf course.”

Farren will formally receive the Col. John Morley Award Feb. 8 as part of the Opening Session of the 2022 GCSAA Conference and Trade Show in San Diego.

Read more about Farren and his career in the December 2021 issue of GCM.

Photo by Tim Sayer/Pinehurst Resort