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Horton, Tanto honored with GCSAA Distinguished Service Awards

The celebrated superintendent and the irrigation industry leader will be recognized at the 2019 Golf Industry Show in San Diego.

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GCSAA Distinguished Service Awards

Golf course superintendent Edward “Ted” Horton, CGCS (left), and golf course irrigation contractor Tamas “Tom” Tanto (right) have been selected to receive 2019 Col. John Morley Distinguished Service Awards from GCSAA.

The pair will be recognized at the 2019 Golf Industry Show on Feb. 6 during the Opening Session, presented in partnership with Syngenta, at the San Diego Convention Center.

The Distinguished Service Award (DSA) is given to individuals who have made an outstanding, substantive and enduring contribution to the advancement of the golf course superintendent profession. The award was renamed in 2009 in honor of Col. John Morley, GCSAA’s founder and first president. He was the first to earn the Distinguished Service Award, in 1932, and he received it again in 1940.

“Ted and Tom rose to the highest levels of their respective fields through hard work and dedication to the golf industry, in keeping with the legacy of Col. John Morley,” says Rhett Evans, GCSAA CEO. “Their contributions have not only been to the benefit of superintendents, but to the wider world of golf.”

Ted Horton, CGCS

A 51-year GCSAA member and Certified Golf Course Superintendent since 1975, Horton now serves as the senior consulting superintendent for BrightView Golf Course Maintenance. Though Horton’s résumé reads like a list of America’s top golf courses, the seeds for success in the U.S. were sown when he was studying agricultural biology at Macdonald College of McGill University in his native Canada. Horton was working at a golf club his parents belonged to when architect Geoffrey Cornish suggested that Horton head to the University of Massachusetts for a degree in turf management.

At UMass, students were tasked with finding an internship that would provide “the best reputation for success.” Horton wound up under the tutelage of legendary superintendent (and fellow DSA winner) Sherwood A. Moore, CGCS, at New York’s Winged Foot Golf Club. An assistant position at Winged Foot followed Horton’s UMass graduation, but Moore left the club later that year. And so, at age 23, Horton was named head superintendent at one of the nation’s preeminent golf clubs.

“I was comfortable, I took meticulous notes, and I was fortunate that Sherwood continued to be a mentor and consultant for six months after he left,” Horton says.

After 12 years at Winged Foot, which included hosting the 1972 U.S. Women’s Open and 1974 U.S. Open, Horton moved to Westchester Country Club in Rye, N.Y., overseeing a complete renovation of the historic club that hosted the PGA Tour’s Westchester Classic for 40 years. Then, intrigued by the growth of multicourse management companies, Horton served as vice president of The Fairways Group for two years until the company was sold. In 1993, a call from architect Tom Fazio led Horton to California as director of course operations for the Pebble Beach Co. Within three months, he had risen to the position of vice president of resource management for the Pebble Beach Co., where he oversaw preparations for the 1999 U.S. Amateur, the 2000 U.S. Open and multiple AT&T events.

“I have had the chance to work at a golf club, a country club, a golf resort and a multicourse operation,” Horton says. “I like to think I have done it all.”

Horton has received many industry accolades, including GCSAA’s President’s Award for Environmental Stewardship in 1999 and the USGA Green Section Award in 2008.

“The fact that your peers recognize you is exciting,” Horton says of winning the DSA. “You try to keep your boss happy and your club happy, but it is impressive being recognized by the people who really understand the hard work that goes into it.”

Horton lives in Canyon Lake, Calif., with his wife, Nancy. They have two adult sons, Tim and Chris.

Tom Tanto

Like Horton, Tanto’s story begins abroad. Tanto came to the United States from Hungary as an 18-year-old in the aftermath of World War II.

“I hardly spoke a word of English, and I knew I would have to work hard to make it,” Tanto says. “I got a job washing dishes, and I have had a job every day since.”

After learning the language and serving in the U.S. Air Force Reserve Command, he earned a degree in civil engineering from the University of Pittsburgh in 1967. While working on a golf course project for Dravo Corp., Tanto became intrigued by the game. He not only bought a set of Doug Ford golf clubs from Sears to learn with, but he built a golf course on the family land of his wife, Susan.

With a $5,000 loan, he formed Tanto Construction and Supply, with a focus on irrigation installations. Over the next 32 years, with Tanto at the helm, the company would grow to 160 employees, and its clients would be some of the biggest names in the industry. Tanto has worked on 25 of Golf Digest’s Top 100 Courses and other courses of note, including Baltusrol, Congressional, Oakmont and The Country Club at Brookline. Along the way, he has worked closely with superintendents around the country.

“I love the industry and I admire superintendents,” Tanto says. “I know how much devotion it requires to be a superintendent. They have to produce, and they come up with an incredible product.”

Through his work, Tanto also developed a friendship and working relationship with architect Rees Jones, and Jones says the respect Tanto has for superintendents is mutual.

“Tamas Tanto is deeply immersed in the golf industry and much beloved by all,” says Jones. “His encouragement and generosity of spirit, with never an ill word about anyone, has made him somewhat of a legend among superintendents.”

Since retiring from running the company, Tanto is still involved in many projects in the industry, including owning Totteridge Golf Club in Greensburg, Pa. He and Susan live in Greensburg, and have three children, daughters Ann and Jamie, and son Danny, who studied turfgrass management at Penn State University.

GCSAA’s DSA is among the many honors — which include the University of Pittsburgh Distinguished Alumni Award — that have been bestowed upon a man who embodies the American Dream.

“I was always willing to do whatever it took,” Tanto says. “So to be recognized by the people I respect so much for their hard work, it means a lot. It is just really humbling.”

The GCSAA Board of Directors selects the DSA winners from nominations submitted by affiliated chapters and association members.

View the complete list of past Col. John Morley Distinguished Service Award recipients.

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