Turf Bowl: Have trophy, will travel

The 2019 Turf Bowl championship team from Penn State is eager to hit road to volunteer at this month’s AT&T Byron Nelson.


Penn State Turf Bowl
For the fourth time in five years, Penn State University students won GCSAA’s Collegiate Turf Bowl. Shown from left are 2018 GCSAA President Darren Davis, CGCS; Penn State faculty adviser Ben McGraw, Ph.D.; the members of the winning team — Nicholas Chamberlin, Alex Hendler, Seth Re and Ian Patterson; and Manny Gan, John Deere director of global golf. Photo by Montana Pritchard

Team No. 61 was thrilled to put the happy back in Happy Valley.

Penn State’s team of Ian Patterson, Alex Hendler, Seth Re and Nicholas Chamberlin won the 2019 GCSAA Collegiate Turf Bowl Competition, presented in partnership with John Deere Golf, back in February at the Golf Industry Show in San Diego.

Penn State certainly is no stranger to the top of the Turf Bowl podium. The Nittany Lions won three straight Turf Bowl titles, from 2015 to 2017, and had four other top 10 finishes in that span. But the 2018 trophy went to Auburn University — its first — and the Penn Staters were determined to reclaim the crown.

“It meant a lot to us,” says Patterson, whose brother, Kyle, was on the winning 2015 Turf Bowl team. “It looks a lot better in our turf room.”

The title translated to more than a trophy. It also brought fortune — the winning team gets $4,000, and Penn State’s fourth- and fifth-place teams, also advised by Ben McGraw, Ph.D., added $1,500 to the haul — and fame.

Members of the winning Turf Bowl team were also invited to volunteer to work on the grounds crew at a PGA Tour stop. Traditionally, that venue had been the Players Championship, but that event’s move from May to March this year caused a conflict, as those on the top Turf Bowl team were still toiling away at school then.

So instead, this year, the winners were invited to work the AT&T Byron Nelson, which runs May 9-12 at Trinity Forest Golf Course in Dallas. Kasey Kauff, GCSAA Class A superintendent and 16-year association member, is Trinity Forest’s director of grounds.

School will be over by the time the Byron Nelson rolls around — but just barely. Chamberlin graduated at semester and is already working an internship in Tampa Bay, Fla., so he won’t make the trip to Dallas. The other three Turf Bowl champs spent all of this week immersed in finals. Patterson still has another semester of school to go, but Hendler and Re expect to graduate on Sunday. Graduation festivities have delayed the threesome’s departure for Dallas until Monday.

“I’m excited,” Re says. “We’ve been in class the entire year. I’m excited to get back on a golf course, get my hands dirty and work. ... I think we’re all excited to be doing a Tour event. We’re just thankful John Deere is sending us down there. It’s recognition for all the hard work we put in.”

The three expect to reach Dallas after dark Monday, and it’ll still be dark when they report for duty not-so-bright and early Tuesday morning. They’ll get their first look at Trinity Forest that morning, although they have already studied up on it a bit as their schooling has allowed.

“It’s built on a landfill,” Re says. “I know that. There are a lot of native areas, and it’s a links-y style golf course. I’ve seen pictures. ... I’ve done a little research on social media.”

The three won’t know their specific duties until Tuesday. Patterson says he has worked a PGA Tour stop previously, but the other two haven’t.

“I don’t have any PGA Tour experience,” Hendler says. “I’m interested to see how the superintendent deals with the (volunteers’) varying levels of experience.”

“I have worked one PGA Tour event in the past,” Patterson adds, “so I have a little idea about how it works. It will be interesting to see the similarities.”

Andrew Hartsock is GCM’s managing editor.