A love of turf maintenance born on the baseball fields of Summerville and developed at some of South Carolina’s most notable golf courses led John “Billy” Bagwell to a coveted honor.
This fall, Bagwell was elected president of the Carolinas Golf Course Superintendent’s Association. His journey to the position included stops at Clemson’s Walker Course and the highly awarded Callawassie Island Club in Okatie, where he currently serves as golf course superintendent.
Starting at a young age, Bagwell accompanied his father Howie to area baseball fields to prep the grounds for summer seasons. At the time, Howie served as the athletic director for the Summerville YMCA.
From the baseball and soccer fields of his youth, Bagwell leveraged his early experience, convincing officials at Fort Dorchester High School to allow him a part-time job maintaining the school’s ballpark. He was also an all-region infielder for the Patriots’ baseball team.
Deciding to make this his “field” of study, Clemson University’s turf major was the obvious choice. At Clemson, Bagwell learned from mentor Don Garrett, who was and still is the Walker Course superintendent. Bagwell graduated with a degree in Turf Grass.
After internships at Long Cove and Kiawah Island, he became the assistant superintendent at Callawassie Island Club in 2007.
“I love working on coastal golf courses,” Bagwell said. “Baseball is the same every day – there’s not as much variety. Golf is different. There’s a larger acreage and so many things you can do to make it react differently. I get to see a gorgeous sunrise every day.”
Bagwell was promoted to superintendent when the position was vacated and since has taken on “Island wide community maintenance” as Callawassie Island’s director of agronomy. Noticed and celebrated for his impact during his tenure, he has led several environmental endeavors such as the island’s work to become designated a Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary in 2017 – one of only 23 in South Carolina.
His commitment and leadership led to him being elected to the Carolinas Golf Course Superintendent’s Association Board in 2015. He served as director before being nominated to join the executive committee, starting as secretary/treasurer and advancing to VP. Traditionally a one-year office, his role was extended an additional year during the pandemic, bringing him to the fall of 2021 when he was elected president.
As his first act, Bagwell celebrated the camaraderie and valued community that taught him “how much people are willing to help one another.”
During his presidential address in Myrtle Beach at the CGCSA Conference and Trade Show, Bagwell stated, “I am so honored to serve alongside so many great people. The Carolinas GCSA is made up of many incredible people and we saw this week what happens when people work together to chase the same dream. Thank you for this honor to serve as the next President of CGCSA. People need people, and it was evident this week that we are all better together.”