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GCSAA Distinguished Service Awards to Recognize Longtime Turfgrass Science Professors

Longtime turfgrass science professors Nick Christians, Ph.D., and Patricia Vittum, Ph.D., along with Brent Wadsworth, whose company has built more than 850 golf courses, have been selected to receive 2017 Col. John Morley Distinguished Service Awards from the GCSAA. The three will be recognized during the Opening Session, presented in partnership with Syngenta, on Feb. 7 at the 2017 Golf Industry Show (GIS) in Orlando.

The award 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.

“These three embody what the Col. John Morley Distinguished Service Award represents,” said GCSAA President Peter Grass, a certified golf course superintendent (CGCS). “They have made significant contributions to the game through research, teaching and golf course construction. In a variety of ways, these individuals have dedicated themselves to the broader advancement of the superintendent profession.”

Christians, 67, has taught horticulture and turfgrass management at Iowa State University for the past 37 years, encouraging more than 1,000 students to consider careers as golf course superintendents or in related fields. Eight of his former students are also currently college faculty members in the field of study, including one at his alma mater of The Ohio State University, where he earned his Ph.D.

“I am very pleased to receive this award. It was a surprise,” said Christians, who was a golf course superintendent in Colorado from 1972-74 before going to graduate school. “I would like to thank my former students who nominated me for this award. Working with students has been a joy. I still love my job and enjoying coming to work every day.”

Christians has done important research on turfgrass fertility, weed control and natural herbicides, and he has been recognized with numerous industry awards. He has received the Iowa State Horticultural Society Honor Award, the Fred Grau Turfgrass Research Award from the Crop Science Society of America, the Distinguished Service Award from the Iowa GCSA and the Meritorious Service Award from the Iowa Turfgrass Institute. In addition, he has supported GCSAA as an instructor at GIS since 1983 and has been a member of the association for 22 years.

Vittum, 65, joined the faculty at the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 1980, becoming a professor in 2000. She currently teaches classes on the use of pesticides and turfgrass management. She was recognized with the Excellence in Teaching Award by the Entomological Society of America, Eastern Branch, in 2004. She also received the USGA Green Section Award in 2015 for her work with turfgrass.“I wasn’t expecting this,” said Vittum, the first woman to receive the award. “This one really snuck up on me. When I look at the list of winners, it reads like a ‘Who’s Who’ of golf course management. I am humbled to have my name added to the list.”

A native of western New York who studied at Cornell University, where she earned a Ph.D. in entomology in 1980, Vittum has conducted significant research on the biology and management of turfgrass insects, especially the bluegrass weevil, and the effectiveness of biological-control methods. An 11-year GCSAA member, she has been an instructor at GIS since 1988 and has traveled worldwide to deliver her expertise to others in the turfgrass management field.

Wadsworth, 87, graduated from the University of Illinois with a degree in landscape architecture. He soon turned his interest in golf course architecture into his own company that has helped construct and renovate hundreds of golf courses over the past 55 years. His company has worked on remodeling projects at Augusta National, The Greenbrier, Castle Pines in Denver and Shadow Creek in Las Vegas.

“I am deeply honored and very appreciative of this award,” said Wadsworth. “I have been a great supporter of GCSAA for as long as I can remember.”

A 58-year member of GCSAA, Wadsworth has been recognized previously for his contributions to the game and his alma mater. He is a member of the Illinois Golf Hall of Fame and a recipient of the Donald Ross Award from the American Society of Golf Course Architects. He also earned an Alumni Lifetime Achievement Award from the University of Illinois. And his Wadsworth Golf Charities Foundation, established in 1997, has made numerous gifts and grants to help others less fortunate.

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