GCSAA announces 2023 Environmental Leaders in Golf Award winners

By |  October 25, 2023 0 Comments

The Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA) named four golf course superintendents the winners of its 2023 Environmental Leaders in Golf Awards (ELGA).

The GCSAA presents the awards in partnership with Syngenta. Eight runners-up also received recognition for their environmental efforts. The awards have recognized superintendents and golf courses around the world for their commitment to environmental stewardship since 1993, but in 2018, the GCSAA updated the ELGAs to recognize more superintendents in more focused areas of environmental sustainability.

Instead of offering national awards based on facility type, the current version of the ELGAs is based on environmental best management practices and honors specific areas of focus. The awards include:

  • The Communications and Outreach Award recognizes effective communication of conservation strategies with facility employees, golfers and other members of the community.
  • The Healthy Land Stewardship Award recognizes effective strategies for the efficient use of pesticides and nutrients, as well as pollution prevention.
  • The Innovative Conservation Award recognizes unique and innovative strategies for conservation.
  • The Natural Resource Conservation Award recognizes effective strategies for water conservation, energy conservation and sound wildlife management.

The 2023 ELGA winners include:

H. Mitchell Wilkerson, CGCS

H. Mitchell Wilkerson, CGCS

Communications and Outreach Award

H. Mitchell Wilkerson, CGCS

Moss Creek Owner’s Association, Hilton Head, S.C.

Wilkerson is the director of golf and grounds maintenance at Moss Creek Golf Club in Hilton Head, S.C. The 39-year GCSAA member has been at Moss Creek since 1999. Moss Creek features two 18-hole courses designed by George and Tom Fazio and certified through the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary for Golf Program in 2012.

Moss Creek acquired certification from the National Wildlife Federation for becoming a “Community Wildlife Habitat” in 2022. The maintenance staff mounted bird/owl/fox squirrel boxes and planted native trees, shrubs and perennials.

Wilkerson and Moss Creek lead several communication efforts about the facilities’ environmental practices. Moss Creek hosts regular speakers in an open community forum, which includes the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources and Clemson University Extension service. There is also communication through social media feeds and a weekly online newsletter, which provide course updates and a “Nature Note.”

On-course signage alerts members and guests to pollinator areas, honeybee spaces, no hunting domains and alligator awareness on the property. The facility hosts nature walks and discussions regarding the way it treats and takes care of nature on the property.

Matthew Gourlay, CGCS, MG

Matthew Gourlay, CGCS, MG

Healthy Land Stewardship Award

Matthew Gourlay, CGCS, MG

Colbert Hills Golf Course, Manhattan, Kan.

Gourlay has obtained certification by the GCSAA as a Certified Golf Course Superintendent (CGCS) and by the British and International Golf Greenskeepers Association (BIGGA) as a Master Greenskeeper (MG).

The 21-year GCSAA member and third-generation superintendent is the director of golf course operations at Colbert Hills Golf Course. Gourlay was on the cart crew at age 14 when the course opened in 2000 and he was named superintendent in 2007.

Gourlay was the recipient of the 2019 Natural Resource Conservation Award and the 2018 Innovative Conservation Award.

Jim Pavonetti, CGCS

Jim Pavonetti, CGCS

Innovative Conservation Award

Jim Pavonetti, CGCS

Fairview Country Club, Greenwich, Conn.

Pavonetti is a 28-year GCSAA member and has served as the golf course superintendent at Fairview Country Club since 2008.

One of Pavonetti’s environmental innovations involves the property’s ponds. His use of barley straw and dye to create clean ponds has reduced herbicide usage by 90 percent. His team uses a combination of air diffusers, black pond dye and barley straw to reduce algae blooms. The limiting of inputs saved the club an average of $9,000 per year and has reduced aquatic applications by more than 90 percent.

These efforts keep the ponds clean as they eventually drain into the Long Island Sound via a river. The program benefits neighbors, the community and saves money. In addition, Pavonetti has created more pollinator areas on the course and instigated more hand watering in fairways to reduce water usage.

Landon Lindsay

Landon Lindsay

Natural Resource Conservation

Landon Lindsay

The Nelson Golf and Sports Club, Irving, Texas

Lindsay is the golf course superintendent at the Sports Club of Las Colinas in Irving, Texas. The 12-year GCSAA member oversees two 18-hole facilities, including TPC Las Colinas and Cottonwood Valley. The facility has received numerous environmental awards over the years, including the 2017 National Private Course ELGA from GCSAA.

Lindsay and his team have made great efforts to convert out-of-play areas into native/pollinator areas, replace turf with grass that requires less water, replace plants with those that are native and drought tolerant and use organic and stone mulch to prevent erosion and conserve water.

Lindsay created goals to be more efficient with water usage, while also using reclaimed water. They also worked to improve reaction to flash floods and improve water quality through buffer zones, use of aquatic plants and pond dyes.

The property has a wildlife habitat with more than 43 different bird species, 20 different mammals and 15 various reptiles and amphibians.

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