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Off the Record: Thank you is not enough

By |  March 11, 2021 0 Comments
Headshot: Mike Kenna

Mike Kenna

It was a pleasant surprise when GCSAA President John Fulling called me to share the news that I would receive the 2021 Colonel John Morley Distinguished Service Award. Thank you, John and the GCSAA board of directors, for selecting me for this award.

I want to take a few minutes to recognize the people who have guided me throughout the years.

My biology teacher, John Salyer, saw my interest in science and encouraged me. He even hired me to work in his sideline taxidermy business.

While working with the GCSAA staff on my background, I learned about the passing of Dave Fleming, the superintendent at Singing Hills Golf Resort, who hired me when I was 15 years old. Dave encouraged me to go to California State Polytechnic University (Cal Poly), Pomona, to study how to become a golf course superintendent. Thank you, Dave; rest in peace.

At Cal Poly, Dr. Kent Kurtz gave me the push to attend graduate school. He put me in touch with Dr. Wayne Huffine and Dr. Charles Taliaferro at Oklahoma State University. I owe a lot to these professors, especially Dr. Taliaferro, who has mentored me throughout my career. Thanks, Doc!

After graduating with my Ph.D. from Oklahoma State University, Dr. Milt Engelke took a chance to hire me on his USGA Zoysiagrass research grant at Texas A&M University.

While working for Dr. Engelke, I had the pleasure of meeting Bill Bengeyfield, national director of the Green Section, and Dr. Jim Watson, vice president of research with the Toro Co. Bill and Dr. Watson both shaped my career, as well as many others, and deserve our gratitude.

After working two years for Dr. Engelke, I was fortunate to get back to Oklahoma State University as the state turfgrass Extension specialist. I was reunited with Dr. Taliaferro, who had just received a USGA grant to breed cold-hardy bermudagrass for golf courses. By the way, seven game-changing cultivars were developed by his breeding program.

In 1990, I left Oklahoma State University to take a USGA Green Section agronomist job in Florida under John Foy. Before starting the job, the new national director for the Green Section, Jim Snow, asked me to be the Green Section Research Program director.

It was sad news to hear about Jim’s passing in November. He was my boss, but also a good friend.

The next 30 years went by too quickly. We are fortunate to have the most outstanding agricultural universities in the world. It has been an honor to work with hundreds of professors, staff and graduate students during my time as director of Green Section Research.

A big thank you to all of you who did excellent research. Without you, I could not have been successful!

I want everyone to know that the USGA Turfgrass and Environmental Research Committee was instrumental in guiding this monumental program. I believe its members helped change the importance of turfgrass research and Extension programs at our land grant universities. Thank you all for your service as USGA committee members!

I want to thank the Green Section staff, who were terrific colleagues during my years of service with the USGA; what a great group of professionals to work with each year.

Last, my thanks go out to all golf course superintendents. You are the ones who take the research and turn it into the beautiful golf courses we can enjoy. Thank you for what you provide to golf!

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