Turf Club takes home top honors at national competitions


Courtesy of Marcus O'Brien

The Turf Club took home a $1,000 spirit award at the GCSAA Turf Bowl.

Megan Behrends

Iowa State’s Turf Club is made up of 20 students who are interested in the field of turf grass management, lawn care, sports field management or anything involving the maintenance of grass or turf. 

Marcus O’Brien, senior in horticulture, is the president of the Turf Club and Thomas Gould, also a senior in horticulture, represents the club in the CALS Council. 

While the Turf Club meets bi-weekly and brings in speakers from the industry to share their knowledge, experiences and various internship opportunities for the students, the main focus is competing in the Sports Turf Managers Association Competition (STMA) and the Golf Industry Show Turf Bowl (GIS) sponsored through the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA).

These two events are collegiate challenges that test students over turf grass identification, selection, morphology, soils, fertility, irrigation, drainage, mathematics, integrated pest management, sports field/golf course management, equipment parts, administration and industry.

At the Sports Turf Managers Association Competition, 21 teams of four competed for the top award of a $5,000 check to bring back to their collegiate clubs. Iowa State’s Turf Club team of Alex Polnow, Kylah Crooks, Marcus O’Brien and Thomas Gould placed first for the second year in a row.  

“[I enjoy] STMA because we are able to go down [to the competition] as a community and network with people from all over the country that are within the same profession,” O’Brien said.

At the Golf Industry Show Turf Bowl, 63 teams from across the nation competed for four days while attending educational sessions, trade shows and interacting with professionals. The Iowa State team of Alex Polnow, Aaron Butler, Jarret Chapman and Thomas Gould won the second-place prize of $2,000. 

To fundraise for their trips, the club helps Reiman Gardens fertilize, as well as help take care of local lawns. By reaching out to the community, the Turf Club continues to gain hands-on experiences while making a difference in the community.

Turf grass management is a behind-the-scenes profession that has a hand in many different avenues, ranging from major league sports to golf courses and parks and recreation. The Turf Club is a resource for students interested in that industry to learn more about what their future careers look like.

“I enjoy being in the club [because I] get to know everyone in the horticulture department, network professionally, and interact with current professionals,” Gould said.