Students win golf turf essay contest

Tomy Hillers

Two ISU students will have some extra money in their pockets this fall after placing in the top three spots of a turf management essay contest, which was sponsored by the Golf Course Superintendent Association of America.

Both students were trained by the nation’s second-largest turf management program, said Nick Christians, professor of horticulture.

Marcus Jones, junior in horticulture, placed second in the contest, followed by Aaron Patton, a former graduate student in agronomy, who placed third.

Jones said he plans to use his $1,500 scholarship to help pay for his fall tuition.

Patton said he will apply his $1,000 scholarship to tuition at Purdue, where he plans to obtain a doctorate in turf science management.

“The 7- to 12-page essays were due in March, and were to be based on turf grass and the environment,” Patton said. “Around 20 to 30 people entered the contest and five of those were from ISU.”

Patton gained knowledge of these areas both in the classroom and at golf courses.

“I have worked at four golf courses around the country,” he said. “One of those was Augusta National Golf Course in Augusta, Georgia.”

Patton said while he was working at Augusta National in 1999, he got to drive a putter to golfer Pane Stuart on the practice green.

“That was a pretty exciting part of working at a big course,” he said.

Christians said turf management can be a stressful profession.

“The top courses pay the big money, but they also have a high employee turnover,” he said. “The golf course superintendent position and the assistant positions have very poor job security.”

Christians said most starting superintendent assistants make about $20,000 a year, but they can earn as much as $100,000 at large courses.

“The job requires you to be on the golf course at sunrise,” Christians said.

“After finishing their daily jobs, which include mowing the fairways and greens, and applying pesticides, most assistants leave the course around 2 p.m.,” he said.