2012 Special Award

Remember the movie that asked “Who ya gonna call” when disaster strikes?   Ghostbusters! was the answer.

Unlike the movie team of Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis, when disease,  bugs, ice cover, flooding, drought or scorching heat strikes emerald fairways, greens and  knee-high rough, the call goes to Michigan State University's Turfgrass Team, golf's Ghostbusters.

Golf is big business in Michigan and playing conditions can make or break courses which are the foundation of the industry. A 2006 study said direct and indirect results of golf amounted to $4.2 billion with $1.4 billion going for wages. Fifty-four thousand jobs were created, $184 million was raised for charities and 28,000 acres of forests and wetlands providing wildlife habitat were protected.

Michigan State's turf research goes back to the 1880s and has continued to today's internationally leading role. Dr. James Beard, who served at MSU from 1961-1975, is regarded as the godfather of the present programs that have resulted in four-year and two-year degrees in turfgrass science. The goals are research, education and extensions.

The eight-man Turfgrass Team, each with a doctorate in specialties such as plant pathology, entomology (bugs), nutrients and soils,  has visited and helped improve the quality of turf in 26 countries, hitting every continent but grassless Antarctica. Of the 26, Dr. Joseph Vargas has worked in all but Brazil and Russia.

“We get involved in renovation and new golf course construction both here and overseas,” Vargas said. “The top grass problems every year are ice damage on Poa annua greens and fairways, crown rot anthracnose on greens, summer patch on greens, bacterial wilt on both creeping bentgrass and Poa annua greens, moss on greens and tree problems that don't allow morning sun during July.”

Turf Team members are Dr. Jim Crum, Dr. Kevin Frank, Dr. David Gilstrap, Yusong Mu, Dr. Thomas Nicolai, Dr. John (Trey) Rogers, Dr. David Smitley and Dr. Vargas. Recently retired Dr. Paul Rieke, known coast to coast by MSU alumni superintendents, keeps an ear close to the ground.

MSU Turf Team Memorabilia
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