Superintendents, turf industry professionals and their guests recently gathered to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Northern Ohio GCSA chapter at Westwood Country Club in Rocky River, Ohio. Photo Courtesy of Northern Ohio GCSA
It didn’t take long for GCSAA CEO Rhett Evans to put the evening into a meaningful and historical perspective.
“It’s an honor for me to be here because you are the first,” Evans said to the crowd in his opening remarks at the 100th-anniversary gala of the Northern Ohio GCSA on November 11. “This is it. How cool is that?”
The crowd responded with a solid round of applause.
Evans was the keynote speaker at the gala held at Westwood Country Club in the western Cleveland suburb of Rocky River. In doing so, he put an exclamation point on a marvelous night for the Northern Ohio GCSA members and their spouses, all of whom share a common bond.
It was a night to relive history. It was a night to remember where it all began, when Col. John Morley began his quest of turning the laborious job of greenskeeping into the profession of golf course management and the formation of an organization to promote the skills of its members. “Course management should be seen as an art, not as a labor job,” Morley said in one of his initial speeches.
His words have resonated through time, becoming more evident with every day.
“The superintendent profession has evolved into one that fuses science, art and technology, along with sustainable management practices to ensure the future of the game,” said Evans. “Today, GCSAA members are seen as educated professionals who are essential to golf’s success.”
The NOGCSAA, which began as the Cleveland District Greenskeepers Association, held its first meeting at Youngstown Country Club in May 1923. Fred Burkhart, the greenskeeper at Westwood CC at that time, joined Morley as an early influencer in the new organization.
That led to the founding of the national GCSAA in 1926 — first known as the National Association of Greenkeepers of America. From there, affiliated chapters have been founded all over the country and around the world.
“There are not a lot of firsts,” Evans continued, “but when you think of what has gone on in this industry and this profession and that it all started here, I think we all should take a moment to ponder that. This is a very special time in history, where it all began.”
Evans went on to marvel at Morley’s vision and courage to begin a movement no one had contemplated. He also recognized the Northern Ohio GCSA’s board of directors and the centennial gala committee that worked on the event for the last 11 months before talking about Morley’s courage to take the first steps in forming an organization that now numbers more than 20,000. “We are fortunate that we can look back 100 years and see that Morley had the promise that superintendents could come together to benefit one another.”
GCSAA immediate past president Mark Jordan, vice president Jeff White, CEO Rhett Evans and Great Lakes field staff representative Shane Conroy were among the attendees celebrating Northern Ohio GCSA's centennial anniversary. Photo courtesy of Rhett Evans
Morely, a native of England, became the head greenkeeper at Youngstown Country Club in 1913 at the age of 46 and began to formulate his vision of the future.
“He was a pioneer and had the vision for the association,” Evans said. “From the beginning, he made it clear what he thought the association should be. In his opening speech, he laid out his guiding principles that the association should be founded on justice, brotherhood and generous benevolence.”
Several Northern Ohio GCSA members say they feel brotherhood is one of the bonds that makes the organization as strong as it is. It is a fraternity, a fellowship if you will, that each member cherishes.
“We are a very tight-knit group, and I never would have made it without this organization and what it stands for,” says Charlie Mozingo, who served as head superintendent at Turkeyfoot Lake Golf Links in the Portage Lakes area of Akron, Ohio, for 42 years and was the Northern Ohio GCSA vice president in 2000. “When I first started, I asked everybody for help and a lot of people helped me out. We always shared information and ideas.”
Steve Maclay recently became head superintendent at Ironwood Golf Course after a 17-year career at Valleaire Country Club, both located in Hinckley, Ohio. Ironwood became the ninth golf course in the Cleveland Metroparks domain.
“If I have any issues at all, there isn’t one man or woman in this room that I couldn’t call,” he says, echoing Mozingo’s sentiments. “There are no secrets among us. We’re all in it for the same reasons.”
Evans was not the only speaker that evening. Frank Dobie, who carved out a 56-year career at the Sharon Golf Club in Sharon Center, Ohio as general manager and head agronomist, has two new pursuits since retiring from that position. He is president of the Musser Foundation, which recognizes excellence in turfgrass research, and he has begun recording a biographical history of golf course superintendents.
As such, he recognized some of the significant contributors to the success of the Northern Ohio GCSA, from Morley, Burkhardt, Mal McLaren and G.A. Farley during the early years, to Bill and Bryan Fitch, Michelle Frazier-Fehrer and Mark Jordan, who served as GCSAA’s 85th president, to the present day. When formalities ended, Dobie, 83, and his wife, Penny, were the first on the dance floor, strutting to the music of Nat King Cole and Earth, Wind & Fire. Soon, the floor was full.
To commemorate the evening, guests received a gift bottle of cabernet sauvignon and two sterling-cut stemless wine glasses with the Northern Ohio GCSA logo etched on them. In all, it was a memorable night, worthy of a 100th anniversary.