The GCSAA Conference and Trade Show returned to Phoenix for the first time since 1987 and was well received. Attendance rivaled that of Orlando 2023 with nearly 11,000 attendees and over 6,600 seminar seats filled, representing the highest total since 2008. In addition to education for superintendents, the event also included specialized education for assistant superintendents, equipment managers, students and more. The diverse educational offerings included traditional classroom settings as well as seven Interactive Facility Tours at golf courses in the Phoenix area.
The trade show floor, spanning 352,000 square feet of exhibit space at the Phoenix Convention Center was sold-out and featured 470 exhibits.
The week began with the GCSAA Golf Championships presented by Toro. 2024 was the 30th consecutive year of Toro’s sponsorship. 638 unique golfers participated in the sold-out event, providing golfers an opportunity to have fun, meet new people, renew old friendships, and compete in various flighted competitions across six golf courses. Seth Strickland, director of agronomy at Miami Beach (Fla.) Golf Club, was the winner of the 2024 National Championship, making him a six-time winner of the event. Joshua Troutman, golf course superintendent at Crestview Country Club Wichita, Kan., won the Golf Classic.
Among the highlights, the conference featured the launch of Golf’s Sustainability Showcase, a collaboration of the GCBAA, GCSAA, USGA and ASGCA. The Showcase featured interactive displays highlighting research, innovation, technology, and best practices, as well as storytellers bringing to life the sustainability efforts and progress made throughout the golf industry.
On Wednesday, the Sunrise Celebration, presented in partnership with Syngenta, saw Dottie Pepper receive GCSAA’s Old Tom Morris Award and Tenia Workman, executive director of the Georgia Golf Course Superintendents Association, win the Outstanding Contribution Award, to begin the day.
Then, during the Trade Show Grand Opening event, attendees witnessed the announcement of a $1 million gift from Mike and Tami Hoffman to GCSAA First Green. The Hoffmans’ donation will power GCSAA’s STEAM Ahead initiative enabling First Green to integrate arts to its existing STEM curriculum to reach more students by offering STEAM education as part of its hands-on learning on golf courses.
The donation will also serve to broaden the program’s reach to high school students and add more GCSAA member First Green Liaisons. In addition, the donation will provide classroom grants, ensuring the infusion of STEAM curriculum into classrooms hosting a First Green event. Students from Arizona Jobs for America’s Graduates (JAG) at Tonopah (Ariz.) Valley High School were invited to attend and were presented with the first classroom grant to use as part of their JAG STEAM education.
Later in the day, at the conclusion of the popular Ladies Leading Turf session, presented in partnership with Syngenta, it was announced that the program will be rebranded in 2025 to Leading Turf Together to emphasize togetherness while maintaining focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Wednesday also featured the 2024 GCSAA Turf Bowl, presented in partnership with John Deere. Purdue University Team 51 won the 2024 Turf Bowl, which was the 30th anniversary of the competition. The Turf Bowl competition included 63 teams from 28 universities.
Thursday saw the trade show continue and the conclusion of the overall event with the GCSAA Send-Off Celebration, presented in partnership with John Deere. The highlight of the Send-Off Celebration was the presentation of the GCSAA Col. John Morley Award to retired superintendent William “Bill” Murray along with the presentation of the Emerging Leader Award to Richie Kremer and the GCSAA President’s Award for Environmental Stewardship to Wayne Mills. The event ended with a keynote speech by Brendan McDonough, who inspired the movie “Only the Brave” and survived the Yarnell Hill Wildfire that killed 19 of his fellow Granite Mountain Hotshots firefighters in 2013. McDonough shared his story of perseverance and overcoming tragedy. McDonough also recognized how golf, through its charitable aspects and ability to bring communities together, plays a significant role in the healing process for millions who suffer from tragedy and acknowledged the audience’s role in providing these healing opportunities through the courses they manage.
The GCSAA Conference and Trade Show is produced by the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA) along with its presenting partners the Golf Course Builders Association of America (GCBAA), United States Golf Association (USGA) and the American Society of Golf Course Architects (ASGCA).
The 2025 GCSAA Conference and Trade Show will head to San Diego Feb. 3-6, 2025, at the San Diego Convention Center.