Charles Granville “Charlie” Wilson

August 1, 1920 – September 23, 2013

By USGA Green Section
October 4, 2013

The following is excerpted from Monroe Miller’s article written on November 6, 2012 and published in Golf Course Industry magazine on October 4, 2013. To read the entire article, please click here.  


Charlie Wilson is a member of the “greatest generation.” World War II broke out while his family was living in Washington, D.C. He enlisted in the Navy, served 37 months in the Pacific and at one point served under a guy who later became U.S. President – John F. Kennedy. The war ended and Charlie returned home and enrolled in the University of Maryland. Despite an urban upbringing, he chose agriculture as his major and area of study.

Trips through Washington’s nicer neighborhoods got him to wondering if some of the residents might need help with their yard work. Cold calls led to a lawn business, a nice supplement to his GI Bill. He soon figured out he needed to know more about grass and turf, a conclusion that led him to the USDA Plant Industry Section in Beltsville, Md., just a short distance away. At that time the USGA Green Section had an office there. The resources on turf science and practices were extensive, but rules wouldn’t allow reading material to leave the building. So Charlie was there for many hours, reading past Green Section Records, other journals and books. He was fascinated by the literature and the science of turf.

Dr. Fred Grau, The Green Section Director, couldn’t help but take an interest in Charlie, going so far as to offer him a summer job. To do so, Charlie hired college kids to keep his lawn care business going and stuck with the USGA job, too, until he graduated in 1950 with a B.S. degree in agronomy. It was at this time that Dr. Grau and the USGA offered him a job as a full-time agronomist.

He stayed in Maryland for about a year before he was reassigned to California to gauge interest out there in a visiting agronomist service for USGA member clubs. There indeed was, and Charlie opened the first office of the Turf Advisory Service in Davis. From there he covered California as well as all of the states east to Colorado.

Three years after Charlie had opened the Davis office, the well-traveled O.J. Noer hired him and Charlie moved to Wisconsin. And as they say, the rest is history. Charlie spent the next quarter century with Milorganite and retired in 1979.

Charlie Wilson has a pioneering place in our industry’s turfgrass profession. And in a sense, all of the Green Section agronomists since him are his descendants.

Monroe Miller is a retired golf course superintendent. He spent 36 years as superintendent at Blackhawk Country Club in Madison, Wis. He continues to serve as a USGA Green Section committeeman.


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