The following is excerpted from Bruce Williams' article published
in Golf Course Industry magazine on October 3, 2013. To read the entire
article, please click
In a time when few people actually studied turfgrass management or conducted
research, Dr. Watson graduated from Texas A&M with a B.S. in agronomy in
1947. In 1950 he attained his Ph.D. from Penn State University and was
appointed to the position of assistant professor in the department of agronomy
at Penn State University. Dr. Watson taught soil and pasture management and
conducted turfgrass research.
In 1952 Dr. Watson joined Toro and became their first agronomist and held that
position for almost half a century. He was also vice president of customer
relations. A big part of what Dr. Watson did for the company and the industry
was to travel the globe and keep the industry updated on current trends and
technologies that were being developed. In the 1960’s and beyond there would be
standing room only for the many presentations that Dr. Watson made. Although he
represented Toro he was the kind gentleman from the South who seldom mentioned
his brand, but everyone knew that he was Mr. Toro.
During his time at Toro Dr. Watson was involved in many initiatives including
equipment development and evaluations, development of water conservation
technology and the early entry into the home lawn irrigation market.
By the middle of Dr. Watson’s career he was recognized by a number of
organizations for his vast contributions to the turf, sports turf and golf
industries. In 1976 he received the USGA Green Section Award. In 1977 he
received the Agronomic Service Award from the American Society of Agronomy. In
1979 he became a Fellow of the American Society of Agronomy and the Crop
Science of America. In 1991 the Sports Turf Managers Association honored Dr.
Watson with their Harry Gill Memorial Award. In 1995 Dr. Watson received the
highest honor of the GCSAA as they presented him with the Old Tom Morris Award.
He was a member of the USGA Turfgrass and Environmental Research Committee
since 1982 and remained a contributor even in his later years. Dr. Watson was a
board member of the Musser International Turfgrass Foundation and was very
active in the annual selection of the top Ph.D. candidates in the turf
industry. His most recent award was the Donald Rossi Award from the Golf Course
Builders Association of America.
The people at Toro always spoke of Dr. Watson as a pioneer, teacher and legend
in the turfgrass industry. The back yard at Toro HQ became a research facility
for Dr. Watson and other researchers at Toro and is now known as the Dr. James
R. Watson Research & Development Proving Grounds. In 1998 Toro established
the James R. Watson Scholarship to honor Dr. Watson for his many contributions.
Since 1998 many scholarships to deserving people have provided through this endeavor.
We will all miss the smiling face and the twinkle in the eye of one
of the great guys of turf. He lived a long and prosperous life sharing with all
along the way. Always the visionary and always the leader we can be thankful
that our industry is better because of people like Dr. Jim Watson.
Bruce Williams, CGCS, is principal for both Bruce Williams Golf
Consulting and Executive Golf Search. He’s GCI’s senior contributing editor.