Far Hills, N.J. – The United States Golf Association has selected turfgrass scientist Dr. Wayne Hanna, of Chula, Ga., as the recipient of the 2012 USGA Green Section Award for his achievements in developing environmentally friendly grasses that have made a tremendous impact on golf courses around the world.
Presented annually since 1961, the Green Section Award recognizes individuals who have made an outstanding contribution to the game through their work with turfgrass. The USGA Green Section was created in 1920 to conduct research and to collect and distribute information about the proper maintenance and upkeep of golf courses to Member Clubs and courses.
During his 40-year career, Hanna has produced bermudagrasses such as TifSport, TifEagle and TifGrand, all of which are hardier and less costly to maintain, while providing excellent fairway and putting surfaces for the enjoyment of millions of players, including those competing in USGA championships.
“I’ve gotten a lot of feedback over the years,” said Hanna, “but when an honor like this comes from the USGA Green Section, it’s the icing on the cake. The USGA is the leader in making sure these grasses we develop perform to expectations and beyond.”
A native of Texas, Hanna earned multiple degrees, including a Ph.D. in genetics, from Texas A&M University. He settled in Tifton, Ga., in 1971, beginning a long career as a research scientist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the University of Georgia.
Hanna collaborated with Dr. Glenn Burton, recipient of the 1965 USGA Green Section Award, and their breakthroughs over the years are a big reason Tifton is known as the bermudagrass capital of the world. Hanna’s innovations have provided ideal surfaces for home lawns, public spaces and sports fields, including many college football and NFL stadiums.
The golf industry has been one of the biggest benefactors of Hanna’s turfgrass advances, and the USGA’s Green Section staff has worked closely with him for decades, funding his research and consulting with him. The best example of the successful relationship between Hanna and the USGA is the development of TifEagle, which was released in 1998 and offered an improved putting surface for courses in warm climates.
The Plantation Course at The Landings Club, in Savannah, Ga., was the first course in the country to install TifEagle greens. Thirteen years later, The Landings was the host club of the 2011 USGA Women’s State Team Championship, and it had TifEagle on all six courses.
“TifEagle provides a much higher-quality putting surface on a year-round basis,” said Mike Perham, the director of golf course maintenance at The Landings Club. “It allows us to meet the demands of the modern golfer.”
Designed specifically for greens, TifEagle can trace its origins to a Green Section meeting in 1983, when USGA agronomists made Hanna aware of the need for a high-quality bermudagrass for courses in the southern United States.
“I always felt like we were a team,” said Hanna, 68. “It was because of the USGA that I started on TifEagle, and golf people have used it effectively. When you’re watching a golf tournament on TV and they say that the greens are TifEagle, you get goose bumps.”
Hanna’s legacy in golf is secure, but it is hardly complete. Although he retired two years ago, Hanna is still involved in the University of Georgia’s turfgrass research program and will continue to have an impact on future advancements. He built a strong team of scientists that includes protégés such as Dr. Brian Schwartz, who is developing a bermudagrass that can stay green longer without water.
“For the future, water is one of the most precious natural resources we have,” said Hanna. “Anything we can do to use less water is a big benefit.”