FAR HILLS, N.J. – The USGA mourns the passing of Dr. Jim Watson
and Charlie Wilson, agronomists who received the Association’s prestigious
Green Section Award. The two leave behind rich legacies of innovation and
achievement within the fields of turfgrass and agronomy.
Watson, who died on Oct. 1 at the age of 92, was the 1976 recipient
of the Green Section Award and would become even more involved with the USGA
later in his career, serving on the Association’s Turfgrass
and Environmental Research Committee from 1982 to 2011. He spent 46
years working for the Toro Company, where he served as Director of Agronomy and as
a vice president.
Much of his job involved traveling the world to keep the
company up-to-date on the latest trends in the turfgrass industry. He was
heavily involved in equipment development and evaluation, customer relations
and agronomic consultation.
Throughout his career, Dr. Watson, who was the first person
to receive a Ph.D in turfgrass management, was very well-known for his research
and expertise on the need for water conservation throughout the turfgrass
industry, and he was long considered to be one of the leading voices on the
topic. His years as an agronomist also saw him conduct research on
fertilization practices, snow mold prevention and techniques for winter
protection of turfgrass. He was also a frequent contributor to industry
publications throughout the years, publishing more than 400 articles about his areas of
expertise, including several for the USGA
Green Section Record, the USGA’s publication on turfgrass management.
"One of the benefits of working for the USGA is the
extraordinary people who you have the opportunity to meet and interact with
throughout your career,” said Dr. Kimberly Erusha, managing director of the
USGA’s Green Section. “Dr. Watson will always be one of those who is at
the top of the list that I was honored to know."
Throughout his career, Watson was frequently honored for
his work in the turfgrass industry. He received the 1983 Distinguished Service
Award from the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA), and
in 1995, the GCSAA recognized him again with the Old Tom Morris Award, the
association’s highest honor. He was also a recipient the Harry Gill Memorial
Award, the highest honor given by the Sports Turf Manager Association, in 1991.
Recognition of Watson’s achievements extended beyond his
work as an agronomist. He served in the United States Air Force during World
War II and was honored with the Air Medal with Clusters, Purple Heart and
Wilson, who passed away on Sept. 23 at the age of 93, was
the founding agronomist of the USGA Green Section’s Turf Advisory Service. A pioneer
in golf course agronomy, Wilson was recognized by his peers in the industry as
an innovator and educator.
The 1982 USGA Green Section Award recipient, Wilson began
working for the department while he was an undergraduate at the University of
Maryland, not far from where the Green Section was originally based. In 1952, he
relocated to Davis, Calif., where he opened the first USGA Green Section regional
office, effectively becoming the Association’s first full-time agronomist in
During his first several months in the West, Wilson visited more
than 50 clubs from California to Washington, creating the template for the
USGA’s Turf Advisory Service (TAS), which now employs 16 agronomists in eight
regions throughout the country and conducts approximately 1,500 facility visits
each year. He would serve as the Western Director of the TAS until 1955, when
he began a 25-year career at the Milwaukee (Wis.) Metropolitan Sewerage District
(MMSD), where he would serve as the organization’s head agronomist, sales
manager and director during his tenure.
“When the USGA started the Turf Advisory Service, Charlie
Wilson established an important foundation to deliver
a high standard of assistance to
golf facilities,” said Erusha. “Today, we strive to continue his vision in
everything we do.”
Though he transitioned out of a career in golf, Wilson, who
like Watson was a World War II veteran, continued to have an impact on the
development of course-care practices. He was part of a group that created the
O.J. Noer Foundation, an organization dedicated to providing financial support
for turfgrass research. He served as the Foundation’s research director, which
was named after Wilson’s mentor at MMSD, himself a Green Section Award
recipient. The very first project that they funded focused on the response of
turfgrass to mineral nutrient deficiencies, considered groundbreaking work at
Wilson’s legacy as a turfgrass researcher and educator continue to be visible throughout the
industry. Each year, agronomists from around the country gather for the Wisconsin
Golf Turf Symposium, where trends and studies are discussed by some of the
foremost minds in the business. Wilson, who was presented with the 2012 Distinguished
Service Award by the Wisconsin Golf Course Superintendents Association, helped
to found the conference in 1966. In addition, his many contributions to the USGA Green Section Record are accessible
via Michigan State University’s Turfgrass Information Center.
After his retirement, Wilson invented
Aquashade, a non-toxic treatment that controls the growth of weeds in water
hazards and farm ponds. It is still used extensively today.
Wilson never lost sight of his ultimate mission – and that
of his fellow agronomists. Upon receiving the USGA Green Section Award in 1982,
his message to those in attendance was simple.
“We are proud to help the grass grow – for golf.”