Following their fourth-place finish in the 2016 GCSAA Collegiate Turf Bowl last February in San Diego, members of Auburn University’s Turf Bowl team didn’t take much time off to rest, nor were they content to rest on their laurels.
Team members began meeting weekly just a couple of weeks after their arrival back in Alabama, and they’re arriving in Orlando for this year’s face-off with a goal no less ambitious than first place.
This year’s roster of competitors consists of veteran Turf Bowl participants as well as some first-timers, and they’ve focused a portion of their prep time on strengthening some of their weaker areas from the previous year (insect ID was a bit tough, as only about half the students have had an entomology class).
“It’s rewarding to be able to utilize our education in this way, other than just having a degree,” says senior Allen Carroll. The students credit the staff in Auburn’s Department of Crop, Soil and Environmental Sciences — especially team adviser David Han, Ph.D. — with getting them well equipped to contend for that coveted champions’ spot.
It’s not all about the competition, though. Senior Austin Brown, who isn’t in the department’s turfgrass track, views the Turf Bowl (which is presented in partnership with John Deere Golf) as an excellent opportunity to represent his alma mater. For junior John Peppers, much appeal lies in the chance to broaden his professional circle. “I love all the connections you can make,” Peppers says. “There are about 200 or so turf students there, and that’s who we’re going to be working with for the rest of our careers.”
Beyond the Turf Bowl, Peppers says he’s eager to seize the unparalleled networking opportunities that the Golf Industry Show affords. “I’m really looking forward to meeting as many superintendents as I can,” Peppers says. “I’m graduating soon, and those are the people that are going to be hiring me.”
GCM will be following Auburn’s Turf Bowl journey at the Golf Industry Show throughout the week. Check back for additional updates, as well as much more coverage of the 2017 Turf Bowl.
Photo: Auburn University Turf Bowl team members John Michael Johnson (left) and Dalton Gargus.