A student foursome from Auburn University outscored 52 other student teams from 28 universities across the U.S. in San Antonio to claim the Golf Course Superintendent Association of America’s 2018 National Collegiate Turf Bowl championship February 8.
Austin Brown, Allen Carroll, Kyle Kinney and Brock Pittman—all seniors in the Department of Crop, Soil and Environmental Sciences at Auburn—comprised Team No. 37, the squad that brought home Auburn’s first-ever national title in the 23-year history of the competition. David Han, associate professor of turfgrass management and extension specialist at Auburn, coached the team to victory, assisted by former golf course superintendent and current doctoral student Adam Boyd.
Team No. 37 eked out a two-point win over Team No. 24 from Purdue University and bested frequent Turf Bowl powerhouse Penn State by 12 points.
In addition to bragging rights, the Auburn team was awarded the traveling Turf Bowl trophy and a $4,000 donation from the superintendents’ association to Auburn’s Crop, Soil and Environmental Sciences Club. The money will fund club activities, including future Turf Bowl trips, Han said.
The Turf Bowl competition is a grueling, three-hour exam that includes a written case study, extensive physical and visual turfgrass and weed identification components and pages of multiple-choice, fill-in-the-blank and short-answer questions. The association designed the exam to test future golf course superintendents’ knowledge on every agronomic and environmental, business and financial management aspect of the superintendent profession.
Han said the comprehensive test is an ordeal that can overwhelm first-time Turf Bowl participants. That’s why, in addition to Team No. 37, two other four-member Auburn teams of primarily rookie bowl attendees competed in the 2018 Turf Bowl.
“This was Austin’s fourth Turf Bowl and Allen’s third, and it was the second trip for Kyle and Brock,” Han said. “That high a level of experience was very important to the team’s win.
“But the main key was just their hard work. There’s a lot of memorization required, for example, and they put in the time to make all of that second nature.”
Team members, on the other hand, say much of the credit goes to Han and other College of Agriculture faculty.
“We could not have done it without the dedication of Dr. Han,” Brown said. “It was his willingness to stay late to teach us that helped us reach the top.”
“We’d been working hard since went got back from the Turf Bowl last year, meeting every Tuesday evening to go over all aspects of the exam, trying to make this win possible,” Kinney said. “With the help of Dr. Han and other professors”—including turfgrass entomology associate professor David Held, turfgrass/weed science Alumni Professor Scott McElroy and turfgrass management professor Beth Guertal—“we gained the knowledge to put us in the position to win.”