Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Oklahoma Turfgrass Research Foundation honors veteran superintendent

With overnight temperatures plummeting into the single digits, the Oklahoma GCSA kicked off its 2014 chapter event season with an "all inside" meeting at Tulsa Country Club in January. The Polar Vortex that gripped most of the Midwest gave the attendees plenty to talk about and plenty of incentive to huddle indoors for a great day of education, networking and fellowship.

Members substituted straights and flushes for birdies and pars as a poker tournament was held in lieu of the typical golf tournament. If you've seen Oklahomans and Texans fiercely battle on the gridiron, you can imagine what it's like at a poker table, and you'll understand why I graciously excused myself from the competition to head down the road to my next event.

But before I did, I had the privilege to spend time with one of the OKGCSA's most well-respected and legendary members: Craig Elms, CGCS. Craig was recently honored by being inducted into the Oklahoma Turfgrass Research Foundation Hall of Fame. To say he was overwhelmed and surprised by the award would be the understatement of the year. Craig is a regular attendee of the OTRF conference, but he almost missed this special day. However, without spoiling the surprise, good friend and former assistant Charles Wise made sure Craig was there to accept the honor. In fact, the audience was full of Oklahoma turfgrass professionals who consider Craig a mentor and true friend.

Craig has been the superintendent at Oklahoma City Golf and Country Club since 1975 and will celebrate his 39th year of employment before retiring later this year. During his tenure, he has employed and mentored a long list of individuals who have gone on to successful careers, thanks to his influence. Two of the most well known on that list include former GCSAA president and fellow OTRF Hall of Fame member Bob Randquist, CGCS, and Dallas Athletic Club former superintendent, Clyde Nettles. The rest of the list is much too long to include here, but Craig spoke very proudly as he talked about many of them. The protégé Craig is most proud of is his son Dustin, who will assume the reins at OCG&CC when Craig retires. Craig says you might see him out mowing a fairway once and a while, but Dustin will be calling the shots in the position he has earned and richly deserves.

Receiving the award on the campus of Craig’s alma mater, Oklahoma State University, was the crowning touch. Craig delivered a very humble and heartfelt acceptance speech for the award, which was presented by his good friend Lionel Bentley. He recognized and thanked many people and said he felt "guilty" for receiving such a prestigious honor that has been bestowed on so many well-deserving professionals in the past.

Craig has started preparing for retirement on his 320-acre farm in southern Oklahoma. He recently purchased a bulldozer and has started playing with his new toy. I asked him if we might see a tee or green built on the property, and he said he doubted it - he just likes moving things around with it. But Craig’s eyes really lit up when he talked about spending time with his three precious granddaughters. I’m sure they react the same way when they talk about spending time with their grandpa.

Congratulations to Craig and the entire Elms family for this very prestigious award and an impressive career. The legacy that Craig leaves behind in the industry and with the individuals he has mentored will live on forever. Please join me in congratulating the newest member of the Oklahoma Turfgrass Research Foundation’s Hall of Fame!