Chapter 5: Pennsylvania Turfgrass Council

Not long after the creation of Penn State's turfgrass program, the need was recognized for close collaboration between researchers and those benefiting from their work. To that end, Joseph Valentine of the Merion Golf Club, T.L. Gustin of Philadelphia Toro, Marshall Farnham of the Philadelphia Country Club, and others representing the turfgrass industry formed the Turfgrass Research Advisory Committee in 1930. Valentine chaired this committee until 1955, when the present-day Pennsylvania Turfgrass Council was established.

To gain financial support for the advisory committee, Marshall Farnham sent a letter in 1930 to 446 “greenkeepers” (precursor to “golf course superintendents”) at golf courses throughout Pennsylvania. In response, the committee received nine replies and six contributions. “This was during the Great Depression, and money was tough to come by,“ says Joseph M. Duich, professor emeritus of turfgrass science. “Another obstacle the committee faced was the idea that you can't learn from books. A lot of these greenkeepers didn't have the nerve to ask the people they were working for to contribute to turfgrass research. That mistrust of book learning had to be overcome.”

Over the next two decades, the Turfgrass Research Advisory Committee persevered in their efforts to increase industry support for turfgrass research. Then a 1951 meeting in Harrisburg, attended by Penn State faculty members H. Burton Musser, Jack Harper, and Fred Grau, set the stage for the formation of the Pennsylvania Turfgrass Council. “The Council was initiated to be the voice of the turfgrass industry in the state,” says Duich.

The Pennsylvania Turfgrass Council (PTC), founded in 1955, is dedicated to the improvement of the turfgrass industry through education and research. It started as a council of organizations, with each organization paying $10 per year for membership. In the early 1970s, membership was expanded to include sustaining memberships for golf courses, industrial firms, and commercial establishments; memberships through local golf course superintendents associations; and individual memberships.

Today, PTC membership stands at more than 1,100. Members include golf course superintendents, owners/operators of lawn care services, nursery workers, landscapers, sod growers, sports field managers, and industry representatives. The Council is governed by an elected board of directors, with Penn State faculty members serving as technical advisors.

Remaining true to its original goals of educating and promoting turfgrass throughout the state, the Council promotes professionalism through fundraising for education and research, conducting educational conferences, and representing the turfgrass industry. The PTC also acts as a liaison for the green industry by promoting open dialogue with government agencies, private institutions, and the general public.

The relationship between Penn State's turfgrass program and the PTC has been mutually beneficial since the Council's beginnings. Over the past three decades, the Pennsylvania Turfgrass Council has contributed more than $2 million to turfgrass research at Penn State. In turn, professionals in all areas of the turfgrass industry have benefited from the results of Penn State turfgrass research.

“The members of the PTC have a sincere desire to make the turfgrass industry in Pennsylvania better,” says Christine King, who has served as the Council's executive director for the past twenty-five years. “Over the years, it has been rewarding to meet and develop relationships with so many wonderful people.”

The PTC awards several scholarships every year to undergraduate and graduate students enrolled in the turfgrass curriculum at Penn State. Initiated in the early 1960s, scholarships and awards are an important way in which the PTC encourages future leadership in the turfgrass industry.