The Abaco Club on Winding Bay is launching a fundraising effort dedicated to providing immediate disaster relief for the residents of Great Abaco island, which incurred catastrophic damage as a result of Hurricane Dorian.
“We are extremely concerned about the safety and well-being of our staff members and other residents of Abaco,” Southworth Development founder and CEO David Southworth. “There is an urgent need for immediate assistance on Abaco, and we are moving fast to provide that assistance.”
When the Category 5 hurricane caused widespread destruction when it made landfall on Great Abaco. The island’s largest town, Marsh Harbour, was almost entirely destroyed. Hundreds of homes were demolished on the island, leaving thousands of residents without shelter, with at least 23 people dying nationwide.
“We haven’t even been able to ascertain whether all of our staff members are safe yet,” Southworth said. “Communications systems are still down, power is out, roads are flooded or blocked by fallen trees. It’s a humanitarian disaster on an almost unimaginable scale.”
Southworth Development chairman Joe Deitch is pledging $1 million to the relief effort in the hope it will inspire others to also give generously.
“The people of Abaco are more than just our friends and neighbors,” Deitch said. “They’re like family to us. Both David and I have homes on the island and we cherish our relationships with the people of Abaco. What happened there is a tragedy, and we’re going to do all we can to help.”
Contributions to this GoFundMe campaign will be distributed by the Abaco-Winding Bay Relief Fund, a charitable organization created expressly for this effort with 501(c)3 status applied for and pending. All funds received will be used to provide assistance specifically to the people of Abaco in the form of food, shelter, medical aid and supplies, and assistance in the clean-up and rebuilding efforts.
In recognition of his significant contributions to the golf industry, The Golf Course Builders Association of America is pleased to announce Marsh Benson as its recipient of the prestigious Don A. Rossi Award.
Benson’s pursuit of applying his innovative ideas in the golf industry began in 1975 with studies in landscape architecture in the School of Environmental Design at the University of Georgia. He later graduated from the Penn State Turfgrass Management program, created by 1995 Rossi Award winner Dr. Joseph M. Duich.
He interned at Augusta National Golf Club under Billy Fuller in 1981. After completing his formal education, he began his career in golf course maintenance at The Country Club of Florida in Boynton Beach, then moved to Jennings Mill Country Club in Athens, Ga. He returned to ANGC as its golf course superintendent in 1989, later becoming director of golf course and grounds, then senior director of golf course and grounds and long-range planning. He also continued to grow the Turfgrass Student Intern program at ANGC, ultimately having close to 50 students pass through the program, representing more than 20 turfgrass programs worldwide.
Benson was responsible for building and directing the teams that would implement the visions of ANGC chairmen Jack Stephens, Hootie Johnson and Billy Payne, ANGC members and senior staff members. These visions included enhancements to the golf course, clubhouse, tournament, player and patron support facilities, and have created one of the more prominent sporting venues in the world.
Benson’s ability to improve maintenance practices at golf course facilities achieved global recognition after he invented and patented SubAir Systems in 1994, allowing for subsurface aeration and moisture removal of turfgrass playing areas. The popularity of the system has grown over the past 25 years, starting with golf course greens and expanding to all types of playing and sports field surfaces. Because of the demanding tournament turf conditions under an array of weather scenarios, Benson has been instrumental in working with golf equipment manufacturers to improve numerous aspects of mower performance, grass disbursement, irrigation concepts and other improvements.
Benson retired in 2015 after 26 years at ANGC but continues to consult with the club on several projects. He founded his own company, WMB IMAGINE, which provides design, construction and project consulting services for clients throughout the world.
Now in so-called retirement, Benson serves on the board of The Musser International Turfgrass Foundation, which awards top doctoral graduate students the Musser Award of Excellence to provide financial support of their educational endeavors. He leads an effort to grow turfgrass scholarships at Penn State in memory of Dr. Joseph Duich and serves on the board of the Warrior Alliance, whose mission is to drive skills development in the golf industry for veterans transitioning from active duty to civilian life.
The Rossi award is given by the GCBAA to honor individuals who have made significant contributions to the game of golf and its growth and who have inspired others by example. It is named for Don A. Rossi, who served as executive director of the National Golf Foundation from 1970 to 1983, was instrumental in forming the National Golf Course Owners Association and served as executive director of the GCBAA from 1984 to 1990.
Benson will receive the award Jan. 28, 2020, during the GCBAA opening reception at the Golf Industry Show in Orlando.