Behind the scenes of Tiger Woods’ fifth Masters win this year, another man also achieved a remarkable high. Brad Owen, golf course superintendent at Augusta National Golf Club, produced playing conditions at least one good judge described as the “best I’ve ever seen.” That observer was no less than Marsh Benson, who prepared the golf course for 26 Masters Tournaments during his own tenure as superintendent at Augusta National.
“Starting with the Augusta National Women’s Amateur, the Drive, Chip and Putt competition, culminating in Tiger Woods’ historic fifth Masters title,” Benson said, “This year’s Masters preparations and conditioning were the best I have ever seen.” Not surprisingly then, the Georgia Golf Course Superintendents Association recently named Owen their Superintendent of the Year.
Owen received his award to a standing ovation from nearly 200 people during the association’s annual awards banquet at Jekyll Island Resort early November. The award is presented in partnership with Corbin Turf and Ornamental Supply.
Owen started in golf course maintenance in the mountains of western North Carolina and moved to Augusta National 39 years ago, working under Paul Latshaw, CGCS and then Billy Fuller. When Benson arrived in 1989, he said he “inherited” Owen “pretrained” as a third assistant.
“I had the pleasure of working and sharing experiences with Brad through those many years,” he said. “Maybe one of my biggest challenges was just making sure I didn’t screw him up! Brad’s agronomic knowledge and experience, as well as his professionalism and leadership, have always been of the highest standards.”
Earlier on the night, the Georgia GCSA presented the Distinguished Service Award to immediate past-president, Greg Burleson, CGCS. Burleson was the longtime superintendent, on the other side of a chain link fence from Owen, at Augusta Country Club. He is now at Wade Hampton Golf Club in Cashiers, North Carolina.
Frank Siple, CGCS, was inducted into the association’s Hall of Fame. Siple retired in 2018 after a nearly 50-year career as a golf course superintendent and later as a sales representative for Corbin Turf and Ornamental Supply. Georgia GCSA Hall of Fame inductions are made in partnership with the Jerry Pate Company.
Rhett Baker from Ohoopee Match Club in Cobbtown won his second Georgia GCSA golf championship, presented in partnership with Greenville Turf and Tractor. Baker’s win was one half of a double for Ohoopee Match Club. The club’s assistant superintendent Jonathan Suma won the championship’s open division.
Tim Busek from The Manor Golf and Country Club in Milton was elected president at the association’s annual meeting. New vice-president is Chris Steigelman, CGCS, from The Landings Club in Savannah and secretary-treasurer is Nelson Caron from The Ford Plantation in Richmond Hill.
Three new directors were elected to the board – Brandon Bowen from Blueberry Plantation Golf and Country Club in Alma; Hoyt Ellsperman from Reynolds Lake Oconee, The Creek Club in Greensboro; and Brandon Hayes from Reynolds Lake Oconee, Great Waters.
Others recognized on the night and during the three-day end-of-year event included:
- Assistant Superintendent of the Year – Clint Connard from Piedmont Driving Club in Atlanta
- Retirements - William Smith, CGCS, after 31 years at the Country Club of Columbus
- 30-year Georgia GCSA memberships – Mark Hendricks of Greenville Turf and Tractor; and Courtney Young, CGCS, from Ansley Golf Club in Roswell;
- 25-year membership – Mac Fite, Howard Fertilizer and Chemical Company
- Sporting clays, presented in partnership with Syngenta – Superintendent division, Tommy Hewitt from Windermere Golf Club in Cumming; Open division, Jason Whitecliffe of Syngenta
- Photography contest – Adam Hoffman from Sunset Hills Country Club in Carrolton.