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.