Blades of Grades: U of M Associate Professor of Turfgrass Sciences Dr. Brian Horgan
Just as we players love to spin tales of our ball’s ascension from the earth, each blade of earthen turf below our respective spikes has its own story. Or, in the case of University of Minnesota Associate Professor of Turfgrass Sciences Dr. Brian Horgan: a study.
“They brought me to the U in 2001 because they never had a person that interacts with the industry as their sole responsibility,” Horgan says from his post at the U’s St. Paul campus. “The majority of my time I’m working on an extension appointment. So I work with Golf Course Superintendents, Park Supervisors, Sports Turf Managers, and listen to what their needs are and help design both educational programs and research projects for them. I’m kind of the state consultant for Minnesota.”
Based on a study conducted at the campus’ 12-acre Turfgrass, Research, Outreach, and Education (TROE) Center, Horgan (along with his peer, Dr. Eric Watkins) has, in short time, brought the U’s work to national prominence in the turfgrass field, via both his active approach to speaking at conferences around the country, and also by placing U students at internships and jobs upon some of the world’s greenest grasses.
“We’ve been very lucky in that we’ve placed students at golf courses in Scotland, and also at The All England Club in London, the site of Wimbledon,” Horgan says modestly. “We also have a student that’s going to intern this year for the Olympic equestrian events held in Hong Kong.”
And just as Horgan speaks with pride about his U protégé, he explains with equal parts passion, and intellect, about bringing players to an educational par regarding both the scientific and environmental issues that are the underlying Audubon of our Gentlemen’s Game.
“I don’t know that the average golfer understands what’s required to keep their course in the condition that they expect,” Horgan says, sans any semblance of preach. “And that’s something that we as an industry are going to have to tackle. Because as there becomes more-and-more pressure to regulate our industry, the expectations of the golfer will have to change and the quality of the golf course will have to be adjusted.”
“Say if the Superintendent could apply only 50% of the water currently being applied,” Horgan continues, also citing the topics of fertilizer and pesticide usage as readily-swung clubs within his golf bag of speech and study. “What would the product look like? And how would that product play? And how would the golfer respond to the product? A lot of the focus of talks I give nowadays involves the aspect of expectation.”
“Because if we can’t understand that our industry is going to change and that we are going to have to expect different things from our golf courses- if that can’t be grasped now- when it is regulated it will be like a bomb hit. Versus, if we transition into it, it will be much easier for us to make sense of the game.”
With a scientific scorecard to tally our game’s present, and a studious eye always geared toward the horizon of our sport’s future, it is people like Dr. Brian Horgan that keep golf grounded – literally.