Don Garrett, Walker Golf Course superintendent, has been named a Grassroots Ambassador Leadership Award winner from the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA).
This award is presented quarterly in partnership with The Toro Company. It recognizes and honors individuals who have demonstrated growth in advocacy and advancement of the GCSAA Priority Issues Agenda through congressional outreach and relationship development with a member of the U.S. Congress. The winners receive a trip, sponsored by Toro, to take part in the annual National Golf Day in Washington, D.C.
The GAL Award is part of the Grassroots Ambassador program, which matches superintendents with members of Congress to build strong relationships between them. More than 500 GCSAA members currently serve as ambassadors.
A 37-year member of GCSAA, Garrett’s advocacy experience began in the mid-1990s when he lobbied the South Carolina legislature for funding to aid Clemson University’s turfgrass program. In his fourth year of advocating with the South Carolina Turf Foundation, Garrett helped to secure $600,000 in annually recurring funds for Clemson. His early experience in advocacy taught Garrett the importance of government engagement and allowed him to hone his pervasive speaking skills.
He joined the Grassroots Ambassador program just before the COVID-19 pandemic hit after Michael Lee, GCSAA senior manager of government affairs, reached out and encouraged him to participate. Garrett found the program was a natural fit for him. As a Grassroots Ambassador, Garrett is paired with Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC), with whom he has shared a copy of GCSAA’s Best Management Practices for Carolinas Golf Courses and a copy of the association’s priority issues. Through multiple in-person meetings, Garrett has developed a great working relationship with Congressman Duncan’s chief of staff, Rick Adkins, who is now just a phone call away when critical issues arise.
“I want people to know that while government relations is not the flashiest thing, it is very important,” Garrett said. “I encourage other superintendents to respond to action alerts through the GCSAA website, such as emailing a legislator about an important bill or commenting on regulation. GCSAA does a fantastic job in providing accessible ways to advocate for the golf industry.”
Through his involvement, Garrett has seen first-hand how advocacy can help allocate funds for research that is vital in backing up GCSAA’s best management practices and sustainability efforts. Through Rounds 4 Research, with the Carolinas GCSA, Garrett has raised more than half a million dollars to put toward impactful research efforts. He wants to keep growing this program and advocating for the importance of research.
“I will continue to be a strong advocate for the golf industry and believe everyone has the power to make a difference,” Garrett said. “I am proud of the government relations team at GCSAA and will do my best to support their efforts on behalf of superintendents everywhere.”
The Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA) is a leading golf organization in the United States. Its focus is on golf course management. Since 1926, the GCSAA has been the top professional association for the men and women who manage golf courses in the U.S. and worldwide. From its headquarters in Lawrence, Kansas, the association provides education, information and representation to more than 19,000 members in more than 78 countries. The association’s mission is to serve its members, advance their profession and improve communities through enjoyment, growth and vitality of the game of golf. Visit GCSAA at www.gcsaa.org or find us on Facebook or Twitter. Visit our industry-leading magazine at GCMonline.com.
The GCSAA Foundation is the philanthropic organization of the GCSAA. Its mission is to secure funding and support to strengthen advocacy, education, and research that advances the work of golf course management professionals. Visit the Foundation at www.gcsaa.org/foundation
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