AMHERST, Mass. – The grass is always greener when it is being tended by the nation’s number one-ranked turf team, which just happens to be part of the University of Massachusetts Amherst Turf Club.
The 19th annual Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA) Turf Bowl held Feb. 7 in San Diego was dominated by a UMass Amherst team consisting of Evan Bradstreet, a senior from Gorham, Maine; Sean Raposa, a junior from Tiverton, R.I.; Kevin Shewmaker, a senior from Granby, and Peter J. White III, a senior from Worcester. Their margin of victory (29 points out of a 450 point exam) is the largest in recent memory, say GCSAA officials. In comparison, three years ago a UMass team placed second, only 1.5 points short of first place.
The fourth time was the charm for the team, which had previously finished near the top of the competition, placing second in 2010, third in 2011 and second in 2012. In all, 68 teams consisting of 247 students from 35 schools took part in the competition. The win is comparable to winning the men’s NCAA basketball tournament and is truly a national championship. The winning team receives $4,000 and will enjoy an all-expense paid trip to TPC Sawgrass in Florida for a week in May to work as volunteers at the PGA Players Championship, widely regarded as the unofficial fifth “major” golf tournament in the world.
“This is an enormous accomplishment for our students,” said professor Michelle DaCosta who coached the team along with turf program director and professor Patricia Vittum. She noted that UMass Amherst is a relative newcomer to turf competition, having taken part in the GCSAA event for the first time in 2007.
The intensive three-hour exam tests the students’ knowledge in various areas of plant and soil sciences, with a focus on turfgrass management, according to DaCosta. Subjects include agronomy and plant identification, plant pathology, plant physiology, soils, pest management, personnel management and business concepts.”
To help prepare for the exam, students take part in a one-credit seminar course during the fall semester administered by faculty and staff in UMass Amherst’s Stockbridge School of Agriculture. “In addition, they raise money for travel to these national competitions by spending weekends in the fall doing leaf cleanups and turf-related services for UMass faculty and staff,” DaCosta said.
The students who are active in the UMass Turf Club and participate in the national competitions generally pursue careers as golf course superintendents and athletic field managers, according to Vittum and DaCosta. Some students also go on to earn graduate degrees to pursue careers in research at universities and technical support for companies in turfgrass and horticulture-related industries.
“In fact, many of our alumni are employed in a supervisory role at some of the most prestigious and respected facilities across the United States,” said Da Costa.
Even given that rosy future for its best grads, the UMass Amherst Turf Club is not about to concede its championship status as its top team looks ahead to graduation. Another younger UMass Amherst team placed 20th at the GCSAA Turf Bowl and is clearly on the move.
“It’s a remarkable achievement given that all the members of that team were rookies,” said Vittum.
The winning Turf Club team will be honored Feb. 23 during halftime at the Minutemen home basketball game against Dayton, which begins at 1:30 p.m.
Additional information can be found at the UMass Turf Program website: