UMass Amherst Turfgrass Expert Wins National Honor

Pat Vittum
Pat Vittum

AMHERST, Mass. – The Golf Course Superintendent Association of America (GCSAA) has named Patricia Vittum, associate director of the Center for Agriculture, Food and the Environment at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, a 2017 recipient of its Col. John Morley Distinguished Service Award, the first woman to receive it in the organization’s history.

It recognizes an individual who has made an outstanding and significant contribution in both substance and duration to the advancement of the golf course superintendent’s profession. It was first presented in 1932 and has been presented annually since 1975. Vittum and two other honorees will be formally recognized at the 2017 Golf Industry Show (GIS) in Orlando in February.

Vittum has conducted significant research on the biology and management of turfgrass insects, especially the bluegrass weevil, and on the effectiveness of biological control methods. An 11-year GCSAA member, she has been an instructor at GIS since 1988 and has traveled worldwide to share her expertise with other turfgrass managers.  

She says of the honor, “I wasn’t expecting this. This one really snuck up on me. When I look at the list of winners, it reads like a ‘Who’s Who’ of golf course management. I am humbled to have my name added to the list.”

Wes Autio, director of the Stockbridge School of Agriculture and Vittum’s colleague for 30 years, says, “This honor could not have gone to a more deserving and hard-working turf professional. Pat is keenly aware of the needs of the golf course industry and is known for her understanding of insect problems and her development of good management strategies for those problems. It is a pleasure to see her great qualities recognized on a national stage.”

Her colleagues note that Vittum is a woman of varied interests who played field hockey, basketball, tennis and volleyball at the College of Wooster, Ohio, where she is a member of its athletic hall of fame. She plays the flute and sings soprano with a group that has traveled widely. A native of western New York, she studied at Cornell University where she earned a Ph.D. in entomology in 1980 before joining the UMass Amherst faculty the same year.

Vittum currently teaches classes on the use of pesticides and turfgrass management. Among her many awards are the 2004 Excellence in Teaching Award from the Entomological Society of America Eastern Branch, the 2015 USGA Green Section Award for work with turfgrass and the 2016 GCSA of New England’s Distinguished Service Award.