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Pheneger wins GCSAA Grassroots Ambassador Leadership Award

by Aug 18, 2020 | Kate Hiebert

Golf course superintendent honored for advocacy efforts, advancement of association priority issues and congressional outreach

Lawrence, Kan. (Aug. 18, 2020) – Gregory Pheneger, director of golf course management at John’s Island Club in Vero Beach, Fla., has been named the 2020 Q1 Grassroots Ambassador Leadership Award winner from the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA). 

The Grassroots Ambassador Leadership Award, presented quarterly in partnership with The Toro Co., 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 Congress. Through Toro, the winners will receive a trip to take part in the 2021 National Golf Day in Washington, D.C. 

“We are grateful for Greg’s continuous activism for the industry over so many years,” GCSAA CEO Rhett Evans said. “His hard work is helping grow the game of golf and improve the perception of golf course management in Florida and around the country. Congratulations to him on this recognition.”

The GAL Award is part of the GCSAA Grassroots Ambassadors program, which matches superintendents with members of Congress to build strong relationships between them. More than 431 GCSAA members currently serve as ambassadors. 

A 34-year member of GCSAA, Pheneger became an ambassador when the program was introduced in 2014. In his role as an ambassador, Pheneger is currently paired with Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) and works closely with the Senator’s southeast Florida district director, Ryan Hnatick.

After Scott was elected to the senate in 2016, Hnatick came to Vero Beach and toured the West Course at John’s Island Club.

“We discussed H-2B visas which our club uses to supplement our staff every winter, the great environmental benefits of golf and our capital spending on the course and facilities,” said Pheneger. “I have spoken to Hnatick concerning H-2B visa issues and the President’s Executive Order. Every issue that I have presented has been well received and he has passed up the ladder in D.C.”

Pheneger was part of the Florida Golf Course Superintendents Association Board of Directors that pushed to hire a lobbyist in the ‘90s and was in the first small group of superintendents to lobby in Tallahassee, Fla. He continues to lobby each year, with a larger group of turf professionals from lawn care, sod production and fertilizer industries.

He has also served on the GCSAA Government Relations Committee the first year it met in Washington, D.C.

“I have become the go to person at my club on many governmental, national and local issues,” said Pheneger. “The Grassroots Ambassador Program is one of best programs that GCSAA has to offer. We have attempted to emulate the program in the state and get one person from each county to contact their local officials.”

Pheneger hopes to continue working with the program in the future.