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Heaton selected as 2021 Leo Feser Award recipient

by Dec 28, 2021 | Scott Hollister

Heaton's story in the January issue of GCM offered real-world tips on supervising employees from different generations

Jeff HeatonLawrence, Kan, (Dec. 28) - Jeff Heaton, the GCSAA Class A golf course superintendent at Lake Geneva Country Club in Lake Geneva, Wisc., has been selected as the recipient of the 2021 Leo Feser Award from the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA).

Now in its 44th year, the award is presented annually to the author of the best superintendent-written article published in Golf Course Management, the association’s flagship publication, during the previous year.

An 11-year member of GCSAA, Heaton authored the story “Bridging the generation gap,” which was published in the January 2021 edition of GCM. The story offered real-world tips and suggestions on supervising and working with employees from different generations, honed through Heaton’s increased use of high school and college students to round out his in-season golf course maintenance team at the resort course he manages along the shores of Lake Geneva in southeast Wisconsin.

“I am honored, and a little shocked, to have won the Leo Fesser Award,” Heaton said. “I set out to create a fun read for superintendents during a difficult time. It is rewarding to learn that in sharing my experiences, I may have helped others.”

Heaton’s story detailed steps he took to increase motivation and decrease absenteeism among this “Gen Z” workforce, generally between the ages of 18 and 21, steps that included raffles, doughnuts and pizza, golf privileges and flexible hours. In the end, there were more wins than losses, and among some, even interest in pursuing a career in the turf industry. “Perhaps there is more to this success story still to be written,” Heaton wrote.

GCSAA President Mark F. Jordan, says, “Superintendents from coast to coast can identify with Jeff’s challenges in filling out his maintenance staff and the unique direction he took to do that. But it was the lessons that Jeff learned about managing across different generations and his willingness to share those lessons with others that are especially noteworthy. I commend Jeff on his interest in writing this story for GCM and congratulate him on being selected as the recipient of the 2021 Leo Feser Award.”

Heaton will officially receive the award Wednesday, Feb. 9 at 2:30 p.m. in GCM’s booth on the trade show floor (No. 2455) during the 2022 GCSAA Conference and Trade Show in San Diego. He will also have his name engraved on a plaque that is permanently displayed at GCSAA headquarters in Lawrence, Kan.

The Leo Feser Award honors the late Leo Feser, a pioneering golf course superintendent and a charter member of GCSAA. Feser is credited with keeping the association’s official publication alive during the Great Depression. For three years, 1933-36, he wrote, edited, assembled and published each issue of The Greenkeepers’ Report — as the association’s magazine was known then — from his home in Wayzata, Minn. The award was first presented in 1956 and has been given annually since 1977. Members of GCSAA’s GCM Editorial Board Task Group select the winner of the award each year.

For a complete list of previous Leo Feser Award winners, go to