Golf course superintendents honored for advocacy efforts
Lawrence, Kan. (May 30, 2023) – Parker Ferren, CGCS, director of golf course and grounds maintenance at Copperleaf Golf Club in Bonita Springs, Fla.; Lydell Mack, CGCS, director of operations at Big Canoe Golf Club in Jasper, Ga.; and Steven Murphy, golf course superintendent at the Ole Miss Golf Club in Oxford, Miss., have been named Grassroots Ambassador Leadership Award winners from the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA).
The Grassroots Ambassador Leadership (GAL) Award, presented 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 receive a trip to participate in the annual National Golf Day event in Washington, D.C.
“The willingness of Parker, Lydell and Steven to tell their stories and advocate for the golf industry has positively impacted the future of the game,” GCSAA CEO Rhett Evans said. “Their commitment to communicate key issues, from water and fertilizer issues to labor issues and the H-2B visa program, have paved the way for a stronger future for golf, both environmentally and economically. Congratulations to all three for this well-deserved recognition.”
The GAL Award is part of the Grassroots Ambassador program, which matches superintendents with members of Congress to build strong working relationships and create a bridge between the golf industry and political leaders in the U.S. More than 500 GCSAA members currently serve as ambassadors representing 91% of congressional districts across the country.
Ferren, a 17-year member of GCSAA, joined the Grassroots Ambassador program in 2018, and he is paired with Rep. Byron Donalds (R-FL). He served on the GCSAA Government Affairs Committee from 2019 to 2022 and has attend National Golf Day on several occasions. Ferren has also been involved in the development and implementation of Florida’s state golf course best management practices (BMP) guidelines.
“I simply wanted to tell my story and leave a lasting impression about the tremendous benefits that golf offers to the environment and the economy,” Ferren said. “I look forward to continuing my advocacy journey for years to come.”
Mack, a 19-year GCSAA member, joined the Grassroots Ambassador program in 2015 and has served on the Georgia GCSA Board of Directors for nearly five years. He was initially paired with Rep. Douglas Collins (R-GA) and for the last two years has worked with Rep. Andrew Clyde (R-GA). He has hosted Clyde at Big Canoe to discuss hot-button issues for the golf industry; a big point of discussion has been the importance of the H-2B visa program. During National Golf Day, he discussed the importance of labor expansion and golf as a responsible environmental steward with Clyde.
“Ambassadors are in a unique position to educate a policymaker who isn’t entirely knowledgeable about golf,” Mack said. “We are experts in our industry and can provide testament to how a decision may impact our business and livelihood. If our story isn’t told, we will find ourselves ignored and dealing with policies that may negatively affect us.”
Murphy has been a grassroots ambassador for two years after being recruited to fill a spot in Mississippi, and he is paired with Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS). Through the Grassroots Ambassador program, Murphy has used his platform to get ahead of the negative press that is common in his district in Mississippi.
“Advocacy is important because there are a lot of people out there with loud voices who have a lot of negative things to say about golf. Those opinions are unfortunately often what are perceived as truth about golf by the public,” Murphy said. “There really are so many positives of the game that are overlooked, and the truly rewarding thing about advocacy is getting to hear feedback from your time spent talking to policymakers.”
To learn more about the Grassroots Ambassador Leadership Award, visit www.gcsaa.org/about-gcsaa/awards/grassroots-ambassador-leadership-award.