The Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA) was formed in 1926 by Englishman John Morley to further greenkeeping ideas among middle America golf courses.
Morley, who was a vegetable grower and greenkeeper at Youngstown (Ohio) Country Club, would hardly recognize the organization he formed. First known as the National Association of Greenkeepers of America, the group started with 60 greenkeepers coming together on Sept. 13, 1926, at Sylvania Country Club in Toledo, Ohio, to share ideas. Today, GCSAA has 19,000 members around the world, and its members are science-based college graduates who manage all aspects of golf course management, from agronomics to environmental sciences.
Its members have often been called the game’s unsung heroes, but Arnold Palmer recognized their true significance to the game.
“The Golf Course Superintendents Association of America and all golf course superintendents are probably the most important entity that we have in golf… The conditions and the golf course’s beauty, the environment, the wetlands, everything depends on their perseverance and their knowledge and the work they do to maintain the golf courses,” said Palmer, whose father, Deacon, and younger brother, Jerry, were both superintendents at Latrobe (Pa.) Country Club.
Morley, who was commissioned as an honorary Colonel by the governor of Kentucky, served as the association’s first president. He was dedicated to advancing the profession, visiting more than 200 golf courses to help build support for the new organization.
He was recognized by famed architect Donald Ross, who wrote to congratulate Morley on his efforts.
“I congratulate you on your work as a greenkeeper of outstanding ability, and with leaders of your type, an association would unquestionably be a great success, not only from the standpoint of the members, but also from the clubs who employ them,” wrote Ross in October 1926.
Morley might also applaud GCSAA’s alliance with other golf organizations, including the PGA Tour, the PGA of America, the U.S. Golf Association, the National Golf Course Owners Association, the American Society of Golf Course Architects and the Golf Course Builders Association of America. He served seven years as GCSAA president and was keen on public service and the sharing of knowledge among members. At the 1940 annual association conference in New York, legendary New York Times golf writer William Richardson presented him with the “Man of the Year” award.