Certified golf course superintendent Travis Williams has been at Weibring Golf Club at Illinois State University for 6-years. During his time at ISU, his role has evolved from golf course superintendent to his current position as assistant athletics director, and manager of golf course and turf sciences. During the past six years, one item has remained constant – his desire to teach students about the golf course management profession, benefits golf courses bring to the community and the careers available through this great game.
"I knew First Green was a perfect fit as soon as I heard about the program," said Williams, CGCS. "My daughters always find the golf course so interesting and exciting. As they showed interest, I started to see how the golf course presents endless opportunities to learn. Being in a learning environment like Illinois State University further showed me the value of providing educational opportunities within everyday settings. First Green connects community engagement, education, and growing the game of golf into one half day golf course visit."
Williams, an 18-year GCSAA member and past president of the Central Illinois Golf Course Superintendents Association (CIGCSA) set out to bring the First Green to Weibring Golf Club. Williams, along with his staff Corey Wisher, Reed Davis, Quinn Belva, John Pokarney, CIGCSA members Erik Parker and Erik Spong, Dr. David Kopsell of ISU and head PGA professional Tom Szymoniak welcomed youth from the Bloomington-Normal YMCA.
During the half-day field trip, the kids from the YMCA saw many aspects of golf course management and learned about the benefits golf courses bring to the local community. Students were able to see firsthand how golf courses play an important role in the lives of pollinators and monarch butterflies through Weibring’s monarch habitat and native area. They also learned about the equipment used to maintain the course, how soils differ and play an active role in plant health, as well as operate the latest technology used on the course. The field trip consisted of the following learning labs:
- Monarch habitat and native area insect collection
- Greens management and cool tools
- Soil science
- Equipment management
- Putting course
Mother Nature fully cooperated throughout the event, and the students had a great time learning about the various components of golf course management. To cap off the day, students learned the basic of putting and a six-hole putting course was set up on the practice green.
"The day was everything I was hoping for! It was our first effort here in Central Illinois and we will look to expand the program’s reach to other community organizations and school districts here in Bloomington/Normal," adds Williams, CGCS. "Thank you to GCSAA for their support and to all the volunteers and staff for supporting this effort."