Industry News

Watson Fellowship to send two doctoral students to 2022 GCSAA Conference and Trade Show

The Watson Fellowship Program awards provide financial assistance for the future educators and researchers of the turfgrass industry

Lawrence, Kan. (Dec. 28, 2021) Wendell Hutchens and Travis Russell are the 2021 Dr. James Watson Fellows from the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA), and each will receive a $5,000 scholarship. The Watson Fellowship is supported by The Toro Company and is administered by the GCSAA Foundation, the philanthropic organization of GCSAA.

The Watson Fellowship, started in 1998, is named in honor of the late James R. Watson, Ph.D., a pioneer and visionary in turfgrass research and vice president at The Toro Company. The fellowship recognizes students in postgraduate degree programs who have been identified as scientists that will go on to be leaders in turfgrass management.

Hutchens is a doctoral candidate studying plant pathology at Virginia Tech whose research centers around epidemiology and management of spring dead spot issues caused by Ophiosphaerella spp. Russell is a doctoral candidate studying plant pathology at Penn State University, and his research focuses on Pythium diseases in turfgrass systems, specifically “Pythium patch.”

“The study of turfgrass science is integral to the success of our superintendents and, in turn, the golf course industry,” GCSAA CEO Rhett Evans said. “We are grateful to be able to recognize the impressive efforts of Wendell and Travis with support from our friends at The Toro Company.”

Hutchens grew up in the foothills of rural Southwest Virginia in a town called Stuart, where being outside all day, every day was a way of life. When applying to college, he wanted to find a career that allowed him to maintain that lifestyle – turfgrass management was a natural fit. He received his bachelor of science degree in turfgrass science and his master’s degree in plant pathology, both from North Carolina State University.

Russell’s passion for the turfgrass industry was sparked after an internship at Dallas National Golf Club the summer after his senior year of high school. As a first-generation college student, he received a bachelor of science degree in horticulture, landscape and turf sciences and a master’s degree in horticulture, both from the University of Arkansas.

“Application of good science to turfgrass management is part of Dr. Watson’s enduring legacy. Leaders like Wendell and Travis are honoring his memory and advancing the industry through their research and passion for turfgrass science,” said Josh Friell, Ph.D., research scientist at The Toro Company.

Watson was a visionary and leading authority on turfgrasses. He was vice president for customer relations and chief agronomist for The Toro Company. The winner of the USGA Green Section Award in 1976 and the 1977 Agronomic Service Award by the American Society of Agronomy, Watson was named a Fellow of the American Society of Agronomy and the Crop Science Society of America in 1979. He also won the 1991 Harry Gill Memorial Award from the Sports Turf Managers Association; the Old Tom Morris Award, a special GCSAA honor, in 1995; and the Donald Rossi Award from the Golf Course Builders Association of America.

Over the course of five decades at Toro, Watson collaborated with the scientific community and customers, and conducted research on water conservation, the adaptability of turfgrasses, fertilization practices, snow mold prevention techniques for the winter protection of turfgrasses, and more. He authored more than 400 articles on turfgrass management.

The Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA) is a leading golf organization in the United States. Its focus is on golf course management, and since 1926 GCSAA has been the top professional association for the men and women who manage golf courses in the U.S. and worldwide. From its headquarters in Lawrence, Kan., the association provides education, information and representation to nearly 19,000 members in more than 78 countries. The association’s mission is to serve its members, advance their profession and enhance the enjoyment, growth and vitality of the game of golf. Visit GCSAA at or find us on Facebook or Twitter. Visit our industry-leading magazine at

The GCSAA Foundation is the philanthropic organization of the GCSAA. Its mission is to secure funding and support to strengthen advocacy, education, and research that advances the work of golf course management professionals. Visit the Foundation at

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