2019 MGA Rebholz Award Recipient
Dr. Brian Horgan
Sponsored by the Minnesota Golf Course Superintendents Association
*The Rebholz Award was created by the Minnesota Golf Association to honor individuals who through their actions have exemplified the spirit of the game at its highest level and who have made a substantial contribution to the game either in Minnesota or on a national or international level.
Following the retirement of Dr. Don White, 2013 MGA Rebholz Award recipient, Dr. Brian Horgan was retained by the University of Minnesota to continue a very successful turfgrass studies and extension program. Unlike Dr. White’s great influence upon golf in Minnesota, the education of some of the best superintendents in the state as well as the development of a viable and produced turfgrass, Horgan, whose scientific focus was on nutrient fate, established the UMN as one of the finest turfgrass research stations in the United States.
Almost immediately after he was retained, Horgan partnered with the Minnesota Golf Course Superintendents Association to sell the idea of creating a world renown turf research, outreach and education center upon a lightly used twelve acre plot located just north of the St. Paul Campus to the UMN administration. With support from industry, Dr. Horgan managed the funding, design, establishment and on-going operation of the TROE Center. This destination includes a 50,000 square foot USGA and “push-up” style putting green, a lysimeter soil measurement system, a rain off shelter for growing drought tolerant turf species, National Turfgrass Evaluation Program turf plots and a small grove of trees for evaluating turf/tree competition trials.
Beyond establishing the UMN TROE Center as a “one of a kind” acclaimed world-class turfgrass research facility that has served the golf course industry since 2004, Horgan also helped develop an expansive postgraduate program. The phrase, “build it and they will come” is much more appropriate at the TROE Center than on a film set. With the decline in demand for golf course superintendents, Horgan realized that to perpetuate turf studies at the UMN TROE Center, a program for postgraduate education needed to be established. For almost two decades, through skilled recruitment, Horgan has set the UMN as a mecca for turf academia graduating many individuals with Masters and Doctor degrees. Currently, the TROE Center hosts several post-doctoral positions, as well as over a dozen individuals who are expanding upon their fields of specific research.
The establishment of a research facility completed, Horgan went on to pursue expanding the program through an idea that eventually became “The Science of the Green”. The concept focused on the business of golf course management from agronomics to economics utilizing various colleges of discipline within the UMN and would include the reconstruction of the University of Minnesota’s Les Bolstad golf course into an active research facility. Proposed studies would include: environmental stewardship, speed of play, pathogen management, player experience, water conservation and the economies of golf going into the future.
Although the UMN administration was interested in the opportunity, other programs took precedence and the idea was reduced in size and land development eliminated. However, the idea did warrant enough attention from the USGA to partner with the UMN pursuing a five year commitment to study the sustainability of the game of golf. The Science of the Green lives on today.
And, as if this wasn’t enough, Horgan was a major driver in the creation of the UMN’s partnership with Stanford University, The Nature Conservancy and the World Wildlife Fund. Together, this group established the Natural Capitol Project which aimed to integrate the values of nature into decisions affecting the environment and human well-being. Golf courses have a role to play in this expansive project.
As Minnesota’s turf guru, Horgan also spread himself locally, regionally, nationally and internationally via many, many published studies, articles and videos, as well as becoming an “in demand” conference presenter throughout the golf industry. Dr. Brian Horgan’s name is synonymous to Minnesota Turfgrass Research. His career took off during the development of social media. Utilizing this opportunity as a springboard to promote golf and turf, Horgan developed the many avenues of social outreach at the UMN for the betterment of the game.
For almost two decades Horgan was a known commodity at the Capitol in St. Paul and Washington DC, as well as among our state agencies. One issue of direct impact upon golf course turf management was his involvement in the creation of a sound phosphorous fertilizer law in 2005 that exempted golf courses from over regulation. Brian was also a stalwart partner in the creation of the four volume series of MGCSA Golf Course BMP manuals.
A regular face at the table when it came to environmental issues, nutrient fate and water conservation, Horgan was a willing supporter of Minnesota golf’s goal of sustainability and stewardship in publications, extension education and professional presentations. The game could not have had a better ambassador and we have been proud to have the leadership of Dr. Brian Horgan for eighteen years.
Although his recent acceptance as the chairperson for the Department of Plant, Soil and Microbial Sciences in the Michigan State University College of Agriculture and Natural Resources will physically place Brian in another state, the MGCSA and Minnesota golf will always consider Dr. Horgan “our own”.
Congratulations Dr. Horgan upon your grand achievement as the 2019 Rebholz Award Recipient. We are very proud of you and your accomplishments.