Longtime turfgrass science researchers Leah Brilman, Ph.D., and Richard Latin, Ph.D., have been selected to receive the 2018 Col. John Morley Distinguished Service Award from GCSAA. The award is given to individuals who have made an outstanding, substantive and enduring contribution to the advancement of the golf course superintendent profession. The award was renamed in 2009 in honor of Col. John Morley, GCSAA’s founder and first president. He was the first to earn the Distinguished Service Award in 1932, and he received it again in 1940.
“Dr. Brilman and Dr. Latin are most deserving of the Col. John Morley Award,” says GCSAA President Bill H. Maynard, CGCS. “They have made significant contributions to the game and bettered the professional lives of superintendents through research and teaching. Their careers have been dedicated to improving the playing fields of our great game. Their service has been invaluable.”
Brilman is the director of product management and services for DLF Pickseed. Brilman’s research interests include turfgrass breeding and genetics as well as the utilization of new cultivars and management changes. Her excellence in the turfgrass industry has been well documented through the many awards she has received, including a National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowship, the Association of Commercial Plant Breeders Award for Industry Breeder, and being named a fellow in the Crop Science Society of America (CSSA). She has received the Fred V. Grau Turfgrass Science Award from the Turfgrass Science Division of CSSA.
“I was thrilled and honored to receive this award from GCSAA,” says Brilman. “I enjoy working with superintendents and students, and the association has allowed me to do this. When I am brainstorming with a superintendent or driving around a golf course with them, I learn from them as well.”
Brilman was a biology major at California State University, Bakersfield in the 1970s, when work on a paper about the evolution of wheat led to an interest in grass species. She received her bachelor’s degree from CSU Bakersfield in 1976, and would go on to earn master’s and doctoral degrees in agronomy and plant genetics from the University of Arizona. She has been a longtime faculty member for GCSAA education and is the co-coordinator of the annual GCSAA Collegiate Turf Bowl. In addition to participation in state and regional turfgrass conferences around the United States, Brilman has lectured in the United Kingdom, Russia, Australia, Japan and Korea on various topics related to turfgrass cultivars. Brilman says that since the start of her career, the interest in drought-resistant grasses has been one of the biggest changes in the industry.
“Turfgrass breeders have to think long-term,” she says. “Coming from California and Arizona, I thought drought resistance would be more important earlier in my career, but it did not become a consistent demand until the last five years.”
Latin, professor of botany and plant pathology at Purdue University, where he has taught since 1981, cites his lifelong love of golf for determining his career path.
“I’ve always had my eye on turf,” Latin says. “I play golf; I love golf. So, when my mentor retired, I was the first to raise my hand to take on the role of turfgrass pathologist.”
Latin’s research focuses on turf disease control and factors that influence fungicide performance. His university appointment includes teaching, research and extension responsibilities. His book, “A Practical Guide to Turfgrass Fungicides,” is widely recognized as the most comprehensive text on the subject. He has been an instructor for GCSAA education since 2009. In addition to participation in local and regional turfgrass conferences around the United States, Latin has lectured in Europe and Asia on the principles of fungicide action on turf.
Latin earned his Bachelor of Science at Waynesburg College and his master’s and Ph.D. at Penn State University. Throughout his career, he has worked closely with golf course superintendents.
“I think of the folks who are recognizing me, and I am so flattered,” Latin says. “I have such a high regard for superintendents. They use their knowledge and creativity to benefit us all. Being recognized by them is very special to me. Superintendents are really some of the most remarkable people I have ever known.”
The GCSAA Board of Directors selects the winners of the Col. John Morley Distinguished Service Award from nominations submitted by affiliated chapters or association members. View the complete list of past Col. John Morley Distinguished Service Award recipients.