Golf Course Management

FEB 2014

Golf Course Management magazine is dedicated to advancing the golf course superintendent profession and helping GCSAA members achieve career success.

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48 GOLF COURSE MANAGEMENT 02.14 Bruce Clarke, Ph.D. When Bruce Clarke was growing up in Cresskill, N.J., just across the border from New York, he noticed that his father's lawn was al - ways being attacked by some mysterious sum- mer malady or another. "I was always trying to fgure out why, and that's how my interest in pathology began," he recalls. Clarke took that diagnostic curiosity to Rutgers University in 1973, earning an under - graduate degree in forest management before fnishing his Ph.D. in turfgrass pathology in 1982 and joining the faculty there the same year. His wife, Ellen, whom he met at Rutgers 40 years ago, quips that "he never left Rutgers; he's a perpetual student." Throughout his career at Rutgers, where he is currently chairman of the department of plant biology and pathology, director of the Rutgers Center for Turfgrass Science and Extension specialist in turfgrass pathology, Clarke's been solving major problems for golf course superintendents in New Jersey and be - yond in collaboration with his colleagues at Rutgers. Many of these superintendents would give him much more credit than that. "In 1988, I was on the board of the GCSANJ and a superintendent at Echo Lake Country Club for only a few years. Like many of my peers, I struggled with an unexplained disease that manifested itself that year, and like many I was applying chemicals with abandon, trying to save my golf course and my job," re - calls 28-year GCSAA member Chris Carson. "It was then that I frst fully understood the character and worth of Dr. Clarke. He came to our board meetings, discussed our concerns and offered to hold several emergency meetings for the general membership and our bosses to discuss what we were up against. "I am certain that these meetings, packed to the rear walls, helped save a number of su - perintendents' jobs as he provided a scientifc view on what we were facing, and illustrated to our decision makers that we were all in for a long fght together." That unexplained disease turned out to be summer patch, caused by Magnaporthe poae, which Clarke and his newly hired post-doctoral researcher Peter Landschoot eventually identi - fed and for which they developed an excel- lent set of best management practices, thanks in large part to the GCSANJ's commitment of $100,000 to fund the research at Rutgers. Clarke also helped address another new dis - ease problem in the 1990s called gray leaf spot with a research team, which included Drs. Bill Meyer and Stacy Bonos, two world-renowned turfgrass breeders at Rutgers, who searched the world to collect sources of disease-resistant grasses and develop more than 30 new gray leaf spot-resistant cultivars of perennial ryegrass. "It was an astonishing example of a uni - versity professor and researcher understanding industry problems and working hard to solve them," Carson says. "In short, he made our problem his problem, and our respect for him became unbreakable." From summer patch, a disease that affects turfgrass roots, Clarke moved on to focus on a dreaded disease affecting the aboveground parts of the plant — anthracnose. Although the disease had been showing up on golf course putting greens — especially annual bluegrass greens in the Northeast — for many decades, it didn't reach epidemic proportions until the 1990s. That's when superintendents began responding to demands for faster and faster greens with practices that inadvertently exac - erbated the disease: lowering the height of cut, reducing the amount of fertilizer and keeping the greens extremely dry. Since 2002, Clarke and turf management specialist Jim Murphy, Ph.D., and their graduate students have dedi - cated their research to helping superintendents manage anthracnose through refned fertility, mowing, irrigation and sand topdressing prac - tices. Clarke says their discovery about the sup- pressive benefts of sand topdressing — once believed to help spread the disease by "wound - ing" the leaves of the turf plant — was the big- gest surprise of his career. "Before we started this program, superin - tendents were spending a major part of their budget on fungicides to control anthracnose," he says. "Now a recent GCSAA-conducted survey has shown that they're getting much better control with less fungicide inputs, due to the implementation of improved management practices developed from our research." Clarke has become renowned in the golf turf industry for his leadership in organizing the Green Industry Expo held every year in Atlantic City as well as Rutgers' annual Turf - grass Research Field Days, which attracts su- perintendents from more than seven states and Canada. The Rutgers Turfgrass Research Golf Classic, which was launched by Clarke, Meyer and the New Jersey Turfgrass Association 19 years ago, has raised over $1.3 million for the Rutgers Center for Turfgrass Science. A Fellow of the American Phytopatholog - ical Society, the American Society of Agron- omy and the Crop Science Society of America, Clarke has received numerous honors, in - cluding the GCSANJ's Distinguished Service Award, the Metropolitan GCSA's John Reid Lifetime Achievement Award, and the New Jersey Turfgrass Association's Hall of Fame Award. At Rutgers, Clarke was the recipient of the Ralph Geiger Endowed Chair in Turfgrass Science and the Weisblat Award for Excellence in Research, Teaching and Outreach. He has authored more than 200 articles in professional journals as well as three books on turfgrass pathology. "The reality is that any accomplishments I've had have been through collaboration and partnerships with my colleagues and graduate students," Clarke says, adding that he believes his most important work is "extending the re - sults of our research back to superintendents, who use them to correct their problems. The goal of our work has always been to address the key concerns of the industry and to provide sci - ence-based solutions that improve the quality of turf throughout the United States." Clarke, pictured here at RutgersÕ annual Turfgrass Research Field Days, has organized numerous educational and fundraising events for the golf turfgrass management industry. Photo courtesy of Bruce Clarke 044-055_Feb14_DSAs.indd 48 1/17/14 2:05 PM

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