Golf Course Management

JAN 2017

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

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42 GOLF COURSE MANAGEMENT 01.17 Patricia Vittum, Ph.D., has worked at the University of Massachusetts since 1980. Her efforts in research, particularly of the annual bluegrass weevil, have aided superintendents over the years. Photo courtesy of Patricia Vittum Patricia Vittum, Ph.D. Whether it's field hockey or the annual bluegrass weevil (ABW), a competitive spirit runs deep inside Pat Vittum, Ph.D. Perhaps it comes from her mother, who, appropriately, is named Win. On her first day at the University of Massachusetts, Win attended an English class. "The professor looked disdainfully at the students and said something to the effect, 'I am not surprised to see so many girls in here. You can't han - dle the sciences.' She left the class vowing to major in one of the sciences, and even - tually graduated with a bachelor's degree with high honors in botany," says Vittum, a Phelps, N.Y., native. Her father is Morrill Vittum, who was an agronomist at Cornell University and a fellow of the American So - ciety of Horticultural Science. Vittum has certainly scaled grand heights in her profession, winning accolades for her achievements along the way. A for - mer all-state field hockey goalkeeper for two years in her days at the College of Wooster (Ohio), she is a professor of entomology in the Stockbridge School of Agriculture at the a time when some superintendents in the New York metro region were scrambling for answers. ABW is particularly damag - ing to Poa annua and creeping bentgrass. The larvae feed in the turfgrass crowns, and each individual larva can kill as many as 10 plants. "There were those of us who were los - ing collar areas, fairways, and superintend- ents were the ones getting in trouble for it," says Ted Horton, superintendent in those days at Winged Foot Golf Club in Mama - roneck, N.Y. As a graduate research assistant at Cor - nell University from 1975 to 1980, Vittum set up shop at Winged Foot. Horton cleared out an area next to his office for Vittum to do her job, and superintendents raised money to supplement her research. "My kids, who were young then, called her 'the bug lady.' She collected plugs, laid them out on the table, and the kids helped her pull them apart, looking for larvae and other in - sects," Horton says. Vittum's dedication never wavered, Hor - ton says, even if her mode of transportation was suspect. "She drove an old Plymouth that our mechanic kept running. She'd take off in a puff of smoke. We wondered if she'd ever get back," he says. She did return. Often. And not only to Winged Foot, but to many other places in the region that depended on her expertise. Eventually, ABW spread to the New Eng - land area and into Ontario and Quebec. "In the entomology world, she was t one," says Mike Maffei, CGCS at Morefar Golf Course in Brewster, N.Y., and a 45- year association member. "It (ABW) af - fected many of us. It's a tough insect — still is. But it's not as bad as it used to be. She discovered that the main issue was the tim - ing of applications. She was instrumental in giving us a plan, no doubt about it." Scott Niven, CGCS, a 37-year GCSAA member and property manager at The Stanwich Club in Greenwich, Conn., says, "She eats, sleeps and drinks what she does." Vittum studied under Haruo Tashiro, whose 1987 book "Turfgrass Insects of the United States and Canada" was the first comprehensive work on insects and other arthropods that are destructive to turf in the U.S. and southern Canada. She served as se - nior author of its second edition in 1999. When she wasn't teaching or researching, Vittum participated in countless turfgrass conferences here and abroad. She intends to remain active in the industry after retir - University of Massachusetts-Amherst, and once called the prestigious USGA Green Section Award that she received "the Heis - man Trophy of the industry," comparing it to the ultimate prize presented to the top college football player. She's similarly thrilled about being awarded a DSA. "I looked at the list of pre - vious winners; it looked like a list of hall- of-fame golf course managers," says Vittum, who's also in the College of Wooster Hall of Fame. "To think that my name is now on that list is an incredible honor." And an honor well deserved says Tom Leahy, CGCS at Sleepy Hollow Country Club in Scarborough, N.Y., and a 24-year GCSAA member. "She's so well regarded, respected, liked by everybody. That's a tes - tament to the type of person she is," Leahy says. "She was on the leading edge of help - ing superintendents. The go-to person." Vittum's extensive work for more than four decades in entomology — much of it focused on the identification and control of ABW — thrust her into the world of golf course superintendents in the mid-1970s,

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