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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44 GOLF COURSE MANAGEMENT 01.17 ing in March from UMass, where she has taught since 1980. Her plans include a third edition of the book. Just maybe, all of this was meant to be. As a college student, Win Vittum lived in the home of professor Lawrence Dickinson (a 1958 DSA recipient) and his family, earn - ing her room and board by doing house- work there. Dickinson, by the way, created the turfgrass program at UMass. What has driven Vittum all these years? Her mother Win had much to do with that. "I don't like to lose," Vittum says. Nick Christians, Ph.D. Sometimes it takes nothing more than a phone call for veteran Iowa State University instructor, researcher, author and innovator Nick Christians, Ph.D., to change lives. "I'm sitting on my dorm room bed my freshman year in college at Northern State University (in Aberdeen, S.D.), and I get a call from Dr. Nick," says Joe Livingston, CGCS. "He says, 'I hear you're studying en - vironmental science, but all you've done is work on a golf course.' Next thing he tells me is that he's setting up my transfer next semester to Iowa State." Livingston, son of late superintendent Bob Livingston, had never been to Ames, Iowa, which is home to Iowa State. Yet that call from Christians was enough to convince him a change was in order. He enrolled and would graduate, and his degree would take him other places, including where he is today. Livingston, a 23-year GCSAA mem - ber, oversees River Crest Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas, and he remains in fre - quent contact with Christians, whom Liv- ingston says has a special way of connecting with people. "I spent a lot of time around him, and he knew your life," Livingston says. "If a grandparent died, he knew. He knew your birthday. I had a classmate who told me that the adviser he had didn't even say his name properly when he walked in the door. Dr. Nick was the opposite, and I'm a microcosm of his life. You could talk to hundreds of others like me who had him that will say the same thing." GCSAA Class A superintendent Ross Laubscher, a 16-year association member who attended Iowa State and works at En - trada at Snow Canyon in St. George, Utah, says, "He's given his life to his profession and to us. You go to Nick's class and you learn things that are going to help you in your career, and he could make what you learn stick." A fixture in Iowa State's horticulture department going on 38 years, Christians has mentored more than 1,000 students, many of whom have become industry stal - warts. Christians, who originally wanted to be a wildlife biologist, certainly proved to be a pioneer in the business. A prime example is a breakthrough he made con - cerning herbicides. In 1986, Christians produced a pre-emergence herbicide for weed control made from corn gluten. His discovery was patented, and it was licensed to more than 20 distributors for use on turf and home gardens. "It came about by accident. It was just an observation from an unrelated study," says Christians, who is from Kanawha, Iowa. "I was working with another faculty member, using cornmeal to grow a fungal organism." Christians received 22 percent of the patent royalties, paid to him over a span of years from Iowa State. Although he would secure more patents in time, that first one was quite a treasure. "I felt elated. A patent looks good on your résumé. Not everybody has them," says Christians, who, with his wife of 46 years, Marla, has two sons, Lance and Timothy, the latter of whom is a super - intendent in the Chicago area. He also is the author of several books, perhaps the most notable being "Funda - mentals of Turfgrass Management," which was first released in 1998 and is expected to be available at the Golf Industry Show next month in Orlando. The fifth version was updated with the help of two of Chris - tians' former students: Purdue University's Aaron Patton, Ph.D., and Purdue graduate research assistant Quincy Law. For those like Dan Bergstrom, Chris - tians helped shape some memorable life chapters. Bergstrom, who was previously groundskeeper for the Houston Astros and currently oversees the field for the Houston Dynamo of Major League Soccer, was ini - tially a journalism student at Drake Univer- sity. He was working a summer job on a golf course during college when he met Chris - tians, who spent a considerable amount of time one day telling Bergstrom about Iowa State's turfgrass program and all the oppor - tunities that could come of it. "I've been on an amazing ride. If I don't meet with Nick that day, end up going to Iowa State, get the turf bug, none of this happens," Bergstrom says. "Nick opened doors for me that I really had no interest in even trying to open." A former superintendent himself (Chris - tians worked for two years as superinten- dent at Pueblo West Golf Course, which now is called Desert Hawk at Pueblo West in Pueblo, Colo.), Christians recalls his of - fice upon arriving at Iowa State. Stationed in what previously was the botany building, he describes the space as having holes in the roof, bats and squirrels as tenants, and no Nick Christians, Ph.D., has been a teacher, researcher and mentor at Iowa State University for more than three decades. The patent he earned for a pre-emergence herbicide for weed control had a major impact on the industry. Photo by Amy Vinchattle

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