Saturday, October 19, 2013

A Turf Legend has Passed

Educator, Researcher, Mentor

Dr. Joseph M. Duich passed away this month. Dr. Duich was the most influential educator in golf course maintenance. It is easy to say and accurate as well to say that golf course maintenance, as it has evolved today, would be very different had he not been leading the way.

Golfers don't realize that one man was more responsible for the improvement of golf course conditioning than any other single factor in the game. Dr. Duich, a plant breeder by training, was responsible for all of the significant improved bentgrasses introduced from the late 1950s through the mid 1980s. At the same time he was training students to become golf course superintendents and overseeing Ph.D. candidates. He was a consultant to Augusta for more than two decades along with many other courses and he was always available by phone to any of us.

Joe, as I was able to call Dr. Duich many years after finishing school, led the Penn State turf program when it was the finest program in the country. I was accepted into the program in 1978. That year the average applicant was 22.4 years old and had already had two years of college and over 4 years experience working on golf courses. The year that I got in, 1978, there were 108 applicants for 35 spots in the two year program. In those days, Joe's former students were Superintendents at 15-20 of Golf Digest's Top 100 courses.

As an educator, Joe was really different. He rarely answered a question outright; typically, he would fire back with a few questions that would steer you and allow you to figure it out yourself. And if you were going to ask a question in class, you better have had your thoughts clearly formulated. Many of us can remember Joe dressing down a student that asked a "weak" question or statement. Joe took this as a teaching moment, he didn't want any of us to ever ask or state anything that wasn't well thought out. He taught us better thought processes along with turf.

What many of Joe's former students don't know, is that he gave the royalties from his grass breeding efforts back to the University to further the turf program.

Dr. Duich was instrumental in the careers of over 1,000 students and he changed golf course maintenance standards forever. He will be missed by his students. His influence on golf will continue.

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