Garrett named Grassroots Ambassador Leadership Award winner

Golf course superintendent honored for advocacy efforts, advancement of association priority issues and congressional outreach


Donald Garrett Jr., CGCS, golf course superintendent at Walker Golf Course at Clemson (S.C.) University, has been named a Grassroots Ambassador Leadership Award winner from the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA).

The Grassroots Ambassador Leadership Award, presented quarterly in partnership with The Toro Co., recognizes and honors individuals who have demonstrated growth in advocacy and advancement of the GCSAA Priority Issues Agenda through congressional outreach and relationship development with a member of Congress. Through Toro, the winners receive a trip to take part in the annual National Golf Day event in Washington, D.C.

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The GAL Award is part of the Grassroots Ambassador program, which matches superintendents with members of Congress to build strong relationships between them. More than 500 GCSAA members currently serve as ambassadors.

A 37-year member of GCSAA, Garrett’s advocacy experience began in the mid-1990s when he lobbied the South Carolina legislature for funding to aid Clemson’s turf program. In his fourth year of advocating with the SC Turf Foundation, Garrett helped to secure $600,000 in annually recurring funds for Clemson. His early experience in advocacy taught Garrett the importance of government engagement and allowed him to hone his pervasive speaking skills.

He joined the Grassroots Ambassador program just before the COVID-19 pandemic hit after Michael Lee, GCSAA senior manager, government affairs, reached out and encouraged him to participate, and it was a natural fit. As a Grassroots Ambassador, he is paired with Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC), with whom he has shared a copy of GCSAA’s “Best Management Practices for Carolinas Golf Courses” and a copy of the association’s Priority Issues. Through multiple in-person meetings, Garrett has developed a great working relationship with Congressman Duncan’s chief, who is now just a phone call away when critical issues arise.

“I want people to know that while government relations is not the flashiest thing, it is very important,” Garrett said. “I encourage other superintendents to respond to action alerts through the GCSAA website, such as emailing a legislator about an important bill or commenting on regulation. GCSAA does a fantastic job in providing accessible ways to advocate for the golf industry.”

Through his involvement, Garrett has seen first-hand how advocacy can help allocate funds for research that is vital in backing up GCSAA’s best management practices and sustainability efforts. Through Rounds 4 Research, the Carolinas GCSA, the GCSAA-affiliated chapter Garrett is a part of, has raised more than half a million dollars to put toward impactful research efforts, and he wants to keep growing this program and advocating for the importance of research. “I will continue to be a strong advocate for the golf industry and believe everyone has the power to make a difference,” Garrett said. “I am proud of the government relations team at GCSAA and will do my best to support their efforts on behalf of superintendents everywhere.