Gibson, Plemons, Van Vleck receive Grassroots Ambassador Leadership Awards

Golf course superintendents honored for advocacy efforts


Bryce Gibson, Dustin Plemons and Patrick Van Vleck

Bryce Gibson, CGCS, golf course superintendent at Interlachen Country Club in Winter Park, Fla.; Dustin Plemons, golf course superintendent at Cleveland Heights Golf Course in Lakeland, Fla.; and Patrick Van Vleck, CGCS, golf course superintendent at Unicorn Golf Course in Stoneham, Mass., have been named Grassroots Ambassador Leadership Award winners from the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA).

The Grassroots Ambassador Leadership (GAL) Award, presented 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 participate in the annual National Golf Day event in Washington, D.C.

“The dedication of Bryce, Dustin and Patrick help secure the future of the golf course management industry,” GCSAA CEO Rhett Evans said. “From their focus on the environmental aspects of golf to ensuring that their respective golf courses are community assets, they have all have shone positive light on the industry. Congratulations to all three of these devoted GCSAA members for this well-deserved honor.”

The GAL Award is part of the Grassroots Ambassador program, which matches superintendents with members of Congress to build strong working relationships and create a bridge between the golf industry and the political sphere in the U.S. More than 500 GCSAA members currently serve as ambassadors.

Gibson, a 22-year member of GCSAA, has been a Grassroots Ambassador since the program’s inception in 2014. He has been paired with three congressional representatives over the years, most recently with Rep. Cory Mills (R-FL). Gibson welcomed meeting Mills and three of his staff members to Interlachen Country Club for a visit that was equal parts professional and congenial. Gibson began with a tour of the golf course, highlighting the facility’s pollinator habits, Best Management Practices and use of recycled water.

“Bryce has proven to be a true diplomat when it comes to representing GCSAA and our priority issues,” said Ralph Dain, GCSAA Florida regional representative. “Whenever the call arises, Bryce has done all he can to promote the game and our association in a positive light.”

Plemons, a 25-year GCSAA member, joined the Grassroots Ambassador program in 2020, and he is paired with Rep. Scott Franklin (R-FL). A major focus for Plemons has been emphasizing golf’s stewardship concerning water use and quality in Florida. He travels to Tallahassee every year to lobby the state legislature and has testified in front of the environmental committee to provide comment on fertilizer and environmental issues, ultimately helping get a law passed that exempts golf courses with certified BMPs from local fertilizer bans.

“Advocacy is important because if you don’t stand up for your industry, who will? We need to be as loud as we can and get the golf’s story out there,” Plemons said. “We can all get a lot done by listening to each other, and talking to representatives personally ensures that your voice is heard. The bottom line is to keep fighting the good fight and have fun while doing it.”

Wanting to do more to help in the golf industry, Van Vleck, a 21-year GCSAA member, became a Grassroots Ambassador in 2019 and is paired with Rep. Katherine Clark (D-MA). Protecting the environment has been a priority for Van Vleck and an issue he’s long been engaged in, so joining the Grassroots Ambassador program has been a natural fit. He has shared how the facility is focused on lessening its carbon footprint, caring for pollinators, growing more native plants on-site and creating spaces for wildlife. He is also shining light on how golf courses contribute to their local communities, including programs dedicated toward kids in golf.

“Advocacy in the golf industry is especially important because of the negative public perception around the sport,” Van Vleck said. “There is a disconnect between what is perceived as bad for the environment and what is actually bad.  Advocacy is all about setting the record straight where golf is concerned. The program allows us to change the minds of legislators.”

To learn more about the Grassroots Ambassador Leadership Award, visit