J. Bryan Unruh, Ph.D., honored with GCSAA’s President’s Award for Environmental Stewardship

University of Florida turfgrass educator and researcher will receive award at the 2023 GCSAA Conference and Trade Show


J. Bryan Unruh

J. Bryan Unruh, Ph.D., professor at the University of Florida and associate director of the West Florida Research and Education Center, has been named the recipient of the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America’s 2023 President’s Award for Environmental Stewardship. He will be recognized during the Sunrise Celebration of the 2023 GCSAA Conference and Trade Show on Feb. 8 in Orlando.

The President’s Award for Environmental Stewardship was established in 1991 to recognize an exceptional environmental contribution to the game of golf; a contribution that further exemplifies the golf course superintendent’s image as a steward of the land.

"Dr. Unruh has been instrumental in the development and expansion of golf course best management practices, which have truly been a game changer for the industry,” said Rhett Evans, GCSAA CEO. “His work has been invaluable to the game of golf and GCSAA members, and he personifies what the President’s Award for Environmental Stewardship is all about.”

Unruh’s road to nearly three decades at the University of Florida began in an unlikely place, Dodge City, Kan. While growing up in Dodge City, he was involved in 4-H, and attending a training on mowing lawns by his county Extension agent was his first introduction to turfgrass. After earning his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in horticulture from Kansas State University, he received his doctorate in horticulture from Iowa State University in 1995. Two weeks later, he joined the faculty at the University of Florida.

In 2003, Unruh played a key role in the launch of the effort to build environmental best management practices (BMPs) for Florida golf courses.

“You drive around Florida and you see a lot of sensitive ecosystems. This, coupled with a large golf industry, compelled Florida superintendents to be proactive and make sure their management practices minimize environmental impact,” Unruh said about Florida’s pioneering BMP work.

The Florida BMPs were published in 2007, and Unruh became a leading forced behind GCSAA’s initiative to have BMP manuals established for all 50 states, a goal that was achieved in 2020. Florida’s work was further validated earlier this year, when a state bill recognizing the Florida BMP Certification program was signed into law.

“It was unanimous in the state senate and had only one negative vote in the house. It really was a bipartisan effort,” Unruh said. “It memorializes the effort and recognizes the significant role that the golf industry has in Florida and the long record of environmental stewardship that Florida golf course superintendents have embraced.”

A 32-year GCSAA member, Unruh is also working with the association on the third phase of its Golf Course Environmental Profile Survey Series, a groundbreaking project to develop a comprehensive environmental profile of golf courses in the United States. He has also served on several national GCSAA committees, including the Research Proposal Review Committee and BMP Research Task Group.

Unruh has earned accolades from other industry organization as well, including Turfgrass Producers International’s Turfgrass Educator Award of Excellence and the Florida Turfgrass Association’s Wreath of Grass Award and Presidential Award. He is also a fellow of both the American Society of Agronomy and the Crop Science Society of America.

“I am at a loss for words (about winning the President’s Award),” Unruh said. “It reinforces why I get up and do what I do every day.”

To learn more about the President’s Award for Environmental Stewardship, visit gcsaa.org/awards.