November 4, 2015 – Fed up with frequent flooding on his golf course, Jeff Sexton, the golf course superintendent at Evansville (Ind.) Country Club, took matters into his own hands, and it led him straight to his congressman in Washington, D.C.
Sexton, a certified golf course superintendent (CGCS), serves as one of 200 Grassroots Ambassadors for the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America. His “contact” is Rep. Larry Buchon of Indiana’s 8th District. The second-year program seeks to establish stronger relationships between lawmakers and the golf industry.
Sexton didn’t have to look far to find Buchon, however. He is not only a member of Evansville C.C., he also had stepped in to help Sexton with flooding issues on the course earlier this year.
Evansville C.C. sits near Pelican Creek, and problems with levees at the creek were causing reoccurring flooding to the course. Sexton wanted to address the problem, but because Pelican Creek falls under the “Waters of the United States” in the Clean Water Act, the Army Corps of Engineers had to approve any repairs to the levees. When the problem persisted, Sexton contacted Buchon for help.
And he continues to see Buchon as a great resource.
“We have a good relationship. I know that if I email him, I’ll get a response,” Sexton said. “It really just took me getting the ball rolling and getting involved. I have also gotten him involved in our local chapter as well. I’m not really into politics, but this helped me learn more about how our government works.”
Being a golf course superintendent is in Sexton’s blood. His father, Tony, now retired, spent more than four decades in the profession. His uncle also worked on a golf course. So, it is no wonder that the younger Sexton is an advocate for the work that superintendents do. He worked on a golf course as a teenager and later received a turfgrass science degree from Purdue University. But it wasn’t until he was working as an assistant superintendent at Rolling Hills Country Club in Newburgh, Ind., that he received some sage advice from his mentor, Brad Coole, CGCS.
“Brad taught me to get involved and get my name out there so you can get help when you need it,” Sexton said. “You have to be at the top of your game. You have to be known. You have to promote yourself.”
Since returning to his hometown to take his current position at Evansville C.C., Sexton has put his name out there in a number of ways. He has served as president of his local Tri-State GCSA chapter and as a delegate to national association meetings, in addition to being a GCSAA Grassroots Ambassador.
“It’s up to us to promote our profession, and the ambassador program helps us further the education of what superintendents do and the many benefits golf courses provide to their communities,” Sexton explained.
Kaelyn Seymour, GCSAA’s government affairs specialist who oversees the Grassroots Ambassadors program, says that Sexton is a good example of how a golf course superintendent can be a voice for the national association by investing just a few hours a month.
“Jeff is a real self-starter. He has ideas about things and calls to ask if it’s okay to pursue, and it always is,” Seymour said.
Evansville C.C. has been very supportive of Sexton’s advocacy efforts. The facility and its members have also been fans of his environmental work.
One of his more visible environmental efforts is the beehives he brought to Evansville C.C. in 2014. Sexton was inspired to start the hives as a way to show that beehives can coexist with sustainable golf course maintenance practices. The club currently has two hives and hopes to add more. The clubhouse restaurant uses the surplus honey.
“My members are excited about the hives, including the honey production,” Sexton said. “They share with their friends at other courses what we are doing. It’s another way I can promote that superintendents aren’t just grass growers. We’re scientists who know what we are doing when it comes to protecting the environment.”
About GCSAA and the EIFG
The Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA) is a leading golf organization in the United States. Its focus is on golf course management, and since 1926 GCSAA has been the top professional association for the men and women who manage golf courses in the U.S. and worldwide. From its headquarters in Lawrence, Kan., the association provides education, information and representation to nearly 18,000 members in more than 78 countries. The association’s mission is to serve its members, advance their profession and enhance the enjoyment, growth and vitality of the game of golf. Visit GCSAA at www.gcsaa.org or find us on Facebook or Twitter.
The Environmental Institute for Golf is the philanthropic organization of the GCSAA. Its mission is to foster sustainability through research, awareness, education, programs and scholarships for the benefit of golf course management professionals, golf facilities and the game. Visit EIFG at www.eifg.org or find us on Facebook or Twitter.