Colonel John Morley, the founder and first president of the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA), has been selected to receive the association's 2009 Old Tom Morris Award.
The award will be accepted by attending past presidents of the association on behalf of the late Col. Morley at the Opening Session of the 2009 GCSAA Education Conference Feb. 5. The conference (Feb. 2-7) will be held in conjunction with the Golf Industry Show (Feb. 5-7) at the New Orleans Morial Convention Center.
"This is a long overdue honor for the first president of our association," GCSAA President David S. Downing II, CGCS, said. "He is one of the founding fathers of our profession and a cornerstone in the foundation of the relationship between the golfers who enjoy the golf course and the superintendents charged with the care of the golf course. It is also appropriate that the entire golf industry gains a greater understanding and appreciation for Morley's contributions to the game. His tireless dedication not only elevated the profession, but the recreational and entertainment value for golfers. It is my hope that we will see him in the World Golf Hall of Fame in the near future."
GCSAA's most prestigious honor, the Old Tom Morris Award is presented each year to an individual who "through a continuing lifetime commitment to the game of golf has helped to mold the welfare of the game in a manner and style exemplified by Old Tom Morris." Morris (1821-1908) was greenkeeper and golf professional at the St. Andrews Links Trust Golf Club of St. Andrews, Scotland; a four-time winner of the British Open (1861, '62, '64 and '67); and ranked as one of the top links designers of the 19th century.
Morley founded the National Association of Greenkeepers of America (NAGA) in 1926, along with 59 other greenkeepers, at Sylvania Country Club in Toledo, Ohio. They pledged to build an association to inform and educate its membership and strive for the betterment of the greenkeepers' future. Having evolved into the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America, it now serves about 20,000 active members from more than 70 countries around the world. Morley served as the association's first president from 1926-1932.
Born Aug. 24, 1867, in Middleboro, England, Morley came to America in 1880. He was a grower of vegetables. The manager of the Bass Lake Hotel near Chardon, Ohio for 15 years, Morley also had managerial stops at the McKelvey and Co. dining room and the Elk's Club in Youngstown, Ohio, before Youngstown Country Club hired him in 1913 to provide fresh vegetables for its new menu. That job led to him becoming the greenkeeper of the club, and he worked there until 1942. Morley learned about greenkeeping by visiting golf courses around the region and attending several of the early USGA Green Section meetings. It is said that golfers from everywhere, even those who had played on the best courses in the world, remarked about the perfection and beauty of the Youngstown Country Club.
Morley always held a strong interest in public service, as evidenced in his active membership with the Masons, Elks, Moose, Owls, English Society and Son's of Saint George service clubs. In economic depression years of 1893 and 1896, he was placed in charge of feeding the poor in Youngstown. In President Theodore Roosevelt's time, Morley was the secretary of the Mahoning County Progressive Club. Because of his support for the cause, the governor of Ohio appointed Morley to the Board of Equalization, but because of poor health and defective hearing, he opted to take the outdoor work opportunity with Youngstown Country Club instead.
In 1923, Morley helped organize the Cleveland District Greenkeeper's Association and served as president until he was able to launch the national association. Morley, along with John MacGregor and Fred Burkhardt (both officers in the NAGA and future presidents of the association) tirelessly toured the country, as well as Toronto and other parts of Canada, in efforts to promote the NAGA and build membership. Not only did they meet with greenkeepers, but also with leaders of private clubs to build support of the organization. It is estimated that Morley himself visited more than 200 clubs in that time.
Morley was recognized in a letter from Donald Ross, famed golf course architect, dated Oct. 17, 1926, for forming the NAGA. Ross said, "I congratulate you on your work as a greenkeeper of outstanding ability and with leaders of your type an association would unquestionably be a great success, not only from the standpoint of the members but also from the clubs who employ them."
Standing 5-5 and weighing 130 pounds, Morley was known as the "Little Colonel." He was commissioned with the honorary rank of Colonel by the governor of Kentucky in 1930 when NAGA held its fourth annual conference and show in Louisville. In 1933 Morley (at the age of 65) turned the reigns of the NAGA over to MacGregor. However, Morley continued to serve the NAGA for 10 more years. At the 1940 NAGA Conference in New York, Morley was presented the "Man of the Year" award by William Richardson, golf editor of the New York Times. Morley died April 25, 1946, at the age of 79. He and his wife Emily had two children, Emmet Frederick Morley and John Earl Morley. Emmet fought in the first World War, and his son John Coombs Morley fought in World War II.
Morley is a two-time recipient of the GCSAA Distinguished Service Award (which has been renamed the Col. John Morley Award this year), becoming the first to earn the award in 1932 and winning it again in 1940. Part of the recognition and appreciation package for GCSAA board members who progress through the chairs and serve as president is an original painting of a scene at the president's golf course, also called the Col. John Morley Award, that is presented to his or her employer at the conference event honoring the president at the end of his or her term. Morley was also elected to the Northern Ohio Golf Association Hall of Fame on Sept. 13, 2006.
GCSAA is a leading golf organization and has as its focus golf course management. Since 1926, GCSAA has been the top professional association for the men and women who manage golf courses in the United States and worldwide. From its headquarters in Lawrence, Kan., the association provides education, information and representation to more than 20,000 members in more than 72 countries. GCSAA's mission is to serve its members, advance their profession and enhance the enjoyment, growth and vitality of the game of golf. The association's philanthropic organization, The Environmental Institute for Golf, works to strengthen the compatibility of golf with the natural environment through research grants, support for education programs and outreach efforts.
Visit GCSAA at www.gcsaa.org.