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Meet the 2011 Turf Bowl Champions

February 17, 2011

Fresh off their big victory I was able to catch up with the 1st place team members and get their take on the entire experience.

Q: Tell me a little about each of you. Where are you from? What’s your background in turf?

A: Nick Dunlap – I’m from North Liberty, Iowa. I worked at Quail Creek Golf Course throughout high school and worked at Ames Golf and Country Club before starting as an undergraduate research assistant for Dr. Christians. Last summer I interned at Robert Trent Jones Golf Club in Gainesville, Virginia and plan to return to Virginia to work at Kinloch Golf Club before starting graduate school in the fall.

A: Quincy Law – I’m from Clear Lake, Iowa and my first golf course experience was at All Vets Golf Club. I’ve also worked at Saratoga Country Club near San Jose, California and Coldwater Golf Links in Ames. Last summer I worked at the ISU Horticulture Research Station assisting with research and helping to maintain the grounds.

A: Zach Simons – I’m from Quincy, Illinois. I started in turf in August 2007 when I got a job at Westview Golf Course in Quincy and I worked there for a year and a half. The summer of 2009 I completed an internship at Arcadia Bluffs Golf Club in Arcadia, Michigan and last summer I interned with the Iowa Clubs ground crew.

A: Jason Van Engen – I grew up in Primghar, Iowa. I started mowing lawns at the age of 11 and worked at Primghar Golf and Country Club throughout high school. I worked at Emerald Hills Golf and Country Club in Okoboji, Iowa my first summer in college. Last summer I interned at Spring Hill Golf Club in Wayzata, Minnesota and this summer I am headed to Chicago Golf Club in Wheaton, Illinois.

Q: What made you want to compete in the contest?

A: Jason Van Engen – The history and tradition that Iowa State has in the Turf Bowl made me want to compete. Another source of inspiration came from watching the awards ceremony the previous year in San Diego. To see and hear the excitement of the winners as they were announced really inspired me. It was this inspiration that motivated me for a victory this year.

Q: What did you do to help prepare for the contest?

A: Zach Simons – I wrote and rewrote the scientific names of the grasses and worked quite a few math problems until I felt comfortable going into the test. I was also responsible for the weed section so I made a powerpoint presentation of weed pictures. I even studied weeds that I had never heard of but wanted to account for every weed listed on the study guide.

Q: The winning team receives a traveling trophy and is presented with an oversized check for $4,000. The trophy is mailed back to campus but how is it traveling home with the big check?

A: Nick Dunlap - I asked a representative from the GCSAA if they had any large envelopes so we could mail the oversized $4,000 check back home, but she informed me that they cost $4,000, so that was pretty much out of the question. Unable to mail the check home, we had to bring the check on the plane as a carry-on item. The reaction we got was not really surprising. What would you do if you saw someone walking through an airport with an oversized check? We experienced everything from odd looks and double takes to strangers clapping and flight attendants gloating saying that they wanted a big check too. Actually, I think I’m going to miss traveling with a large check.

Jason trying to navigate the big check through the isle.

Q: What does ISU's success in the Turf Bowl say about our Horticulture Department and the type of instruction you have received during your schooling?

A: Quincy Law – The Turf Bowl Competition is a national event and Iowa State’s success demonstrates the high quality education we receive. The test covers such a broad range of topics it’s very difficult to prepare for. Dr. Christians and Marcus Jones do a great job preparing us, along with the classes we take in agronomy, business, entomology, plant pathology, and other disciplines.

Q: Who was the first person you contacted after you found out you won the Turf Bowl?

A: Zach Simons – My mom actually texted me right after the awards ceremony asking me how I did in the Turf Bowl. She was the first person I told and from there the news spread and I kept on receiving texts congratulating me the rest of the night.

Thanks guys for your time and congratulations again on the Big W!


Bringing Home the Hardware: A Review of the 2011 GIS

February 14, 2011

The 2011 Golf Industry Show is in the books. That’s also been the focus for a group of Iowa State University undergraduate students for the past 3 months who had been preparing for another run at the Collegiate Turf Bowl Competition.

John Deere sponsors the competition and awards a traveling trophy to the winning team along with cash prizes to teams who placed in the top 10. The winning team included Nick Dunlap, Quincy Law, Zach Simons, and Jason Van Engen, all seniors in Horticulture at Iowa State. The team received a $4,000 cash award which goes to the Turf Club. Three other teams from ISU competed and finished 17th, 47th, and 48th. The teams must complete a three and a half hour test on soils, turfgrass species, weeds, diseases, insects, mathematics, plant physiology, human resources, and financial management along with a case study question.

Picture from left to right: Gregg Brenningmeyer, global director of sales and marketing, John Deere Golf; Dr. Nick Christians, university professor and turf club advisor; Zach Simons, student participant; Jason Van Engen, student participant; Nick Dunlap, student participant; Quincy Law, student participant; Marcus Jones, graduate student and turf bowl coach; James Fitzroy, CGCS Wollaston Recreational Facility/Presidents Golf Course in North Quincy, Massachusetts.

The Turf Bowl is a highly competitive event with this year’s competition consisting of 87 teams from 32 colleges and universities. This year’s victory marks the 9th time in 10 years that a team from Iowa State has won the competition.

I have been fortunate to be involved in the contest for a number of years, first as a participant and then as a coach to our undergraduate teams. I want to thank all my “students” over the years that I’ve had the opportunity to work with. Thanks for an amazing experience! 

There were many other activities at the GIS including educational seminars and the trade show. I attended seminars on irrigation water quality and electrical troubleshooting of irrigation systems. Managing turf that receives Irrigation from poor quality water will be an important skill moving forward as water demand and awareness of water usage increases. We discussed the various components of water quality such as salt content, sodium hazard, residual sodium carbonate, pH and ions present is toxic concentrations and how to interpret and adjust management practices to deal with water quality issues.

The electrical troubleshooting seminar was hosted by the Irrigation Association. This seminar covered basic troubleshooting skills such as how to properly use a volt-ohm meter along with many other gadgets in order to diagnose field wiring problems.


Enjoy the "warm" weather headed our way. Maybe that groundhog knows what he's doing after all.


Meet the 2012 Turf Bowl Champions from Iowa State

March 8, 2012
2012 GCSAA Collegiate Turf Bowl Champions.  From left to right: Isaac Mertz, Casey Sheehy, Dan Strey, and Shane Lohman.

Q: Where are you from? What’s your background in turf?

A: Isaac Mertz – I’m from Perry Iowa. I grew up playing a lot of golf and always wanted to make a career out of it someway. It wasn’t until I heard about the turf program here at ISU that I knew I could make that a reality.

A: Casey Sheehy – I am from Perry, Iowa as well. I played golf all throughout high school and spent many, many hours on the course during the week and summer breaks. I first came to Iowa State as an Animal Science major before deciding to change majors. My cousins Cory and Brett Henson graduated from Iowa State in Turf and my love for the game of golf helped spark my interest to study turfgrass science.

A: Shane Lohman – At 19 I decided to work the maintenance staff for a private golf course in suburbs of St. Louis. A couple years later I worked for Superintendent Dave Klinkhammer at Greenbriar Hills Country Club. He helped guide me and continually gave me opportunities to learn new golf course management practices. After learning Dave had gone to Iowa State I knew if I wanted to become successful in this industry Iowa State was the place I needed to go to get my education.

A: Dan Strey – I’m from Cherry Valley, Illinois. I have been in the turf industry for the last three years and have completed internships at Geneva National Golf Club (Lake Geneva, WI) and Victoria National Golf Club (Newburgh, IN). I completed an A.A.S. degree in turfgrass management from Kishwaukee Community College in the spring of 2010 and graduated summa cum laude. I plan to graduate this May 2012 and will begin graduate school at Iowa State starting in the fall of 2012.

Q: What did you do to prepare for the contest?

A: Isaac Mertz – As a team we would get together 2 to 3 times a week and even on weekends. As far as day to day stuff, I don’t think there has been a time over the past month and a half that I went somewhere without a set of flashcards in my pocket. I’d review them walking to class across campus, while waiting for class to start, and even while getting lunch. People would give me weird looks but you get used to it. Plus, the feeling of accomplishing what you set out to do definitely makes it all worth it.

Q: What is it like traveling home with an oversized check?

A: Dan Strey – The check had to be cut in half in order to fit on the plane. Even though it was in two pieces, it didn’t stop Shane and I from having a little fun at the Las Vegas airport. We were able to put it back together when we got home and it’s on display in the Horticulture building for everyone to see.


Q: What does ISU's success in the Turf Bowl say about the ISU turf program?

A: Shane Lohman – It speaks volumes about the level of education students receive at Iowa State. The turf professors at Iowa State are truly some of the best. They do everything they can to prepare the students with the proper education for employment after graduating. Also, the alumni of the ISU turf program are terrific we well. All week alumni were coming by the booth wishing us well and good luck in the Turf Bowl. I am very proud to be a part of the turf program at Iowa State.

Q: Who was the first person you contacted after you found out you won the Turf Bowl?

A: Isaac Mertz – The first person that I contacted was my brother. I texted him as soon as the trophy presentation was over with. After that the text messages and calls just kept coming in. It’s amazing how fast the word got out and definitely something I will never forget.


2012 Collegiate Turf Bowl Competition Recap

March 5, 2012
From left to right: Stephen Vincent, John Deere Golf; Nick Christians, Iowa State University; Nick Dunlap, Turf Bowl Coach; Dan Strey; Shane Lohman; Casey Sheehy; Isaac Mertz; and Robert Randquist, CGCS.

The 2012 GCSAA Education Conference and Golf Industry Show was held last week in Las Vegas, Nevada. A group of students from Iowa State University went “all in” and brought home the 2012 Collegiate Turf Bowl Championship. Shane Lohman, Senior from New Haven, Missouri; Isaac Mertz, Senior from Perry, Iowa; Casey Sheehy, Junior from Perry Iowa; and Dan Strey, Senior from Cherry Valley, Illinois formed the winning team from Iowa State. Graduate research assistant, Nick Dunlap, coached the teams from Iowa State.

The Turf Bowl consists of a 3 ½ hour test which includes a case study question and sections covering plant identification, growth and development, soil and soil fertility, weed identification and control, entomology, pathology, mathematics, irrigation, water, and business management. The test is facilitated by Leah Brilman, Ph.D., of the Turfgrass Breeders Association and Gwen Stahnke, Ph.D., who update and modify the exam each year.

The Turf Bowl Competition was again sponsored by John Deere Golf which awards a total of $10,000 in cash and prizes. The first place team receives $4,000 along with the traveling Turf Bowl trophy. This year’s competition had 87 teams participating from 44 colleges and universities across the country.

The victory for Iowa State marked the third consecutive year a team from ISU has won the competition. The students also helped carry on the tradition of Iowa State’s success in the Turf Bowl as they have placed first in 12 of the last 14 Turf Bowl competitions.

Here’s a rundown of the top 10 placing schools from the 2012 contest and a video from the awards ceremony.

1. Iowa State University
2. University of Massachusetts-Amherst
3. University of Maryland
4. University of Wisconsin-Madison
5. University of Arkansas
6. Purdue University
7. University of Maryland
8. University of Connecticut
9. Purdue University
10. Penn State University