Four Cal Poly Pomona plant science students made history in winning the annual GCSAA Collegiate Turf Bowl competition against colleges and universities from North America.
Kathy Nguyen, Stephen Espinosa, Julissa Gomez, and Hailey Taniguchi became the first winning team in the contest’s 21-year history to have female members. They were also the first winning team to come from the West Coast.
“This reflects the quality of our turfgrass program and is an example of Cal Poly Pomona promoting women in turf,” said Priti Saxena, an assistant professor of plant science and the first female to serve as advisor to a winning team.
They beat out teams from 30 other universities from the United States and Canada at the Jan. 30 event in Orlando, Fla., to take home the $4,000 prize. Other teams that finished in the top 10 included squads from Purdue, Auburn, Penn State, the University of Maryland, Michigan State, Iowa State and Virginia Tech.
The Turf Bowl, which is sponsored by the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA), challenges students about their knowledge of the agronomic, business, and financial management aspects of the golf course superintendent profession.
A second team of Cal Poly Pomona students – Emma Riley, Matthew Ho, Daniel Carrillo, and John Lee – finished in seventh place and was awarded $300. A total of $10,000 in cash and prizes were awarded to teams that finished in the top 10. Cal Poly Pomona was the only university to have two teams in the top 10 at the Turf Bowl this year.
During the Turf Bowl, participants are tested on their ability to identify turfgrass, insects, diseases and equipment. They must also know how to evaluate the water needs of turf, to calculate water usage, and how to manage water. Students are also tested on employment laws, accounting and financial management principles.
The tests are in the form of multiple choice, short answer and identification questions. Students also had to write an essay in response to a scenario in a case study of a golf course.
Turf Bowl is an educational activity, and the Cal Poly Pomona students were part of a class – PLT 2990 – Special Topics for Lower Division Students – and had continued studying since the Fall 2019 semester.
In addition to Saxena, the team’s advisors included plant science lecturer Alan Moss; and graduate students Oscar Del Real, Sean McLaughlin, Brian Fuertes, and Mark Nakatsui, who worked hard with the students and previously had taken second place in the Turf Bowl in 2016 and 2017. This year marks the ninth time Cal Poly Pomona teams have finished in the top 10.
Students who have worked in Cal Poly Pomona’s Center for Turf, Irrigation, and Landscape Technology (CTILT) have found work in the golf course, sports, irrigation and landscaping industry, including at Angels Stadium and Disneyland.
Del Real was able to work during the World Series because he had a job at Dodger Stadium, while McLaughlin, who is a graduate student, worked at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and won an internship to work at the Super Bowl.