Featured photo: Chuck Underwood, CGCS, Marsh Benson and William Smith, CGCS, on the night of their induction to the Georgia GCSA Hall of Fame at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta.

One of golf’s lowest profile superintendents from the highest profile club in the land is among three men recently inducted to the Georgia Golf Course Superintendents Hall of Fame. Marsh Benson spent 26 years at Augusta National Golf Club, home of the Masters Tournament, before retiring in April this year. Benson was inducted along with two other veterans of the profession, William Smith, CGCS from the Country Club of Columbus in Columbus, and Chuck Underwood, CGCS from Northwood Country Club in Lawrenceville.

The inductions were a high point of the Georgia Golf Course Superintendents Association’s annual meeting and awards banquet at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta. More than 200 people were on hand to see the trio inducted by Hall of Fame committee chairman Anthony Williams, CGCS.

It was a rare public appearance by Benson, who, because of Augusta National’s media protocols, was largely anonymous to the average golfer yet his work was arguably the best known and most scrutinized. In addition to preparing the golf course for some of the greatest chapters in the game’s history, Benson is credited as the creator of the SubAir subsurface system that removes excess water from greens.

“What a great honor. I’m a blessed man,” Benson said at his induction. “I truly feel like the support I’ve had is just unbelievable. I think you could cut my legs off and I’d still be standing because of the support I’ve enjoyed from all the people in this room and in this industry.”

All three men inducted at East Lake bear close ties with previous Hall of Famers. Benson worked for Ron Sinnock who was inducted last year. Smith worked for Don Branch who was inducted in 2012. And Underwood is now half of the first father-son duo in the Hall of Fame. His father Charlie Underwood was inducted in 2011.

Smith has hosted 11 PGA Tour tournaments at various facilities during his long career. He oversaw the renovation of the Country Club of Columbus in 2002, including one of the first conversions to an ultradwarf bermudagrass on the greens, and in 2006 was named the Georgia GCSA’s Superintendent of the Year. He has served on the association’s board of directors and over the years has worked closely with University of Georgia turfgrass researchers providing and maintaining test plots.

Underwood, also loyal supporter of UGA turfgrass research, was president of the Georgia GCSA in 1997-98 and has served in every committee role. He was Superintendent of the Year in 2004 and has enjoyed a long and successful career at Northwood, where his father served before him. “Chuck is a shining example of what is best in the golf industry,” Williams wrote in a nomination letter.

Earlier in the day, Greg Burleson, CGCS from Augusta Country Club in Augusta, was elected president with Scott Griffith from the University of Georgia Golf Course in Athens elected vice-president. Three first-time directors were also elected to the board – Joey Brown from Healy Point Country Club in Macon; Joey Franco, CGCS from Cherokee Town and Country Club – North Course in Atlanta; and Patrick Reinhardt from Georgia Southern University Golf Course in Statesboro.

David Noto, from Mossy Creek Golf Club in Cleveland, won his third superintendent golf championship in four years after shooting a four over par round of 76. Rob Roy, from The River Club in Suwanee, was runner-up three strokes back.

Other honors presented on the night included:

  1. Superintendent of the Year: Berry Collett, CGCS Sea Island Golf Club, St. Simons Island
  2. Assistant Superintendent of the Year: Jason Tharp, East Lake Golf Club, Atlanta
  3. Distinguished Service Award: Wade Thomas, Idle Hour Club, Macon
  4. Environmental Leaders in Golf Awards:
  5. Open Division – Jud Turner, Director of Georgia Environmental Protection Division.
  6. Golf Division – Rob Roy, The River Club, Suwanee
  7. Golden Pen Award: Lydell Mack, Big Canoe Golf Club, Jasper
  8. President’s Award: Dave Cousart and Scott Griffith, University of Georgia Golf Course