Mike Hurdzan, who has gained critical acclaim for his golf course design with a focus on environmental stewardship and affordability, has been selected to receive the 2013 Old Tom Morris Award by the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA).
The award will be presented during the 2013 GCSAA Education Conference in San Diego on February 6 at the Opening Session, presented in partnership with Syngenta.
GCSAA’s most prestigious honour, 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 the greenkeeper and golf professional at St. Andrews Links; a four-time winner of The Open (1861, ’62, ’64 and ’67); and ranked as one of the top links designers of the 19th century.
Previous winners include Arnold Palmer, Bob Hope, Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, Nancy Lopez, Nick Price and Peter Jacobsen, among others.
The multi-talented Hurdzan has achieved many milestones in his career, but points to Devil’s Paintbrush in Ontario, Canada (voted best new Canadian course in 1992), and Erin Hills in Wisconsin (2017 U.S. Open site) as his favourites.
He has not only designed golf courses but also began his career in golf as a golf course superintendent. He has authored books and publications, served on numerous committees, delivered dozen of presentations and has one of the top collections of golf memorabilia and artefacts.
“Mike is most deserving of this honour,” said GCSAA President Sandy Queen. “His contributions to the game have had a significant and lasting impact. He has given so much of his time for the benefit of the greater good. He is indeed a true gentleman.”
Born September 11, 1943, in Wheeling, West Virginia, he moved to Columbus, Ohio, as a young child. Hurdzan’s exposure to golf began at an early age as his father, Michael, a golf professional, first taught him the game in the early 1950s at Beacon Light Golf Course in Columbus. There he was taken under the wing of Jack Kidwell, a golf professional, superintendent, architect and owner. Kidwell would eventually name the younger Hurdzan assistant superintendent and then superintendent of Beacon Light. The two would ultimately form a partnership in a golf course design firm.
“I think I spent almost every day of my life between 1952 and 1966 at Beacon Light,” Hurdzan says of the course, which has since been redeveloped for housing. “I loved being on the golf course, and that is why this award means so much to me. It is given by an organization for which I have the ultimate respect and by a group of individuals I consider to be my peers. I am extremely honoured.”
A graduate of Ohio State University in turfgrass management, Hurdzan also studied landscape architecture there. He has advanced degrees from the University of Vermont– a masters degree in plant and soil science and a doctorate in environmental plant physiology. He is also a graduate of the National Golf Foundation’s Golf Course Management School. He is a retired colonel from the U.S. Army Reserves – Special Forces Branch.
After Kidwell retired from the firm, Hurdzan partnered with Dana Fry to form Hurdzan-Fry Design. Throughout his career, Hurdzan has worked solely or with his partners on more than 400 courses.
Among his many honours and citations, Hurdzan was named among the five most powerful architects by Golf Digest and Architect of the Year by Golfworld; he has received the Donald Ross Award (ASGCA), the Donald Rossi Award (GCBAA), and the Distinguished Alumni Award (Ohio State); and is a member of the Ohio Golf Association Hall of Fame.
Hurdzan has a longstanding relationship with GCSAA and its philanthropic organization, the Environmental Institute for Golf (EIFG). He has served as chairman of the EIFG and led a capital campaign in the mid-1990s. He also established an endowment fund for the purpose of supporting environmental research on golf courses.
Ron Whitten, senior architecture editor for Golf Digest, has covered Hurdzan as a reporter and worked with Hurdzan and Fry in designing Erin Hills Golf Course. He says Hurdzan’s knowledge and work ethic distinguish him as an architect.
“No one is going to outwork Mike,” Whitten says. “His thirst for knowledge is incredible. And that leads to him being attentive to every detail. His name may not be as big with golfers or the media, but believe me the industry knows just how good he is.”