60th Anniversary WCTA Conference Presenter Bios

60TH Anniversary WCTA Conference and Trade Show - Presenter Bios
February 14-16, 2024, Victoria Conference Centre, Victoria, BC
Conference theme - ’Our (Green) Diamond Anniversary!'

Opening Keynote, Simon Whitfield
'The Relentless Pursuit of Excellence'

Simon Whitfield has relentlessly pursued excellence in sport - and in life - for as long as he or anyone around him can remember. 

"My goal was always to be the best in the world at something," says Whitfield, who at 17 followed that goal to Australia, a triathlon mecca and year-round training ground. Whitfield returned to Canada ready to take his racing to the next level.

He did that with a bang, surprising the world with a riveting come-from-behind victory in triathlon's inaugural Olympics, the Sydney 2000 Summer Games. Shedding tears of joy on the top step of the podium as the Canadian National Anthem played, at 25 Whitfield had reached triathlon's peak.

Simon continued to pursue his sport with a passion and professionalism second to none.  The rewards have followed the hard work: 12 national championships, 14 world cup victories, and, perhaps most significantly, in 2008 at the Beijing Olympic Games, in a race where he was counted out by everyone but himself, a stunning silver medal.

In the 2012 Olympics, Whitfield was the Canadian flag bearer for the opening ceremony. Unfortunately, a crash early in the cycling portion of his triathlon resulted in a gashed leg and broken collarbone, and he did not finish the race.

Whitfield's commitment extends beyond the racecourse.  He recognizes that with results come responsibilities, and takes very seriously his role as triathlon's ambassador to Canada and a Canadian ambassador to the world.  He supports numerous charities and loves few things as much as visiting schools to speak to children about finding their own passions and setting goals. 


Dr. Mark Colgate, University of Victoria - 'Understanding Coaching and Its Importance' and 'Creating a Powerful Service Culture'

Mark Colgate BSc, PhD is Professor at the Gustavson School of Business, University of Victoria, Canada. His primary research areas are service excellence, social psychology and its use within business and using the athletic approach to coaching in the organizational context. 

He has worked for organizations in Canada, China, Australia, New Zealand and Ireland. Mark has received two University wide Teaching Excellence Awards, once at the University of Auckland, New Zealand in 2000 and in 2014 the same award at the University of Victoria, Canada.

Dr. Ben Wherley, Texas A&M University - 'Understanding the Shade Environment and Turfgrass Light Requirements' (1.0 IPM) and 'Modern Advances in Sports Field Construction'

Dr. Ben Wherley is Professor of Turfgrass Science & Ecology in the Department of Soil and Crop Sciences, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX.  He earned his PhD in Crop Science from N.C. State University, and holds both MS and BS degrees in Agronomy from The Ohio State University. 

Wherley oversees an active research and teaching program focused on environmental stress physiology and sustainable turfgrass management. He collaborates with faculty across a range of disciplines to solve problems facing the Turfgrass Industry. Since 2011, Wherley's program has garnered over 21 million dollars in support as PI or co-PI through numerous federal, state, and industry supported projects. 

He's published 58 peer-reviewed articles, has co-developed three turfgrass cultivars, and also has received one U.S. Patent. Dr. Wherley is recipient of numerous awards including the Crop Science Society of America Teaching Award (2023), Texas A&M Veterans Association Faculty Recognition Award (2018), GCSAA Watson Fellowship (2005), and the Turf Council of North Carolinas Eagle Award (2007). He and his wife of 25 years Amy, and their two boys reside in College Station.

Dr. Guillaume Gregoire, Laval University - 'Using Artificial Intelligence to Predict Turf Disease' (1.0 IPM) and 'A Risk-Based Approach to Reducing Pesticide Use on Turfgrass' (1.0 S&E)

Dr. Guillaume Gregoire holds a degree in agronomy from Universite Laval, a master's degree in horticulture from the University of Guelph, and a Ph.D. in plant biology from Universite Laval. With over 20 years of dedicated turf research, Dr. Gregoire has primarily specialized in turfgrass management for both golf courses and residential lawns.

Throughout his career, Dr. Gregoire has been focusing on several aspects of turf management such as nutrient losses through runoff and leaching and reducing pesticide usage on golf courses. His recent work has expanded to include the development of high-diversity lawns designed to attract and sustain pollinators.

Dr. Thom Nikolai, Michigan State University and Michael Rabe - 'Soil, Air, Water and BMP's' (4.0 IPM) and 'Heavy Metal, Weed and Speed'

Thomas A. Nikolai, Ph.D. has been performing turfgrass research and teaching at Michigan State University since 1992.   Areas of research interest include cultural and mechanical practices and relevant classes he has taught include, Turfgrass and the Environment, Pesticide and Fertilizer Application Technology, Fundamentals of Soils, Turfgrass Irrigation, and Turf and Landscape Analytical Practices.  He has given presentation in 30 countries, 7 Canadian Provinces, and 36 States.

Michael Rabe is a Graduate Student in the Plant, Soil, and Microbial Sciences Department at Michigan State University.  His thesis research focuses on comparing variable depth rootzone and Capillary hydroponic putting green systems to promote sustainable putting green management.  Michael believes that improved irrigation management is an important factor to sustainability in the future of golf and sports turf.

In addition to pursuing his masters degree, Michael is the Assistant Manager of the Hancock Turfgrass Research Center at Michigan State University.  He is a recipient of the Robert J. Delisa Scholarship, Norman W. Kramer Outstanding Student Award, Charles E. and Frances Osterman Scholarship, Michigan Golf Course Superintendents Association Scholarship, and a GCSAA Scholar's award.

Damian Hough, Head Curator, Adelaide Oval - 'The World's Fastest Pitch' and 'A Technical Talk to Support the Growing Demand for Cricket in North America'

Damian Hough currently serves as the Head Curator at Adelaide Oval, an iconic sports venue in Australia.  With a profound passion for horticulture and an extensive background in turf science, Hough has dedicated his career to maintaining the impeccable quality of Adelaide Oval's playing surfaces, known as some of the fastest in the world. 

Under Damian Hough's meticulous care, Adelaide Oval has not only maintained its status as a premier sporting destination but has also become a showcase of the seamless integration of tradition and cutting-edge turf management practices.  Hough's expertise goes beyond the technical aspects of his role, as he actively engages with the community, sharing his knowledge and passion for sports turf management. 

Dan Meersman, Philadelphia Cricket Club - '3rd Generation Golf Superintendent: I Know a Thing or Two Because I've Seen a Thing or Two'

Dan Meersman, Director of Grounds at PCC since 2009, hails from a storied lineage of golf course superintendents, with his grandfather, father, uncle, and brother all contributing to this rich tradition. Under Dan's leadership, PCC's Wissahickon Course achieved GolfWeek's Best U.S. Private Restoration in 2013, making a historic leap from #130 to #32 in the Top 100 Classic Courses in America after a year of play.  Dan's innovative contributions include the development of Matrix Bunker Liner during the 2010 bunker renovation of Militia Hill. He also oversaw the comprehensive restoration of PCC's St. Martins Golf Course in 2012, earning accolades for converting fairways to zoysiagrass, in-house green expansions, bunker reconstruction, and installing a new irrigation system with Golf Course Architect Keith Foster.

Recognized for his excellence in turf management, Dan was honored with TurfNet's Superintendent of the Year Award (U.S.) in 2012. His distinguished career spans roles at renowned clubs such as Victoria National Golf Club and Caves Valley Golf Club, where he played key roles in hosting major championships. Dan, a Michigan State University graduate with a B.A. in Agronomy, remains dedicated to nurturing talent in the golf industry. He and PCC have assisted numerous superintendents in securing their positions, embodying a commitment to mentorship and professional growth. 

Sergio Pedroza, Seattle Seahawks - 'Turf Wars: Offense, Defense, and the Hilarious Gridiron Grass Game'

Sergio Pedroza is a seasoned groundskeeper from Touchet, Washington with a career spanning over 15 years in the NFL trenches.  

Raised on a cattle ranch, his work ethic took root early but inspired by the love of sports, he thought, If I cant play for the Mariners, I can at least cut their grass."  This mindset led him to a career in turf management, working three seasons in Major League Baseball before ultimately finding his calling on the hallowed grounds of the NFL where he is currently Fields & Grounds Manager for the Seattle Seahawks.

Mario Lanthier, CropHealth Advising & Research - 'CEC Point Central Pre-Conference Seminar - How to Use Pesticides' (2.0 S&E, 2.0 AT) and 'Calibration of Spray Equipment' (0.5 S&E, 0.5 AT)

Mario Lanthier, a popular speaker at WCTA, CGSA, ISA and many other conferences over the years, is back again delivering a 4-hour pre-conference seminar devoted to earning pesticide CECs/CEUs for BC and Alberta applicators focusing on the two hard-to-get point categories,  Application Technology and Safety and Environmental Protection.

For those who can't make the pre-con seminar, Mario will also deliver a one-hour talk on the main show program aimed at calibration of spray equipment.  Pro tip - participants enrolling in the pre-con seminar will free up their remaining conference time to choose from a wide variety of presentations without worrying about the need to collect more points!

Sima Mpofu, IPM Licence Officer, BC Ministry of Environment - 'Regulating Pesticides in BC' (1.0 IPM)

Sima Mpofu is a University of Guelph graduate with work experience in plant health in agriculture, forestry, and horticulture.  She is an Integrated Pest Management Licence Officer with the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy responsible for certification and training.

Dr. Trey Rogers, Michigan State University - 'Then, Now & What the Future Holds for Turf'

Dr. John N. Rogers, III (Trey) is a legendary figure in the field of Turfgrass Management, holding the position of Professor at Michigan State University's Department of Plant, Soil, and Microbial Sciences since 1988. Originating from Arkansas, Trey's journey in turfgrass began at Hardscrabble Country Club in Fort Smith, where he cultivated a passion that eventually led him to a B.S. in Agronomy from the University of Arkansas in 1982. After serving as an Assistant Superintendent at Hardscrabble, he pursued further academic milestones, earning an M.S. in Agronomy in 1985 and a Ph.D. in Agronomy from Penn State University in 1988. With a legacy of advising and graduating over 1100 students, Trey's impact extends globally.

Trey's research at Michigan State University focuses on performance turf renovations, turfgrass establishment, and soil modification, marking him as a key contributor to over 20 golf course renovations since 2012.  Beyond academia, his leadership roles in turf projects include the 1994 World Cup Soccer matches at the Pontiac Silverdome and the 2001-02 Spartan Stadium turfgrass conversion. His international influence is underscored by contributions to the 2004 and 2008 Summer Olympic Games, the 2008 UEFA Cup, and a recent commitment to FIFA for the North America World Cup 2026. With consultations spanning the United States, China, Greece, Japan, and beyond, Trey's expertise is globally recognized. His substantial body of work includes over 270 national and international presentations, 230 publications, and two U.S. Patents, solidifying his standing in organizations such as the American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, and ASTM.

Matt Legg, Syngenta - 'Art of Application' (1.0 AT)

Matthew Legg is the Technical Lead for Syngenta Professional Solutions, based out of Toronto, ON, where he leads all technical outreach, advanced troubleshooting, and product development on behalf of Syngenta Canada.  Before joining Syngenta, Matt served in the capacity of Director of Agronomy within the private golf sector.

Academically, Matt holds a diploma in turfgrass management from the University of Guelph, along with his Bachelor of Science in Turfgrass Science, from the Pennsylvania State University.  Outside of Syngenta, he provides educational outreach as a seasonal lecturer of Turfgrass Entomology at the University of Guelph where he educates up and coming Turf Managers about the biology, ecology and management of turf and landscape insect pests.

Stan Kazymerchyk, Kwantlen University -  'Turf Management 201' 

Building on the popular Turf 101 seminars offered at every WCTA conference since 2018, tenured turf management instructor from Kwantlen University, Stan Kazymerchyk, will deliver this 1.5 hour immersive super-session designed for front-line golf and sportsfield management staff needing better turf management knowledge and understanding to perform their daily roles.  Turf 201 will extend previous efforts but there is no prerequisite and the modest registration fee includes trade show access on Friday, February 16.  

Sports Turf Canada 'Synthetic Turf Maintenance Primer'
Presented by Tab Buckner, Township of Langley

Tab Buckner, a University of Victoria graduate with a BA, obtained diplomas in Horticulture (Turfgrass Management and Business Administration) from Kwantlen Polytechnic University.  Commencing his career in landscaping at the Township of Langley in 1981, he steadily progressed from a summer employee during high school to Supervisor of Grounds by 2002 at SD#35 (Langley). In 2006, Tab assumed the role of roads manager at the Township of Langley, overseeing landscaping and community cleanliness. By 2008, he advanced to the position of Parks Operations Department Manager, leading a diverse team responsible for managing various recreational facilities and natural resources.

Currently, Tab Buckner manages a team of 40 full-time employees and 30 temporary full-time staff, prioritizing efficient operations. Actively engaged in the industry, he holds director and president roles on both the STC and WCTA boards, advising the STC board and instructing courses in natural grass sports field management and synthetic sports field maintenance for the past five years.

Dale Overton, Overton Environmental - 'Understanding Biodiversity & Implementing Ecological Principles' (1.0 IPM)

Dale Overton is founder and director of Overton Environmental Enterprises (OEE), a Winnipeg-based company that creates advanced biological products using principles founded in ecological engineering.  OEE works with some of the largest companies in the world by creating value added products from organic waste streams. Eco Tea is their premier biological amendment and is used in various industries including turf management, horticulture, agriculture, viticulture and many more.

Ron Aston, Terra Equipment - 'Turf Equipment First 100 Years'

Ron Aston started his career in the turf equipment industry working for a Jacobsen Turf Equipment Distributor in 1972, Fallis Equipment, who was one of the first full line Turf Equipment Distributors in BC /Alberta.  It was there, working under the supervision of Jim Moore, where he was directed to assemble new equipment and tasked with simple repairs on greens, trim, and fairway mowers. 

In 1977, Ron went to work for another full line turf equipment company, Multi Turf Specialists, working under the supervision of his father Gordon Aston and business partner George Domich.  There he gained valuable skills and experience in sales/service working on and selling Brouwer, Hustler, Olathe and many other lines of Turf Equipment for over 10 years.  Building on that knowledge and experience, he moved on to form his own turf equipment company in 1987, Terra Equipment Ltd.

Ron has been actively running Terra Equipment for over 35 years, primarily engaged in sales and service of pre-owned turf equipment.  The company has worked on and sold equipment from every major turf equipment manufacturer including Jacobsen ,Toro, Tycrop ,Cushman/ Ryan, John Deere, Brouwer/Kesmac, Smithco, Foley, Club Car, EZ Go and Yamaha Golf Carts.  Over this time, Terra Equipment has gained many valuable customers including numerous City and Municipal accounts, local Universities, countless golf courses, lawn bowling clubs and anywhere commercial turf equipment was required.  Covering all of British Columbia and Alberta and consistently utilizing a hands-on approach, Ron has always endeavored to keep up with current trends and technology in the industry.  50 years working in the industry has brought a lot of accomplishments, taught valuable life lessons and he is proud to still be part of it all! 

Danny Motylewski, Hunter Industries - 'Irrigation Then & Now'

Danny Motylewski took on the position of Specification & Conservation Manager for Hunter in February 2007.  His responsibilities cover the regions of Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Western Canada.  In this role, he focuses on ensuring that design professionals in the Pacific Northwest and Western Canada, specifically Landscape Architects and Public Agencies, are confident in the accuracy and adequacy of assessments related to Pressure On Control (POC), Pounds per Square Inch (PSI), and Gallons Per Minute (GPM) to support irrigation hydraulic needs.

Daryl Nagy, Bernhard and Company – 'The Importance of Being Sharp'

Daryl is the Technical Sales Manager for Western North America since December 2023. With 29 years in the turf industry, Daryl has proven expertise in managing and maintaining golf and turf equipment. Prior to joining our team, he served as the Equipment Manager at The Victoria Golf Club and Branch Manager at Oakcreek Golf & Turf.



Closing Presentation - Michael Harrison 'VENTASTIC'

With a lifetime of experience, Michael Harrison has performed his contemporary ventriloquism act, inspired by his legendary great grandfather, Frank Merryfield, at iconic venues such as the Rainbow Room in New York and the Honk Kong Comedy Festival. His television appearances include America's Got Talent and the award-winning show "Kids in the Firehall," where he earned the Bronze Apple Award. 

As star of the reality TV pilot "The Dummy Test," Michael is celebrated for his hilarious, amazing, and unforgettable performances making him a standout entertainer delivering laugh-out-loud performances around the world.