CTRF Future Certainly Uncertain

By Jerry Rousseau

At the risk of upsetting a few apples, it’s time that professional golf and sportsturf managers are made aware that the future of the Canadian Turfgrass Research Foundation (CTRF) is not looking so good.

Incorporated in 1976 by golf course superintendent legends including Robert Herron, Ashley Legeyt, Walt Gooder, James Wyllie and others, the CTRF is a federally registered charity that has raised and directed millions of dollars toward valuable and often game-changing turfgrass research projects.  A 2022 stakeholder update stated:

“As with many charities, fundraising has been a challenge for CTRF over the past two years. Even prior to COVID, there was considerable strain on our turf research sponsorship resources, so much so, that we questioned the Foundation’s long-term viability.  While prudent to discuss all possibilities, our member organizations were quick to conclude that driving turf research remains important, relevant and worthy of our continued attention and efforts.”

Translation – the few remaining supportive organizations understand the need for turf research and the existence of a national body to drive it, but there is no money or support outside this core group and the clock is ticking.

Summarizing CTRF history and accomplishments is a whole other mini-series but the short version is Golf Canada and Canadian Golf Superintendents Association were founding members who jointly held the reins for years with two Directors each on the Board and alternating Chairs annually.  Both groups had a hand in management as well – throughout the 1990’s and early 2000’s, Terri Yamada of the RCGA held the position of Executive Secretary followed by Ken Cousineau, Executive Director of the CGSA.  Similarly, both groups eventually stepped away due to financial struggles within their own organizations.  More recently, the Western Canada Turfgrass Association was awarded a 3-year management services contract in November 2016 that was extended four times through July 31, 2023.

Presently, and after years of whole-hearted efforts by CTRF Directors and staff toward ideas, strategizing and implementation, the needle has not moved.  In fact, loss of leadership this past November including both Chair, Paul Schofield and Executive Secretary, yours truly, has compounded challenges and while operations continue with a skeleton crew of Jim Ross, former Director of the Prairie Turfgrass Research Centre, interim measures are just that and to ensure longer term viability, something needs to change.

So what needs to change and why?  That’s really the core question but simply put, IMHO the horse has to pull the cart.  If golf and sportfield managers see the value in turfgrass research as it pertains to their everyday roles and career advancement, they will direct resources toward it and help convince bosses, decision makers, owners and users to do same.  If those involved with turf research need to spend more time selling its value to those who benefit than it does doing actual research, then it’s pretty much a done deal.

Here’s a good article by the USGA on the value of turfgrass research.