Lawrence, Kansas, United States: PJ Salter, Certified Golf Course Superintendent (CGCS) and Director of Agronomy at Riviera Country Club, has been named a Grassroots Ambassador Leadership (GAL) Award winner from the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA).
The Grassroots Ambassador Leadership Award, presented quarterly in partnership with The Toro Company, recognises and honours individuals who have demonstrated growth in advocacy and advancement of the GCSAA Priority Issues Agenda through congressional outreach and relationship development with a member of Congress.
Through Toro, the winners will receive a trip to take part in the 2022 National Golf Day in Washington, DC.
“Congratulations to PJ for his hard work and dedication,” GCSAA CEO Rhett Evans said. “He is a vocal advocate for the Florida golf industry.”
The GAL Award is part of the GCSAA Grassroots Ambassadors programme, which pairs superintendents with members of Congress to build strong relationships between them. More than 471 GCSAA members currently serve as ambassadors.
In addition to his 16 years as a GCSAA member, Salter’s path to advocating came for the game originated with advocacy on a more personal level. In 2017 he became the father to twin girls, Collette and Persephone.
Persephone, whose nickname is Persi, was born with Axenfeld-Riger syndrome, which required more than 12 operations in her first two years of life and for Salter and his wife to frequently need to speak out on Persi’s behalf.
They created the Persephone Mae Foundation with the goal of helping children with rare syndromes and visual impairments. In 2019, they hosted the 1st Annual Persephone Mae Classic and raised more than US$65,000 thanks largely to the support of local superintendents and others in the golf industry. Fortunately, Persi is now thriving.
“Due to the humble nature that is characteristic of many a superintendent, many don’t do enough to promote what we do as stewards of the environment. We should be resources of environmental leadership for our local politicians to look to for counsel,” Salter said. “What Persi has taught me about life is that it is okay to question authority, and that we need to advocate for what we believe in.”
Salter was originally paired with former Republican Donna Shalala. Shalala’s one term in Congress ended in January, and she had previously been United States Secretary of Health and Human Services under President Bill Clinton from 1993 to 2001.
Salter was able to connect with Shalala and her staff, and one of her top aides came and met with Salter at Riviera where they discussed what superintendents do for the environment and the labour issues facing superintendents in Florida. He is now paired with Republican Maria Salazar, who took office earlier this year.
He has also been a voice for superintendents with lawmakers in the Miami area.
“As an ambassador, I’ve had the honour of testifying at my local city commission meetings, dispelling myths and speaking truths about how we as superintendents are responsible users of fertilisers and pesticides and the tremendous environmental benefits that healthy, well-maintained turfgrass provides, especially in urban environments,” Salter said.