MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. — When a team wins as often as the Horry Georgetown Technical College Turf Bowl team, there is no shortage of potential heroes, folks who in more exuberant moments might be lifted onto shoulders and paraded around for cheers and applause.
After the Fighting Mole Crickets emerged victorious at the Carolinas Student Turf Bowl for the second straight competition — the event was suspended last year, not even conducted virtually, because of the COVID-19 pandemic — the four students on the winning team trumpeted not themselves, but rather one of their veteran professors, George McCauley.
“Just yesterday, we turned in a project of 30 of the most common weeds in the southeast,” said Michael Miller, a second-year student currently working at Brunswick Plantation in Calabash, N.C. “So that man right there deserves the trophy.” Miller pointed at McCauley, who cracked a smile.
“You guys did excellent with the weeds,” he said. “I was impressed. It felt good to realize you guys are really learning that stuff.”
Miller and the rest of the Horry Georgetown A team — Jake Smith, who is currently working at The Surf Club in North Myrtle Beach; Colin Rosenbaum, currently working at The Dunes in Myrtle Beach; and Harrison Rothwell, a first-year student with a summer internship up in Wisconsin — credited McCauley because of their dominance in the final round in a category all about weeds.
Trailing the NC State University A team, 1,100-1,000 at the time, they rattled off four straight correct responses — three before host Bo Barefoot finished reading the question — turning a 100-point deficit into a 900-point lead.
A 400-point response in a different category about diseases increased their lead to 1,300 points with only 1,900 remaining on the board and all but locked up the win.
NC State “came out swinging,” Miller said, buzzing in first on each of the first five questions and answering four of them correctly for a quick 900-point edge — a great sign for the Wolfpack, who last won the Turf Bowl in 2005.
The Mole Crickets, who correctly answered 12 of the 13 questions on which they buzzed in, and the Wolfpack, who answered seven of the nine they buzzed in on, traded the lead three times and were tied twice before that run of weeds provided the difference. The Horry Georgetown B team finished third in the final round.
McCauley, who has taught at Horry Georgetown for 27 years, challenged his students with the semester-long weeds project, sending them out to find the plants in their natural habitats. “You knew that if you didn’t have a weed that’s a summer annual and it was about to die in 30 days, you better go get a photo,” Miller said. “You learned about life cycles real quick.”
The Fighting Mole Crickets have now won the competition 10 times since 2000 and are poised to become the first school since the turn of the century to win three straight.
“We’re a turf school,” said Charles Granger, chair of engineering technologies and golf and sports turf management, and a professor in golf and sports turf management. “It’s what we do. There’s no football, there’s no basketball. These kids are coming to school in Myrtle Beach because of golf, because of turf. They’re immersed in it. That’s the competitive advantage, I think.”
The competitive advantage extended to an informal team conference just prior to the start of the Turf Bowl, when Granger and the students were flipping through the program and noticed a one-page feature about Dr. Rick Brandenburg of NC State winning the Distinguished Service Award at the conference. Granger said he told the team it could be a perfect final question — and the folks who wrote the 61 questions had the same idea. At the end of the two hours, Brandenburg’s name was the last correct answer.
“And that’s just years of us doing it,” Granger said, another exuberant moment behind him, with more still to come.
Matt LaWell is Golf Course Industry’s managing editor.
CAROLINAS GCSA TURF BOWL CHAMPIONS
2000 Horry Georgetown
2001 Horry Georgetown
2003 Horry Georgetown
2005 North Carolina State
2008 Central Piedmont
2009 Horry Georgetown
2012 Horry Georgetown
2013 Horry Georgetown
2015 Horry Georgetown
2016 Horry Georgetown
2019 Horry Georgetown
2021 Horry Georgetown