Pennsylvania Turfgrass Council – Linde’s DelVal Turf Management Program Builds on Passion and Experience
The professional Turf Management movement that started at Penn State in the mid-nineties has become like an extended family. One of its founding members is Dr. Douglas Linde. We spoke with him recently between classes at Delaware Valley University, where Linde wears multiple hats: professor, golf coach, researcher, and student mentor. He has been a professor of turf management at Delaware Valley University since 1996, when he was recruited to develop and direct the new turf management program there.
Designing a Program
Looking back, it seems obvious that Doug Linde was the right person in the right place at the right time to develop a turf management program. He recalls that it was a hot new field of study with a lot of demand in the nineties. Penn State had just launched a Turf Management major and Delaware Valley wanted to offer the same discipline in a different setting. Linde had earned his bachelor’s degree in agronomy and environmental science from DelVal in 1991 and his M.S. (1993) and Ph.D. in agronomy from Penn State in 1996. He was also a three-time Most Valuable Golfer and team captain while playing at DelVal as an undergraduate and already had name recognition and many industry connections.
The turf management program which Dr. Linde designed and developed at DelVal prepares students specifically for careers as golf course superintendents, sports field managers, and lawn care specialists. The curriculum provides a strong academic base in plant and soil science with many technical classes in turf management. However, a lot of class time is also spent visiting nearby turf facilities and doing hands-on work on the College’s putting green, lawns, and sports fields, all of which had to be built from the ground up when the program started. Experience360, a graduation requirement for all full-time undergraduate students at Delaware Valley College, asks students to choose four credits from multiple experiential learning activities, depending on their major’s program requirements. Dr. Linde is a firm believer in getting your hands dirty and feels that the required work experience component is a real highlight of the Turf Management Program.
Linde credits his Penn State mentor Tom Watschke with encouraging him to pursue the advanced degrees that made his leadership role possible and with introducing him to the professional world of turf management. He is also grateful to KAFMO for helping him and the DelVal turf program by supporting students with scholarships and providing opportunities to network with KAFMO professionals at conferences and at the golf tournament. “It helps that they are a fun group of people,” he adds.
What Came First, Grass or Golf?
When asked what first drew him to a career in turf management, Linde’s answer was quick: “Golf!” Like most of his students, it was passion for a sport that marked his career path. Doug Linde grew up as the son of a golf course superintendent on Wedgewood Golf Course in Lehigh County, Pennsylvania. He developed a love for the game of golf and golf courses at an early age and, as one of the top golfers in Delaware Valley University history, he took over the program as head coach in 1996.
Coach Linde led the Aggies to the program’s first-ever conference championship, the Freedom crown, in the conference’s inaugural year for golf in 2005, when he was also honored by his peers as the Freedom Conference (now MAC Freedom) Coach of the Year. His coaching career has honed the talents of many gifted students, including Freedom Conference Golfer of the Year and individual champion junior Dom Foti in 2014-2015.
Linde currently teaches several turf management courses, including Golf Course Design and Construction, Land Surveying, Irrigation Technology, and Soils. Outside of class, he coaches the Golf Team, advises the Turf Club, and supervises the turf-research facility and putting green on campus. He is also a golf course and sports field consultant and conducts his own turfgrass research. Most importantly in his own eyes, though, he specializes in preparing students for successful careers in the turf industry and advises all turf management students both academically and as they pursue their career goals.
Dr. Linde received DelVal’s Distinguished Faculty Member of the Year Award in 2003 and was awarded the 2005 Golf Coach of the Year award for the NCAA Division III Freedom Conference. However, in spite of a string of awards and coaching highlights over the years, Linde says he takes most pride in the ongoing lifelong relationships he has with his students, many of whom have gone on to succeed in the profession. He nostalgically recalls how his own advisor Tom Waschke was a kind of Pied Piper followed by all his former students at professional events. He now feels that he has stepped into that mentor role himself. He says that he has reached a very rewarding part of his career: “Every time I go on vacation, there is a former student turned golf superintendent to visit — and a new golf course to play!” he laughs.
Advice from a Pro
When asked what advice he would give to young people just thinking about starting out in the field, Linde immediately puts on his student advisor hat. “Academics are an important basis for a future as well-rounded professionals, but it is even more important to get some field experience, get a feel for it,” he says. He recommends a summer job or part-time work maintaining a sports field, for example. In his experience, it is always a personal connection to the work that leads to success. “A combination of passion and experience is more important in a career than anything,” he says. As someone who combines both, Doug Linde should know!