(WACO) – Christopher Blair was never a stay-indoors-and-watch-television-kind of child.
He was, and still is today, more at home among trees and rolling hills.
“I like to be up and outside before the sun rises,” said Blair, 24, of Mansfield, Texas, and a Turfgrass and Landscape Management major at Texas State Technical College in Waco. “I don’t mind getting dirty.”
And now, he has a financial gift to show for his appreciation of the outdoors.
Blair on Thursday received the $1,000 Kevin L. Dilliard Scholarship from the Texas Branch of the Professional Grounds Management Society. Dilliard was a longtime grounds director at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.
“It will be super helpful,” Blair said. “I am paying for school myself. It will make a big impact on me for sure in the next semester.”
He is the only student in Texas that will receive the award this year, said Barbara E. Hatchel, a certified grounds manager and PGMS member in Amarillo.
“He is gearing himself to pursue this profession for life,” Hatchel said. “He works at a golf course now and keeps his grades up.”
Blair, like other Turfgrass and Landscape Management students, gets experience maintaining TSTC’s four-hole golf course on Airline Drive. He is fascinated by irrigation systems and grass for golf courses.
“I just love that you are growing grass at 1/8th of an inch and still expect it to be healthy so people can walk on it,” he said.
Ron Gwyn, chair of the Turfgrass and Landscape Management program, said Blair was enthusiastic about his work and learning.
“He will be a valuable asset to a golf course,” Gwyn said. “He wants everything taken care of and done to the best of his ability. He grasps a lot of the technical aspects pretty quick.”
Blair said there is much more to grass than just cutting it. He said people who maintain golf courses, yards and formal lawns must also consider the science behind the amount of water and fertilizer needed.
He said some of his favorite golf courses were Augusta National Golf Club – home of the Masters – in Georgia, Whistling Straits Golf Course in Kohler, Wisconsin, and Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio.
Blair began working at 16 at Shady Valley Country Club in Arlington, Texas, helping maintain golf carts and eventually the grounds.
He played golf for two years while at Mansfield Legacy High School, where he graduated in 2010. Working at Shady Valley while in high school enabled him to play free golf to practice his skills.
“One day it clicked that I wanted to take care of a golf course,” he said.
Blair said Turfgrass and Landscape Management is a good career to consider for students to consider who enjoy the outdoors and hard work.
“Students need to try to think a few years ahead and where you see yourself being at in life,” Blair said. “You need to see how you want to work.”
Blair now works at least 30 hours a week at Walnut Creek Country Club in Mansfield and attends classes full time at TSTC.
“Since I work in grounds maintenance and then come to school, that makes a difference,” Blair said. “What I learn I can then talk to my boss about and it is easier to grasp the concept.”
After his expected graduation from TSTC in August 2017, Blair said he wants to move up the ranks of golf course maintenance at private clubs.
TSTC in Waco will have a Registration Rally from 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., Tuesday, Aug. 9, at the Student Services Center. For more registration information, log on to tstc.edu.