A Special Remembrance of Dr. James "Jim" Watson

In his 46 years with Toro he pioneered turf and water management around the world
by Suz Trusty
10/8/2013

Dr. James R. Watson, Jr. passed away peacefully at 11:30 pm on October 1st. He was 92 (12/24/1920 to 10/1/2013). A devoted family man, Doc died surrounded by the family that he loved so dearly. He and wife Audrey would have celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary later this month.He left the field of turfgrass science greener, better, and safer.

Agronomy was his profession; turfgrass was his passion. Doc was a pioneer in turfgrass research starting back in the 1950s, before turfgrass management was "cool."

Doc was an innovator. What are you seeing? Why do you think that's happening? What do want to accomplish? And always, why? With Doc Watson it was about digging deeper, searching harder, finding the why. Because once you found the why, you could begin to discover the how. It was always seeking a better way.

According to his biography on The Toro Company's website: "Watson joined The Toro Company in 1952 as director of agronomy. During his 46 years with Toro, he pioneered important turf and water management research around the globe. Many of the world's leading golf courses, parks and sports facilities frequently sought Watson's advice and counsel whenever they faced difficult turf challenges."

He was never too busy to help with a turf problem, to offer a word of support and encouragement. He was a hands-on scientist, in the trenches with you, digging for answers. Mentor to many, his love of learning and enthusiasm were contagious, making everyone around him a little more focused, a little bit wiser, better equipped to tackle the job at hand.

Also from the Toro website: "Watson remained active in the industry following his retirement from Toro in 1998 as vice president of customer relations and agronomist, serving as a consultant to both the company and industry. He also participated on a number of prestigious turf and water management boards, organizations and research efforts. Watson was the inspiration behind Toro's cutting-edge turf and water management research in the company's Center for Advanced Turf Technology."

Sitting in on a discussion between Doc Watson and fellow turfgrass pioneers Eugene Mayer and George Toma was more information-packed than a typical college classroom or conference session. Conversations were filled with tales of struggles; tales of success; procedures once so innovative, now industry standards; and looking forward, exploring current challenges and seeking solutions.

Yes, it was about turfgrass. But it was so much more. Gentle, humble, patient and kind, with a ready smile and that special twinkle in his eye Doc had a knack for making everyone at ease in his presence. He welcomed questions. No matter how basic or how complex the topic, he always found a way to deliver information in a way that the questioner could understand.

Doc Watson was instrumental in the establishment of STMA's SAFE Foundation. In fact, it was his idea. After Doc took part in an STMA Certification Committee meeting in Chicago, he suggested formation of a separate foundation to support research and education specifically focused on sports fields. And once lighting the spark, he volunteered his expertise, serving on the formation committee to assist in making it a reality.

Doc gave back to so many arms of this industry, earning the recognition and admiration of all those whose lives he touched. In 1979 he became a Fellow of the American Society of Agronomy and the Crop Science of America. In 1991, STMA awarded him their highest honor, The Harry C. Gill Memorial Award. GCSAA awarded him their highest honor in 1995, the Old Tom Morris Award. These are just a few of his many awards.

While he appreciated receiving these awards, for Doc, the advancement of the industry was what really mattered. He loved that Toro funded scholarships awarded in his name for the top student applicants in both the STMA and GCSAA scholarship programs. But more than that, he loved the students. He wanted to meet them, hear about their studies, explore their ambitions, and help them achieve their goals.

Even while mourning this loss - to the industry and personally - it's impossible to think of Doc Watson without a smile in remembrance of how he touched our lives - the true tribute to a great man. 

Doc's Memorial Service will be held Saturday, Oct. 26, 2013, at 11:00 am at Holly Creek Fellowship Hall, 5500 E. Peakview Ave., Centennial, Colorado.

Editor's note: Suz Trusty and her husband Steve Trusty are partners in Trusty & Associates, Council Bluffs, Iowa, which managed the Sports Turf Management Association for many years.