The recipients of the TurfNet Jerry Coldiron Positivity Awards for 2022 are Bill Blackburn of College Grove, Tennessee, and Dave Wilber of Littleton, Colorado.
The Jerry Coldiron Positivity Awards are given annually to recognize individuals within the golf turf industry who live lives of joy, caring, sharing and compassion for others… or who have experienced personal hardship due to illness, natural events or job loss… or who do something special for the natural world. They are presented in memory of Jerry Coldiron, CGCS, a career golf course superintendent, salesperson, TurfNet member and friend to many who passed away suddenly in 2017 at age 60.
Bill Blackburn, Lightning Bug Golf Course, College Grove, TN
Bill Blackburn spent most of his long career in golf turf "peddling iron" for Smith Turf & Irrigation (STI) and before that the Toro Company and Olathe Manufacturing. He retired three years ago from his position as "General Manager for Tennessee Business" for STI, but it is not for that which he is being honored as one of the 2022 Jerry Coldiron Positivity Awards.
18 years ago Bill had the idea to build a "little 5-hole golf course" and a fishing pond on his in-laws' farm outside Nashville and encourage kids to come out and learn the game of golf. The Lightning Bug Golf Course, as his young daughter Ann Catherine named it at the time, grew to 9 holes and began attracting not only kids but adults new to the game as well. Every September they hosted a tournament to raise funds for the Jesse Frank Jr. Golf Scholarship Fund (named after Bill's late father-in-law) to send worthy children to the Tennessee PGA Jr. Golf Academy at Golf House Tennessee. With a cost of about $700 per child, the early goal was to send two or three interested kids to golf camp. Fast forward 18 years and the annual event has raised in the vicinity of $225,000 and sent 250 kids to golf camp. The rest of the story:
Dave Wilber, turf consultant, Littleton, Colorado
Well known within the golf turf industry, Dave Wilber is a former golf course superintendent, world-traveling turf consultant, writer, podcaster, social media maven, bass player and — most recently — part-time school bus driver.
Surprisingly enough, it is for his outreach and extension of the bus driver role that we are recognizing him with a Jerry Award. Faced with Covid-reduced travel and income along with skyrocketing health insurance costs, Dave found a solution in the local Littleton school district. Working part-time driving a school bus would get him full-time health insurance. He soon encountered both challenges and opportunities with the "kids on the bus".
Dave has chronicled on Twitter some of his humanitarian efforts with the kids and did a recent podcast with our friends at Earthworks to explain in more detail. Justin Woodland (superintendent at The Barn Golf Club in Ogden, Utah, and owner of Airgronomics, LLC) recently set up a GoFundMe page — The Giving Bus Driver — to help Dave continue to make an impact in his community. The EW podcast and the GoFundMe campaign brought more attention to Dave's work with the kids, and led to his recognition with a 2022 Jerry Award.
Susan Coldiron, Jerry's wife, said: "On behalf of our family, we would like to congratulate the winners of the “Jerry Coldiron Positivity Award” this year, Bill Blackburn and Dave Wilber. Jerry will always be remembered for his ability to spread cheer and provide optimism and encouragement to everyone, even during the most difficult of times. Bill and Dave are both very deserving winners and exemplify the positive outlook and values that make this award such a special recognition in Jerry’s honor. We would also like to thank TurfNet for helping us to continue Jerry’s legacy of “paying it forward.”
Previous recipients of the awards are:
- Michael and Jenna Breuer and family of Bandon, Oregon,
- Paul and Kristie Hurst of GreensPro, St. Louis, Missouri
- Jack Percival of Chipstead Golf Club, England.
2020 - on hiatus due to Covid
- Tenia Workman, executive director of the Georgia GCSA
- the late Tom Morris, CGCS, career superintendent in Vermont
- Marcos "Mike" Morales of the Buccaneer Golf Club in St. Croix, US Virgin Islands
- John and Peggy Colo, Jupiter Hills Golf Club, Tequesta, Florida
- Adam and Erin Engle, Lake Shore Yacht and Golf Club, Cicero, NY
- John and Nick Paquette, Indian Hills Country Club, Northport, NY
Both Dave Wilber and Bill Blackburn will receive a cash stipend from TurfNet and the Coldiron family to spend as they please.