Toro Company leader cited for longtime commitment to connecting and supporting golf course architects

BROOKFIELD, Wisconsin – John Lawrence, director of strategic golf for The Toro Company and friend to scores of golf course architects, has been chosen as the 2022 recipient of the ASGCA Donald Ross Award. 

The award, given annually since 1976, is presented to a person who has made a significant contribution to the game of golf and the profession of golf course architecture. It will be presented to Lawrence at the ASGCA Annual Meeting in Providence, Rhode Island, on Oct. 3 at the Donald Ross Banquet.

Lawrence has spent his entire career working in and around golf, starting with a Toro Distributor for North and South Carolina, E. J. Smith and Sons Company. When the company split, Lawrence stayed with the new company, Smith Turf and Irrigation (STI) which focused on the professional side of the Toro Irrigation Distribution business and led him to develop relationships with golf course superintendents, owners, developers … and architects. 

He eventually came to work for The Toro Company when Turf Care Products, another Toro Distributor he led, was sold to Toro in the early 2000s. Lawrence, in his work on the professional side of irrigation, was mentored by Toro’s Dr. Jim Watson, who taught him the benefits of working closely with universities with turfgrass programs, golf course superintendents and golf course architects. 

He also learned about the importance of relationship building from another mentor (and 2005 Donald Ross Award honoree), Toro’s John Singleton.

Lawrence’s work with ASGCA members and ASGCA as an entity connects him in unique ways to the profession of golf course architecture. He splits his time at Toro between his strategic golf role and Toro’s Corporate Accounts team, which is responsible for managing many of Toro’s key golf course customers worldwide. 

Toro’s business model encourages relationship building, and Lawrence has spent his time over the past two decades traveling from golf project to golf project around the world supporting the work of golf course architects. 

“A young architect might view John Lawrence as merely a strategic name to add to their list of contacts. But describing John as ‘a good networking partner’ barely scratches the surface,” said ASGCA President Jason Straka. “John is the epitome of what the Donald Ross Award was created to honor. He truly has made a significant contribution to the game and the profession because of his ability to find that missing piece to move a project to success, and most importantly to help an architect or friend in need. 

“It seems like he knows everyone; more than once I’ve been stuck on a project and a call to John has led to a solution. I’m proud to call him my friend, and I know that’s true for scores of people in this industry. The night we give John the Donald Ross Award is going to be special.” 

Lawrence has been instrumental in bringing knowledge, networking and support to ASGCA since his hiring by The Toro Company. One of his first ASGCA projects was to bring Toro sponsorship to Remodeling University, an early-2000s “short course to a better course” seminar series conducted nationwide to educate golf course stakeholders on how to plan and execute successful remodels. 

The company has also, with Lawrence’s active involvement, organized three educational seminars for ASGCA members (two at Toro headquarters, one at University of Notre Dame), sponsored four international architectural study tours, and, through the Toro Foundation, funded several ASGCA-published books (on environmental development, water, and the ROI of remodeling), and supported ASGCA’ Forward Tee Initiative. 

The Donald Ross Award is not the first time ASGCA has recognized Lawrence’s contributions to the organization and profession: he is also a three-time Presidential Citation winner and was the first non-ASGCA member invited to sit on the ASGCA Foundation Board of Directors. 

The Donald Ross Award is presented by the ASGCA Awards Committee, co-chaired by ASGCA Past Presidents Steve Smyers, ASGCA, and Rees Jones, ASGCA Fellow (the 2013 Donald Ross Award recipient). 

Past Donald Ross Award Recipients

2021    Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore, ASGCA, golf course architects

2020    Renee Powell, golf pioneer/player/course owner

2019    Joe Passov, golf writer
2018    President George Herbert Walker Bush, U.S. President

2017    Alice Dye, ASGCA Fellow, golf course architect

2016    Michael Bamberger, golf writer

2015    Bradley S. Klein, golf writer

2014    Maj. Dan Rooney, founder, Folds of Honor Foundation

2013    Rees Jones, ASGCA, golf course architect

2012    Bill Kubly, golf course builder

2011    James Dodson, golf writer/editor

2010    Tim Finchem, PGA Tour Commissioner

2009    Ron Dodson, sustainable golf advocate
2008    George Peper, golf writer

2007    Dr. Michael Hurdzan, ASGCA, golf course architect

2006    Jim Awtrey, chief executive officer, PGA of America 

2005    John Singleton, irrigation pioneer 

2004    Thomas Cousins, philanthropist, urban golf developer         

2003    Bill Campbell, president, USGA, captain, Royal & Ancient Golf Club

2002    Byron Nelson, professional golfer

2001    Jack Nicklaus, ASGCA, professional golfer, golf course architect

2000    Jaime Ortiz-Patino, owner and president, Valderrama Golf Club

1999    Arnold Palmer, professional golfer

1998    Judy Bell, president, USGA

1997    Gene Sarazen, professional golfer

1996    Ron Whitten, golf writer

1995    Pete Dye, ASGCA, golf course architect

1994    James R. Watson, agronomist

1993    Brent Wadsworth, golf course builder

1992    Paul Fullmer, ASGCA executive secretary

1991    Michael Bonallack, secretary, Royal & Ancient Golf Club

1990    John Zoller, executive director, Northern California Golf Association

1989    Dick Taylor, editor, “Golf World” magazine

1988    Frank Hannigan, executive director, USGA

1987    Charles Price, writer, “Golf World” magazine

1986    Deane Beman, commissioner, PGA Tour

1985    Peter Dobereiner, “London Observer” columnist, author

1984    Dinah Shore, sponsor of women’s golf tournaments

1983    Al Radko, director, USGA Green Section

1982    Geoffrey Cornish, ASGCA, golf course architect, historian

1981    James Rhodes, governor of Ohio

1980    Gerald Micklem, captain, Royal & Ancient

1979    Joe Dey, executive director, USGA

1978    Herb and Joe Graffis, founders, National Golf Foundation

1977    Herbert Warren Wind, “The New Yorker” columnist, author

1976    Robert Trent Jones, ASGCA, ASGCA founding member

Print Friendly, PDF & Email