Penn State Student Named Inaugural Trans-Miss Vickers Scholar

December 15, 2010 in 2-year, Awards, Teaching

Lawrence, KS, Trans-Miss

Penn State University student Ernie Bendzak has been selected as the first Vickers Award winner among 16 students earning 2010 scholarships from the Trans-Mississippi Golf Association (TMGA). Bendzak, age 27, will receive an $8,000 scholarship to further his education in the Turf Management Program at Penn State. He also receives a sculpture of Old Tom Morris – the original golf course superintendent.

“I was really excited for the honor…to be selected as the first Vickers scholar and to be recognized for my hard work,” said Bendzak of Savona, British Columbia, Canada. “Just immediately thinking of what that meant and how it was going to help me make it through my schooling and just having that on my resume…to have that on there is a feather in my cap. It’s definitely a huge honor.”

Bendzak was selected from 59 applicants for 2010 Trans-Miss scholarships. He currently carries a 3.99 grade point average in Penn State’s highly regarded turf program.

“Ernie is my most well-rounded and outstanding student within the Golf Course Turf Industry at Penn State,” says John Kaminski, Ph. D., and director of the PSU turf program. “He excels in his classroom activities and is ranked second only behind a more senior student who carries a 4.0.”

Bendzak is involved with the Penn State Turf Club and was the only underclassman to participate with Penn State seniors in GCSAA Turf Bowl Preparation classes as he prepares for a career in the turf management industry.

“(Education) is huge and it’s ongoing,” said Bendzak. “Once you’ve graduated with your formal education you still have to continue to move on and become even further educated. I think if you stop, once you become stagnant, things sort of pass you by. Not only is it important for us as students but as we move the superintendent profession into the future.”

John Goode, Trans-Miss Scholarship Committee chairman, described the selection process as “very difficult with many outstanding students.  We are pleased to select Ernie Bendzak as our inaugural recipient of the Vickers Award.  He is quality student with a passion for the profession and great potential to be a leader in the industry.”

Five students were selected for $5,000 Trans-Miss scholarships, including Adam Schilpp, University of Maryland; Danny Vandecoevering, Oregon State University; Alex Dowdle, North Dakota State University; Justin Bicek, Rutgers University; and Jamie Borowski, Clark State Community College.

Schilpp of Manassas, Va., receives the W.D. McBee, Jr. Scholarship. He carries a 3.9 GPA in Golf Course Management at Maryland and has been a member of the staff at the Robert Trent Jones Golf Course in Gainesville, Va., for 10 years.

Vandecoevering of Woodburn, Ore., receives the Ron Moore Scholarship. He has a 3.47 GPA in Horticulture with Turf Management option at Oregon State and was the department’s Student of the Year in 2010.

Dowdle of Kennedy, Minn., receives the Francis Whittaker Scholarship. He has a 3.753 GPA in Sports and Urban Turf Management at North Dakota State and has been given supervisory responsibilities as a summer intern at three different golf courses during his tenure at NDSU.

Bicek of West St. Paul, Minn., receives the Tom Crow Scholarship. He carries a 3.93 GPA in Turf Management at Rutgers and serves as assistant superintendent at North Oaks (Minn.) Golf Club.

Borowski of Galloway, Ohio, receives the Jackie Lee Scholarship. He has a 3.609 GPA in Agriculture/Golf Course Operations at Clark State and is second assistant superintendent at New Albany (Ohio) Country Club.

Ten students were selected for $3,000 Trans scholarships including James Seisun, Penn State (Jack Nicklaus Scholarship); Travis Martin, Rutgers (Hale Irwin Scholarship); Nick Dunlap, Iowa State; Reagan Hejl, Texas A&M (Curtis Ford Scholarship); Kevin Shipley, Rutgers; Charles Kerr, Penn State; Colby Lisenby, Texas A&M; Daniel Rude, University of Minnesota; Ryan Coburn, Rutgers; and Jeremy Galvin, Oregon State.

The Trans-Mississippi Golf Association is one of the oldest and most prestigious golf organizations in the United States. Established in 1901, the Trans-Miss is composed of more than 150 member clubs located throughout the country. The Association is governed by a board of independent directors and is headquartered in Lawrence, Kan. Since the Trans-Miss Scholarship Fund granted a $600 scholarship in 1953 to Colorado State University (then Colorado A&M), the Trans-Mississippi Golf Association has become a national leader in assisting young men and women pursuing careers in turf management.

For more information on the Trans Scholarship Program go to