CommonGround GC’s director of agronomy Mitch Savage earns national Excellence in Government Affairs Award from Golf Course Superintendents Association
By Gary Baines – 1/3/2024
One of Colorado’s own in the golf industry is ringing in the new year with a national award.
Mitch Savage, the director of agronomy at the CGA-owned CommonGround Golf Course for almost four years, this week was named the recipient of the national 2024 Excellence in Government Affairs Award by the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America.
The award recognizes a superintendent, chapter or coalition for outstanding advocacy or compliance efforts in government affairs. Savage will formally receive the award on Feb. 1 during the Government Affairs Session of the GCSAA Conference and Trade Show in Phoenix.
Savage “is being honored for his consistent advocacy efforts on numerous issues in the state of Colorado, working alongside the Colorado Golf Coalition, which consists of the Rocky Mountain GCSA, Colorado Golf Association, Colorado Section of the PGA and Mile-High Chapter of the Club Management Association of America,” the GCSAA said in a release.
“This award recognizes Savage’s proactive approach in advocating for state control of pesticide regulations and for being an influential voice in the Colorado golf industry. Having testified numerous times before state legislative committees in Denver, he always shows up fully prepared with a succinct message and several examples that support his efforts on behalf of the Colorado golf industry.”
Since 2015, the Colorado Golf Coalition, with the help of lobbyist Jennifer Cassell, has taken a proactive role in advocating for golf to state lawmakers. Since 2016, that’s included an annual visit to the state capitol dubbed “Golf Day at the Capitol”. And Savage has been an important part of those efforts.
“I got involved in our industry’s advocacy efforts in 2016 when I was the assistant superintendent at Green Valley Ranch,” Savage said in an email on Wednesday. “I have grown to love the government-affairs side of golf and how it impacts, in particular, the golf course management profession (pesticide regulation, water, labor, etc.).
“I enjoy working with our state’s golf coalition and our lobbyist, Jennifer Cassell, to work with our state’s legislators in addressing matters affecting golf. “
It was some of Savage’s fellow Colorado golf course superintendents who nominated him for the national GCSAA award, which made the honor all the more meaningful.
“I have learned a tremendous amount about the political process during the previous eight years and have seen some incredible work accomplished through collaboration and teamwork,” Savage said in his email. “Perhaps the thing that I am proudest of is the fact that we have been able to share stories that are resonating with Colorado lawmakers and we are building relationships with individuals at the state capitol, some of whom have been on the opposing side of the proposed legislature as us.”
Savage has been a GCSAA member for 21 years and he’s served on the board of the Rocky Mountain Golf Course Superintendents Association, including previously heading up its government-affairs committee.
“Proud of Mitch’s accomplishments!” GCSAA CEO Rhett Evans said in a post on X (formerly Twitter) this week. “I’ve seen firsthand the time and effort he’s put into preparing talking points and engaging with legislators to advocate for our industry.”
Meanwhile, the RMGCSA said on X: “Congrats are in order for CommonGround’s Mitch Savage! Mitch has been the face of the RMGCSA and the Colorado Golf Coalition speaking on behalf of us for the past few years at our state capitol. Thank you Mitch for all you do. Your passion does not go unnoticed!”
The GCSAA said in its release that Savage “has been instrumental in the push to maintain uniform statewide pesticide regulations in Colorado.
“This award recognizes Savage’s proactive approach in advocating for state control of pesticide regulations and for being an influential voice in the Colorado golf industry,” it said. “Having testified numerous times before state legislative committees in Denver, he always shows up fully prepared with a succinct message and several examples that support his efforts on behalf of the Colorado golf industry.”
Five years ago, Savage, then the course superintendent at Broken Tee in Englewood, earned the GCSAA’s national Grassroots Ambassador Leadership Award, which “recognizes and honors individual Ambassadors who have demonstrated growth in advocacy and advancement of the GCSAA Priority Issues Agenda through Congressional outreach and relationship development with a member of Congress.”
In August, Savage hosted a field trip at CommonGround for the class of Colorado State University’s Lisa Blecker, who oversees Pesticide Regulatory Education Program compliance and enforcement management courses for pesticide regulators. Almost 50 state and federal pesticide compliance officers in Blecker’s course visited CommonGround, where Savage spoke about environmental stewardship and managing the course.
Savage isn’t the first RMGCSA member to earn the national GCSAA Excellence in Government Affairs Award. Joe McCleary received the honor for compliance in 2002-03. McCleary, who served as the golf course superintendent at Saddle Rock in Aurora for 17 years, is now the chief business officer for the CGA.
About the Writer: Gary Baines has covered golf in Colorado continuously since 1983. He was a sports writer at the Daily Camera newspaper in Boulder, then the sports editor there, and has written regularly for ColoradoGolf.org since 2009. He was inducted into the Colorado Golf Hall of Fame in 2022. He owns and operates ColoradoGolfJournal.com