August 2020 Young Alum of the Month

Name: Jacob Button

Hometown: Conrad, Iowa

Job Title: Golf Course Superintendent

From the football field to the fairway, Jacob Button is pursuing his dream of managing both people and turf. Button (’11 horticulture) serves as the golf course superintendent at Olivia Golf Club in Olivia, Minnesota. In his previous role he served as part of the grounds crew for U.S. Bank Stadium, home of the Minnesota Vikings. Button shares the similarities and differences of his work at the stadium and on the golf course.

“Agronomically, it’s a totally different story,” Button says. “In sports turf, you are pushing the field with fertilizer and management practices to get the field to prepare itself whereas on the golf course, you try to keep it as lean as possible.”

In Button’s current position, he considers himself both a superintendent and mechanic. His role includes conducting daily crew meetings and testing the moisture of the course to determine if the greens need water.

“Throughout the day I take off my superintendent hat and replace it with my mechanic hat, “ Button says. “I go over all the mowers to check the reels for cut and height before deciding if the irrigation should run overnight.”

Like most, Button’s job has been impacted by COVID-19. With increased sanitation practices and social distancing, Olivia Golf Club has worked to create a healthy atmosphere for golfers.

“We have limited carts per hole on the course along with the daily washing of equipment. We’ve also removed rakes and ball washers for less contact, “ Button says.

Although he loves being on the green, Button’s first job was on the football field, where he prepared the field for the Minnesota Vikings.

“Preparing the field to rigorous safety expectations and aesthetics was my favorite part, Button says. “Knowing that millions of people are looking at the pristine field is a great accomplishment.”

Button got his start at a community college where he took a variety of horticulture courses. His enjoyment of the horticulture coursework led him to Iowa State University, one of the top turfgrass management programs in the country.

Button’s favorite class at Iowa State focused on water quality where he was able to strengthen his knowledge of pollution causes and prevention.

“It was great learning about the effects of runoff pollution and how to use buffer strips and other ways to limit the pollution,” Button says. “Organic chemistry was my least favorite, but I use it every day.”

Barbara Clawson, academic adviser in the Department of Horticulture, was Button’s adviser during his time at Iowa State. She helped guide him through college and continues to stay in touch.

“He just soared in horticulture. There is nothing he wouldn’t or couldn’t do. He is a great student and a wonderful young man,” says Clawson.

Button was involved in the Turf Club during his four years at Iowa State University. He was also able to join the Waterski Club for fun.

“I loved going to the yearly conferences and competing in turf bowls,” Button says.

Button leaves undergrads with this piece of advice.

“Iowa State is a foundation to learn off of – you’ll learn the rest in the field. Be willing to learn every day.”