The California superintendent champions water conservation, pollution prevention and more to create sustainable golf course management at La Cumbre Country Club
Lawrence, Kan. – Wayne Mills, 39-year GCSAA member and superintendent at La Cumbre Country Club in Santa Barbara, Calif., has been named the recipient of the 2024 President’s Award for Environmental Stewardship from the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA). Mills will officially be recognized during the Send-Off Celebration at the 2024 GCSAA Conference and Trade Show, presented in partnership with John Deere, on Feb. 1 in Phoenix.
The President’s Award for Environmental Stewardship was established in 1991 to recognize an exceptional environmental contribution to the game of golf; a contribution that further exemplifies the golf course superintendent’s image as a steward of the land.
“From water conservation to wildlife habitat enhancement, Wayne Mills’ dedication to being an environmental steward has undoubtedly contributed to the sustainability of the game of golf,” GCSAA President Kevin P. Breen, CGCS, said. “The numerous ways in which he advocates for protection of the environment, both at La Cumbre and other local golf courses, makes a measurable difference and embodies all that the President’s Award represents. We commend his efforts and congratulate him on this honor.”
In his more than 40 years of working in the golf industry, 22 of which have been at La Cumbre Country Club, Mills has demonstrated what it means to be an effective leader, garnering the respect of all team members and mentoring some of the best superintendents in the industry.
A member of the GCSA of Southern California, Mills’ efforts helped established La Cumbre CC’s golf course as an Audubon International Certified Cooperative Sanctuary, receiving the Audubon Certification for Water Conservation. He allows the local Audubon Society to conduct bird banding at La Cumbre, and he has worked with the California Conservation Corps on the removal of invasive plants from the Arroyo Burro Creek in a collaborative restoration effort.
Mills served as a founding member of the Goleta Valley Golf and Water Taskforce, which was instrumental in advocating for local golf courses and reasonable water use restrictions during recent times of extreme drought. He continually improves water conservation practices at La Cumbre Country Club and puts in extra effort to work with local officials on water restrictions by participating in Goleta Water District’s turf rebate program.
Additional areas of Mills’ focus on environmental stewardship at La Cumbre include the establishment of an Integrated Pest Management plan, recently updating the pump station, evaluating the installation of solar panels at the maintenance facility and creating a Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan specific for the maintenance facility operations. La Cumbre Country Club was also recently certified by Audubon International for Wildlife Management under his leadership. It’s also worth noting that local environmental inspectors are always impressed with La Cumbre’s best management practices and its compliance with environmental regulations.
“It seems overwhelming at first, like you’re taking on this new aspect of the property and the challenges of managing that come with it, but as you go, there’s a satisfaction that’s different,” Wayne Mills said. “On our property, we maintain good grounds for golf, but we also plant for wildlife, and they show up. It differentiates us from other properties and adds to the La Cumbre member experience. If you look at the club’s website and social media, incorporating native plants for different wildlife is embraced by members and promoted to prospective members.”
Mills’ hard work has also earned him numerous Environmental Leaders in Golf Awards recognition from GCSAA, including Natural Resources Conservation Award winner in 2022; Communications and Outreach Award runner-up in 2023; Natural Resources Conservation Award runner-up in 2021; Healthy Land Stewardship Award runner-up in 2020, 2019 and 2018; and ELGA Chapter Award winner in 2017.
“I’m at a loss for words. We’re just trying to groom everything back to a more natural feel,” Mills said. “It’s nice and humbling that people think that highly about the work we’re doing.”
To learn more about the President’s Award for Environmental Stewardship, visit gcsaa.org/awards.
The Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA) is a leading golf organization in the United States. Its focus is on golf course management, and since 1926 GCSAA has been the top professional association for the men and women who manage golf courses in the U.S. and worldwide. From its headquarters in Lawrence, Kan., the association provides education, information and representation to more than 19,000 members in more than 78 countries. The association’s mission is to serve its members, advance their profession and improve communities through enjoyment, growth and vitality of the game of golf. Visit GCSAA at www.gcsaa.org or find us on Facebook or Twitter. Visit our industry-leading magazine at GCMonline.com.
The GCSAA Foundation is the philanthropic organization of the GCSAA. Its mission is to secure funding and support to strengthen advocacy, education, and research that advances the work of golf course management professionals. Visit the Foundation at www.gcsaa.org/foundation.