Nestled behind the familiar Bladerunner Farms sign as one enters Poteet, is the home of the official grass of the Olympic Golf Course, built to host the 2016 Rio Games.
It was 2013, when Zeon Zoysia was confirmed as the grass chosen in the fairways, roughs and tees of the new golf course. This year marks golf as an Olympic sport, the first time after 112 years.
David Doguet is president of Bladerunner Farms, the company that bred Zeon Zoysia. He is married to Sheri Doguet. The Doguet family are a special part of Olympic history and can stake a claim that no one else can.
Bladerunner Farms is a family-owned and operated business and is the world’s largest privately owned zoysiagrass research and development facility. For the past 15 years, their sons have each had a part in the company’s success: David Doguet Jr., Daric Doguet and Darin Doguet.
“As it marks the return of golf to the Olympic Games after over a century of absence, this course represents the beginning of a new chapter in the history of the sport. It will enable Rio to host important events in the international calendar and it will be an example of sustainability and preservation of an environmentally protected area,” said the President of Rio 2016, Carlos Arthur Nuzman.
“My parents own it. My oldest brother does all the logistics of the trucking and the order taking. I run the farm and my sister is in the office. Me and my brothers run a business together licensing these grasses,” said Bladerunner Farms General Manager Darin Doguet.
Their office staff includes: Ninfa Chapa, Sandra Chapa and Ashley Doguet. Farm managers are Gabriel Torres and David Garcia.
David and Sheri Doguet are in Brazil right now. They left in early August and will be there throughout the entire event.
“All these are different grasses out here and we watch for the best ones,” said Darin during a recent tour.
“Zeon Zoysia is on the fairways and roughs, the tee boxes, the green surrounds- everything except for the putting surface,” said Darin.
So how did Bladerunner Farms go about getting selected for this unique honor?
“My company, Doguet Ventures, we take these grasses and we license them to other growers, to other farmers across the country. My dad had a grower in Brazil. He was there two years before they decided to do the Olympics,” said Darin.
When the Doguets heard the Olympics were going to be in Brazil, they started bidding for it and sending letters.
“They worked on it for about six-eight months before they finally got it done. They were e-mailing back and forth between the PGA (Professional Golfers’ Association), the Olympic Committee and the Brazilians.”
Darin added, “The golf course has been ready for a year. They wanted an extra year just to get it ready. So it has been planted for a long time already. We sent a bag of sprigs about five-six years ago and they expanded it.”
Darin explained how the farm it was originally at, (grown by Marcelo Matte of Green Grass Brasil), was 1,000 miles away from Rio. When it was found out that the Olympics were coming, it had to be put on a different farm, 50 miles from Rio. The story of how he expanded the grass material, trucked it 1,000 miles north and created a sod farm closer to Rio is one of overcoming obstacles and demonstrating sheer will to accomplish the job.
The advantage of Zeon Zoysia is that one can get the best surface out of it, with the least amount of input.
“Zeon Zoysia is very environmentally friendly,” said David Doguet. “The grass needs very little water and very low amounts of nitrogen fertilizer, while still looking and playing great. The grass will create a world-class playing surface for the Olympics, and for many years to come.”
Said Darin Doguet, “Compared to Bermuda grass, which is the most commonly used grass on the golf course, it is half the input. So there will be half the fertilizer, half the mowing. It is really dense so it keeps out the weeds. It does well in the shade and does well with salt. They are all-around good grasses.”
Zeon Zoysia is a tight-knit turf. It forms a dense playing surface with an upright nature that makes the ball sit up in the fairway as if on a tee.
Doguet also shared how the golf course in Brazil does not allow any fertilizer or herbicide.
On this particular day in early August, Michael Lopez mowed the Zeon Zoysia on the Poteet farm with a tractor. Standing with the grass beneath, surrounded by the beauty of Bladerunner Farms can be a calming experience for anyone who needs to get away.
The farm is approximately 1,200 acres total, 600 of those acres being turf, said Darin.
Bladerunner Farms started in 1993. David Doguet Sr. started his first business in 1978.
“He started working for Milberger Landscape in San Antonio. They kind of got the grass business going in Texas. My dad started with them and went on his own in 1978,” said Darin.
“It is exciting and we are getting a lot of exposure,” said Darin.
“My dad used to be partners with Ben Crenshaw, the golfer. He never played golf. Ben would always invite him to go play and my dad would never go. When he turned 50 I think, he started playing and now he is really good and he plays as much as he can. I play two to three times a year. It is relaxing, because you are riding around and it is pretty and you are not at work. That is what I like about golf- just getting out.”
What time the day begins at Bladerunner Farms varies.
“It depends on the day. If we know ahead of time that we have a loaded day, then we will start at 6. If it is a regular day, then 7. Then we go until we are done. We try to leave by 6, but if there is still work to do, we do it.”
That work has paid off, as millions can now see.