Golf Course Management

FEB 2018

Golf Course Management magazine is dedicated to advancing the golf course superintendent profession and helping GCSAA members achieve career success.

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38 GOLF COURSE MANAGEMENT 02.18 study at Bethpage State Park on Long Island — is this practical emphasis on the day-to-day work of superintendents. This, his colleagues agree, is a function of Rossi's diligence, but is also the nature of Extension work. Of course, Extension work also places an emphasis on communicating these everyday solutions and strategies, which again plays to Rossi's strengths. Good luck finding a more engaging and verbose member of the turf science establishment. "I study turf, but if you look at my career, it's almost like I study superintendents," says Rossi. "The goal of my research has always been to apply the rigorous scientific method to practical problems in turfgrass management, the specific areas of reduced fertilizer and pesticide use. And I do maintain a strong problem-solving focus in my Extension program, with particular emphasis on increased resource efficiency and improved environmental compatibility. "That's a message not just for superintendents, but for golfers as well. The other part of my career has really been about trying to educate golfers as to what is happening in this business, because superintendents have always had this environmental focus. But an informed golfer today will also demand that sort of environmental stewardship from superintendents. I now look at turf as just another aspect of land management, crop production and soil management. Golf was my entry, but that has led quite naturally to my interest in farming. It's funny how your career evolves." A porcine representative from Rossi's Bel Canto Farm in Trumansburg, N.Y., is not expected to be on hand Tuesday, Feb. 6, when he officially receives the President's Award during the GCSAA Opening Night Celebration at the 2018 Golf Industry Show in San Antonio. Without that distraction, those in attendance will be obliged to sit back and appreciate the enormous legacy Rossi, just 55, has already accrued. "What will Frank be remembered for?" asks Micah Woods, Ph.D., a Rossi protégé at Cornell and today the head of the Asian Turfgrass Center in Thailand. "It has to be his personality and his teaching, all the people that he's influenced, and getting people to think differently about what they're doing. Sustainability is a big part of that, but he's just influenced so many people in so many different areas." According to Tim Moraghan, former USGA agronomist and now head of Aspire Consulting, "When I'm at a conference and Frank is speaking, I always make the time. I first met him in 2002 at Bethpage, just after he started the dollar spot research on the Green Course. Everyone was busting his chops back then. I stood up Rossi embraces what he terms "the study of superintendents," and dedicates himself to getting into the field through his role in Cornell's Extension program. Photos courtesy of Cornell University and said, 'Hey, you got a pretty smart guy here who has done a lot of good research. You might want to take 15 minutes to see what he's about.' I think he has done an awful lot to bring an environmental consciousness to golf when it really needed it." Of course, the ability to communicate, while a virtue unto itself, is greatly enhanced by relevant messaging delivered in a timely manner. Here, Rossi has consistently been ahead of his time. Green acres Bel Canto Farm, operated by Rossi's wife, Barbara, is an idyllic 50-acre spread located some 20 minutes west of Cornell, which sits at the southern tip of Lake Cayuga, one of New York State's famed Finger Lakes. Some city folk can't imagine a life outside the urban realm. Rossi is not one of them. Born and raised in New York City, his life was transformed by a summer camp experience on Long Island Sound. As a teenager, he sought greener pastures by working on the crew for several Westchester County golf courses, in addition to a landscape installation and maintenance outfit. He would first attend SUNY Cobleskill as a dairy farm management major, but quickly switched to agronomy. He would earn bachelor's and master's degrees at the University of Rhode Island before earning his Ph.D. in plant science from Cornell. Rossi came pretty close to becoming a superintendent himself. Throughout his time at Rhode Island, he served as an assistant at Greenwich Country Club, and he even did a short stint as course manager at a small nine-hole course, Wildfield Links. "I wanted to be superintendent, but the closer I got to that sort of job, it became clear to me that superintendents deal with a very demanding clientele — and there wasn't necessarily a straightforward way to please that clientele," Rossi recalls. "I didn't like that moving target that golfers put on superintendents sometimes. I liked the idea of golf courses, but I discovered I had more intellectual interests — the study of it versus the practice of it. So I went back to grad school, and I made it my business to study superintendents, the decisions they make, and how we influence them to get what they want and deliver to clients what they want.

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