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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40 GOLF COURSE MANAGEMENT 02.18 sustainability or reducing fertilizer use or being smarter about water use," Rossi says. "But I do think it comes down to, 'If I'm going to try this product, which product do I eliminate? What inputs do I eliminate if I try this?' "At the time, I think one could argue this was a sideways view compared to those coming out of other big turf schools. Not to be critical of them, but the big schools went in for industrial turf management in a big way, and I've always felt that I was swimming against that tide — until 2009." What's so important about 2009? "To be honest, if the golf economy didn't crash in 2009, there would have been far less interest in sustainability. The new economics in golf made it make sense. It would not have gotten the same attention if so much money didn't go out of the business." Steve Mona, who served as GCSAA's CEO from 1994 to 2008, and today is head of the World Golf Foundation, agrees. "Frank was certainly ahead of his time as it relates to sustainability. For people like that, who are ahead of their time, it generally does require something dramatic to make the rest of the industry catch up — it may very well have taken a recession in this case." Bethpage breakthrough If Rossi and Mona are correct, the tide turned at a very opportune time, because Rossi's signature bit of research, the Rossi was an early adopter when it comes to sustainable ideas in golf course management, embracing and actively pushing superintendents to consider practices that reduced inputs and water use. as overused as the term Integrated Pest Management) ... If one stops and listens closely, you can hear the winds of change blowing our way. It is my opinion that we cannot sustain our golf courses with energy-intensive management inputs which alter the ecological balance (e.g., pest resistance, earthworm and ant control). Additionally, many of the practices we employ to satisfy the golfer deeply concern a large proportion of our society. I admit this may sound like radical thinking, but I believe that reducing management inputs while maintaining a level of quality which the golfer demands is a viable goal. How do we get there?" It would be difficult to overstate the importance of this very public, very contrarian statement of purpose. It was not peer-reviewed research, but it nevertheless struck a chord. And Rossi was right — almost from the moment this issue of The Grass Roots was distributed, the term "sustainability" did become a buzzword — probably overused, but throughout the 1990s and much of the 2000s, surely controversial. This idea of sustainability in the golf course maintenance context, of "doing more with less," was new. It would attach itself to Rossi and nearly all of his work going forward. Eventually, the entire golf industry would adopt it, but plenty of kicking and screaming went down in the meantime. "My name was out there because I talked a lot about the work I do. I've been criticized for that, whether it's "And I have to be honest: I think that most supers have something I don't have — the ability to keep their mouth shut. I would have had a difficult time as a superintendent faced with irrational expectations. I continue to have a difficult time with those. What I'd rather do is support guys in the face of those expectations." Some 15 years ago, with three young children, Barbara Rossi decided to devote her time to raising their kids and farming. Leveraging equity in their Trumansburg home, the couple built a barn and spent four years developing a breeding enterprise. Soon they added heritage-breed pigs and some 40 additional acres — 5 of those fenced pastureland, another 10 for hay. "And, of course, my wife needed a horse," Rossi says. "She was looking to do something on a small scale but has since become one of the top breeders (of kunekune pigs) in the country. We have a pretty active breeding and pork operation now. We do some agritourism, sell some hay, a bit of garlic and eggs. "Again, it's funny how your life evolves. I like studying the environment and I like studying fast putting greens. Two opposite ends of the spectrum, if you think about it. I feel very lucky to have come along as I did, when I did, to have found this stuff — and the love of this work. " Practical passion Rossi's academic passion for turfgrass got off to a traditional start. Upon earning his doctorate from Cornell, he moved west to Lansing, Mich., where he spent two years as an environmental education specialist at Michigan State University. He would eventually find his way back to Ithaca, starting in 1996, but in between he spent four productive, provocative years at the University of Wisconsin as an assistant professor focused on the environmental management of turfgrass. He also served as the Wisconsin Extension turfgrass specialist. It was in Wisconsin that Rossi first developed his reputation as an outspoken questioner of the status quo. See here an excerpt from "Visions of Sustainability," an article that appeared in The Grass Roots, a publication of the Wisconsin GCSA, in the winter of 1993: "I want to use my 'gazing space' this issue on a discussion of sustainability (a concept which will shortly become

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