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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42 GOLF COURSE MANAGEMENT 02.18 Tim Moraghan doesn't necessarily dispute the numbers in Rossi's self- assessment, but he believes it totally misses the point. "Anybody who's controversial, who speaks the truth, who thinks out of the box, is going to be criticized by those who aren't out there in the field. Unless you're in the trenches, it's unfair to criticize — and Frank is in the trenches. If you see things and you've been there and done that? You have every right to speak your piece. "Is he outspoken, out there and in your face? Yes. That's Frank. But you've got to get through that and see what he's trying to tell you. That's why I listen — and take notes. We need people like Frank to rope us all in sometimes. To say, 'Here's the research we have, the peer-reviewed facts. You're not entitled to your own. We're not debilitating playing quality or turf health. We're doing it right, in a sustainable way.'" Service standards Prior to the Bethpage Project, prior to the recession, it wasn't as if Rossi was sitting around in obscurity, tilting at windmills, waiting for the bottom to fall out of the golf market so his ideas would have more impact. Upon moving back to Cornell in 1996, he accepted an additional posting, that of visiting scientist on the USGA's Turfgrass and Environmental Research Committee. It was this gig and his residence back in the New York region that eventually earned the Bethpage Project the green light. From 1990 through 1998, he served as part of the Michigan Turfgrass Environmental Stewardship Program. He would serve on the GCSAA Education Committee, the GCSAA Research Proposal and Review Committee, and the GCSAA Environmental Programs Committee. He traveled and spoke and published — not just in peer-reviewed journals, but several times in the pages of GCM, including the provocative "Effects of microbial and organic products on putting green performance" in September 2006, and a 2005 paper comparing liquid fertilizers, which his protégé Woods singles out as particularly influential. But the Bethpage Project and the changing economics of golf, post 2009, have indeed brought an entire industry more closely in alignment with the ideas Rossi has been championing since the early 1990s. Bethpage Project, was already underway in 2009, and wouldn't conclude until 2014. It was 2000 when Rossi and Grant, the coordinator for the New York Community IPM Program at Cornell, proposed a study to the USGA to evaluate reduced and non- chemical management of putting greens. Despite Rossi's public views, minimizing inputs was still a maverick idea at that time, but the project did come as a result of increased pesticide bans and restrictions that had already taken hold in the state of New York. The first goal of the project was to develop putting green management systems that would reduce reliance on synthetic chemical pesticides. The second goal was to demonstrate the impact of a pesticide ban on golf turf performance. The project was conducted as a systems-based approach to develop a more efficient use of pesticides while emphasizing cultural practices. The findings revealed few differences in turf quality and ball roll between integrated pest management and standard, chemically managed greens. But they also revealed that turf quality and championship conditions will suffer with no chemical pesticides in certain Rossi's fieldwork over the years includes the Bethpage Project, a signature study he conducted with another Cornell professor, Jennifer Grant, Ph.D., that studied the effects of reduced and non-chemical management on putting greens. climates, hardly an indictment of inputs. In any case, the project and its findings ("Reducing Chemical Use on Golf Course Turf: Redefining IPM") were later developed into an educational manual that was translated into Spanish and has since been distributed and consumed worldwide. "Again, the Bethpage project would not have gotten such attention if the money hadn't gone out of the business," Rossi says. "Today it makes sense, because you can now market your environmental stuff alongside playability and appeal to golfers, who are quite different than they were 20 years ago. But at the time (prior to 2009), I understood the pushback. When I started talking about eliminating potassium in turf programs, in the 1990s, I would go around and speak and guys would get pissed off. 'How do you know?' they would say. When you challenge a fundamental part of a superintendent's program, it can cast a negative light. "I don't think I make waves, not purposely. I think if you are headed west, there are a dozen different ways to get there. But maybe I am a bit of an agitator. And I do get out there a lot, to speak. But I think a researcher should question things, all the time. Continuous improvement, right? That's the part of science and research that suits me quite well, it turns out. But it wasn't always popular. If you ask 10 guys today, I'm sure there are still two to three who still think I'm a jerk."

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