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WSU Turfgrass Students Are Major League Success

Posted by struscott | August 10, 2010

The WSU Turfgrass Management program is not only for aspiring golf course superintendents. It also trains and educates students for careers in all aspects of the turfgrass industry.

Two standout WSU Turfgrass Management students, Zach Severns and Patrick Barnaby, are on career paths to become Sports Turf Managers, and are prime examples of how to achieve early success in Sports Turf Management while at WSU.

Zach, originally from Dos Palos, Calif., came to WSU as a transfer student from the Walla Walla Community College Turfgrass Management Program. Patrick, from Honolulu, Hawaii, also came to WSU prepared, as he obtained three different certificates in Turfgrass Management and Landscape Maintenance while living in Hawaii.

Zach Severns (left), Patrick Barnaby (center), and Matt Carstens (right) rebuilding the mound at Bailey-Brayton Field, Pullman, Wash.

Both students have traveled at length for the chance to study and learn at WSU, and both are making the most of their time by seeking highly competitive internships, taking on leadership roles, participating in volunteer activities, and being involved in the WSU Turfgrass Management Club.

Zach began his career in Turfgrass Management as an intern with the AAA baseball affiliate of the San Francisco Giants, the Fresno Grizzlies, at Chukchansi Park while attending Walla Walla Community College. He interned with the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park under the direction of director of grounds Gary Vanden Berg.

“Vanden Berg has developed one of the single best structured Sports Turf internship programs in the nation,” said WSU turfgrass instructor Matt Williams.

“Zach was always early, needed little direction, and was always quick to learn new skills,” Vanden Berg said. “Zach’s career opportunities are endless and I wish him well.”

Following Zach’s experience with the Brewers, he moved on to intern at Nationals Park, home of the Washington Nationals. There, he applied what he learned from prior internships and gained a broader perspective on management practices used in major league baseball field maintenance. Zach has not only impressed his previous employers, but has also impressed players.

Pat Misch, a pitcher for the New York Mets, said, “Zach is very intelligent and hard working when it comes to maintaining and fixing up a baseball field. I have known Zach for about 5 years now and his hard work has really paid off. When he worked in Fresno, California, at the AAA affiliate for the San Francisco Giants, he would ask for feedback on the mounds and turf and everything was always positive. I feel like Zach just has a knack for groundskeeping.”

For the upcoming summer, Zach has secured an internship at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, and will be working on their athletic facilities. He hopes to broaden his perspective by working with warm-season turfgrass at a Division I university. Additionally, Zach was recently elected president of the WSU Turfgrass Management Club for the 2010-2011 academic year and was awarded third place in the Sports Turf Managers Association student challenge case study. He was also awarded a nationally competitive STMA SAFE Scholarship.

Patrick has taken a slightly different road to success. He grew up playing baseball, the sport fueling his career. Although he did not make it into major league baseball as a player, he is on a path to spend his career there as a groundskeeper. Patrick has been working on baseball fields for nearly 10 years at all levels of competition. He spent seven years maintaining the Moanalua High School baseball field in Honolulu, and almost two years maintaining the Iolani Schools athletic fields, also in Honolulu.

In 2009, he worked as an intern with the AAA affiliate of the Seattle Mariners, the Tacoma Rainers, at Cheney Stadium in Tacoma. The head groundskeeper at Cheney Stadium, Ryan Schutt said that “Patrick was a hard worker and came to me with decent knowledge and a willingness to learn.”

Patrick has not only maintained and played on baseball fields, he was also a coach of the junior varsity and varsity Moanalua High School baseball team for three years. In addition to his grounds-keeping work, Patrick has experience in landscaping and golf course maintenance, working for Performance Landscapes maintaining high-end residential properties in Honolulu and also working at Palouse Ridge Golf Club at WSU during the academic year. During the 2010 baseball season, Patrick will participate in an extended internship with the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. Patrick will be with the Phillies beginning in May, and will return to WSU after the season ends. He takes his previous experience into this internship and hopes to bring back major league knowledge and post-season experience.

Both Zach and Patrick have devoted and donated countless hours maintaining and improving the mound and bullpens at WSU’s Bailey-Brayton Field where they have made a noticeable difference. They have also coached other Turfgrass Management students in mound construction and maintenance. The WSU pitching coach and players feel that the mound is in the best condition ever. In addition to this service activity, these students, as well as the rest of the Turfgrass Management Club, have taken over a section of U.S. Highway 195 for cleanup, and have volunteered their time to aid in fall and spring aeration at Colfax Golf and Country Club, as well as spring aeration at St. John Golf Club.

Zach and Patrick have already been successful in the Sports Turf industry as students. With continued academic success at WSU and more experience through highly competitive internships they will undoubtedly be successful throughout their careers.

By Matt Williams and Bill Johnston, Washington State University