I am the … Director of Landscape Services

For the … University of South Carolina Upstate
Bruce Suddeth, University of South Carolina Upstate

What field care product/piece of equipment could you not live without? Trinexypac-ethyl and our Toro Multi Pro sprayer. During the bermudagrass growing season, after we have full coverage, we begin applications of Trinexypac-ethyl for several reasons: to reduce top growth for more constant and consistent mowing; to increase lateral growth to promote denseness and turf quality; to increase stress tolerance; and to reduce labor, equipment and fuel usage. The Multi Pro is used for several applications — herbicides, insecticides, conventional liquid and foliar nutrients.

Complete this sentence: “If I weren’t a field care pro, I would be …” An organic chemist. Don’t laugh … not that kind of chemist! Before my sports turf career, I was a lab technician for a chemical company that synthesized many products, including cleaners, art supplies, automobile parts and even bowling balls.

What path led you to a career in sports turf? I grew up on a farm and learned the basic skills for maintenance tasks done during each season, along with equipment knowledge. In high school, I worked on the local golf course and learned even more playing sports. I went to college with a different career path, then went into the chemical R&D profession. The company I worked for had a turf product line, which I became a part of. While working in this line I continued my education in horticulture. This combination led to consulting with USC Upstate on their sports facilities, which is where I am today.

What types of fields and turf areas are you responsible for? The landscape management of 340 acres of campus grounds. Of that, we maintain approximately 240 acres at various levels of expectations. Included in those 240 acres are 21 acres of athletic fields and more than 100 acres of intensely managed grounds. Our sports turf surfaces include County University Soccer Stadium, Harley Baseball Park, Cyrill Softball Stadium, Upstate Soccer Complex, Upstate Golf Facility and intramural sports.

What are the biggest challenges in maintaining your facility? Continuing to strive to meet and exceed field expectations so they are safe and play true. At times, working within our budget can be a test to obtain these goals.

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned on the job? Trust and empower your staff. Recognize them by communicating their success to administration.

How do you predict the sports turf industry will evolve in the future? I look for more autonomous equipment in the near future.

What advice would you give aspiring field managers? Absorb everything you can from your educators and mentors. Work your way into positions that are fulfilling to you personally. Become active in your local (and the national) STMA.

Describe the sports turf industry in one word. Evolutionary.

Who have been your biggest influences/mentors? My family. As mentioned earlier, I grew up on a farm. We were always working to provide for our family. Each family relative had their own specialty, so we shared to provide essentials. There are many mentors that have guided me along the way and I’m appreciative to all of them. I try to continue that process because you never know when you’ll impact another person’s life.