Alumni Spotlight: Chris Tritabaugh

Chris Tritabaugh '01 manages the Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minnesota - this year's host of the famous Ryder Cup. When he was hired on as superintendent of Hazeltine in January 2013, he knew that the Ryder Cup would take place in 3 short years and that he would have to bring the course to an extremely high level of quality right away. Chris keeps an active Twitter account (follow him here), where he posts updates about preparations for the Ryder Cup, answers questions, and shares information about golf course management. Read more about his background below!

Degree: Environmental Horticulture
Grad Year : 2001
Advisor: Don White
Current organization/ employer: Hazeltine National Golf Club

Favorite memory of campus:  I loved the changing of the seasons on campus. The way the trees, plants and people all adjusted to the weather getting warmer or colder. I also loved being able to be completely anonymous in such a big place. I enjoyed finding little quiet places where I could sit quietly and read the paper, or just listen to music.

Why did you choose CFANS as a college? I started in landscape architecture, but it wasn't for me. I had worked on a golf course during the summer for a number of years and I knew there was something about managing a course and golf course turf that appealed to me.

Why do you think the University of Minnesota is great? Its my home school! I grew up in this state and have always lived in this state. I could never have imagined going to school anywhere else. My wife and I have two daughters and I would love for them to go to the University of Minnesota someday.

Career information/ professional achievements: I've been a golf course superintendent at two of Minnesota's greatest courses, which is something I'm quite proud of. Also, I've had been fortunate to be able to present and teach to an audience of my peers. To have peers want to learn from what I have accomplished is quite rewarding and humbling.

What's your passion? What do you love about your work and your field? I love having an area of turf that maybe isn't performing up to standards, developing a plan for its improvement, implementing and adjusting the plan in order turn the area of turf into a high quality stand. From that point, I like the continued effort of making that stand of turf perform at a higher level than it did the day before. I call it turning the dials of turf management and there's nothing I enjoy more.

How did your education at the U of M help prepare you for what you are doing today? It gave me a great introduction to the science of horticulture. I wasn't a very good student, I don't know that I was mentally mature enough at that time of my life to get all that I could get out of school. I also feel I learn much better when I have more knowledge of my subject matter. I would have been a much better student, if I had gained more high level knowledge of turfgrass management prior to school. I am better when I learn hands-on first, then go back to the book to gain deeper knowledge. My schooling was backwards from that in many ways.

What advice do you have for current students (and future alumni)?
Don't take your time in college for granted. I did and I regret it now. I wish I wouldn't have been so focused on just getting done and enjoy it a little more. I also tell young people I work with that they should work in places that take them out of their comfort zone. I never left Minnesota for an internship, or early in my career. It has worked out just fine for me, but I think I would have been better sooner, if I had worked outside my comfort zone early in my career.