Student Stories: Turf grad loved working on soccer field

University Park, Pa. — It's not unusual for someone to love puppies, chocolate or summer. Nor is it strange for someone to love listening to the Beatles, receiving presents or going to the beach. However, it is a bit peculiar for someone to love what Erick Landis does.

He fell head over heels for ... turf.

The recently graduated Turfgrass Science major began his love affair with grass at the tender age of 12 in Hazleton, Pa., due to his father's unique residence. Landis' dad resides on the 12th hole of a golf course.

"I'd always be golfing, and eventually when I turned 12, I started working there as a cart boy," Landis said. "Then, when I was about 16, I moved to the grounds crew. That's when I really started getting into it."

Landis decided to attend Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences, which has the largest (and many think the best) Turfgrass Science program in the nation and perhaps the world. The decision has definitely paid off for him. His latest venture across the sea occurred in large part because he chose Penn State.

Landis did an internship every summer during his undergraduate career. During the summers of 2006 and 2007, he interned in New York City with a prestigious country club that devotes a lavish $1.3 million to the maintenance of its golf courses every year. The next summer Landis decided to hone his craft at a big golf club in France.

Last year he summered in Spain, where he landed the internship of a lifetime in beautiful Seville with the Seville Football Club. While there, Landis was able to watch the highest-paid soccer player in history, the renowned Cristiano Ronaldo, when Ronaldo visited Seville with his Real Madrid club team. Ronaldo's Portugal national team was recently eliminated in the second round of the World Cup.

Landis arranged the internship with the soccer organization by himself.

"I pretty much just went on every soccer field's website in France, Italy and Spain, and I e-mailed all the big-time clubs there," he recalled. "A couple of them got back to me, but this guy at Seville said, 'Oh, I know Penn State -- it's great for turf. I want you to come!'" And so he went.

Once in Seville, Landis started out cutting the grass, and after a few weeks his boss asked him to start testing the turf for diseases and weeds, then to determine the necessary chemicals to get rid of them.

While working in Seville, Landis not only gained huge insight into his field of study, he also formed bonds with his co-workers and the natives of Seville.

"The people -- maybe it's because they could sense I was trying to learn Spanish because I usually wouldn't speak English, and I was actually putting forth an effort -- were very accepting," he said. "They were so nice to me, everyone was helpful and I'm actually thinking about going back. Spain was a blast!"

Landis found vast differences between American laborers and European laborers. He felt the workers in Spain and France were happier than the workers in America for many reasons. One possible explanation, he learned, is that every employee in Spain starts off with a month of vacation, and it's illegal to work more than 36 hours per week, although all of that may be changing with dire economic conditions.

"In America, it seems we live to work, and there, you just live," he said. "It was the first time in my life that I liked going to work."

After college, though, Landis decided to give American jobs a try.

"I really wanted to move down to the Naples area in Florida, so I got a job as a spray tech at a golf course called Pelican Preserve, just to get some experience with warm season turf," he said. "Then a job came open at the Naples country club in June, and they hired me as a second assistant superintendent."

So far the job has been a success, despite the longer, non-European hours, Landis reported. "I've been here every day over the summer, running the crew," he said. "I'm really enjoying the job, the people and the beach every day."

Contacts: 
Last Updated May 24, 2011