Meet Tyler Cornish | OSU HCS Alumnus Class of 2013
As an undergrad, Tyler dove straight in the turf program. He shared the moment he knew he had made a great decision "I came to Ohio State as a turf major and never questioned it. Three weeks into my freshman year I managed to get a job working for Brian Gimbel on his Athletic Facility Operations crew. My first week on the crew, the football team was playing Minnesota at the Shoe and I was lucky enough to have a field pass. After standing down there in front of 105,000 fans all wishing they could be where you are…I was hooked."
Luckily, Tyler had the time to elaborate on what working in sports turf is like + some advice for students considering studying turf:
How’d you initially become interested in turf?
Tyler: In high school I did a lot of landscaping work for some family friends and mowed a few lawns in the neighborhood for extra cash. I really enjoyed being outside and working with my hands. When it came time to start thinking about college, I knew I wanted to do something outside and came across a Landscape Construction major at Eastern Kentucky University, my dad’s alma mater. That sounded interesting and I decided to do that but needed to pick a minor. That’s when I discovered Turf Management. EKU didn’t offer turf as a major and after looking into it I had decided that’s what I wanted to do. My sister, Sarah, had told me that a friend of ours was majoring in that up at Ohio State and that I should apply there. So that’s what I did, and I’ve been a Buckeye ever since.
How did your time at Ohio State help prepare you for your career?
Tyler: My time at HCS played a big role in my career. From starting to build a network and friendships with others in the major through classes and the turf club, to all the things you learn in the classroom. The program is also full of excellent professors that are open to you asking questions not only about classes, but also what internships to apply for, what kind of research they’re doing, or any number of things. I wouldn’t be where I am today had I not been a part of the program.
Could you tell us a bit about your career journey that brought you to your current role?
Tyler: My career in this industry started off on Ohio State’s field crew working for Brian Gimbel and his staff. That job led to an internship with Wes Ganobcik at the Columbus Clippers the spring of my junior year. After graduating in 2013 I moved down to Boynton Beach, FL for a position with Sports Field Management. We were the contractors who held the contract to manage the fields at Florida Atlantic University. After almost two years there it was time to make a move. A friend of mine, Zach Willard who I had been an intern with at the Clippers, was starting a new crew at the University of South Alabama. He called and asked if I’d join his crew and a couple of months later, I was in Mobile, AL working for him.
After a few months the head job became open and fortunately I was promoted to that role. So here I am, 24 years old, no management experience at all, and put in charge of a division 1 program. It was very much a sink or swim moment. The first year was a little rough to say the least; trying to gain the trust of the coaches, administrators, build a new crew, and manage roughly 20 acres of sports turf and landscaping. We made it through that year, and everything started to move a little easier.
I managed that staff and those facilities for almost 6 years before I decided it was time to try and get back closer to home. In December of 2020, a position came open at Prasco Park in Mason, OH. Fortunately for me, I was offered and accepted the position. I started the second week of January 2021 as a Prasco Park Associate. Following that first season we started a full field renovation. At the end of the renovation, I was promoted to Associate Director of Stadium Operations and have been in this position ever since.
What’s a normal day look like for you?
Tyler: One of the best things about being in sports turf is that every day is a little different. For the most part on a normal game day, we get in around 8:30 and the first thing I do is check the weather report from our meteorologist. From there it’s on to any dirt work that we need to do, whether that’s a nail drag on the infield or patching up the mounds and home plate from the previous event. Once the dirt is in a good spot, we will mow the field and then get ready to paint foul lines in the grass. Usually, those lines go down after lunch and we begin watering the infield dirt. About 2.5 hours before game time, we will set up batting practice and put one last coat of water down before the team comes out. Once the pregame warmups are over, we drag the infield, water it, line the field and we’re ready for the first pitch. A little clean up after the game, flick on the irrigation, and get ready to do it again the next day.
What have been a few highlights of your time so far in the turf industry?
Tyler: One of the biggest highlights of my career is seeing players that I’ve had the opportunity to work with reach the top of their tier levels of their sports. Seeing them on tv competing at the highest level and knowing that you helped play a small role in that success is pretty rewarding.
Is there anything you wished you had known before pursuing a turf career?
Tyler: Just how open and welcoming this industry is. Whether you know someone or not, most people are willing to help if you ask. It may be as simple as “why do you do such and such that way” or “can I stop in and see your operation.”
What advice would you give students considering studying turf and ultimately pursuing a career in the turf industry?
Tyler: My advice would be two things...
1) Don’t be afraid to reach out and build a network and ask questions, even if you’re a first year that hasn’t taken a single turf class yet. The bigger the network you have the better off you’ll be down the road.
2) Get outside of your comfort zone. Take that internship that’s a few states away or that first job on the other side of the country. Push yourself to learn more about the industry and experience new things.
Today, we have a wide variety of academic paths for you to choose from to help you pursue a career in the turf industry…