One day in the summer of 2020, Madison Rudsinski got in her car and headed west to seek her fortune. The Illinois native sought a job in a warmer climate, armed only with an associate degree in horticulture and her own ambition.
“Originally, I was going to be a floral designer,” she tells Rick Woelfel on the Wonderful Women of Golf podcast. “I started working at a shop in Rockford, Illinois, and I kind of figured out that I wanted to be outside. I didn’t like always being in the shop.”
Rudsinski’s turf career began with an internship at Prairie View Golf Club in Byron, Illinois, roughly 90 miles west of Chicago. She started in bedding plant design but moved into turf maintenance in the wake of COVID-19. “I realized, after getting on all the machines there that, ‘OK, this is kind of cool,’’’ she recalls. Her move to Arizona was admittedly on a whim. “I’m not a big snow lover,” she says, “and we get a lot of that in Illinois.”
Rudsinski’s original plan was to work at a golf course while also attending business school. But five hours into a 25-hour drive, she got a call from Paradise Valley Country Club just outside Phoenix. Because of her background in horticulture, Rudsinski was hired as a second assistant superintendent. She notes that the team took the time to see that she was properly trained.
“They kind of wired me for (the second assistant’s job),” Rudsinski says. “They were putting me on everything right away, getting me acquainted with the equipment and making sure I was adequate at using that before I could go train somebody. They were really patient with me and helped me learn really fast. They were good teachers.”
Rudsinski now fills a variety of roles depending on where she’s needed on a given day.
“It could be mowing, I could be on approaches, tees, greens, fairways, bunkers, anything like that,” she says. “Some days, I won’t have any job assignment and I’ll fill in if we have any no-calls or no-shows. If we have to spray greens, I typically do green sprayings every Thursday, that’s my main task. Otherwise, we get new guys coming in. I’ll be training them on something.”
Rudsinski was part of the group of female turf professionals who volunteered at the U.S. Women’s Open at the Olympic Club last June. For someone whose career was still in its early stages, the week was the equivalent of an educational seminar. “Everybody there was very admirable and inspiring,” she says. “They answered any questions I had. It was amazing.”
Rudsinski will be volunteering at the U.S. Open at The Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts, this June. She has also been accepted into the Nufarm Excel Leadership Program and has made a three-year commitment to enhancing her career by attending educational seminars, taking classes and volunteering.
She views her U.S. Women’s Open experience as the jumping-off point for all this.
“I don’t think I would have even been considered for the Nufarm Excel Leadership Program without having that on my résumé,” she says. “I had joined as a Class C member of the GCSAA and I hadn’t really had any previous volunteer work with them through any of their programs, so that was kind of what catapulted me into the public eye with the GCSAA and made me more noticeable. That was what got me into these programs and now I’m super excited about going to Brookline. I’ve got that to look forward to. The Nufarm Excel week was super out of my comfort zone. I was definitely the youngest person there” — Rudsinski is 21— “by a good six years or so, but everyone’s just there to help each other.”
Rudsinski wants to become a head superintendent one day. Naturally enough, she embraces the idea of encouraging high school students to explore the idea of a career in turf. She participated in the Future Farmers of America program while she was in high school.
“What would be amazing would be for different (GCSAA) chapters to reach out to schools in their area and ask if there is an FFA program at that school,” she says. “FFA is a huge program and you’re going to get a lot of students that are interested in agriculture and biology. I think people should definitely start there if they’re looking for (high school students).”