Quail Hollow's assistants divide and conquer the Presidents Cup

Kevin Robinson, Frankie Cardelle and Robert Blood are gaining valuable experience on the job.


Frankie Cardelle, Robert Blood and Kevin Robinson
Frankie Cardelle, Robert Blood and Kevin Robinson are assistant superintendents at Quail Hollow, where this week they're preparing the course for the Presidents Cup. Photos by Scott Hollister

If experience is indeed the best teacher, then there aren’t many classrooms better for young turfgrass professionals than Quail Hollow Club.

At least that’s how the club’s three assistants — Kevin Robinson, Frankie Cardelle and Robert Blood — view their time at the Charlotte, N.C., institution. Keith Wood, Quail Hollow’s director of green and grounds, gets plenty of deserved attention for preparing courses for professional tournament play, including this week’s Presidents Cup. But all three give Wood equal praise for his role as a teacher, a mentor and someone with a laser focus on making those who work for him better.

“Keith has just been the best leader and mentor for me and for all of us here,” says Robinson, a Massachusetts native and three-year GCSAA member. “Anyone from just a regular part-time staff member, to me, Frankie and Robert can go into his office at any time. He's got an open-door policy. We can talk about work. We can talk about life. We can talk about anything, and he's just always there to support us. And what's great, too, is he wants everyone to make another leap in their career. He wants the best for us, whether that’s here or elsewhere.”

Blood, also a three-year member of GCSAA, adds, “One of Keith's big philosophies is when you find people that are really interested in doing a job and doing a great job, you let them run with it. And he does a great job of that.”

That educational ethos carried over to both the run-up to this week’s event and to the day-to-day duties that this trio is overseeing during tournament week. Before this week, there were three main areas of focus for the assistants (although they did rotate some to broaden their experience). Blood took on oversight of pre-Presidents Cup agronomic decisions, Cardelle was in charge of construction (a massive task considering the large build-out for the Presidents Cup) and Robinson focused on staff management.

This week, the duties were similarly divided. Blood is overseeing work on the front nine, Cardelle on the back and Robinson is focusing on course set-up in the mornings and hand-watering in the afternoon. It’s created an atmosphere where work gets done and exposure to what it takes to put on a massive international competition is guaranteed.

All three assistants bring plenty of tournament prep experience to their jobs, both from events at Quail Hollow and as volunteers elsewhere. They say that preparing for a team competition varies greatly from what they experienced during the PGA Championship in 2017 and the annual Wells Fargo Championship on the PGA Tour. The biggest difference might just be agronomic.

“I think the biggest thing is this being a bermudagrass course, as opposed to cool-season ryegrass overseeding the course for the Wells Fargo,” says Cardelle, yet another three-year GCSAA member. “The ryegrass helps us every year for the Wells Fargo, then we remove the ryegrass and then we grow in the bermuda course.

“We maintain a bermuda course every year, so it's not anything new to us other than this is our tournament time. So, the agronomic plan shifts slightly because of the kind of grass, but we're still accustomed to mowing and maintaining the warm-season grass.”

Frankie Cardelle, Robert Blood and Kevin Robinson
Maintenance crews at Quail Hollow follow Cardelle, Blood and Robinson's guidance on different areas of the course.

All three came to careers in golf course management through accidental routes, although some were more intentional than others. Blood had a golf club in his hand as soon as he could walk, and eventually found he could marry his loves of golf and science into a career in turfgrass management.

“When I got here, I realized there was that intersection between science, golf and grass, and just fell in love with it,” says Blood.

Robinson grew up in Massachusetts, where his parents owned a seafood company. With no desire to join the family business, he was drawn into the industry by a neighbor who had previously worked at Quail Hollow, which eventually led to a turf degree from Rutgers. That neighbor put in a good word for him with Wood about an open internship position, and aside from a stint as an assistant at nearby Carmel Country Club, the rest is history.

“(Tournament golf) is exciting. It's something to look forward to,” Robinson says. “It's kind of hard to get motivated for the other tournaments that come around at a club like this one, but it's really easy to get motivated for a President's Cup or Wells Fargo. So that was kind of a driving force for me to come work at a tournament golf course.”

Golf was not Cardelle’s first love; it was soccer, which he played in college. After graduating, he was coaching youth soccer. Looking for a job that would give him free time in the afternoons and evenings to pursue that endeavor, he stumbled into work on a golf course.

“I always loved doing yard work, always loved being outside and really took to it,” Cardelle says. “I decided to do the Penn State online turf program, then was able to volunteer at the 2019 Wells Fargo. I just fell in love with this place immediately. It brought me right back to my soccer playing days in college, just the team atmosphere, the camaraderie here at Quail Hollow. I knew this is where I wanted to be.”

Scott Hollister is editor-in-chief of GCM.