Mike Fabrizio, certified golf course superintendent at Daniel Island Club in Charleston, South Carolina, will be presented with the Distinguished Service Award from the 1,800-member Carolinas Golf Course Superintendents Association. A past-president of the association, Fabrizio will receive the award during the Carolinas GCSA’s annual Conference and Trade Show in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, from Nov. 17-19.
The award, the highest the association bestows, comes in the 25th anniversary year of what was the lowest point of Fabrizio’s nearly 40-year career. Fabrizio was at Wild Dunes Resort on Isle of Palms when Hurricane Hugo devastated the property in 1989. Fabrizio had helped nurture Wild Dunes from construction during the first of two stints there from 1980 to 1983.
Tom Fazio, who designed both the lauded Links course and its sister layout the Harbor course, was in shock when he arrived at the site two weeks after the storm. “They could’ve locked the gates, written it off as banks will do,” he said then.
But “they” didn’t and the greatest expectations during the rebuild fell on Fabrizio.
“Hurricane Hugo took a lot of wind out of my sails,” Fabrizio recalls.
Wild Dunes reopened within the year. But the initial sense of loss coupled with the strain of working hours no clock should have to record took their toll. Fabrizio, who to that point was a rapidly rising star in the profession with aspirations of holding national office, found himself fighting burn out.
So in 1994, he took a deep breath and a job at Sapphire Lakes Country Club in the mountains of western North Carolina. Ambitions beyond those of the day at hand were placed on indefinite hold.
“And for the next two years of my life I enjoyed waking up every morning and going to work,” Fabrizio says. “I could stand on the banks of the Horse Pasture River and see the trout schooling. And in winter I ploughed some snow. It was a wonderful way to regain my senses.”
The golf industry in the Carolinas, and beyond, should be grateful that he did. Fabrizio’s influence on the profession in the decades since may not have followed the path he once envisioned. But it has been profound in other ways, and often far more personally than it might have played out had he gone on to hold office with GCSAA.
“I never had the privilege to work for Mike but I have had the privilege of working in the same area as him,” says Carolinas GCSA Director Rob Daniel, CGCS from River Towne Country Club in Charleston. “The consensus amongst a lot of guys in this area is that none of us would be where we are in our careers without his help or influence.”
Certified Golf Course Superintendent Scott Ferguson, who came to Wild Dunes soon after Fabrizio counts himself among that group.
“Having known Mike for many years, it wasn’t until 1996 that I really got to understand his dedication and passion for our profession,” he says. “It was then that Mike reached out to offer assistance and support, eagerly sharing his knowledge and experience. I believe this was for no other reason than to help me succeed. Over the years, Mike has been a great resource and sounding board, always willing to offer a credible opinion, which is why I consider Mike one of my most trusted resources.”
Fabrizio has also used his influence to invest in future generations of the profession as a mentor with employees and also as director of grounds and golf course maintenance at Daniel Island Club since 1999. He has been able to make the club available for a long string of Carolinas GCSA meetings over the years with most geared to assistant superintendent needs.
Fabrizio is also treasurer of the East Cooper Knights of Columbus and a member of the Patriot Guard Riders, who provide motorcycle honor guards out of respect for fallen servicemen and women.
“You’ve got to have interests outside of your work or you’ll go crazy,” Fabrizio says. “Constantly trying to affect things you can’t control can drive you down a scary road, whether it’s Mother Nature, the environment, club politics. You can find yourself living with a lot of self-induced stress because you’re constantly pushing yourself to be better. One thing that has really helped me is realizing that my station in life is to serve – whether it’s my maker, my members, my boss or my co-workers. So when I consider that service is what I want to do, that makes receiving this award all the more humbling.”