Friday, June 03, 2011

Dr. Wong Gets the Girl

If you're signed up for Golfdom's e-newsletters (and why wouldn't you be?), then you got this morning's "Chip Shots" about Frank Wong.

Not your typical turf story... this one is actually a love story. How about that?

Dr. Wong Gets the Girl

Leaving UC Riverside behind and accepting a job with Bayer in Washington, D.C., Frank Wong gets to be with his bride.

By Seth Jones

It was an easy decision, Frank Wong, Ph.D., laughs, because it involved a woman.

“It was a no-brainer,” he giggles. “You get the job that you wanted, in the place that you wanted, and you get the girl too. It’s an absolute slam-dunk.”

Wong, who previously was a specialist of plant pathology at the University of California-Riverside, accepted a job that moves him across the country to Washington, D.C. He’s now a technical service specialist for Bayer’s Environmental Health division. Most important to him, he’s closer to his wife of two years, Dr. Caroline Ridley, whom he married in October of 2009. Ridley moved to D.C. after she was awarded a fellowship to work as a scientist for the EPA.

“We have a little bit of that James Carville/Mary Matalin thing going on,” Wong says. “She works for the EPA, I work in crop protection for a chemical company.”

For Bayer, Wong will be doing a lot of what he was already doing as an extension specialist at Riverside – meeting with superintendents and growers and discussing what’s best for their turf and crops.

“(Bayer) would like me to focus on providing support for the industry,” Wong says. “From D.C. to Boston to Chicago. Where disease pressure on cool season turf is the highest – lot of brown patch, lot of dollar spot. It all comes down to enhancing customer service and support. Just talking to sales guys, supers, letting them know the best fit for the Bayer product line.”

If Wong has any regrets, it’s that he left behind an area that he feels lacks the support it needs. The University of California’s turf programs have never been like a Rutgers, an N.C. State or a Penn State, Wong says.

“I’m glad the industry has (Dr.) Jim Baird there to work with. There’s still turf research and extension going on at UC Riverside,” Wong says. “I just talked to Bruce Williams, who just accepted the executive directorship of the California Turfgrass and Landscape Foundation, which is being established to help support research and education in California… and I just really encouraged him to get the industry together and lean on the university to get (my former) position filled as soon as possible.”

Recently UC Riverside had halted operations of its turf diagnostics lab as a result of, among other things, insufficient funding.

“I don’t want to make it seem like I was running away from a problem at the university, but, man… when your primary job is to do science and education, and you find yourself 90 percent of the time worrying about budgets, manpower issues, and how to make sure you have enough paper towels in the lab? It really distracts away from the stuff you want to do,” Wong says. “I think this will be a welcome change to work on the part of the job I really love.”

And of course, there’s his true love, the lovely Dr. Ridley. Once this job at Bayer became available, Wong hit the door pretty quickly, he admits. But that’s what happens when personal lives are involved.

“I think it caught some people by surprise,” Wong says. “When an organization wants you to start right away, and for personal reasons, you want to be with your wife right away – I was out the door pretty quick.”

It’s obvious that Dr. Wong is a man in love – with a new job, a new city, and most of all with being reunited with his wife. It’s almost like the couple gets a second honeymoon.

But how will things go when the two are once again under the same roof?

“Man, I’m still just trying to figure out why she married me in the first place,” Wong laughs.

Details, Frank. You got the girl.

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