May 29, 2015 – Ives Hill Country Club, the reputable restaurant and public golf course on West Flower Ave. in Watertown, has a new superintendent overseeing its grounds for the first time since 2005.
Michael Frasher, formerly the superintendent at Carlowden Country Club in Carthage, is taking over leadership duties from Hunter Horton. A fixture in the Northern New York golf community, Horton is staying on at Ives Hill as a consultant, and moving full-time into the landscaping business in his native Thousand Islands region.
“(Frasher) is very well-known (at Carlowden) for doing a good job,” Horton said. “He’s got the experience and the knowledge. He’s also got a great staff that stayed on board. It’s a win-win for everybody, and especially for (Ives Hill).”
Frasher graduated with a turf degree from SUNY Cobleskill in 2008. He interned at Beth Page, a course known for hosting multiple PGA Tour events – “I got my hands dirty there,” Frasher said.
During his final semester at Cobleskill, he was sought out for an opening at Drumlins Country Club, a 36-hole course in Syracuse, and was hired as the first assistant superintendent.
His passion for lawn maintenance came early in life for Frasher. After seeing an ad in the paper, Frasher, then 17, hustled over to Thousand Islands Country Club and asked for a job. He was mowing the greens the next morning.
Frasher is a family-oriented man, and was anxious to move back to the north country when the opportunity presented itself. After a couple years at Drumlins, Frasher caught wind of the superintendent opening at Carlowden, and soon after began the next phase of his career.
“(As superintendent) the buck stops with me,” Frasher said. “If something went wrong it was on me. I focus on managing people right, planning everything a few weeks ahead.
“There was a great atmosphere (at Carlowden). The previous superintendent maintained it well. I was aggressive and built on to that.”
Once again, Frasher has sizeable shoes to fill, taking over Ives Hill after a celebrated tenure from Hunter.
“Hunter was one of the best superintendents around,” Frasher said. “I played there a couple times and would scout from the road. The greens (at Ives Hill) ran true, were always quick.”
Frasher interned for a couple days at Ives Hill during
college under Horton. Frasher referred to Horton – who got his degree in Golf Course Operation from Horry-Georgetown Technical College in South Carolina – and himself as “turfees,” and said they kept in touch in the years that followed.
Hunter is returning to Thousand Islands after he and his father Doug Horton purchased a pair of businesses – Bushnell Company (Wellesley Island) and De Luke Lawnscapes (Clayton) – to create Thousand Islands Landscaping Company. The Hortons launched the business in March 2015 and now have 250 clients.
James Bushnell remains a consultant with the new business venture. Phillip De Luke, meanwhile, sold De Luke Lawnscapes to the Hortons but still owns and operates a winery and nursery under his name.
The Hortons are 50-50 partners at Thousand Islands Landscaping and at Golf Services Inc., which oversees the care of St. Lawrence and Wellesley Island State Park golf courses. Golf Services has a contracting division that offers mechanical work and rebuilds golf equipment for 11 courses between the north country and Utica, and provides deep time aerification work on 18 courses during the fall.
“We’re trying to create a year-round business out of essentially a 3-month golf business,” Horton said. “We’re even doing snow plowing in the winter.”
Horton stepped down into a consulting role with Ives Hill on April 1, and Frasher took over as full-time superintendent on April 6.
“It’s something I’ve been toying with for a long time,” Horton said. “I wanted to devote more time to grow my company. Everything I’m doing is in the (Thousand Islands area), so it was tough working in Watertown every day. It’s a dream come true to be working up here.”
With the utmost confidence from Horton and ownership, Frasher said patrons should expect the same level of service they’ve come to expect at Ives Hills.
“I’m learning how to do things efficiently – we’re not a big crew but we make it look like (we have) a big crew,” Frasher said. “Our guys take ownership of the course. Hunter had a great staff, and there hasn’t been any drop off, we’ve just gotten down to business.
“I want everything to be positive. We have the premiere golf course north of Syracuse.”