From Sausage Links to Golf Links, Corner Butcher Shop Chef’s Got Game!

June 21, 2011
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Ricky Rossman serves it up at both the Corner Butcher Shop in La Verne and the Citrus College driving range in Glendora.

Ricky Rossman serves it up at both the Corner Butcher Shop in La Verne and the Citrus College driving range in Glendora.

A trip to the Corner Butcher Shop in La Verne will not only boost your protein levels, but also lower your golf handicap. That’s because Ricky Rossman one of the guys wrapping your fresh rib-eye or wild Alaskan salmon is also a golf instructor at Citrus College in Glendora.

In fact, Rossman’s been around the links far longer than meat lockers. His dad was the pro at the Arcadia three-par in the 1980s, and when Ricky was growing up he was either crushing fallen oranges and lemons with his big driver in the citrus orchard behind his Monrovia house or slamming golf balls down the fairways where his dad worked.

At Monrovia High, the school didn’t have a golf team until his senior year, but just playing that one year affirmed his love for golf. “Playing golf had been my dream my whole life,” said Rossman, now 44.

But because he never found that same passion for the classroom, he enlisted in Uncle Sam’s army for three years. As soon as he got out, he enrolled at Citrus College, where he torched the links, being named all-conference and MVP for the two years he played at the Glendora junior college.

From Citrus, he earned a scholarship to Cal State San Bernardino, based on his golfing skills, not his scholarship. After flunking biology, he was placed on academic probation, meaning he couldn’t play or practice with the team. Then he quit.

That’s when his game went in cold storage. His father passed and he also lost his golf swing coach. So Rossman put away his clubs and started racing downhill mountain bikes in competitions across the country, not exactly the kind of activity conducive to the gentlemanly game of golf. “I broke ribs, my hands, I suffered concussions, the whole nine yards,” Rossman said.

Leaving golf farther behind, Rossman eventually went to work for Driftwood Dairy in El Monte, pulling out his clubs only occasionally to play in scramble tournaments.

Then his game went from the cooler to the deep freeze after he was injured on his dairy job trying to prevent a stack of pallets from tipping over and crushing a coworker. “I tried to grab it, but it was about 500 pounds, and I ended up blowing out four vertebrae,” he said.

During his recovery from two back surgeries, Rossman got the crazy notion that he wanted to see if he had any juice left in his golf game, so a year ago last December he picked up his clubs, and week by week saw his golf score return to what he was shooting in his college heyday.

Rossman carries some big sticks.

Rossman carries some big sticks.

Shooting in the 60s again, he started entering semi-professional tournaments, such as those sponsored by Hooters and the California State Open, which he won twice. But golf is still expensive and without a sponsor to help offset the cost of tournament entry fees and the loss of salary from missing work, he had to come up with a new game plan.

Today that game plan is working better than his putter. He works at the Corner Butcher Shop on Mondays and Tuesdays and teaches golf Wednesday through Sunday at Citrus College.

At Citrus, Rossman has become a favorite with his students, helping them hone their games and reduce their handicaps. He helps them correct their hooks and slices and overcome the course’s intimidating factors, whether it’s blasting out of a sand trap or driving the ball straight and true off the tee. “I get excited when my students hit it well,” Rossman said.

“I try to teach people how to overcome the intimidating aspects of the game,” Rossman added. “I can step you through every phase of the game or you can focus on just those areas where you’re seeking the most improvement.

What’s a good place to start? “I teach grip pressure,” Rossman said. “If you hold your club in your hand and a ‘10’ is as hard as you can squeeze, and a ‘one’ is your loosest grip, you want to be at about a ‘four’ or a ‘five,’” Rossman said.

Citrus has become a local getaway for golfers who want to improve their games. The grass range on the college campus features new mats, a putting green, chipping section and bunker area from which to practice sand shots. “A lot of people don’t know it’s here,” Rossman said.

Students can opt for private ($60 per hour session) or group lessons ($30 per hour session). They can even choose to play a round of golf with Rossman to better learn course management. “I guarantee that you’ll shave five strokes off your game the next time you play,” he said, turning serious. “I’ll coach your every shot — where you want to hit it and where you don’t.”

Rossman’s personalized golf bag stands high on a table at the entrance to the Corner Butcher Shop. It’s rapidly approaching lunch time, and he darts back into the kitchen but not before offering one last tip:

“Try the pulled pork sandwich today, it’s fabulous.”

The Corner Butcher Shop is located at 2359 Foothill Blvd. in La Verne. The phone number is (909) 596-6345. Citrus College is at 1000 W. Foothill Blvd. in Glendora.

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