Women in turf: Lorabeth Catterson

Hillcrest Country Club’s assistant director of agronomy shares advice, life lessons and challenges


Hillcrest country club
The green at Hillcrest Country Club. Photos courtesy of Lorabeth Catterson

John Deere GolfEditor’s note: The following story is presented in partnership with John Deere in recognition of Women’s Golf Day 2022, which is June 7.

Lorabeth Catterson’s career in golf course maintenance began unexpectedly, with a college horticulture therapy class at Rutgers University. “I realized I really liked plants and the science of it all, so I investigated the plant science majors and turfgrass seemed to have a lot of opportunity,” Catterson says.

That early interest led Catterson to join her school’s turf club, and compete in GCSAA’s annual Collegiate Turf Bowl, where she learned more about the nuts and bolts of maintaining a course. Catterson is now eight years into her career, having worked at Los Angeles Country Club, and currently serving as the assistant director of agronomy at Los Angeles’ Hillcrest Country Club. In addition to her work in Los Angeles, Catterson has been involved with tournament prep and volunteering since 2015, including helping work at both the women’s and men’s U.S. Opens and the Player’s Championship.

These days, greenkeeping is a family affair for Catterson—her husband, Daniel, is a superintendent at the Los Angeles Country Club. “It’s good because we can offer each other advice and problem-solving skills, so it’s nice to have someone who understands what’s going on,” Catterson says.

Through it all, Catterson says GCSAA has provided valuable professional development resources, from research to leadership development.

“Right now, I’m mentoring two techs at Hillcrest through GCSAA’s assistant program,” Catterson says. “I see it as a pay-it-forward thing, seeing the resources that are relevant to them.”

Lorabeth Catterson
Lorabeth Catterson is the assistant director of agronomy at Los Angeles' Hillcrest Country Club.

Catterson spoke with GCM about her experience as a woman in turf, and the lessons she’s learned from her years in the industry.

GCM: You experienced a variety of challenges shortly after starting as the assistant director of agronomy at Hillcrest Country Club in 2019, including the pandemic and California’s largest recorded wildfire. What did those experiences teach you? How do you feel they prepared you to address future challenges?

Lorabeth Catterson: It certainly taught me that you need to be there for your team as a leader and realize what the best scenario is for everyone. Your team needs to know that you do have their best interest in mind and not the best interest of the golf course. We had to adapt daily, and the golf course managers had to assume a lot of roles, since most other departments were working from home. It certainly taught me how to have more empathy and it allowed for us to have to work through so many situations all together that it almost seemed like any future challenges would be a cake walk.

GCM: What do you love about what you do? What do you like most about working with courses in L.A.?

L.C.: I love how rewarding, but challenging it is. There are so many things that can go wrong at any time, and you learn problem-solving skills quickly. It is easy to feel good about yourself when you can get instant gratification, like mowing lasers on a green or just offering your team member that compliment. But you also need to remain positive in the harder times, like when you’re incredibly short-staffed but still have 90 acres of highly maintained turf. I love the weather in LA, it is easy to work when the sun is always shining. I like the high standards and expectations because it keeps you on your toes and always wanting more for yourself. I like that our challenges are a little different than most. It has allowed me to get involved with a lot of different technology and implementing it into our golf course.

Lorabeth and Daniel Catterson
Lorabeth Catterson and her husband Daniel both work in the industry. Daniel Catterson is a superintendent at the Los Angeles Country Club.

GCM: You have extensive experience preparing for and volunteering at major professional golf events. What motivated you to pursue those opportunities, and what have you taken from the experiences?

L.C.: I have always been one to take an opportunity when it is given, and after being part of my first tournament, I realized how beneficial and fun it was. You are given the chance to network with people from all over the world and every corner of the industry. You see another operation and how they do things, from maintenance practices to management styles and shop setups. It is easy to steal good ideas from other places and bring them to your home course, like putting tennis balls on the ride-on mowers in case someone springs a leak, you can throw the ball to get their attention. I always fall back in love with turf maintenance after a tournament, seeing all the input and passion that goes into it. I also think you come back to your home course and have a refreshed respect for it.

GCM: In your experience, what challenges do women in this industry face? What expectations or stereotypes do you feel you’ve had to defy?

L.C.: I do think women in the golf industry have become more common, but the industry itself is a bit dated. I have certainly had to prove I can hang with the physical demand of the job and my agronomic intelligence. I have also had to learn how to deal with those who are completely unaccepting of my role and to not let it bother me.

GCM: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve picked up in your career so far?

L.C.: “Praise in public, criticize in private.” I think most people would prefer to not be called out in a group or over the radio, and a lot of people just want to be told they’re doing a good job or thank you. It is important to put your team first. You may manage that golf course, but your team makes it happen. Without being able to properly motivate your team, it reflects on the golf course, and ultimately you.

GCM: You’ve been active in several women-in-turf and golf events organized by GCSAA or companies in the golf course management industry. What have you taken away from those experiences?

L.C.: It was a great way to meet a lot of other women that I wouldn’t have unless there was a way for us to be brought together. It has been countless networking opportunities, professional-development opportunities, and a way to be active in the industry that isn’t out on the golf course. It is fun and important to take part in these programs because of their advantages on your résumé, a way to bring more value to your current employer, and you make a lot of friends.

GCM: What advice do you have for other women in this industry?

L.C.: You need to be open-minded and find a woman mentor that you can call. There is a certain level of comfort that comes with that when discussing things women might face, but men won’t. I also think you need to go for it, you need to take every opportunity that’s given to you and make the most of it. You will be happier that you did.

Abby Olcese is GCM's online editor.