There might not necessarily be a way of tracking down the information, but if you’re looking for the youngest female golf superintendent in the United States, you may not have to look very far.
After an exhaustive two-month process to hire a new head superintendent at the Miami Springs golf course, the search ended last week when Paul O’Dell, the newly installed head of golf course operations, made it official.
O’Dell hired Laurie Bland, who brings five years of experience over from Doral Country Club, where she worked under Jim McClean, superintendent of the Signature course and held the title of assistant superintendent of the TPC Blue Monster under Superintendent Ronnie Rooks.
Oh yeah, one other thing. Did we also mention that Bland is just 26 years old?
“Yeah, I guess there can’t be too many females as young as me doing what I do,” Bland said last week standing near the first tee. “I’m really excited to be here and looking forward to the challenges ahead.”
Bland is right about being in a very exclusive club.
“For the most part, this is a mostly male-dominated field, so I guess that makes it pretty unique,” Bland said. “It’s just something I really enjoy.”
Despite her age, Bland brings solid credentials into her new position as she not only spent years over at Doral but handled similar duties at the University of Florida Golf Club in Gainesville under Todd Wilkinson while attending Lake City Community College.
It was there that she eventually received her Associate of Science degree in Agricultural Science and Turf Grass Management.
“They (LCCC) offered me a scholarship and I jumped at the opportunity,” said Bland, who is from South Florida and attended William A. Turner Technical School during her high school years. “This is something I’ve always loved ever since I was young.”
Bland says that when she was 8 years old, she went with her family on vacation to Forest Oaks Country Club in Greensboro, N.C.
“I remember meeting the course superintendent there and he started talking about all of the different aspects of what it takes to maintain a golf course,” Bland said. “While most people were out there swinging golf clubs, it made me realize how much work actually went into keeping a course in nice shape and the overall knowledge you needed to have. I guess from that point on, I was hooked.”
“You never hire someone who knows less than you do,” O’Dell said. “Laurie was not only interviewed by me but also by someone from her peer group (Earl Gray) that I consider one of the best agronomic minds in the industry.
“She shows a great love for the business, she answered all of the right questions with precise expertise that only a truly dedicated golf course superintendtent would say. It’s obvious that she is passionate about her craft.”
But Bland steps onto the course at Miami Springs with no false illusions. She understands that she really does have a big challenge ahead of her as the course, by O’Dell’s own admission, is in really rough shape.
“It needs plenty of work but I really love this course and this city,” Bland said. “This is like a little hidden gem in the middle of a big city and I certainly understand and appreciate the history that this course represents as well as this goes way back to the ’50s and ’40s when the Miami Open was held here.
“I’m treating this almost like one big science project. I really want to make this golf course a very special place.”
Said O’Dell: “Her education and pedigree is outstanding and we need that type of knowledge here — someone who will make this operation successful and she will be a major key to our success.”