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Frutchey has been defying stereotypes for more than 30 years

John Reitman

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Not all teachers are found in classrooms, and not all classrooms have four walls.

When Laurie Frutchey attended Florida State University in the 1980s, the Tallahassee institution was known primarily for producing teachers - more specifically, female teachers. At the same time, the golf industry, specifically the turf maintenance side of the business, was dominated by men.

080119frutchey.jpgIt didn't take Frutchey long to knock down stereotypes in both fields.

A native of Pen Argyl, Pennsylvania, Frutchey attended FSU where she majored in biology and earth science and planned one day on becoming a teacher. She eventually chucked that idea after taking a part-time job at Killearn Country Club in Tallahassee.

Frutchey, who is in her 27th year as a superintendent, including the past 18 at Lexington Country Club in Fort Myers, Florida, seemed destined for a career in turf. Her college roommate was Linda Mascaro, whose father was Tom Mascaro, who was a pioneer in aerification and verticutting, and she and former longtime Pine Valley superintendent Eb Steineger.

"My second year of college I started mowing greens to help pay for school. The third year I did it all summer," Frutchey said. "By the fourth year, I ended up staying on the turf side."

It was not long before the thought of spending the rest of her career in a classroom became fairly unappealing.

"I liked being outdoors. I only had two jobs in my life, working on the golf course and as a lifeguard growing up. I was always outdoors," she said.

"I was going to be a teacher. After my first irrigation repair I just fell in love with it."

After graduating from FSU in 1986, Frutchey and Mascaro both took jobs on superintendent Terry Buchen's crew at Golden Eagle Golf Club in Tallahassee.

"Golden Eagle was a new Tom Fazio course, and Laurie came to work for me with very little experience," Buchen said. "I was just really impressed with her. She was sharp and very smart. Laurie started at the bottom and asked a lot of questions. You only had to tell her once how to do something. She was smart and adapted quickly."

Working alongside her friend and former college roommate helped each push the other.

"She and Linda competed against each other to see who could do the better job," Buchen said. "They were ahead of their time and as good or better than any man who worked for me. I wish there were more like them."

There weren't many women superintendents when I started out, but I never felt like an outcast.

Only about 1.5 percent (285) of all 18,000 GCSAA members are women. Of the 8,778 superintendent members, only 69 (0.8 percent) are female. 

Although there were not a lot of women in the turf business, comparatively speaking, anyway, Frutchey said her path to success was paved by many male mentors, including Buchen, Carl Jacob and longtime Lexington GM Al Kinkle.

"There weren't many women superintendents when I started out, but I never felt like an outcast," she said. 

"I had a lot of great mentors who were very supportive. The woman issue never really came up too much."

Frutchey was a quick learner at Golden Eagle and progressed through the ranks quickly.

"Soon after she started, she was changing cups, then she was doing irrigation. She was good at irrigation," Buchen said. 

"She could do everything. She was competitive and an inspiration to everyone."

By 1987, Frutchey moved on to Black Diamond Ranch in Lecanto, Florida, where she worked for Jacob as an assistant and later succeeded him as head superintendent after his death in 2004.

Although she traded the classroom for the golf course, her desire to teach and lead others has been a critical component to her success personally and that of Lexington Country Club, said Kinkle, who hired Frutchey nearly 20 years ago.

"You have to find the right group to work with," Kinkle said. "Once you do that, it's easy. She can teach me, and I can teach her, but I learn a lot more from her than she does from me. We all know we need each other. 

"Laurie is definitely the star here."

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