Jessica Lenihan – Superintendent by Choice

Jessica Lenihan
Jessica Lenihan

by Jim McCabe

Anyone who’s played the Coeur d’Alene Golf & Spa Resort in Northern Idaho likely is amazed by its famous island-green par-3 14th hole. Talk to Jessica Lenihan, who worked at the resort for seven years, and you are likely to instead hear about the importance of dead-heading the tens of thousands of red geraniums that bring the place to life.

“I love to work hard,” Lenihan said. “There is personal satisfaction to seeing the job get finished.”

The teenager with a summer job at Coeur d’Alene morphed into a young woman who quickly realized that she loved what she was doing.

“I figured I may as well go to a turf school,” she said with a laugh.

Four years of online classes in Penn State’s Turfgrass Management Program enriched Lenihan’s grasp of her craft. She took a job at Idaho’s Hayden Lake Country Club, and was thrilled to eventually become an assistant superintendent. That she remained one was her choice.

“I knew assistant supers who became [head] supers and discovered that their jobs were budget meetings and office work,” said Lenihan. “I didn’t want to get away from what drew many of us to the job – being outside, helping things grow.”

Lenihan now has another job that keeps her outside. For the past two years she has worked at Green Valley Turf in Platteville, Colo., outside Denver.

The facility includes more than 1,000 acres of grass of all varieties – from bluegrass to fescue to bermuda – including Lenihan’s specialty, bentgrass, which is spread over about 50 acres.

“It is an extension of what I did before,” she noted. “I just do it on a larger scale.”

Lenihan has also experienced larger scales at USGA championships – U.S. Opens at Shinnecock Hills (2018), The Country Club (2022) and The Los Angeles Country Club (2023), as well as U.S. Women’s Opens at The Olympic Club (2021) and Pine Needles (2022). Spending dawn-to-dusk shifts with fellow dedicated superintendents played to her strength.

A unique aspect of the Women’s Opens that Lenihan worked was that both included dozens of women on the course prep team. She called it “a totally eye-opening, crazy bonding experience that I did not expect.”

With those experiences behind her, Lenihan is buoyed by the thrill of being involved in state-of-the-art stuff, like growing turf that is eventually used in sports stadiums. Moving from Idaho to Colorado and from golf course to turf farm has brought changes, but her core remains untouched.

“I cannot imagine a 9-to-5 office job,” said Lenihan. “I just love the outdoors.”

(This content was first published in Golf Journal, a quarterly print publication exclusively for USGA Members. To be among the first to receive Golf Journal and to learn how you can help make golf more open for all, become a USGA Member today.)