While she is reluctant to admit it, Laura Bauernfeind is every bit a trailblazer. Women in the world of golf, both on and off the course, are nothing new. In the case of Bauernfeind, the matter is something different entirely.
Born and raised an Angeleno, Bauernfeind and the outdoors have been virtually inseparable her entire life. Taking her love of the outdoors with her to college, she graduated from Humboldt State University with a degree in forest resource management and began working for the Parks and Recreation Department in 1986, working as a greenskeeper at the Encino Municipal Golf Course.
In December of 2015, Bauernfeind was hired to be the City of Los Angeles Parks and Recreation Department’s golf manager. She is in charge of every aspect of running and maintaining the 13 municipal golf courses in the city of Los Angeles. By all accounts, she is the first woman to hold this position, but she is also the only woman in a major city to currently have this role.
In nearly every step of her career path, she has been an outlier. While it has made the journey difficult at times, overcoming preconceived notions and, at times, prejudices has made her successes all the sweeter.
“Laura is exceptionally talented at operations and has a forward-thinking mindset to making L.A. the best run municipal golf agency in the nation,” says Anthony Paul-Diaz, executive officer and chief of staff for City of Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks. “She is passionate about the sport of golf and committed to ensuring that our patrons always come first. Pride of work, commitment to excellence and her can-do attitude make her the best person for this job.”
Parks & Recreation magazine recently chatted with Bauernfeind to learn about her path to the course.
Parks & Recreation magazine: How did you find your place in the parks system?
Laura Bauernfeind: I was always doing something at the parks as a kid. Whether it was playing softball or soccer or just hanging out with my friends. I would also be there because my parents were participating in sports. I was always at the parks. It would be fair to say that my life has been greatly influenced by the parks. I pretty much worked in the park all through college. When I graduated, there really wasn’t a lot of work in my field, so I came back to L.A. and I took a civil service exam to be a gardener caretaker for the city, and I spent the first five years of my career as a greenskeeper at various courses in the city.
P&R: What challenges did you face as a woman in your field?
Bauernfeind: Being taken seriously was something I had to overcome initially. Once people see me out there and learn that I won’t ask them to do anything that I won’t do myself, it helps build my credibility and earn the respect of my male co-workers and subordinates. Whether it was spreading fertilizer or mowing greens, I was ready to prove myself to anyone and everyone. This attitude truly served me well in every stage of my career. When something needed to be done, I was ready to put my gloves on and put my boots and get out there with the team. I found that the more time I spent doing that physical work helped build trust.
P&R: Has golf always been a part of your life?
Bauernfeind: I played golf off and on for almost my whole life, but I was never what you would call hardcore about it. Like most women, when I was raising my children, I honestly didn’t have time to play. Now that my children are out of the house, my husband and I are playing a lot of golf, especially as it is the major part of my job.
Prior to assuming my current position, I worked as the principal forester for the parks department. I made one more lateral move in my career before assuming the golf manager role. I was glad to have taken that position because it got me back into golf. When the previous golf manager retired, there was a nationwide search to fill the position, and I threw my hat in the ring. I was, ultimately, offered the job, and I found it to be very exciting. I like to think my parks career has come full circle.
P&R: How do you succeed in making your golf courses stand out among others?
Bauernfeind: There is a lot of competition out there in the golf world, so it is important for us to position ourselves. I think it is important for us to not rest on our laurels. We have to adapt and change with the industry and the consumer. My main role in this is simple. We have a great system in place, now how do we make it even better? It’s an exciting challenge, really.
One of my main focuses as golf manager is encouraging more diverse golfers to take up the sport. Golf is one of the few sports that any person, no matter their age or gender, can play for virtually their entire lives. I want to use that concept to attract more people to the game. Encouraging women to take up the sport is one of the main initiatives I am undertaking.
Another group I want to bring to the course is golfers who are physically disabled. As part of the 100th anniversary of the Men’s City Championship, the competition was made available to adaptive golfers for the first time ever. We’re excited for this opportunity and are really looking forward to seeing where we can go with it. The adaptive golf community is one that we are fortunate to partner with. I think the more people we can bring to our courses the better. Firsthand experience and word-of-mouth are the best advertisers for our courses. Golfers go where other golfers recommend.
Eric Moreno is a Freelance Writer based in San Antonio, Texas.