April 27, 2016
Poppy Hills’ Assistant Super Lupe Orozco: From Busboy to Turf Degree
When Poppy Hills assistant superintendent Lupe Orozco first landed a job at the course in 1998 as a busboy in the restaurant, he didn’t’ even know that golf existed.
Now, he’s literally knowledgeable.
Currently an assistant superintendent at Poppy Hills, the 36-year-old recently earned his turf degree after successfully completing The Professional Golf Turf Management Program at Rutgers University in New Jersey. The grueling 20-week program consisted of two 10-week sessions split over two years. After the first 10-week session, a student either advances to the next session or goes home.
“It was very difficult,” Orozco said.
For Orozco, it’s also something to be very proud of. He never attended college so it’s the first degree he’s ever earned. He’s also the first member of the Orozco family to earn a degree.
The idea to pursue a degree came from Orozco’s boss, Poppy Hills superintendent Matt Muhlenbruch. Both Orozco’s tuition and housing was paid for by Poppy Hills and the Northern California Golf Association, which owns the course.
“Matt believed in me. I’m very appreciative for the opportunity that he, Poppy Hills and the NCGA have given me,” Orozco said. “I’m very grateful.”
“I think Lupe had every aspect of a quality assistant and the potential to be a great superintendent,” Muhlenbruch said. “All he was missing was the formal education. I’m very proud of him.”
After just four months of busing tables in the restaurant, Orozco was transferred to the Poppy Hills maintenance staff when then-superintendent Manny Sousa needed extra bodies for a drainage project. He’s been a part of the Poppy Hills maintenance staff ever since.
“When I first started working on the golf course I found it very intriguing,” Orozco said. “It was cool to see the operations, and I began to understand how much work it takes to get a golf course ready for play. There’s a lot more to it than many people think. I love the challenges we have.”
During his now 19 years as a member of the maintenance crew, Orozco has seen a lot. He remembers the wall-to-wall drainage project in 1999 and the consequent renovations of the 9th fairway, 17th green and green on No.2. He of course was also there for architect Robert Trent Jones, Jr.’s massive renovation, which was completed in 2014.
“Over the years, I’ve seen the course go through a lot of changes and improvements. It’s now the best I’ve seen in,” Orozco said.
With his new degree in tow, Orozco realizes he now has the potential move on to be a superintendent at another course. But don’t expect him to pack his bags anytime soon.
“No, my heart is here at Poppy Hills,” Orozco said. “I can’t even think of wanting to be anywhere else.”