Start the Golf Season off right with InsideGOLF ($100 value – just $20)
Mellisa Bedwell has worked on courses in 15 states.
Courtesy of Landscapes Unlimited
Mellisa Bedwell’s work life has been anything but ordinary.
As a construction supervisor for Landscapes Unlimited, the world’s largest golf course construction company, Bedwell is one of only two female superintendents. It goes without saying that she has few female peers. But that hasn’t stopped her from pursuing her passion — a passion that has brought her into the spotlight at golf courses all throughout the United States.
A talented athlete, Bedwell played basketball, volleyball and softball in high school but opted not to play in college. Instead, she joined the Marines. “I was very regimented in everything I did in life,” Bedwell said recently by phone. She married a fellow Marine who tragically died on deployment. It was a hard time for Bedwell, who left the military in the wake of her husband’s death.
“I wish I had stayed, the military was really good for me,” she said. “But it set me on the path I’m on now.”
In her early post-military days, Bedwell was uncomfortable. She craved the order and consistency offered to her as a member of the rank-and-file, and missed the bonds that were forged within it. Then one day her father, a golf course shaper working on a course in Miami, asked for help on a job.
Physical labor agreed with her. Bedwell spent her days installing irrigation pipes, picking up rocks, working on drainage, and raking. When her first job was done, she stayed on as an irrigation tech. With her employment situation taking shape, she even picked up a hobby: women’s tackle football. Nine teams and 24 seasons later, Bedwell remains the pillar of consistency, currently serving as an offensive and defensive lineman for the Zydeco Spice in Louisiana, a team in the Women’s Football Alliance.
At long last, Bedwell had found her niche — but it took longer to find her home. Despite the fact that Bedwell was doing successful work in a male-dominant industry, she didn’t attract much attention from the sport’s power brokers.
“When I was a laborer, no one really batted an eye,” she said. “It wasn’t until I was efficient on a piece of equipment as a shaper that people started noticing.”
That came on a job site in Connecticut, where Bedwell began work as a shaper in earnest — piloting a dozer to build mounds and bunkers. She loved it right away. That was 12 years ago, and Bedwell hasn’t looked back.
“There’s something about being out there and being able to change anything,” Bedwell said of course shaping’s appeal. “You could have a flat piece of land and be able to make it look like anything you want. Make it look like it was always there. It’s amazing.”
Five years ago, Bedwell’s talent finally broke through. She landed a job with Landscapes Unlimited as a shaper, and was soon promoted to construction supervisor. It’s a career that requires her to lead a nomadic life. The work is project-based. The hours are long. In any given week, she can find herself on a golf course anywhere in the country. Bedwell spends her days redoing bunkers, assisting superintendents, acting as the lead superintendent, or whatever is needed at a particular location. She’s currently based in Bolton, Mass., at The International Golf Club.
“Every project is so unique and so special, they all hold something dear to me,” she said. “A certain hole that pops, the grass we used, the people we met, the town we were in. Every one has special meaning to me.”
There are lots of ways to find meaning in the work. Golf course maintenance and development is still a male-dominated profession. Bedwell is one of only a handful of women in her position in the golf world. But as she looks around the golf world, she is seeing a change slowly beginning to form.
“Why not more? Fear of acceptance perhaps,” she said. “Because of my background, being a laborer, then operator, then shaper, then super, I know the ins and outs. I have the experience to make suggestions to architects.”
After all, there is a simple path to success as a shaper — a path Bedwell knows herself.
“Get your hands dirty!”
As a four-year member of Columbia’s inaugural class of female varsity golfers, Jessica can out-birdie everyone on the masthead. She can out-hustle them in the office, too, where she’s primarily responsible for producing both print and online features, and overseeing major special projects, such as GOLF’s inaugural Style Issue, which debuted in February 2018. Her original interview series, “A Round With,” debuted in November of 2015, and appeared in both in the magazine and in video form on GOLF.com.
GOLF.com and GOLF Magazine are published by EB GOLF MEDIA LLC, a division of 8AM GOLF