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‘What I did during my COVID-inspired summer vacation’

Two high school softball players, with their season sidelined by the pandemic, find work on a golf course grounds crew

by Steve Mims

When the high school softball season came to an early end back in the spring, Savana Decker and Olivia Jegtvig switched sports. Sort of.

The two seniors at Thurston High School in Springfield, Ore. went to work on the grounds crew at Laurelwood Golf Course in Eugene.

Olivia Jegtvig
Olivia Jegtvig

Jegtvig was hired first on the recommendation of her softball coach, Heather Holte, who used to work at Laurelwood. Decker joined her best friend after being put on furlough at Old Navy due to coronavirus.

The two arrive at the course at 7 a.m. each weekday to mow fairways, tees and greens or rearrange bunkers, based on the day.

“It is the perfect summer job,” Jegtvig said. “I get off before it gets too hot so I can go out to the lake.”

The work has provided plenty of entertainment for the two 18-year olds who first met at age three when Jegtvig moved from Montana.

“Every day is an adventure,” Jegtvig noted. “We are laughing all day, every day.”

Added Decker, “A lot of crazy things happen, just random things.”

One of the funniest moments happened when the two were learning how to mow on a practice green.

“Olivia slipped in the rough area and you just see long grass being cut and she’s on the ground,” Decker recalled. “Funniest thing I’ve ever seen. We are always falling, especially when it’s wet. We will rake a bunker and end up falling in.”

Jegtvig grew up in a family that worked on a golf course in Montana, but has only pictures and memories from those early days in her life.

“I always wanted to work on a golf course,” she said. “It’s just so relaxing out there.”

Savana Decker
Savana Decker

Decker began playing golf about a year before she started working at Laurelwood.

“I didn’t think I’d be on a mower because at a lot of courses, you have to have experience,” Decker said. “On the second day they asked me to try it and I was thinking ‘You want me to mow the fairway out there?’ Olivia was halfway down the fairway and I was still trying to find the line.”

That job is the favorite part of Jegtvig’s day.

“It is intimidating at first, I was scared when I got started, but I like seeing the lines afterwards,” she said. “It is satisfying.”

Laurelwood course superintendent Will Benson said the two are doing jobs that would normally be reserved for more experienced workers, but the course had a lot of turnover on its grounds crew this year.

“They just kind of took to it,” he added. “We are always training new people, but we have not had two young people like that before. They have done great. Usually it takes several years before a course would put them in those situations, but they are on fairway mowers and driving tractors right off the bat.”

The two have similar schedules each Monday, Wednesday and Friday when they are tending to the fairways and greens. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, they have section work, with Jegtvig taking care of holes one, eight and nine, while Decker works on two, three and four.

“It has been fun,” Benson said. “They are pleasant and have brought a different energy around here.”

Decker plans to play softball at a local community college in the fall, but expects to return to Laurelwood for another summer on the grounds crew. Jegtvig will be there as well, after returning to her alma mater to help coach softball in the spring.

“I like this job, it is nice work and the hours are flexible,” Decker said.

Jegtvig admitted the job turned out to be more enjoyable than she thought it would be.

“I thought I was going to be stuck doing the range, so this is not what I expected,” she said. “It is just like the movies. I feel like I’m in High School Musical other than the fact that I can’t sing. I’m out here with my best friend having fun every day. It is just a lot of fun.”