Julian Carrasco’s diligence and willingness to learn landed
key role at Gilroy GC.
A path usually contains a clear-cut destination. For Gilroy resident Julian Carrasco, the road he traveled led right to another course – the Gilroy Golf Course.
A poor 19-year-old immigrant from Mexico in search of opportunity in America to the Superintendent of Gilroy’s landmark links 11 years later – Carrasco’s journey took him on a path most wouldn’t dare set foot.
But the fruits of his manual labor and motivation to succeed has given Carrasco a new life, a job he truly enjoys, and all the golf he wants to play.
Alone, without anything to his name, Carrasco left his native Puerto Vallarta, Mexico as a teenager.
“When you are in Mexico you hear a lot of stories of (America),” Carrasco. “Better money, better opportunities and a better life. You can have food three times a day.”
His original plan was straightforward enough – live in California, work as hard as he could, make some money and return to Puerto Vallarta.
Back in his hometown he was going to build a big house, start a family and get a job in a restaurant.
The plan appeared seamless.
Despite knowing the danger of crossing from Mexico into the United States, Carrasco ventured toward the border. His excursion led him from Mexicali, Mexico to Calexico, Calif.
“At that time I didn’t have papers. I was illegal,” Carrasco said. “I crossed the border. It was the first time I was away from my town. It was really, really scary.”
Walking for hours at a time, from sunrise to sunset to sunrise again, he faced the daunting terrain bound for his destination.
“They wouldn’t let you take a break,” Carrasco recalled. “If they did, it would be for like five seconds.”
Carrasco made it to Los Angeles and eventually north to Gilroy where he met his brother. Now he needed a job.
Gilroy, his new home
Carrasco figured his time in Gilroy would be short-lived.
“It’s my brother’s fault,” Carrasco said with a sly smile. “I came here because I wanted to learn and speak English. He said come here and learn. I was supposed to come just for a year, but that didn’t happen. I’m still here.”
Upon his arrival, his grasp of the English language was minimal, which is probably an exaggeration. He said he didn’t even know the word, “hi.”
Carrasco was approved for all the proper permits and paperwork, which allowed him to work and fortunately, Carrasco landed a job at Chevy’s soon after moving to the area. As a bus boy, Carrasco began picking up the language a few simple words and phrases at a time.
“It was hard, because I knew nothing about speaking English,” Carrasco said. “My brother has kids and they helped me with important things like glass, fork, knife, water. I started to go to Gavilan and take lessons.”
Knowing the importance of commanding the English language, Carrasco said he made the decision to fully assimilate himself.
“I decided to hang out more with white people because that was going to help me,” Carrasco said of the intimidating experience. “Maybe that sounds mean but it’s true. If you practice you get it quicker.”
As he progressed toward his goal, Carrasco got some much needed assistance from perhaps the best resource possible – a female co-worker. Carrasco met Jolene at Chevy’s and the two hit it off and their relationship blossomed into romance.
“She didn’t know Spanish and I didn’t know English so that was fun,” Carrasco said in a full laugh.
“She was a bartender and I was a barback,” he said with more infectious laughter, remembering the couple’s first date: a night of dancing at a local club.
A year courtship was plenty for the lovebirds who were married on April 24, 2000, and now have two children, Jace, 4, and Jeron, 2.
After about two years at Chevy’s, and with his new life beginning to take shape, Carrasco joined a friend on a job hunt to Gilroy Golf Course.
“He didn’t want to go by himself so I said I’d go with him,” Carrasco said.
Fate has a unique way of letting life play out, and his decision to accompany his buddy to the course that day set in motion a domino effect of good fortune for the eager Carrasco.
“I started doing the blower and the Weed Eater,” Carrasco said.
Hired by International Golf Maintenance, the company contracted out by the city to care and keep the course back then, Carrasco, motivated by the desire to be better, took on the new challenge with a full head of steam – a work ethic he credits to his parents.
“I knew if I want back to Mexico, I would be a server and that’s it,” Carrasco said. “So when I got this job, I started to like to make this place look pretty.”
Though he had little landscape experience, and golf was a sport he found to be ridiculous, Carrasco still managed to make an impact, not to mention develop an appreciation for golf, too.
“I started to work here and see these people hitting this little ball with this club and I think to myself, ‘this is dumb,'” Carrasco humbly admits to his less-than-flattering first impressions of the sport. “After you get it, it is a lot of fun.”
His to-do list to keep the course looking its best at all times includes a wide range of disciplines from understanding the irrigation system, which fertilizer mix or pesticides to use at what rate and so on.
When course pro Don DeLorenzo began to lease the entire operation from the city in 2006, he approached Carrasco with an offer to become the course’s head superintendent.
“When I approached Julian and told him that this was his car, you drive it, he was totally excited,” DeLorenzo said. “I saw the work that he did around here, and noticed that he was doing all the work,” DeLorenzo added. Every year he has learned more, done more and he knows how to get the work done. He knows how to communicate with his guys and get the work out of them. He makes it pretty easy on me in that part.”
Four years later, the praises from the course’s patrons rain down by the bucket load.
“There’s people that have been coming here forever and tell me I’m the best superintendent,” Carrasco said proudly. “I love it here because this is like a neighborhood course. It’s good to meet people and see some of the same people.”
Carrasco, now 30, is a year-and-a-half away from obtaining his U.S. citizenship.
“It’s really, really important to me,” the vibrant and charismatic course curator said, noting that he is always studying for the test.
As for his golf game, Carrasco has made leaps and bounds since first chipping around with co-workers on a break one day seven years ago. He now holds a 10 handicap with his best score a 5-over 75. The first time he played the Par 70 course, however, he shot a 128.
“I was so excited,” he said. “Then they told me I was supposed to shoot 70.”