Lyttle just beginning a career in golf
Caleb Lyttle was no different than a lot of young people. After graduating from high school and college, he was unsure of what he wanted to do for a living.
Although he had played golf at the Sullivan Elks Club as a youth in the summer and while in middle school at Sullivan, Lyttle never dreamed of a career in golf.
“Something like that was never on my mind,” said Lyttle, who graduated from Sullivan High School in 2002 as Caleb Lippeatt. “To be honest, I had no idea what Roger and David André did in running the golf course. I never thought of being involved in golf as a career.”
“Playing golf was just something fun to do with my friends. I remember starting to play golf in the fifth grade.”
During his days as a student-athlete as SHS, Caleb earned 11 varsity letters — three in baseball, four in tennis and baseball, but none in golf. He played four years of basketball at Wabash College.
“I was a left-handed pitcher,” he said of why he did not play golf at SHS. “I wasn’t a great athlete as most of my teammates were better than me in everything I played. I was pretty good in golf.
“But I loved basketball and was fortunate to have the chance to get a good education and play ball at a great school like Wabash.”
While at Wabash, Lyttle, a history major with a minor in political science, admitted he wondered about his career path as he was completing school.
“I worked for electrician Steve Hinesley in Sullivan for a while,” said Lyttle, the son of Jo Linda Lyttle Powell. “A couple of years ago, a buddy’s dad helped me get a job working at The Bridgewater Club in Carmel.
“I had the chance to go up there in April 2013 and learn the ropes of working on a golf course. I told them I wasn’t there for a job, but for a career.”
It was less than two years later when Lyttle, now the assistant superintendent at The Bridgewater, had the opportunity to attend the Rutgers Professional Golf Turf Management School just off the campus of Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J.
“The program was 20 weeks total,” he said. “The first 10 weeks were from January to March in 2015 and then the final 10 weeks were the same time this past winter.
“It was scheduled in winter because it is a slow time for golf courses. They tried to make it accessible. It was a great opportunity as I wanted to learn everything I could.”
Lyttle, who turned 33 on July 8, said the school had a farm on the outskirts of New Brunswick that they used as part of the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station.
“I think the average age of students there is 27,” he said. “They have students there with 3-5 years experience and some with up to 10-14 years experience working on a golf course.”
He said he was a little leery at first because of having just two years experience but knew he could excel in an educational environment.
“I thought I might be behind the eight ball a little bit because of my lack of experience in the industry.” he said. “Because of my time at Wabash, I realized I could succeed going to school.
“Early on, I was told that I would get out of this school what I put into it.”
Lyttle said that he treated the experience like a job, which it was.
“Even though I paid my housing and tuition, they were paying me a salary while I went to school,” Lyttle said of The Bridgewater Club. “They were good enough to pay me so I was going to be professional and treat it like work.
“I had to sign a contract to work one year for them after graduation.”
Lyttle graduated in March with a 4.0 GPA, finishing first out of a class of 44 students at the prestigious school, which had its first graduating class in 1962 and has received lofty praise.
In an article by Rick Woelfel that appeared in the New Jersey State Golf Association’s Spring 2015 issue, he stated “What the New York Yankees are to baseball, Rutgers University is to the turf industry. They offer wide-ranging research in the field of turfgrass science, provide assistance and outreach to turf managers around the world and offer education and training to men and women who spend their professional lives tending to turf.”
After graduating from Rutgers, the Program Administrator recommended Caleb for the Jacobsen Future Turf Mangers Scholarship.
He was one of 20 recent turf graduates to go to North Carolina for a tour of their manufacturing and distribution facilities and toured two golf courses, Sage Valley and The Peninsula Club.
Lyttle said that graduating from school reinvigorated him, and gave him a lot of confidence.
“There was so much to learn,” he said. “I really did not have any appreciation what Roger and David went through all those years at the Elks until now.
“Looking back, I think working at the Sullivan Elks Club would have been a great fit for me. But that was not my goal at that time.”
He said he coordinates with local high schools, trying to find students that like to work outdoors.
“It is nice to try and help young people discover that they could have a career in golf, and not just a summer job,” he said. “This is a chance for them to test the waters.
“I had no idea you could have a career in golf, and hopefully we can let help some young students discover all of those possibilities.”
Lyttle said that he could have never envisioned living in a big city or working on a golf course.
“I was a small town kid,” he said. “Sullivan was a great place to grow up. You learn different values growing up in a small town. I can’t thank my mom enough for everything she did for me and always being there for me. Everything I am is because of her.
“If I have been upset any during the last four years, all I had to do was go out on the golf course, and it wasn’t very long until I wasn’t upset any more. It is a great atmosphere to work in and I go to work happy every day.”