Although Mora is accustomed to rising at ungodly hours—its 4:30 in the morning—he looks to be in need of a long nap. “Ya soy viejo,” he says in Spanish, with a smile. (“I’m old.”)
Inside, his wife and seven children are asleep; the other homes on the cul-de-sac are quiet. He stifles a yawn and rubs his eyes. By now, the stocky 50-year-old has spent the better part of two decades mowing greens and raking bunkers in what amounts to an endless race against players eager to start smacking golf balls at first light. “I’m still strong,” he says, “but I’m starting to slow down.”
It’s a short drive to Mountain View Country Club, just north of PGA West in the town of La Quinta. By the time he arrives the sky has turned a magnificent deep-sea blue, backlighting the palm trees that line the club’s entrance. Inside el shop, as he calls the maintenance-employee headquarters, Mora takes a seat among a dozen co-workers and receives his assignment from the trim and tan superintendent. This morning, like most mornings, Mora’s cutting the greens. When the group disbands, he mounts a cart loaded with the tools of his trade—rake, shovel, weed whacker and hoe—and heads past spacious ranch-style homes to arrive at the course. “There’s the mountain view,” he says, pointing to the San Jacinto range to the west. From here, it can be hard to remember that the course resides in the desert: The grass is dark green, a group of ducks floats by and a cool breeze rustles through the trees.
Mora is one of three workers assigned to the greens: The first cuts the interior with a riding mower, the second—Mora—trims the edges with a push mower, and the third changes the cups. Mora yanks the cord of his mower, joining the chorus of machines buzzing across the course. With his shoulders hunched and head tilted slightly to the right, he walks the perimeter of the green three times, returning with a thin layer of Bermuda grass that he dumps into the back of the cart.