Leading ladies take stage in San Diego

Standing applause, motivational stories fill the room at an inspiring GCSAA Conference and Trade Show session.

© judd spicer

First, one attendee stood. Then another, and soon another. Within moments, the conference room filled with standing applause as a smiling Jamie Taylor stepped from the podium.

The first of four panelists to speak at the “Ladies Leading Turf: Mentoring Women” seminar at the 2022 GCSAA Conference and Trade Show in San Diego, Taylor’s potent story of climbing the ranks as a double minority (an African American woman) in the golf trade found instant traction and clapping feedback from a full house of attendees, both female and male.

Echoing the seminar’s sentiment of women working for more opportunity across all aspects of the golf business, the panel, led by Syngenta territory manager Kimberly Gard, spoke toward the need for enhanced diversity in the business of the game, ranging from gender to race.

The momentum for golf’s female presence found palpable traction at the 2021 U.S. Women’s Open at Olympic Club in San Francisco, where a collection of women volunteers organically began a growing domino of kinship.

“(The Open) put us all together to network. There were always small groups doing that, but this put it on a much larger platform to a much larger audience,” says Shelia Finney, senior director member programs with GCSAA, during the moments before the seminar got underway. “Now, on WhatsApp, we have a discussion thread, and everybody on there is posting pictures, asking questions, discussing any problems. And we’re networking and supporting one another through this journey. And it’s students, female PhDs in turfgrass, assistant superintendents, women in equipment management and female head superintendents. It’s the whole gamut in the golf industry.”

Finney noted that when she was a head superintendent, she was one of just 54 females in the world with that title; now, among just GCSAA members, there are more than 300.

“I was a golf course superintendent in Tennessee for 25 years. And, to this day, I still believe this: There aren’t more women in golf because they just don’t know it’s a job opportunity,” Finney says. “We as a group feel that by increasing the visibility of women in golf, it’s extremely important to increase the diversity, for ethnicity and gender.

Lorabeth West, Sally Jones and Kennedy Ellis were panelists for the Ladies Leading Turf discussion at the GCSAA Conference and Trade Show.
© judd spicer

‘If you can’t see yourself there, then you can’t see yourself there. And we believe that we need to change that.”

Assisting in the movement for said increased visibility were fellow panelists Lorabeth West, assistant director of agronomy at Hillcrest Country Club in Los Angeles; Sally Jones, general manager and golf course superintendent at Benson Golf Club & Cafe in Benson, Minnesota; and Kennedy Ellis, college golfer and an aspiring professor of turfgrass.

For Taylor, an LPGA teaching and club professional and former programs manager for the LPGA Foundation, the journey of paving new fairways led her to start two business: the Black Golf Directory, “created to elevate and promote African Americans in the golf industry,” and JT Mobile Training — she’s its CEO — which helps train clients to diversify customer bases.

“My purpose here is to share my story, which I hope will give you a unique perspective and also let you start to think about how you can make a difference at your facility,” Taylor says. “For me, it was to make the biggest impact I’m capable of making, and to venture out on my own.”

Prior to the standing ovation, Taylor told those in attendance that opportunity, if not onus, abounds for expanding golf’s purview.

“Through these companies, I’ve been able to diversify the golf industry,” Taylor says. “And I say that you too can do that.”

Judd Spicer is a Palm Desert-California based writer and frequent Golf Course Industry contributor.



Kaminski Award:

Paul Larsen

Royal St. George’s Golf Club | Sandwich, Kent, England



Best Overall Use of Social Media:

Jennifer Torres

Westlake Golf and Country Club | Jackson Township, New Jersey



Best Overall Use of Social Media:

NC State Turf Pathology Team

Raleigh, North Carolina



Best Twitter Feed:

John Reilly

Longboat Key Club | Longboat Key, Florida



Best Twitter Feed:

Jeremy Boone

Springdale at Cold Mountain | Canton, North Carolina



Best Use of Video:

Mike Rollins

SIP, In the van | Everywhere USA


Best Idea Shared:

David Jones

Club at Indian Springs | Broken Arrow, Oklahoma | “Value of playing other golf courses”



Conservation Award:

Isaac Breuer

A.L. Gustin Golf Course | Columbia, Missouri


The 11th annual Tweetup features daily Twitter and Facebook videos later this month and an hourlong program full of industry celebration and discussion premiering April 22 — Earth Day — at golfcourseindustry.com.

The Country Club of Columbus (Georgia) recently completed a bunker renovation.
© Duininck Golf

Course news

Golf development and construction company Landscapes Unlimited, golf course architect Tripp Davis and the Atlanta Athletic Club are teaming up to turnkey a complete renovation of the venerable club’s Riverside Course. Work started in early January on changes to tees, fairways, greens and bunkers. Infrastructure upgrades also include installation of a new state-of-the-art irrigation system, sand capping of fairways, and enhanced drainage. AAC’s Highlands Course remains open during the project. … The Country Club of Columbus in Georgia, whose history includes Donald Ross and legendary pro Fred Haskins, recently completed a bunker renovation involving Duininck Golf and superintendent August Rocco and his team. The work modernizes course infrastructure while ensuring characteristics of the Ross design are maintained. The course originally opened in 1909 as a 13-hole layout before being converted to 18 holes by Ross nearly 100 years ago. … The Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community announced that the tribe will make significant improvements to its Meadows at Mystic Lake, in Prior Lake, Minnesota. The tribe selected the golf course architecture firm Paul Miller Design for the project, which will include upgrades to the “Mesa” practice area to feature a large multi-level putting and chipping green, practice bunkers, practice fairway chipping areas, 19th hole shoot-out tees, and tournament seating overlooking the 18th hole; adding tee space, playing variety and challenge, and aesthetic improvements to the par 3 17th hole; enhanced construction technologies to ensure the stability of the timber wall along the approach area fairway and green. The project is expected to wrap up in 2023. … Golf course architect and ASGCA past president John Sanford formed a new partnership with longtime design associate David Ferris. The new Jupiter, Florida-based firm is now called Sanford Ferris Golf Course Design. … After almost a decade working across California, Colorado and Nevada, Jonathan Moulton returned recently to the Tom Fazio-designed Martis Camp near Lake Tahoe as golf course superintendent. He previously helped prep the course for the 2013 USGA Junior Amateur Championship and will now focus on the 2023 USGA Senior Amateur Championship.

Industry buzz

The Ohio Turfgrass Foundation will contribute $100,000 over a five-year period into a fund managed by Ohio State University, which will match OTF’s contribution. The result will provide Ohio State turfgrass science students nearly $10,000 in scholarships annually and perpetually, in addition to the traditional scholarships that OTF provides. … Elsewhere in turf academia, Purdue University won the 2022 GCSAA Collegiate Turf Bowl — notching an in-person victory after winning the 2021 event virtually. … Kevin P. Breen, CGCS at La Rinconada Country Club in Los Gatos, California, was elected to a one-year term as president of the GCSAA during Conference and Trade Show week. He is the 86th president in the association’s history. … Longtime Ohio superintendent Frank Dobie is the latest winner of the USGA Green Section Award for his introduction of new technologies and processes that have advanced golf course management. … After more than 20 years of research and development, Toro recently started field testing of its GeoLink Solutions Autonomous Fairway Mower. Toro will work with selected sites to examine the mower this year, with the test units closely monitored to better understand the operational benefits realized by golf customers. … AquaFuse by CMF Global marked its 20th anniversary by appointing Joseph Fernandez as its new president, 16 years after he joined the company as executive vice president. Ramon Castillo will continue to serve the company as vice president. … DLF announced hires Brian Jaasko, a leading expert worldwide in seed enhancement technology and its strategic applications, and Robert Keeter, who has excelled alongside Jaasko in operations. Their experience will help ensure a successful build and startup of DLF’s first seed enhancement facility to be located near Corvallis, Oregon. … EcoBunker recently expanded into the United States with new Florida offices. Jay Morgan, who most recently guided EcoBunker’s Canadian operation, will lead the EcoBunker USA LLC subsidiary. … BASF named Barbara Aguiar as director, professional and specialty solutions business management, North America. … Nufarm Americas promoted Cam Copley to golf segment lead, Heidi Warner to ornamental segment lead and Jamie Heydinger to lawn care segment lead. … MD Plant Health recently welcomed Erick Landis to its sales team. … Revels Turf & Tractor was named Golf Dealer of the Year by John Deere and was added by AQUA-AID Solutions to its dealer network in the Great Lakes and Mid-Atlantic. … PBI-Gordon’s SpeedZone EW Broadleaf herbicide for turf received state registration for use in California.

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