When she graduated from Emmanuel College with a degree in kinesiology, Georgia Clingerman seemed poised for a career as a physical therapist. Until she began her internship.
“I constantly kept catching myself sitting in the office just staring out the window, wanting to be outside,” she tells Rick Woelfel on the Wonderful Women of Golf podcast.
Clingerman worked at The Oaks Golf Course, a public facility in Covington, Georgia, during her breaks between semesters and basked in the environment. “You couldn’t get me away from the golf course,” she recalls.
Encouraged by her boss, John Fields, to pursue a career in turf, Clingerman enrolled in the certificate program at the University of Georgia. She also took a part-time job at Jennings Mill Country Club in Watkinsville, Georgia, outside of Athens, working under Fields, who had assumed the superintendent’s position there.
Over the course of two years, Clingerman worked her way up through the ranks. She’s now the assistant superintendent. She completed the requirements for her certificate in turfgrass management last February. As the assistant superintendent on a crew of just eight (five full-time, three part-time), Clingerman’s plate is full and her menu varied.
“I get the guys rolling and get them out on the golf course to accomplish some stuff in the morning,” she says. “Then, I’ll jump on a golf cart and I’ll go cut cups. Or I’ll jump on the sprayer and spray some greens or spray some fairways. Afternoons, I’ll work side by side with the guys, cleaning up trees, doing small detail stuff, just about anything around here. Irrigation fixes, drainage projects, all of it.”
Clingerman stresses the importance of doing the same things she and Fields ask of their crew.
“I think it makes it easier for them to want to get out there and go accomplish stuff during the day and get to work if you’re working with them,” she says. “They don’t think you’re sitting in the office all day just twiddling your thumbs. They want to see you working out there with them as well and I think they will respect you more if you’re out there busting your tail right alongside of them as well.”
Clingerman was one of the corps of female volunteers who worked the 2022 U.S. Women’s Open at Pine Needles. Like so many of her peers, she found the experience inspiring. “Going into the golf world, I thought I was ‘one of one’ for the longest time,” she says.
Volunteering at the U.S. Women’s Open meant Clingerman would be taking time off from her full-time job in the middle of the golf season. But she had Fields’ full support.
“My superintendent was behind me 110 percent,” she says. “He wanted me to go, he wanted me to experience it. When I got there and walked in the room and saw 30 other women with the same interests that I do, doing the same thing that I do, it was awesome to see that. It’s hard to go out and see that on a daily basis on a golf course.”
The maintenance staff at Pine Needles, which was shorthanded prior to the week of the championship, eagerly welcomed the volunteers.
“You could just see the sigh of relief that the guys at Pine Needles had once we all got there,” Clingerman recalls, “and these guys realized, ‘These girls actually know what they’re doing.’ By the end of the week, David Fruchte (Pine Needles’ director of golf course maintenance) was just telling people to ‘Follow the girls,’ because we had it down. We had the course under control.”
Clingerman says some of her most satisfying moments of the week were spent simply admiring how the golf course looked up close.
“The TV just didn’t do the course justice,” she says. “You’d go back out in the afternoon with the sun setting and you just had to stop on the mower and just take it all in. The golf course looked 10 times better in person than it ever will on TV.”