(From left) Troy Flanagan, director of golf maintenance at the Olympic Club in San Francisco, Calif., David Fruchte, CGCS, director of golf & grounds at Pine Needles and Mid Pines Resorts in Southern Pines, N.C., Kim Gard, territory manager for Syngenta, Jill Seymour, CGCS, superintendent at Charleston Springs South Course in Millstone, N.J., Alex Hills, senior assistant superintendent at Bay Hill Club & Lodge in Orlando, Fla. and Sun Roesslein, CSFM, from the North Area Athletic Complex in Golden, Colo., made up Tuesday's Women in Turf panel at the 2023 GCSAA Conference and Trade Show in Orlando. Photo by Hailey Garrett
When Troy Flanagan, director of golf maintenance at the Olympic Club in San Francisco, Calif., started putting together volunteers for the 2021 U.S. Women’s Open, he knew he wanted to focus on recruiting women turf professionals.
“I thought it would be cool to have as many women volunteers as we could,” Flanagan says. “I thought it would make sense to turn it into a networking opportunity.”
Flanagan’s idea quickly became fertile ground for a growing movement advocating for women in turf, as the volunteers at that event and 2022’s U.S. Women’s Open at Pine Needles quickly connected with each other.
Stories of those experiences, and experiences of women working in the industry, were the focus of the Ladies Leading Turf panel at the 2023 GCSAA Conference and Trade Show on Wednesday afternoon. Moderated by Kim Gard, territory manager for Syngenta,
the panel consisted of Jill Seymour, CGCS, superintendent at Charleston Springs South Course in Millstone, N.J., Alex Hills, senior assistant superintendent at Bay Hill Club & Lodge in Orlando, Fla., Sun Roesslein, CSFM, from the North Area Athletic
Complex in Golden, Colo., as well as Flanagan and David Fruchte, CGCS, director of golf & grounds at Pine Needles and Mid Pines Resorts in Southern Pines, N.C.
Seymour says she knew nothing about the industry before she got involved in college.
“I went to college for psychology. A couple of years into that I just did not want to work inside,” Seymour says. “After a few years off I found out about this as an industry. I went to work on a golf course, cutting cups and absolutely
fell in love.”
Volunteers at the 2022 U.S. Women's Open at Pine Needles posed for a picture with golf legend Annika Sörenstam (in peach-colored shirt with her son Will kneeling in front) who visited to thank them for their work. Photo by Howard Richman
Roesslin says her experience was similar, and has made her passionate about introducing young women to the profession. “This is a thing. I didn’t know this job existed,” she says. “To show young people this job exists and that
we’re out here, I think we’re on our way.”
Part of that journey for Roesslin, who works in sports turf, was working to gather women volunteers for the 2022 Little League Softball World Series, an effort she says was inspired in part by the connections she made during her U.S. Women’s Open
“The people running the tournament couldn’t find enough volunteers, and the young women on those teams are trying to think about what they want to do for the rest of their lives,” Roesslin says. “The visibility was important, and
that was great for our industry.”
Seymour agrees visibility is vital for creating a successful future for women in turf. “It means more women in the industry, bulldozing our way into these events,” she says. “But it’s not just more women, it’s more people
in general, whether that’s just getting the word out or people seeing what we do and that we’re having fun.”
2022 was the first year of the GCSAA women’s taskforce, on which Seymour, Roesslin and Hills all currently serve. Hills says the group’s first meeting was a big step forward. “It means a lot GCSAA wants to get on board with us. It’s
just a way to keep the ball rolling,” she says.
For more information on visibility and advocacy efforts for women in turf, visit womeninturfgrass.com or watch the ongoing video series “Breaking the Turfgrass Ceiling.”
Abby Olcese is GCM's online editor.