Rachel DeRuyte is the assistant superintendent at The Credit Valley Golf and Country Club in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada. Photos courtesy of Rachel DeRuyte
Editor’s note: In honor of Women’s Golf Day 2023 — which will be celebrated for an entire week, May 31-June 6 — GCM has partnered with John Deere on a series of stories that highlight five women working and thriving in golf course
management. These stories, told in the women’s own words, highlight career journeys, discuss challenges and lessons learned, offer advice to fellow women in turf, and suggest ways the industry can foster more-inclusive work environments. Stories
will be posted daily through Monday, June 5.
Like many industry professionals, Rachel DeRuyte’s journey to golf course management was an unexpected one. At a crucial moment in her life, DeReuyte, now the assistant superintendent at The Credit Valley Golf and Country Club in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada, happened on a job at a golf course. Nearly six years later, it’s turned into a flourishing career. DeRuyte shares her experiences working in the golf industry, building confidence, and thoughts on a more inclusive future.
My path to a career in turf was like many others in the industry, in that it was not exactly straightforward. After completing an undergrad degree in biology and psychology, I wanted nothing to do with the last few years I had spent in postsecondary education. I attempted moving across the country but ended up returning home earlier than planned, in the worst mental health of my life. I was just looking for a job – any job – when I was hired at my first golf course.
I knew I liked working outside from previous summer gigs, and I always had a propensity for working with my hands. I was into sports as well, but golf was never on my radar. When a position at a golf course popped up, I thought I might as well try it. I never would have thought I’d be where I am now, nearly six years later — an assistant superintendent, a golfer and a fiancée to someone I met at that very first golf course job.
The thing I love most about my job is the variety. Not many people get to wear as many hats as we do in this industry, and I like to wear them all. Also, the people I work with! Your team can truly make or break you, and I’m very lucky to have found the one I’m part of now.
DeRuyte rolling greens at the Canadian Pacific Women's Open.
The toughest challenge I’ve faced as a woman in the industry has been perception. Personally, I haven’t experienced this so much from other industry professionals as I have from golfers. The number of times it’s been assumed I was the beer cart girl – even at private golf courses that don’t have beer carts – is downright laughable. There’s never a shortage of comments about how shocked they are that a girl is doing such a difficult job, or that they’re flabbergasted at how hard I’m working.
These comments may be well-intentioned, or even intended as compliments, but all I hear is one thing: “I assumed you couldn’t do it.” Constantly battling these assumptions means I have to work twice as hard to prove I can do my job, while it’s assumed my male counterparts are capable from the get-go. It’s far easier to prove someone right than to prove them wrong.
To make the industry more welcoming, I think we need to prioritize an equitable, inclusive environment for all. Small, simple ways to foster this would be to use more inclusive language on a daily basis, especially during the recruiting and hiring process. Providing different styles of uniforms for different body types and preferences is another great way to make someone feel comfortable in the workplace. On a larger scale, as turf department buildings become antiquated and require reconstruction, I’d urge the industry to consider creating locker rooms and washrooms that are accessible and accommodating to all.
DeRuyte at the Ontario Golf Superintendent Association conference.
The best advice I’ve received so far: let someone else be the one to tell you “no.” That means not closing yourself off from opportunities or experiences just because you think they won’t choose you, you’re not the right fit, you don’t have enough experience, etc. Let someone else have the responsibility of deciding that. My own advice to other women in the industry is to find your kind. A lot of getting the most out of yourself comes from surrounding yourself
with people who bring the best out of you. This can include coworkers, industry colleagues, family, and friends. When you find people you feel like yourself around, it makes the biggest difference. Stick together and see all you can accomplish.