Inaugural class announced for GCSAA Women’s Leadership Academy

Event is designed to unleash participants' potential and empower their futures. 


Aerial view of Ghost Creek golf course

The Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA) announced today the 40 turfgrass professionals chosen to be part of the inaugural Women’s Leadership Academy Nov. 7-9, 2023, at GCSAA headquarters in Lawrence, Kan.

Participants in the Women’s leadership Academy will be guided along a path of discovery aimed at breaking down barriers and enhancing inner skills to maximize their impact as leaders. The event will feature education focused on key areas of self-discovery, understanding others, effective communication and inspiring others, all of which are key attributes of effective leaders.

Women currently make up only a small percentage of the overall turfgrass industry. By developing women leaders, inclusivity within the industry will grow through their actions and by the examples they set.

The 40 turfgrass professionals selected to be part of this inaugural event are:

  • Catherine Abramavage, marketing manager, Central Sod Farms
  • Maddie Adelsperger, grounds maintenance and greenskeeper team, North Central Texas College
  • Tonya Anderson, superintendent, Old Memorial Golf Club
  • Ana Barth, groundskeeper
  • Jan Bel Jan, president and golf course architect, Jan Bel Jan Golf Course Design
  • Molly Biggs, graduate student, Kansas State University
  • Emily Braithwaite, graduate student, Oregon State University
  • Beatriz Chavez Flores, golf course superintendent, Antelope Valley Country Club
  • Nancy Cienfuegos, assistant in training, WhiteTail Golf Club
  • Savana Decker, assistant in training, Laurelwood Golf Club
  • Rachel DeRuyte, assistant superintendent and health and safety coordinator, The Credit Valley Golf And Country Club
  • Vanja Drasler, superintendent, Montclair Golf Club
  • Amanda Fontaine, superintendent, Ledges Golf Club
  • Kimberly Gard, territory manager, Syngenta Crop Protection LLC
  • Andrea Gelinas, second assistant superintendent, Blue Spring Golf Club
  • Rene Geyer, superintendent, Canterwood Golf and Country Club
  • Alex Hills, senior assistant superintendent, Bay Hill Club and Lodge
  • Tami Jones, superintendent, DeSoto Golf Course
  • Maureen Kahiu, student, University of Tennessee
  • Kayla Kipp, equipment manager, Nemacolin Woodlands Resort
  • Jessica Lenihan, assistant superintendent/farm manager, Green Valley Turf
  • Kathryn Lifke, superintendent, Trappers Turf Golf Club
  • Maritza Martinez, associate director of stadium grounds, Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College
  • Elizabeth Nemtuda, assistant superintendent, turfgrass student, Ohio State ATI
  • Nina Oldenkamp, VP of operations, Odeys Field Experts
  • Kathryn Phillips, intern, Ohio State University
  • Miranda Robinson, greenskeeper[KS1] 
  • Sunserrae Roesslein, sports turf field manager, JeffCo School District
  • Heather Schapals, superintendent, Seascape Golf Club
  • Renee Schmaltz, intern, Interlachen Country Club
  • Raquel Schwartz, assistant superintendent, Stone Harbor Golf Club
  • Jill Seymour, superintendent, Charleston Springs Golf Course
  • Jennifer Torres, superintendent, Westlake Golf and Country Club
  • Carol Turner, superintendent, Bigwin Island Golf Club
  • Desdamona Vance, second assistant superintendent, Cabot Cliffs Golf Course
  • Bonnie Wells, Extension agent III, commercial horticulture, University of Florida
  • Amy Wilber, Extension associate, Mississippi State University
  • Leah Withrow, head groundskeeper, Reno Acres
  • Shirley Yanghua Ou, superintendent/club management, Beacon Ridge Golf & Country Club
  • Adrienne Young, assistant superintendent II, TPC San Antonio

Suzy Whaley, PGA Master Professional and first woman to serve as president of the PGA of America, will headline the event, sharing her experiences as a woman leader in the golf industry. Whaley continues to apply her expertise to create a more accessible, diverse, and engaging space not only in Golf but the entire sporting world.

In addition to educational sessions, the Women’s Leadership Academy will include networking opportunities and discussions on wellness, talent optimization, human resources and more.

“Women make up a growing segment of the industry, and the GCSAA Women’s Leadership Academy offers the opportunity to help these professionals sharpen their leadership skills, which they can use to improve their facilities, careers and communities, ” GCSAA CEO Rhett Evans said. “I congratulate the first members of the Women’s Leadership Academy and look forward to seeing them in November. They are taking steps to not only grow their own careers, but to encourage other women to consider working in the industry.”

The Women’s Leadership Academy is hosted and paid for by GCSAA based on the generous support of industry benefactors, which include The Toro Co., Nufarm and Yamaha who support this event as Trailblazer benefactors; Club Car and PBI Gordon as Pathfinder benefactors; and Target Specialty Products as a Flag Bearer benefactor. The event is endorsed by the Sports Turf Managers Association (STMA).

To learn more about GCSAA’s Women’s Leadership Academy, visit