Shinnecock Hills employees (from left) Lilian Orozco, America Francisco, Melchora Francisco, Elena Domingo, Ana Alvarez, Ericka Guzman, Violeta Sajbin, Cindy Chavez, Luz Grajeda and Lindsay Brownson. Photo by Benny Migliorino
Editor’s note: Read more about the U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills in History major: Jon Jennings and the U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills.
At Shinnecock Hills Golf Club in Southampton, N.Y. — host of the 118th U.S. Open, June 14-17 — 10 women are either full time or part time on the staff of superintendent Jon Jennings, CGCS. “I’d like to see more women get an opportunity in our industry,” says Jennings, a 34-year GCSAA member. “Really, it has nothing to do with gender. It has to do with people who can do the job for us — people who can help us achieve our goals.”
Two of them — Ana Alvarez and Lindsay Brownson — arrived at Shinnecock Hills after changing their career paths.
Alvarez attended her high school prom at Windows on the World, which was located on the 107th floor of the North Tower at the World Trade Center in New York City. Her prom in 2001 came four months before the World Trade Center was destroyed in the 9/11 terrorist attacks, an event that influenced Alvarez’s decision to join the U.S. Marine Corps.
“It was horrible. People from my school lost parents,” says Alvarez, who is Jennings’ administrative assistant. “I always wanted to do something to help others. That’s my personality. I want to serve all people.” She chose to serve her country. Alvarez, toting an M16 rifle, would sleep with a bulletproof vest on her chest and a helmet on her head during a tour of Iraq.
Brownson, an assistant superintendent at Shinnecock Hills, originally studied architectural engineering before deciding to alter course, resurrecting something she’d done as a teenager. “My two older brothers worked on a golf course. They came home with fascinating stories, and it sounded like so much fun,” says Brownson, who, at 17, was hired at Arrowhead Golf Course in East Syracuse, N.Y.
Ultimately, she plowed through turfgrass school at SUNY Cobleskill and launched a career, which included a key stop as assistant for GCSAA Class A superintendent Kyle Erdige at Timber Banks in Baldwinsville, N.Y. “He was a great mentor. He got me involved in the agronomic planning process, project management, early orders with salesmen, and trusted me to run things on my own while he went on a two-week trip,” says Brownson, a six-year association member. “When the job for Shinnecock Hills came up, he said, ‘I believe in you; you can do this.’ It encouraged me.”
Brownson hopes other women like her and Alvarez are motivated to make working at a golf course their profession. Shinnecock Hills is proof it can happen. “It would be great to see more women. It’s a great business to be in,” Brownson says.
Howard Richman is GCM’s associate editor.