Baby on board: Skagit Golf & Country Club toasts expectant crew member

Washington golf course surprises spray tech Frances King with a baby shower.


Aerial view of Ghost Creek golf course
Frances King (center) with the crew at Skagit Golf & Country Club. From left: Brian Blazer, Owen Bruland, Andrew Stogner, Caleb Howe, Shane Stoupa, Pete Himmer, Rob Roberts, Ryan Semritc, Sergio Reyna, Karl Green. Photos courtesy of Skagit Golf & Country Club

It’s nothing new for a golf course maintenance crew to hold a barbecue. But on a Friday afternoon in August, the nearly all-male crew of Skagit Golf & Country Club in Burlington, Wash., hosted what GCSAA Class A superintendent Ryan Semritc called a ‘Baby-Q.’ The celebration honored Frances King, a spray tech at the club, as she was about to go on maternity leave. That’s right: King’s male colleagues threw her a baby shower complete with food, gifts and even baby-themed party games.

From the Women in Turf initiatives at recent U.S. Women’s Opens to the Ladies Leading Turf receptions at the GCSAA Conference and Trade Show and the association’s upcoming Women’s Leadership Academy in November, the golf industry has made a recent effort to promote inclusivity and gender equality in its ranks. As a member of Gen-Z, 23-year-old King grew up in a post-Title-IX world where women’s sports were equally funded with men’s sports teams, and women athletes have gained mainstream acceptance.

King’s father gave her that first set of golf clubs when she was in preschool. She played golf in high school and was on the golf team at Skagit Valley College in Mount Vernon, Wash. Five years ago, she applied for a job in the pro shop at Skagit G&CC, attracted by the lure of free golf. She had played the course several times in competitions and loved the layout. Offered a slot on the maintenance crew instead by former course superintendent Steve Link, she jumped at the chance.

“The nice thing about working at a golf course is you go out and you do your thing. You have 18 holes to work, and it's quite relaxing sometimes,” King says. “It’s a good way to work by yourself and also for your team. It's kind of like playing on a golf team. The score matters for the individual and the team. And I like being outside.”

When asked her advice to women considering a career in golf, King says, “Don't be afraid. Be confident and eager to learn. And, yeah, just don't overthink it.”

The night King found out she was expecting (and after delivering the news to her husband, Gabe), she realized she was scheduled to spray greens the next day. On the way to work the next morning, she called her boss, Semritc, to ask for some time to talk to him after the morning crew meeting. She recalls that he “was really excited for me and said, ‘Hey, we’ve got you and do what you're comfortable with.’”

Aerial view of Ghost Creek golf course
Frances King holds up a onesie given to her by her colleagues at Skagit Golf & Country Club.

A 13-year GCSAA member, Semritc started his golf career 24 years ago as summer help on a course and has been a superintendent for the past 11 years. He says he’s almost always had women on his crews. What once was a rarity is now commonplace. Most of his peers, other superintendents in the region, all have female crew members as well. However, this is his first experience with a pregnant co-worker.

While spraying was off the table for King, Semritc’s nine-person crew benefits from three other licensed spray techs who have stepped in and handled that work. Nothing much changed until about King’s seventh month, when she could no longer bend over far enough to cut cups. Still, she continued to mow, rake bunkers and hand-water greens.

“From day one when I got here, Frances has been just one of the crew,” Semritc says. And now throughout her pregnancy, “she's just been an absolute rock star. I  have been amazed at her performance. This has not slowed her down in the slightest.”

Policy provides for 12 weeks of paid maternity leave, but Semritc says King is free to take as much time as she needs to welcome the new baby. Her job is secure and will be waiting for her. The timing of the impending birth in September is fortuitous, allowing King to work through the busy summer season. Regardless of when the baby was due, the maternity leave structure would have been the same. Her wage as a spray tech and crew member remained unchanged even though her duties shifted away from chemical applications.

Semritc strives to create a “work family” culture at the golf course, which is evident in the crew’s support of Kings’ journey toward motherhood.

“Everybody is excited to see pictures of ultrasounds. Everybody is excited for her to bring the baby to work to say hello after she's born,” Semritc says. “It's fun seeing how much everybody cares.”

Crew member Shane Stoupa and his girlfriend Katie hosted the event at their home, preparing homemade tortillas, tacos, and cupcakes. Gifts from baby onesies and bouncy chairs abounded. Even the membership has embraced King’s pregnancy with a donation box full of baby clothes in the pro shop.

With the baby due soon,  King is excited to have her husband home after being deployed overseas in Japan for the past six months. Their daughter will get her first set of golf clubs “as soon as she can walk”, King says.

King is grateful to the club and fellow crew members for being so supportive. “That was a pretty cool thing for everyone to do. I did not expect them to do that, but everyone showed up. It definitely meant a lot,” King says. “I'll remember that forever.”

Stacie Zinn Roberts is the president of What’s Your Avocado?, a writing and marketing firm based in Mount Vernon, Wash., and a frequent GCM contributor.