Women in Turf: Carol L. Turner

The superintendent at Bigwin Island Golf Club in Baysville, Ontario, shares lessons learned from her industry experience.


Carol L. Turner
Carol L. Turner is the superintendent at Bigwin Island Golf Club in Baysville, Ontario, and a six-year GCSAA member.Photo courtesy of Carol L. Turner

Editor’s note: In honor of Women’s Golf Day 2024 — which will be celebrated for an entire week, May 28-June 4 — GCM has partnered with John Deere on a series of stories that highlight three 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 May 30.

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Carol L. Turner, a six-year GCSAA member, is the superintendent at Bigwin Island Golf Club in Baysville, Ontario. Turner has been highly involved in the association and in industry initiatives as a member of GCSAA’s Assistant Superintendent Task Force from 2019-2021, a member of Bayer Women in Golf and a mentor in the Women in Turfgrass Management program.

Initially, when I started working in turf, I saw it as just a job I enjoyed rather than a career path. Despite my enjoyment, I didn't envision it as a long-term commitment, as it seemed tailored for those with backgrounds vastly different from mine. However, upon reentering the golf industry a few years later, taking on greater responsibilities and reaching the age where bouncing around from job to job didn’t seem appealing anymore, I decided to commit myself to stick with something.

Obtaining my spray license marked a pivotal moment, as I aimed for year-round employment in our seasonal area. As I immersed myself further, interacting with industry peers, participating in events, and advancing my education, my determination to thrive in golf course management solidified.

One of the most rewarding aspects of my career is the camaraderie within the team. Working alongside the greens team at Bigwin Island is a joy. Seeing their growth as they gain new skills and confidence is truly fulfilling. The mutual learning dynamic and the infectious energy they bring not only enrich my experience but also enhance the course itself. It's an honor to contribute to the development of the younger crew members, and I believe they carry forward the lessons learned into their futures.

It's important to acknowledge that women still face exclusionary dynamics within the industry. Male supervisors may find it easier to connect with younger male employees due to shared interests, like sports, unintentionally leaving out equally capable female counterparts when teaching them more career-oriented skills.

We need to take an interest in people who are different from us. You never know who the next superstar on your team is. As women progress in the field, their peers need to include them in conversations at events and not create an atmosphere reminiscent of a “boys club.” For a younger woman who may be one of the few females present, it can feel isolating to be excluded from discussions.

The best advice I’ve gotten is to stand up for yourself and set boundaries. I do not know how many “just five-minute” jobs have been pushed my way in recent years. If I were to say yes to every little request, I would have no time to do my job. These things add up quickly. It's great to be helpful, but don’t let yourself become a doormat to helping others and let your job and personal life suffer.

You don’t always have to act or do exactly what someone in your position is or is supposed to do. We can get stuck in a “we have always done it this way” cycle in our industry and won’t get better until we lose that mindset. We need to adapt and realize the world is changing, and if we don’t change with it, we will be left behind. The days of killing yourself for your job and being proud of having no personal life is slowly becoming the way of the past.

I advise other women in the industry to take the leap. Don't wait until you feel completely ready to pursue opportunities. Waiting for absolute certainty may mean missing out on valuable experiences and career advancements. Remember, most men aren't waiting until they're fully prepared. Additionally, don't underestimate the value of your experience. While education is important, practical know-how often proves just as valuable, if not more so. Apply for positions even if you lack formal qualifications; your skills and dedication speak volumes. Ultimately, don’t let self-doubt hold you back; you're likely more capable than you realize.

You don’t have to follow some timeline or check things off a magic list to achieve satisfaction. Do what’s best for you. Don’t chase job titles or feel you need to work at a certain calibre, of course. You aren’t a failure if you don’t do what everyone else seems to be doing. Enjoy the ride.