There is no question that golf course maintenance has traditionally been a male-dominated industry. A large majority of superintendents are men, as are the members of their teams, but women make significant contributions to course care in many different ways and their impact is continuing to grow. More women are working in the field, women are taking more prominent roles and their contributions are being more widely recognized. It certainly hasn’t been an easy road for women in course maintenance and there is much progress yet to be made, but there are encouraging signs of what the future could hold.
Not many people have more direct experience about what it means to be a woman in golf course maintenance than Cindy Johnson. She started at Tumble Brook Country Club in Bloomfield, Connecticut, as an hourly crew member in 1978 while attending turf school, became the assistant superintendent in 1983 and has been superintendent since 1993. These days, when she’s hiring someone, whether male or female, Johnson simply asks them if they are up to the task.
That approach has helped Johnson succeed in recruiting woman to her staff, including two regulars who return perennially – one of them an assistant golf pro, the other a former superintendent. She finds that once on board, women can do anything men can do.
When Johnson started out in the industry she joined an all-male crew. “I really had to prove myself,” she said. Having a four-year degree from the University of Connecticut in plant and soil science helped. It was even more of a boost when Tumble Brook sent her to the Stockbridge School at the University of Massachusetts for an eight-week winter course. “That was all turf,” she said, “and it helped me move ahead of some of the seasoned crew guys.”
For Johnson, the industry affords women more of an opportunity today than ever to establish a career. “The demands are there, for sure,” she says, “but so are the opportunities for people with personal determination. I was brought up to be self-sufficient. That kind of motivation is always a help."