John Deere gives full support to women working in turf

John Deere continues its support of women working in the golf and turf industries through the Women in Turf program kicking off at the Cobram Barooga Golf Club

John Deere Women in Turf volunteer Martyna Synak raking bunkers at Cobram Barooga Golf Club

The Women in Turf Program supported by John Deere has returned to Cobram Barooga Golf Club for the Webex Players Series Murray River tournament – the site of the program’s successful launch in 2023.

A group of female volunteer greenkeepers will once again work alongside club superintendent Terry Vogel and his team for the PGA event, which features men and women competing in the same field for the same prize purse.

John Deere Production Systems Manager, Stephanie Gersekowski, said it was exciting to see the growth of the Women in Turf program since last year’s launch event.

“Terry and his team were instrumental in getting this program off the ground, so it’s fitting to be returning to Cobram Barooga again in 2024,” she said.

“Last year’s feedback was excellent, both from the volunteers and the club staff the women assisted. The skills and attitude shown by all participants helped ensure the tournament went smoothly, and we know that will be the case again for this year’s event.

“John Deere is deeply committed to supporting women working in the golf and turf industries through the Women in Turf program. It helps create career pathways and build support networks to encourage greater female participation in Australia’s flourishing greenkeeping sector.”

Through the program, John Deere sponsored three female turf specialists to assist the Melbourne Rectangular Stadium in preparing for last year’s global football tournament, including the Matildas’ group game against Canada. It was also a focus of the John Deere Women in Golf Media & Turf Management and Active Allies Breakfast at the 2023 ISPS HANDA Australian Open.

Cobram Barooga Golf Club Superintendent, Terry Vogel, with 2023 John Deere Women in Turf volunteers (L-R) Martyna Synak, Annabelle Southall, Penny Deehan, Kasey Williams, Brody Cooper and Lilly Dahtler

Contributing to the panel discussion at the breakfast was Penny Deehan, who volunteered at Cobram Barooga in 2023.

“Participating in last year’s tournament has definitely helped me gain more recognition within the industry,” Ms Deehan said.

“I’ve spoken to a few superintendents who said they recognised me from the Women in Turf Program, which really helps when you’re trying to get your name out there and navigate your way through the industry.”

Stephen Foster, Key Account Manager at John Deere dealership, Hutcheon & Pearce, led last year’s recruitment of the Women in Turf volunteers and said Ms Deehan’s progression was a testament to the long-term impacts of the program.

“The most exciting part is seeing where the women go after participating in the program,” Mr Foster said.

“Since the 2023 launch event, we’ve seen Penny move into a management position at a high-profile course, Martyna Synak coordinates a crew of volunteers at the Australian Open, and Annabelle Southall completes her apprenticeship with a growth plan to move into management within the next couple of years.

“It’s not just something we want to do once to tick a box. We’re really passionate about growing the number of females in the professional turf industry and supporting their long-term success.”

Mr Foster said this year’s group of volunteers bring a valuable mix of experience.

“Some of them are very comfortable on the golf course, while others are more accustomed to other aspects of the turf industry, such as landscaping,” he said.

“All of them will benefit from sharing their unique experiences, knowledge and skillsets with each other.

“We’re not only trying to further the careers of female greenkeepers, but also open the door for more women to consider the industry. This could be a sliding door moment for some of the volunteers to consider a change into greenkeeping, similar to Lilly Dahtler who found a passion for golf turf management after participating last year.”

The Women in Turf volunteers will be at Cobram Barooga all week, preparing and maintaining the course for the tournament which concludes on Sunday, 21 January.

They will also attend a VIP luncheon on Thursday to mark the club’s signing of the R&A Women in Golf Charter, signalling its commitment to growing the number of females at all levels of golf.

Cobram Barooga’s Amy Batten said the club aims to develop a culture that values women’s involvement in every aspect of the sport, from social participation to pursuing a professional career in golf.

“Cobram Barooga acknowledges the important role community golf clubs play in transforming golf into a sport that is highly engaging, accessible, and fully inclusive for women and girls,” she said.

This year’s Webex Players Series Murray River will be fully green and yellow, with Cobram Barooga having completed a full shed conversion to John Deere equipment. Read the full story here.

Brody Cooper at the inaugural John Deere Women in Turf event at Cobram Barooga Golf Club in 2023

Meet the 2024 Women in Turf volunteers

Tegan Olivia
Hartfield Golf Club, WA

No two days on the golf course are the same, says Tegan Olivia the greenkeeper at Hartfield Golf Club, “You’re always learning something new.

“Every course I’ve worked at has been a bit different too. It takes time to get to know a new course and figure out how to maintain it.

“I’m excited to be participating in the Women in Turf Program and to see how Cobram Barooga prepares for a tournament like this.”

The 29-year-old took her first greenkeeping job at Rosehill Public Golf Course just after graduating high school, where she stayed for a year until the course was sold.

Ms Olivia then completed her apprenticeship at Araluen Estate Golf Course, where she worked for five years, before starting at Hartfield, where she continues to work as one of the course greenkeepers.

“I initially started working at the bar at Hartfield for some extra income, while I was still greenkeeping at Araluen,” she said.

“Hartfield then offered me a full-time greenkeeping role, and basically said they would be happy to work around my schedule with my children and provide me with flexible hours, which was amazing.”

Ms Olivia said the Webex Players Series Murray River would give her the rare opportunity to work alongside other women.

“I’ve always worked with men, so it will be cool to meet the other volunteers and share our experiences,” she said.

“I’m interested in learning about how they approach greenkeeping, and also plying my trade on a new course.

“More females should consider this industry because it’s actually very suitable for women.”

Susie Rawlings
Toronto Golf Club, NSW

Spending 20 years in the telecommunications industry isn’t the typical career path to greenkeeping, but Susie Rawlings hasn’t looked back since making the switch.

The former telco Field Technician is still green to the trade, having completed a horticulture qualification and starting her role at Toronto Golf Club only 12 months ago.

“I decided I needed to pursue a career I’d enjoy, rather than one I was just comfortable in,” Ms Rawlings said.

“It’s been quite a change, and apart from the 4am starts, I’m loving it.

“The club lets me do a lot of different things on the course, including irrigation and construction jobs, as well as greenkeeping duties. It’s very task-oriented, which gives me satisfaction when I can look back and observe a job well done.

“I love interacting with the golfers while I’m on the job too – they’re always up for a friendly wave or a chat!”

Ms Rawlings said the Women in Turf Program would be a unique experience for her, having worked in two industries predominantly staffed by males.

“I’m excited to meet the other female volunteers and learn as much as I can from them,” she said.

“A couple of the guys I work with now had never had a female colleague in 15 years before I started. There’s plenty of women in this industry who have been very successful though, so it’s important to highlight that and encourage more to join.”

Holly Ross
Bayview Golf Cub, NSW

A career in turf management wasn’t always on the cards for Holly Ross.

The former landscape gardener began helping out at Palm Beach Golf Club, where her partner was the superintendent, however quickly found a passion for greenkeeping which led to her current role at Bayview Golf Club.

“I just loved the challenge of it,” Ms Ross said.

“I came from a residential and commercial background with landscaping, but with greenkeeping, you need to think about how the course functions for the players, as well as the aesthetic and environmental aspects.

“While I don’t have the patience to play golf, I’ve definitely grown to appreciate it more thanks to my partner’s enthusiasm for it.”

The Webex Players Series Murray River will be the first major tournament experience for Ms Ross.

“Bayview’s the only golf course I’ve worked on, so I’m keen to learn how another club with a bigger crew manages its facilities and to see what is involved in preparing for an event like this,” she said.

“Receiving the invitation to participate in the Women in Turf program was very exciting. It really hammers home to me that this is an industry I can thrive in as a female, and there are more exciting opportunities for me than there were in landscaping.

“I don’t actually know any other women who work on golf courses, so it’s a great chance to meet some of them and see where they’ve come from and what their aspirations are.

“Who knows where this career could take me. I’ve been thinking about travelling to work at courses overseas once I build my skills and experience a bit more. This is a great chance to do that.”

Shana Stopp
Green Options, QLD

Shana Stopp embodies the adage of ‘love what you do and you’ll never work a day in your life’.

The horticulturalist with landscaping services company, Green Options, says passion is the most important factor in succeeding in the industry.

“I get to be with my mates all day, look after the gardens, be out in nature and just have a great time,” she said.

“It’s a multifaceted job – you’re not just sitting on a mower all day. There’s always more to learn and improve on, which is the attitude I encourage in my team as well.

“My apprentice, Alana Elisaia, is balancing her learning and development with playing rugby for the Queensland Reds and Wallaroos. We need more women like her to just have a crack at this industry.”

Ms Stopp’s colleague at Green Options, Lilly Dahtler, was one of the inaugural Women in Turf participants who volunteered at the 2023 Murray River tournament.

“Lilly and I are really good mates, but she’s one of the very few female colleagues I’ve had in almost 10 years in the industry,” Ms Stopp said.

“The thought of working in horticulture or greenkeeping can be scary for some women, but it shouldn’t be. There’s nothing the boys can do that we can’t.

“Green Options has a few female team leaders which is great, but it needs to become more widespread. The Women in Turf Program is crucial for that.”

The program may also be the start of a new career direction for Ms Stopp.

“I’ve always had a big interest in turf, however I’ve found my feet more in landscaping and other areas,” she said.

“This will be a learning experience for me, and I wouldn’t be surprised if I find a new passion in greenkeeping.

“I may not have much to say, but I’ll definitely be listening to the more experienced greenkeepers and taking on board everything I can.”

Sophie Warren
Glenelg Golf Club, SA

When Sophie Warren took a casual job working for her dad at Glenelg Golf Club, she thought it was a fun way to earn some money while still at school.

Five years later, Ms Warren is in the final year of her apprenticeship at the course, having also completed a horticulture qualification.

“As a little kid, I used to help Dad with small tasks around the course, then I’d do a few hours on the weekend or after school, but I never thought I’d end up working there full time,” she said.

“It’s surprising as I’m really not a morning person. But throughout the apprenticeship, I got used to the early starts and discovered a real passion for greenkeeping.

“You get a lot of satisfaction in this industry, looking out at a well-maintained course and knowing you’ve done a good job.”

Ms Warren said she was shocked when her dad, course superintendent Tim Warren, told her she’d been picked for the Women in Turf Program.

“It will be great to meet the other girls and also get to know the team at Cobram Barooga. You can never have too many connections,” she said.

“When I was at school, I only knew this was a job because of my dad. I don’t think it gets advertised a whole lot that you can pursue an apprenticeship and qualifications in this industry – particularly for girls.

“Glenelg is a great place to work and the guys are very supportive, but there needs to be more awareness of greenkeeping as a career path for women.”

In December 2022, Glenelg became the first South Australian club to sign the R&A Women in Golf Charter, which Cobram Barooga will sign at the Webex Players Series Murray River.

Ms Warren has previous major tournament experience, having volunteered at the 2022 Australian Open at the Victoria Golf Club.

“It was the best week of my life!” she said. “It’s amazing to see professional tournaments like that in the flesh – the preparation is just next level.”