Docu-series profiles women breaking the turfgrass ceiling

Female greenkeepers working on a golf course

A new documentary series is shining a light on the unique stories of women working in the turfgrass profession.

Breaking the Turfgrass Ceiling follows 30 female turf professionals volunteering at the 2022 U.S. Women’s Open.

In 15 episodes, which range from three to 12 minutes in length, cameras go behind the scenes as the team prepare the course at Pine Needles Lodge and Golf Club, North Carolina to host the world’s best women golfers competing for a $10 million prize fund.

Shelia Finney, Senior Director of Member Programs at the Golf Course Superintendent’s Association of America, features in the opening episode.

Finney says that of the GCSAA’s 19,134 members, less than two percent are women, and most feel like ‘unicorns’ in a male-dominated industry.

She recounts attending national education conferences and being the only woman in the room.

“I walked in and got the double take, they turned, looked and then looked again. For a long time, I felt adrift on my own, making my own way.”

Breaking the Turfgrass Ceiling documents the tight bonds within the group and focuses on exploring shared loves of turf, courses, architecture, maintenance and the golf industry.

“It was tiny seed that got planted,” says Finney.

“But when we all showed up, it was just magic.”

That seed was the 2021 U.S. Women’s Open at The Olympic Club, San Francisco.

Troy Flanagan, Director of Course Operations at the host venue, decided to do something about the lack of opportunity for women working in turf and together with Syngenta’s Kimberly Gard, set about recruiting women to fill half of his 60-strong volunteer team.

The previous year, there had been just one female volunteer.

The experiences of female volunteers in 2021 generated attention and interest on social media. It also helped create career progression opportunities for some, including Noel Popoli, who was later recruited to the position of Assistant Superintendent at The Olympic Club by Flanagan.

Breaking the Turfgrass Ceiling launched on February 10, with weekly episodes released every Friday on its YouTube channel.

Episode 3: Brave tells the story of turf equipment manager Kayla Kipp, who maintains the fleet of machinery at Nemacolin Woodland Resort in Pennsylvania.