"We don't just grow grass, we grow people"

Women in Turf team volunteer at Pebble Beach US Women's Open 2023

An all-female turf crew has celebrated its role volunteering at the 78th US Women’s Open at Pebble Beach.

Thirty-five members of Women in Turf (WIT) were invited to support Pebble Beach Superintendent Bubba Wright and his team, preparing the iconic Californian links for its first US Women’s Open (July 6-9).

It was the third time that women from across the United States have volunteered at the tournament, a tradition started at The Olympic Club, San Francisco in 2021 and continued at Pine Needles, North Carolina in 2022.

Sally Jones, General Manager and Superintendent at Benson Golf Club, Minnesota, said: “Our mission was to support Bubba and his team. When you look at the job sheets, Bubba put us on some of the most important tasks.

“I’m never going to be able to say that I cut cups at Pebble Beach again. It’s a lifelong bucket list experience that I was able to tick off.”

The volunteers joined a 100-strong maintenance team at Pebble Beach for a week of 2.45am alarms, 4am starts and late finishes.

Women in Turf team volunteer at Pebble Beach US Women's Open 2023

Cori Jin, from Arizona, tweeted: Let’s dew this!! Last maintenance set up for the @uswomensopen. It’s been early mornings of rolling dew and late nights blowing the rough.”

Addison Donahue is from a turf family. Her father is a Superintendent in Las Vegas and her brother Gavin is studying turf management in college. An intern at Glen Oaks Golf Club, New York, Addison joined her father and brother volunteering at Pebble Beach.

“This week at the @uswomensopen exceeded every expectation. An honour to work with the @womeninturfteam, the crew at @PebbleBeachGolf, and all of the other incredible volunteers,” said Donahue.

During tournament play, volunteers benefited from educational seminars and welcomed 60 young girls from LPGA and USGA Girls Golf and the First Green Program to talk about careers for women in turf and highlight the importance of golf courses in environmental management.

LPGA and USGA girls visit Pebble Beach with First Green Program
Turf Talk: Meeting girls from the First Green program, LPGA and USGA Girls golf 

According to the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA), female membership has increased by 43 per cent since the first WIT volunteer group in 2021.

Jill Seymour, Golf Course Superintendent, Charleston Springs South Course, New Jersey, said: “As women, we had our heads down, just growing our grass at our golf courses, staying in our lane and growing our grass.

“Now we have our heads up, and our heads are getting up higher, now we’re looking around and just seeing all the opportunities we have to volunteer and get more involved with the turf industry.”

WIT was profiled on The Golf Channel last year and was also the subject of a YouTube docuseries ‘Breaking the Turfgrass Ceiling’.

Women make up around 2% of turf professionals across North America.

Volunteers at WIT say working at US Women’s Opens has created opportunities for them personally and professionally and provided inspiration to others to consider a career in turf.

Susana Milla-Lewis, Professor in turfgrass breeding and genetics at North Carolina State University, tweeted: “So incredibly inspiring to see this! You rock @womeninturfteam! #RoleModels to the number of #WomenInTurf getting much larger!”