Coming full circle at Pebble Beach

Sally Jones gave Cole Petrick his first golf course job. They’ve reunited at the U.S. Women’s Open.


Cole Petrick and Sally Jones at Pebble Beach Golf Club
Sally Jones (right) gave Cole Petrick (left) his first job on a golf course in high school. Now, Petrick is one of three assistant superintendents at Pebble Beach organizing volunteers for the 2023 U.S. Women's Open. Photos by Scott Hollister

Sally Jones has seen plenty of seasonal maintenance workers come and go during her time as the general manager and GCSAA Class A superintendent at Benson (Minn.) Golf Club. It doesn’t take her long to figure out who’s cut out for the job and who might not be long for the business.

In the case of Cole Petrick, the son of one of Jones’ best friends, she knew almost immediately that he had career potential, even if he couldn’t drive yet when he first stepped on the property.

“He started when he was 15, before he was old enough to even operate anything on the golf course, so we had him washing carts for the first year before he moved to the maintenance side,” the 12-year GCSAA member recalls.

“As soon as he got on the golf course, I could see that he had the enthusiasm for the field, a passion for the game of golf. He wanted to learn as much as he could about maintaining golf courses, then when his work was done, he wanted to go out and play.”

Jones is quick to admit that she couldn’t have imagined just how far Petrick would go, or how quickly he would get there. The idea that someday she’d be volunteering on the maintenance staff at a major championship and her former employee would be in a leadership position on the club’s full-time staff seemed too far-fetched to believe.

But that’s exactly the scenario that unfolded this week at Pebble Beach during the 2023 U.S. Women’s Open. Jones was among 35 women turfgrass professionals assisting with course prep, and Petrick was giving those volunteers their daily marching orders as one of three assistant superintendents at Pebble Beach.

Cole Petrick and course volunteers at the U.S. Women's Open in volunteer headquarters
Petrick gives out work assignements to the assembled U.S. Women's Open volunteers ahead of a morning prep session.

“I remember when she first told me she’d be out here, we laughed that she had been my boss for so long and now I was going to be her boss,” says Petrick, a three-year GCSAA member. “It’s been great having her out here, very special to have her see how far I’ve come in the business. It’s been a lot of fun.”

Petrick figured out very quickly that a job on the golf course was far more appealing to him than one in the pro shop, but it wasn’t until a golf trip to Arizona with his father that it dawned on him a career in golf course management was truly possible.

“I had worked (at Benson) a few summers and loved it ... but I didn’t really realize that it could be a career option. I thought it was just a high school job,” Petrick says. “But I’m on this golf trip with my dad, and I caught myself noticing the maintenance crews out there on all these resort courses and something just clicked that this was something I could do for a living.”

With Jones guiding him along the way, Petrick wasted little time chasing his newfound dream after graduating from high school. He enrolled in Penn State’s two-year turf program (Jones herself is a Penn State grad). When he was looking for an internship between his first and second years, Jones connected Petrick with David Soltvedt, CGCS, at the Club at Cordillera in Edwards, Colo., — Soldtvedt and Jones were Penn State classmates — which led to a six-month stint there that was ultimately interrupted by COVID-19.

When Petrick finished his degree, he took matters into his own hands and explored opportunities even further west. “I had a classmate who interned at Cypress Point while I was in Colorado, and I told him that I wanted to check out the West Coast,” he says. “He suggested the Pebble Beach Co., and I actually applied for an internship at Spyglass Hill first before I kind of got pulled over here. It’s worked out great.”

Sally Jonea
Jones helps set up a new hole location for the par-5 sixth hole on Wednesday morning.

While Petrick has prepared for a few other professional events during his time at Pebble Beach, the U.S. Women’s Open marks his first major, and he’s been pleasantly surprised at how smooth preparations have gone and how well the volunteer team has integrated with the full-time staff.

“We have a great, great crew here, and they’ve been working super hard for months getting ready for this. It’s exciting to finally be at the point where we get to show it off,” Petrick says. “And the volunteers and the women-in-turf group have just been awesome. They’ve jelled with our team perfectly, they know what they’re doing, and we couldn’t be happier with how things of gone.”

“This week has been special for a whole lot of reasons,” Jones says, “but the best part for me has been watching Cole do his thing and seeing just how far he’s grown in this business.”

Scott Hollister is GCM’s editor-in-chief.