Natalie Russell (left), the assistant superintendent at Country Hills Golf Club in Calgary, Alberta, walks through some of the cool tools used in golf course maintenance with a small group during the First Green event on the first day of the U.S. Women's Open at Pebble Beach Monday. Photo by Mike Strauss
There are plenty of firsts surrounding this week’s U.S. Women’s Open at Pebble Beach, the most notable being that this is the first women’s major — and to be totally accurate, the first women’s professional event of any kind — to be conducted at the famed Monterey Peninsula course. The layout’s only previous foray into competitive women’s golf was a pair of U.S. Women’s Amateurs it hosted back in the 1940s.
Considering that, it seemed appropriate that championship week would start off with yet another first — GCSAA’s inaugural First Green event at Pebble Beach. The event was hosted by a collection of women turf professionals who are volunteering on the Pebble Beach maintenance team this week. Their audience was also all-female, more than 30 in all from The First Tee of Monterey County.
Commandeering a spot at the end of Pebble Beach’s driving, Monday’s event covered all the STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — bases usually associated with a First Green event. Students rotated through stations that focused on soils, water conservation, cool tools used in the maintenance of golf courses and an introduction to the job of a golf course superintendent and potential careers in the industry. They even got a little golf lesson from Hilary Lunke, the winner of the 2003 U.S. Women’s Open who was at Pebble Beach for the championship but is not playing.
“Our mission is to provide opportunities for a better future and playing golf isn't the only opportunity for these girls,” says Jessica Abe, the executive director of The First Tee of Monterey County. “Any chance that we see an underrepresented job industry that men are primarily working, and then to see women come together and showcase their roles in these industries. It's just such a great opportunity for these girls to have their eyes open to what is possible.”
One student who took part in the First Green event was clearly hooked by the agronomic side of the presentation. “I think learning about the irrigation and the different types of grass and what goes in to making the greens and everything else look nice was cool,” she said when asked what caught her eye.
Scott Hollister is GCM's editor-in-chief.