Reflections on Bayer’s Women in Golf event

By |  November 12, 2019 0 Comments
Brandi Merrick and Kimberly Erusha, PhD of the USGA are both proud alumni of Iowa State. Photo: Courtesy of Bayer

Brandi Merrick (left) and Kimberly Erusha, Ph.D, of the USGA, are both proud alumni of Iowa State. Photo: Courtesy of Bayer

Between our greens aerification and balancing the end-of-month budget, this is the first chance I’ve had to sit down and truly reflect on the Bayer Women in Golf event and what were arguably the best three days of my professional life. Have you ever seen 50 women in turf in one place? In one room? In one picture? I hadn’t until Wednesday, Sept. 18. It was truly one of the highlights of my career thus far.

My first jaw-dropping moment was walking into the hotel and seeing the lobby full of nothing but turf gals. In my short career of being a full time golf course maintenance professional, I have only been to a handful of golf industry conferences/shows, but the clientele is usually pretty similar and I rarely see even one other woman, let alone 49!

After check-in, our events started with a walk to the beautiful Lonnie Poole Golf Course Club House, and a meet and greet activity, “Find Your Kind.” We were instructed to seek out the other women who had similar pictures on their name badges. The pictures were random golf images so it was a fun way to get to talk to someone new. Over supper, we discussed increasing awareness and diversity within the industry and got to learn a little about each other. Afterwards was a social hour and I had my second “OMG” moment — I had the great pleasure of meeting my first-ever female golf course superintendent. I’ve seen pictures, I’ve read articles, but I had never actually met a woman in charge of a golf course before. I’ll be honest, I went a little fan girl on this incredible lady.

In addition to meeting a superintendent that night, I met several assistants, spray technicians, sales reps and university researchers. All ladies. All in golf. We walked back and I went to my room with my head spinning — I truly thought there would only be about 20 people at this conference. Come to find out, over 100 women had applied. I was floored!

The next morning brought a beautiful North Carolina fall day and a field trip to the Clayton Development and Experience Center, a part of Bayer CropScience. We left the hotel bright and “early” (it was actually sleeping in for most of us), and gathered in the conference room for our first presenter. I have had the pleasure of hearing from Carol Rau before, and all I will say is: Look her up. She is an incredible resource for professional development and gives phenomenal presentations that are engaging and informative.

Our group leaders ensured we stayed on time and after Carol’s presentation and a short break we were right back in the classroom to hear from Dr. Kimberly Erusha of the USGA (and a fellow Iowan!). Dr. Erusha gave compelling insight into how best to advance professionally by providing anecdotal evidence and speaking from the heart.

Lunch following the morning presentations was another excellent networking opportunity, and then it was back to the business of learning, this time from Dr. Sheryl Wells. Dr. Wells contributed sound advice in the area of career options and the various pathways available within the turf industry. Her advice to share experiences with others in any way possible is what prompted me to start writing this article.

Following Dr. Wells’ presentation, we had the pleasure of hearing all three previous presenters plus Kerry Whale together on the floor in a panel discussion Q&A session where we talked about everything from power poses, to work-life balance and how to make sure you are taking care of yourself and your career. We then broke up into smaller, round-table groups and got to pick the brains of our presenters and organizers. It was an engaging time getting to hear about others’ experiences as well as to be able to share my own.

Before supper, we took a tour of the beautiful facilities in Clayton, N.C. and got some insider information regarding current tests and trials happening on various plots. Back at the hotel, my mind was reeling trying to digest all of the material presented as well as keeping track of all the fascinating women I had met. I again went to bed with my mind positively overflowing with ideas and information. How could I possibly take on any more information?

As a matter of fact, it was very easy! The next morning, we saw a video address from Dr. Jacqueline Applegate — President of Global Vegetable Seeds and Environmental Science for the Crop Science division of Bayer. Her warm welcome truly confirmed how I had been feeling all along — that I belonged here. We then heard from Ildem Bozkurt, U.S. Head of the Pest Management and Public Health business for Bayer and had many laughs listening to life lessons and how to be professional, even when someone is throwing a chair out of a window.

Our final presenter was Susan Hite of Hite Resources. She brought us some new ideas on how to look at old problems and offered self-reflection in the form of Psycho-Geometric testing. This test provided feedback on how to communicate best for you and with others depending upon personality. It also gave solid steps on how to problem solve with different types of people.

Upon closing it was time to head back home and share everything we had learned with the turf world. After many hours spent topdressing and reflecting, it is safe to say that in the world of golf, I am starting to see some incredible progress towards increasing and promoting diversity. I hope that through events like Women In Golf and all of the at-home work being done by industry professionals, we can continue to spread the good news regarding all that a career in turf grass has to offer and in turn start informing, empowering and recruiting our most diverse group of peers yet.

Brandi Merrick is assistant superintendent of golf maintenance at The Omni Grove Park Inn Golf Course in Asheville, N.C. 

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