Gemma St John - Brokenhurst Manor Golf Club

International Women's Day | Gemma St John - Brokenhurst Manor Golf Club

How long have you been working in this industry?

I started at Brokenhurst Manor Golf Club in 2000, as an apprentice greenkeeper. After a year getting to know the basic skills required, I set to the challenge of NVQ2 in Sports turf, along with gaining PA1,2&6 spraying certificates and cross cutting chainsaw. In 2005 I left to start a family, thinking that I would never be able to return due to no childcare wanting to start at 5am! Due to family circumstances changing I found myself in a position to be able to return to the job in which I have such drive and passion for. So, in 2016 I returned to Brokenhurst Manor Golf club. I straight away fell back into the job, and the course manager and the club have given me so many opportunities. I’ve just completed my NVQ3 in Horticulture and all functional skills to level 2. I’ve volunteered for some amazing events, BMW championship at Wentworth, European Seniors Masters at Forest of Arden and the Solheim Cup at Gleneagles. I must say the latter was an experience I’ve never been prouder to represent my small club at something so major.

What does the average day look like for you?

Average Winter Day – Starting at 7am the usual day for me would be in and make the tea!! Wait to be tasked to the job, this may be out dewing greens, raking of bunkers this is on a rain free day. If we are closed due to rain or limited due to frosts then I may be getting all my chainsaw gear on to do woodland management with the help of the guys. I could also be helping to build a bunker with drainage work, changing the hole on the golf green. So many different jobs. Finished at 3pm Average Summer Day – Starting from anytime from 5am, the morning tasks will be mostly mowing fine turf areas on a ride on mower, or hand mowers. There maybe the need to hand water which is tough pulling a large 30-meter hose around nineteen greens. Also, full rake of bunkers, changing holes. In the afternoon I could be mowing longer grass areas, divoting tees, some construction off the course if the course is busy due to large competition. As you can see all year round there is such an array of jobs to do.

What would you say is the biggest challenge working in this industry/Have you faced any challenges being a female in a male dominated environment?

When I started as an apprentice twenty years ago there was no females for me to turn to and social media wasn’t around. I had a few issues with old guys who had been in the industry for years with no qualifications but knew so much. They put me down and gave me stick but I just worked that much harder to prove them wrong, you must have a never say die attitude. Since I’ve come back the whole industry has changed for the better and in the last two years women in turf has really got going in Great Britain. The younger generation don’t see a problem as that’s the way they have been brought up, still sometimes you get the 'Do you struggle with certain jobs?' and im like no, why should I, I will give most things ago apart from climbing trees (hate heights.) Volunteering around the country I have found great friendships with female greenkeepers from around europe but also amazing friendships with male greenkeepers. All I have to say is im not a female greenkeeper in a male dominated industry im just a GREENKEEPER!!!

Why did you choose to work in this industry?

I started playing golf at Brokenhurst Manor with my dad from the age of 8, so I’ve been around this lovely old club for thirty years! I loved playing golf up to the age where I had kids but now working full time and three kids between 14 & 11, I don’t have much time spare. You can’t beat this job for stunning mornings in either winter or the summer. I’ve always loved working outdoors from gardening with my nan as a youngster to owning my own business when I was off having children. The love for looking back and seeing what a difference you have made gives you great job satisfaction.

What advice would you give to women wanting to join the industry?

There is no better job, if you are dedicated and like early mornings, the opportunities are massive. You can travel the world and work at some amazing golf courses at all ends of the planet. There is nothing stopping you, all you need is passion and eye for detail and just be willing to listen and learn. And to remember that everyday is a learning day! Also find female greenkeepers on social media ask questions, and don’t isolate your self in your own little bubble, you need to get out to other golf courses to further your career. If you get knocked down, just remember its only narrow-minded people that get nowhere in life, so remain positive and you will find this job will give you everything you need.

Finally, what is the best part about working in this industry?

Getting the thanks from members and visitors and them saying what a fantastic job we have done and how wonderful the course looks. The second-best part is finishing early, so in the summer start at 5 finish at 1, not many jobs give you the afternoon on the beach with the kids!!! Find Gemma on social media here @gemma2181 @BrokenhurstGC
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