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John Deere helping drive change at Women in Golf breakfast

As players teed off to start the third round of the 2023 Australian Open on Saturday, some of golf’s biggest names were starting meaningful conversations at the John Deere Women in Golf Media & Turf Management and Active Allies Breakfast.

Aligning with the John Deere Women in Turf Program, the event focused on promoting career pathways and building support networks to encourage greater female participation in the media and wider golf industry. 

Guests included Chair of Golf Australia, Peter Margin; CEO of the WPGA Tour of Australasia, Karen Lunn; CEO of Golf Australia, James Sutherland; and CEO of the PGA Tour of Australia, Gavin Kirkman.

John Deere Production Systems Manager, Steph Gersekowski, addressed the audience overlooking the 18th green at The Australian Golf Club in Sydney.

“We work in industries which are typically male-dominated - manufacturing, agriculture and golf and turf,” Ms Gersekowski said.

“Our goal is to take very targeted, specific steps to help change this. Our Women in Turf Program provides professional development opportunities to participants and helps them build peer-based networks to share their stories.

 “Despite the success of the program so far, we think we’re just at the tip of the iceberg when it comes to driving greater female representation in golf and the industries that support it.”

Tiffany Cherry, leading sports broadcaster and Head of Women and Girls Engagement at Golf Australia, led a panel discussion which included Penny Deehan – one of six female greenkeepers who took part in John Deere’s Women in Turf Program at the TPS Murray River tournament earlier this year. 

“Having these opportunities really opens the doors to help us network and build a community of female turf managers into the future,” Ms Deehan said.

“Initiatives like this weren’t around back when I was first getting into the industry. There was still the perception from some people that I wouldn’t be able to handle the job as a woman, but I’m a competitive person so being told I couldn’t do something just made me want to do it more!

“I was very fortunate as well to have a supportive boss at the time who gave me the opportunity to let me do an apprenticeship and I haven’t looked back.

“That’s why support networks are so important. The relationships you make with other women in the industry can help guide you when you might not be feeling confident in yourself.”

Despite women representing around half of all media presenters in Australia, only 10 per cent of sports presenters are women. The Australian Open was a fitting backdrop to the breakfast, as the only national tournament in the world where women, men and all-abilities golfers play at the same time.

Award-winning greenkeeper Sophie Hamdorf from Royal Adelaide, photographer Rebecca Bana, touring professional turned commentator Stacey Peters, and 14 year-old journalist and founder of Her Way Magazine, Abbie, were also on the panel, along with Fox Sports Presenter and WPGA Australasia Board Member, Sam Squiers.

“Like Penny, I’m also quite stubborn – I’ve always been motivated by people saying I couldn’t do something because I’m a woman,” Ms Squiers said. 

“The thing I’m most proud of in my career as a female sports broadcaster is that I’ve never tried to be ‘one of the boys’. Women bring their own unique perspective to media coverage. Incorporating that is not only important for female journalists, but it’s better for the audience watching. 

“For decades, people were conditioned to only see male sports on television, and for a long time many newsrooms only wanted male reporters. That culture is changing though. It’s all about normalising female sporting achievements and women reporting on those achievements.”

Mr Sutherland said the event reflected golf’s increasing diversity. 

“Golf is a sport for everyone to play, and an industry that everyone can work in,” he said. 

“We need more women working in golf media and sports turf management – and there are plenty more opportunities in other areas of our industry.

Our breakfast was about amplifying that messaging so women and girls can see golf has a career to offer them.” 

Ms Cherry thanked John Deere for its ongoing support of Women in Turf initiatives.

“We need to keep spreading the message that every career path in golf available to men is also available to women,” she said. 

“John Deere is deeply committed to this. Their support is crucial not only for events such as today, but taking meaningful, ongoing steps to encourage greater female participation in our game.”

Main image: Attendees at the John Deere Women in Golf Media & Turf Management and Active Allies Breakfast (L-R): Broadcaster and Head of Women and Girls Engagement at Golf Australia, Tiffany Cherry; John Deere Production Systems Manager, Steph Gersekowski; John Deere Marketing & Communications Specialist, Cassie Phillips; CEO of Golf Australia, James Sutherland; John Deere Product Marketing Specialist, Erin Wagstaff; and Senior Greenkeeper at Oatlands Golf Club, Penny Deehan.