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Women in Turf teeing up another round at Cobram Barooga

JOHN DEERE’s Women in Turf Program returns to Cobram Barooga Golf Club this week for the Webex Players Series Murray River tournament - the site of the program’s successful launch in 2023.

A group of female volunteer greenkeepers will once again work alongside club superintendent Terry Vogel and his team for the PGA event, which features men and women competing in the same field for the same prize purse.

John Deere Production Systems Manager, Stephanie Gersekowski, said it was exciting to see the growth of the Women in Turf program since last year’s launch event.

“Terry and his team were instrumental in getting this program off the ground, so it’s fitting to be returning to Cobram Barooga again in 2024,” she said.

“Last year’s feedback was excellent, both from the volunteers and the club staff the women assisted. The skills and attitude shown by all participants helped ensure the tournament went smoothly, and we know that will be the case again for this year’s event. 

“John Deere is deeply committed to supporting women working in the golf and turf industries through the Women in Turf program. It helps create career pathways and build support networks to encourage greater female participation in Australia’s flourishing greenkeeping sector.” 

Through the program, John Deere sponsored three female turf specialists to assist the Melbourne Rectangular Stadium prepare for last year’s global football tournament, including the Matildas' group game against Canada. It was also a focus of the John Deere Women in Golf Media & Turf Management and Active Allies Breakfast at the 2023 ISPS HANDA Australian Open. 

Contributing to the panel discussion at the breakfast was Penny Deehan, who volunteered at Cobram Barooga in 2023. 

“Participating in last year’s tournament definitely helped me gain more recognition within the industry,” Ms Deehan said. 

“I’ve spoken to a few superintendents who said they recognised me from the Women in Turf Program, which really helps when you’re trying to get your name out there and navigate your way through the industry.” 

Stephen Foster, Key Account Manager at John Deere dealership, Hutcheon & Pearce, led last year’s recruitment of the Women in Turf volunteers and said Ms Deehan’s progression was a testament to the long-term impacts of the program. 

“The most exciting part is seeing where the women go after participating in the program,” Mr Foster said.

“Since the 2023 launch event, we’ve seen Penny move into a management position at a high-profile course, Martyna Synak coordinate a crew of volunteers at the Australian Open, and Annabelle Southall complete her apprenticeship with a growth plan to move into management within the next couple of years. 

“It’s not just something we want to do once to tick a box. We’re really passionate about growing the number of females in the professional turf industry and supporting their long-term success.” 

Mr Foster said this year’s group of volunteers bring a valuable mix of experience. 

“Some of them are very comfortable on the golf course, while others are more accustomed to other aspects of the turf industry, such as landscaping,” he said. 

“All of them will benefit from sharing their unique experiences, knowledge and skillsets with each other. 

“We’re not only trying to further the careers of female greenkeepers, but also open the door for more women to consider the industry. This could be a sliding door moment for some of the volunteers to consider a change into greenkeeping, similar to Lilly Dahtler who found a passion for golf turf management after participating last year.” 

The Women in Turf volunteers will be at Cobram Barooga all week, preparing and maintaining the course for the tournament which concludes on Sunday, 21 January.

They will also attend a VIP luncheon on Thursday to mark the club’s signing of the R&A Women in Golf Charter, signalling its commitment to growing the number of females at all levels of golf. 

Cobram Barooga’s Amy Batten said the club aims to develop a culture that values women’s involvement in every aspect of the sport, from social participation to pursuing a professional career in golf. 

“Cobram Barooga acknowledges the important role community golf clubs play in transforming golf into a sport that is highly engaging, accessible, and fully inclusive for women and girls,” she said.

This year’s Webex Players Series Murray River will be fully green and yellow, with Cobram Barooga having completed a full shed conversion to John Deere equipment. Read the full story here.

Main Photo: Brody Cooper at the inaugural John Deere Women in Turf event at Cobram Barooga Golf Club in 2023