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"I want to stay and grow here." -Jenna Soranno, Gulph Mills Golf Club

Golf has been a part of Jenna's life since she could hold a club. Through the ups and downs, golf has always been present in her life, even when she went away from it for a brief time. Jenna speaks about the many possibilities and roles that are in the golf industry and that you should never settle for a role that isn't right for you.

Here is her story:

What is your current position in the golf industry?

I am the director of ladies golf and player development at Gulph Mills Golf Club in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania.

Describe your journey in the golf industry.

I went to Florida Gulf Coast for PGM. I didn't even know PGM was a real thing. I had no interest at all in doing any of this. I wanted to play golf in college and was going to major in pre-law or psychology or something like that. I just started looking around and found it and basically was like, "Oh my god, I need to do this."

My first internship was at Philadelphia Country Club, which was awesome. After my second year, I had a really bad internship experience and almost left the industry completely. I kind of just did my classes and stuck with the program because it's kind of hard to transfer between PGM and something else.

So, I picked up a double major in legal studies and I started doing that. I worked at a women's shelter in Florida, focusing on domestic violence and human trafficking and all that kind of stuff. And that kind of brought me back into wanting to work in the golf industry because when I was placing these women back into the world, they needed something that they could do. They had their whole lives taken from them and I was thinking, where is a safe place? Where is a place that I know they're going to be able to work and people are going to take care of them and they're safe from harm? What's going to enrich their life and how do we reincorporate them into the world?

I knew the one thing that I love so much and keeps me level, whether I'm happy, sad, or upset in any way, that's golf for me. So, I was like, "Oh my god. Let me set them up with golf courses." And even if they have no golf skills, they can do some kind of job at a country club. I arranged all the shuttles back and forth and a lot of them started picking up golf, so I started doing clinics and all sorts of things. Got a couple of them into college, which is amazing. So, I somehow kind of figured out a way to intertwine the legal aspect with the golf aspect.

Then I graduated and decided I was going to work at a law firm and not do golf. That lasted a couple months. And then I realized I need to be outside and I need to be helping people. I took a job at a club around me in Philadelphia and then I worked there for about a year and then a really awesome position opened up a Gulph Mills, so I took that last year and here I am.

When were you first introduced to golf?

I started playing when I was three. Yes, I had that dad. I was taking lessons from the time I literally held a club in my hand. I've been playing my whole life. I did the Philly Junior Tour and played for my high school and all that stuff, but I went through a phase of hating it so much, just because it was forced on me so much and there were no girls to play with.

What's your typical day-to-day?

It's a little bit of everything. I do Operation 36 programs, which take up a lot of my time. I'll get there probably around 6:30ish, I'll teach a clinic from 9:30 to 10:30, I set up tournaments, do the merchandising, the ladies events, basically if a woman needs something I deal with it. And then kind of on the back end doing budgeting and paying bills and just maintaining the calendar. Then I'll go back outside and teach my 4:30 to 5:30 clinic, then go in, wrap up for the day, send some emails and go home. So, it's like a really good mix between tons of clinics, private lessons, small group lessons, ladies tournaments, just all of it.

What's the most rewarding part of your job?

The best part of my job is meeting women that are afraid to go out and are nervous about it, and just making them feel happy and comfortable and then when they say, "I think I'm going to sign up for this" or "I really want to start playing" or "I just made a friend and she wants me to play and I'm so excited." It's just showing them our world, you know?

What's the most challenging part of your job?

Being taken seriously. At least where I am, it's still heavily a man's world, a very traditional place. Just breaking that barrier and showing men that they're allowed to take lessons from us and it doesn't make them less manly. I know what I'm talking about and I'm able to help them. Just being treated with respect I'd say is the hardest part.

Jenna and I talked about the many experiences we have had where we answer the phone and the person on the other end of the phone asks for a pro, making the assumption that we aren't one, likely because of our gender. The best part about these conversations is that the thing they need help with ends up being something that doesn't actually require a pro, like making a tee time. Although we can laugh about these experiences and not let them bother us, it is still important to recognize that these assumptions speak to the greater challenges and barriers that women can face in the industry.

What are your future aspirations in this industry?

Pretty similar to what I do now. I'm on the foundation committee and the player development committee for my section, which is really cool. My one big goal was to hold a leadership position within my section and I finally got it. I want to continuously, from now on, hold some sort of role within my section because I feel like we can just help out with such a wider range of people by doing that, and not only just at our facility. I want to teach a lot and just become a really good teacher and run the ladies program. I just want to, you know, keep doing my thing. I love it. I just want to get better at it. I definitely feel like it took a little while and it took a lot of hard work, but I finally am at a place where I'm seeing that I can have a home and I want to stay and grow here.

How do you think that the golf industry benefits from having women in leadership positions?

It benefits so much. I think it's so important for young children to see women in these positions. There are women who maybe might want to be in the industry one day or don't know that there even are female pros. I didn't know you could be involved professional until I accidentally stumbled upon it in the college process. I just think it makes women, it makes children, it makes men happier because they realize that they're at a well-rounded place. It changes the whole atmosphere from just a club to a family environment.

How do you think we can get more women working in these different leadership roles in the golf industry?

People just don't know how cool and fun and exciting it is. And people don't know that you can have non-traditional roles. I think that's the most important thing because, I'm not going to lie, I do not have a traditional and I don't want a traditional role. I do not want to be a head pro at all whatsoever. Like, no, thank you. I want to be a mom and I want to have a family and be able to do that. People don't want to necessarily be the head pro that works 70 hours a week or more. I don't think people know that there are different options. Ladies, we need to be empowered and we shouldn't settle for jobs that are going to make us unhappy. I think what we need to do is show people that we exist.

What advice or words of inspiration would you give to young women just starting their career in the golf industry?

Know who you are and how valuable you are and just keep working at it, because as soon as you realize your worth, everybody else is going to realize that too. And this industry is so amazing. And especially now, we have Suzy, and this is where we're at now, and there's a spot for us. So, if you just have faith in yourself, and don't give up, and don't be afraid to state your demands, and don't be afraid to reject jobs. Pick the job where you get to do what you want and what's going to make you happy because that's where you fit in and you'll just grow from there.

Thank you so much to Jenna (@jgolf3) for sharing your story! Remember to follow @golf.hers and subscribe below!

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