I met Martha last month at the PGA Show. By pure chance, our meeting with Stitch was doubled up with hers. Within seconds, I knew Martha was a head professional or general manager at a course without even seeing her name tag. Her presence was strong and filled with energy that I could see from across the table. Before we ran off to another meeting, I very quickly rambled off my project idea (which wasn't even fully formed yet) and Martha was reaching for her business card before I even finished and said, "I'd love to be a part of that. Let me know how I can help you." And I'm so thankful she did.
Here is her story:
What is your current position in the golf industry?
Head golf professional at a private upscale club and I've been there for a year. Before that I was a general manager and head golf professional at another private club up in upstate New York at Cortland Country Club.
When did you first get introduced to golf?
When I was four.
Yeah, my parents moved into a new house in a new city and it backed up to a private club. And my dad was a golfer. So right from the minute we moved, he joined the club and had me out there kind of whacking balls. He's the one that taught me how to play.
When did you know you wanted to work in the golf industry?
It was after college. Throughout college I was a biology major and I just, you know, wanted to work in the medical industry. Then I packed up my bags one day and moved out to Colorado from New York just kind of out of the blue. I did some soul searching and I said, "You know what, this is exactly what I want to do."
Describe your journey throughout the golf industry.
I moved out west, many, many moons ago and that's where I passed my Playing Ability Test. Throughout that journey, I worked at a municipal, I worked at a high-end resort, I worked at private and I grew up at private. So I kind of knew after dealing with everything that I dealt with that I wanted to be in the private sector. I was a first assistant at a lot of good golf courses. And then I got married and moved to Alberta, Canada, and became Canadian PGA. At that time, I was still a first assistant but I kind of put that career path on hold for a little bit but after a divorce, I moved back home to New York. I took a one year leave of absence from the PGA so I could figure my life out. And during that time, a head pro job kind of fell in my lap. And so I took it. And that was probably 10 years ago. So that kind of started me on the path of being a head professional.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
The people, the membership, the relationships with the membership.
I should mention that there was no hesitation with that answer.
What are some of the challenges you face on a daily basis or that you have faced in your journey through the golf industry?
I am a very strong woman who was raised by a very strong woman, so it's not like I ever let comments or anything bother me, but I'd say being a woman in this business has been a challenge. You know, I feel like we've had to work harder than our counterparts. And, I'm not complaining. I mean, it's just it's kind of the nature of the beast. I'd say one of my challenges is having people taking seriously that I am who I am in the PGA and that I am a head professional. I meet people on planes who are like, "What do you do?" And I say, "Well, I'm a head golf professional," and they're like, "No, no you're not." So then I'm like, "Well, here's my business card, here we go again." And I would say it happens once a week that people don't believe that I'm a golf professional.
And you know what, I still love it. Like I said, I was raised by a strong woman and you know, you have to be outgoing and I'm very, I'm not gonna say sarcastic, but I love to have a good time. I love energy and I love to keep things light. And I just really think that's kind of helped me along the way that I don't take my life too seriously. The comments that come your way, you just have to, you know, water off a duck's back, you just have to let it go.
How do you think the golf industry benefits from having women in leadership positions?
Well, I just think it's more inviting and more inclusive. I just think it's amazing since I've started there, the women are just like, "This is awesome, we can't wait to take classes, we love her energy." It's nice to come in and always see a smile in the golf shop. And you know, I just think that it just brings a more nurturing environment. I hug my members and I find those relationships very important. But I would say that it's just making women feel more accepted.
How do you think we can get more women working in the golf industry?
My goal this fall or in the spring, if there are invitationals nearby, like college invitationals at Portland State or any of these local colleges, I want to go there and say to the coaches, "I just need five minutes. Get your teams together. I just need five minutes." I'm going to tell them what there is in the golf business because I think when you look at college golfers, they don't know. They just think we fold shirts or that we teach, which is fine, but we're so much more now. We're general managers, we're head professionals, you can go into the fitness aspects, you can go into the nutrition aspects, and I think just reaching out to the people that play that don't have a career yet and just letting them know that the world is your oyster in this business will make a difference. I just think we have to educate women, even at the high school level, that there are so many opportunities for them in the golf industry.
What are your future aspirations in the golf industry?
I would say I want to continue to work until I die because I love it. I really want to still be a head professional. I'd love to eventually move down to Florida where I don't have to deal with so many of the weather aspects because that's pretty stressful, as you know. But I love it and I can see myself being down [in Florida] or in a situation where, you know, I'm still at Skaneateles Country Club, but they'll let me come down here and just teach or do merchandise or run tournaments or just help out. I've told people down here that if they need help in the winter, my god, I'll work for free, I don't even care. That's how much I love the business. I love being around people, you know?
If you had any advice or words of inspiration for young women beginning their careers in the golf industry, what would it be?
You know what, just to kind of buckle up. It's a journey, but it's definitely worth it. And there really are not a lot of occupations or positions where you can love going to work every day. Whether people know it or not, we're a hot commodity. People are reaching out to me all the time looking for females. If they can just put the work in, they'll reap the benefits.
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