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Bri Kenny

Manager of Environmental Science, Troon Headquarters, Scottsdale, AZ

Q: When and where was your first golf experience and what do you remember most about it?

A: First time I was on a golf course was about 5 years ago when I was at a new hire orientation at Troon Country Club in Scottsdale, AZ. They took us out on a golf cart and that was the very first time I saw a golf course in person. I had a negative view of golf courses at the time, and I remember that tour made think there was a lot more to them than I had realized. That started me down the path of learning more about golf course maintenance and the ecological value of golf courses.

The first time I actually golfed a full 18-holes was just last year. I usually tag along with my boyfriend when he golfs and bring my camera and binoculars to do my own thing. This time I left both of those at home to focus and play the full round. However, a family of Harris’s hawks were flying around the trees above us at Hole 7. All I could think about is how badly I wanted to watch them and how I wished I had my camera since they are one of my favorite desert birds. I don’t really remember the golfing part after that, except on one hole I swung at the ball on a fairway and missed seven times in a row. I ended up with a 125 as my first score and have only gone out one other time after that.

Q: What excited you about the golf industry and brought you into the business?

A: Originally, I took a waitressing job at Troon Country Club in Scottsdale, AZ because they offered scholarships for full-time employees. That scholarship would cover the cost of my master’s program, so I only took the job for that reason. However, it was the course tour during the new hire orientation that excited me. I always pictured golf courses as giant patches of turfgrass. During that tour, I saw so much desert habitat that I had to start questioning the assumptions I made about golf courses. I realized golf courses could serve as valuable greenspace in urban landscapes and I wanted to explore that more. At the same time, the golf course superintendent, Seth Miller, and golf course horticulturist, Donna Poor, were very friendly and welcoming. It was the combination of seeing the potential of golf courses and interacting with thoughtful and intelligent staff that changed my opinion of the industry to the point of wanting to pursue a career in it.

Q: As a female, what do you do in your day-to-day job that helps carry the message about this being a great place for other females to work?

My day-to-day job includes a lot of golf course site visits and I spend most of the time with the golf course maintenance staff. There are not a lot of females in that side of the industry. If I am on a visit and I see another female, I make a point to talk to them, discuss their goals, and make sure they are aware of opportunities available for them. Now that we have a “Women in Turf” collective going, I can also connect them with other women in the industry so they can have a community and see the different paths and options within the industry.

I think a key thing is to remember that I can represent the industry in any part of my day. This is an often overlooked or undervalued means of carrying a message. Whether I am having a conversation with someone on a plane, making a post on social media, or talking to our collaborators outside the industry, I have an opportunity to share the message with others because I am a living example of it. I try to recognize this as a responsibility and that helps me remember to make the most of the opportunities that arise.

Q: What do you think the golf industry should be doing differently to attract females into the golf business?

A; For careers, I think we need to place a greater emphasis on reaching out to local schools and connecting with organizations related to the industry (like Future Farmers of America for the Agronomy side).  It is something the industry is starting to do but it needs to be more common and consistent. I also think it would be important to have a social media presence. I say this as someone who is not great at social media so I recognize the difficulty, but I think it’s something we need to figure out. If that’s where people are spending their time, then our industry should be there sharing stories. I’ve put that on my list to improve on this year.

Q: What is one female mentor you look up to and what words of wisdom or actions did she do to help you become better at your job?

A: Jamie Cochran of Echelon Front. I once asked her a question about how to earn respect and trust, being a younger female working with mostly older men. It is not something I was overly worried about, but it is something you notice so I wanted to hear her advice. Jamie has been in similar situations many times before.  She said, “I focus on delivering.” Therefore, instead of getting distracted by the dynamics between age, gender, etc., I simply focus on what the team needs and deliver on every promise made. It is simple once you think about it, but I just needed to hear from her for it to sink in. I have found that applies all over from personal to professional.

 Q: If you could play with any three women in a foursome for golf, who would they be (dead or alive)?

A; Maria Strandberg (STERF Director), Kate Torgersen (Owner of Environmental Golf Solutions), and Gina Rizzi (President of Radius Sports). These three women are in the same niche as I am in the industry so I think it would be fun to experience a golf course with them with our unique perspectives.

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