Ladies on the Rise: Making Strides in the Golf Industry
In the spirit of celebrating Women’s Golf Day!
Three themes drove the fourth annual Women’s Golf Day held around the world on September 1: engage, empower, and support women and girls through golf. That’s not always easy to do in an industry long dominated by men. But progress is being made. To get a Troon perspective on the state of women in the golf industry, we talked to four company leaders about what still needs to be done and their advice to women interested in a career in golf.
As Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, Ruth Engle is Troon’s highest-ranking female. The atmosphere she encountered after arriving at the company in 2007 was markedly different than what exists today.
“One thing I noticed initially about the industry was a ‘good ole boy’ culture,” she recalled. “Back then, decisions weren’t necessarily made on merit or performance, but rather on relationships. What’s changed that to some degree is just an awakening in the industry that different perspectives can drive performance.”
Engle makes a point of regularly asking Troon leadership why there aren’t more female general managers at companyaffiliated facilities. “I consistently hear that our female GMs are some of the best GMs in the company,” she said. “That’s because they had to fight the good fight to get to the top of the chain. I think you will see that group growing because many women have put themselves in what I call the next level down where they are ready to get promoted into leaderships roles at a more rapid pace than ever before.” Battling misperceptions does remain a challenge, according to Engle.
“When I came to Troon, a lot of people said, ‘Well, she doesn’t understand golf.’ But I’m good at finance and that’s my job. You have to have a position in the company where people want to hear what you have to say. That means doing your homework, seeking out opportunities to make a difference, and delivering above and beyond your individual role so that you’re not waiting for others to ask you to participate at a different level. Put yourself out there and ask for things not traditionally in your scope or your sphere of influence. Just don’t take no for an answer.”
Engle see opportunities for women increasing radically over the next five to 10 years within Troon. “One reason is the need is there,” she said. “At Troon we are filing leadership positions at all levels with talented people regardless of gender or ethnicity. As a leader in the industry, we believe it is incumbent on us to be at the forefront of the efforts to increase inclusivity. Not only is it the right thing to do, it is just the smart business decision. I truly believe that we are positioned to substantially increase female leadership representation across Troon in the coming years.”
Dana Schultz has done just about every job in golf. After playing on the women’s golf team at Texas Christian University in her native Texas, she joined Troon in 1999 and has worked as a merchandise manager, assistant clubhouse manager, director of golf, club manager, and now as the general manager at Champion Hills in western North Carolina since 2018.
“I think there’s a higher level of respect for women now than when I started,” she said. “Or maybe it’s a sense of knowing that people are in their jobs for a reason, and you don’t have to go around them to find what you might think is a better answer.” Playing with members at her club has had a huge impact on the way she is perceived. “Once people know your background and where you are coming from, that really makes a difference,” she said. “Plus, you created a better relationship than you had with them a month earlier. It gives you more credibility at the end of the day.”
Serving as a role model is a responsibility Schultz welcomes.
“I enjoy relating to the high school and college students who work in outside operations to let them know that is where I started, and if this is something you want to do for the rest of your life, the opportunities are there. I think it makes a difference for them to see it really can happen if they want to make a career in the golf industry.”
For Colorado native Ellie Sick, an internship at Troon headquarters in Scottsdale cemented her interest in working in the industry. In 2017 she became a tournament coordinator at Whirlwind Golf Club in Chandler, Ariz.
“I really did not know what I was getting into, so it was baptism by fire at a 36-hole facility,” she said. “I was at the course before the sun came up and I was leaving after the sun went down. I would unlock the building in the morning and lock it down at night. It takes a lot of hard work. I like to think I have earned the place where I’m at now in my career.”
In early 2019, Sick was promoted to head golf professional at Whirlwind, becoming one of the youngest ever in that position at 24 years old. But she’s far from satisfied.
“I’ve dreamt of one day creating some sort of women’s movement within golf to make sure they’re not afraid to sit at the table in a room full of men and speak their minds,” she said. “If you have questions, don’t be afraid to ask. It takes a lot of courage and you can’t really train someone to do that, but you have to dig deep within yourself and find the courage to do it.”
After being named the company’s first-ever female director of golf in 1998 at Tamarron Resort in Colorado, Laura Scrivner has since served as general manager at clubs in Delaware and Arizona, including currently at the Capital Canyon Club in Prescott. Along the way she has encountered many stereotypes women face in the golf industry
“When I was the general manager at Estrella Mountain Ranch (in Goodyear, Ariz.), I regularly worked behind the counter,” she said. “People would come in wanting to talk to the pro. If he wasn’t in, they would ask to speak to someone in charge. They always anticipated seeing a man in that position. That never bothered me though.”
Scrivner advises women and men interested in becoming a general manager to expand their knowledge base.
“Most of the young people now who work at a golf club and want to be a general manager have little to no knowledge of operations outside of the department that they work in,” she said. “You need take it upon yourself to broaden your knowledge of all club operations. You have to branch out. And there’s not a handbook that tells you how to do it. You just have to do it.”