Green Start Academy: An Extraordinary Experience

by • 6 years ago

I first came across an application for the Green Start Academy via twitter. I knew at that moment I wanted to turn over every rock for possibilities to further my career and professional development, so I applied.

This was an extraordinary experience that I will, without a doubt, carry throughout my career.  I am currently living in a small town in Southern Alberta, Medicine Hat.  This is where I have called home for the past 2 years raising my beautiful daughter Ruby and working as the Assistant Golf Course Superintendent at Connaught Golf Club. One of my dreams is to become an Elite Superintendent.

I first came across an application for the Green Start Academy via twitter.  I knew at that moment I wanted to turn over every rock for possibilities to further my career and professional development, so I applied.  My Superintendent, Dustin Zdan texted me on August 13th – “Expect a phone call, won’t say anything more till u get the call!” I thought I won the lotto instead it was a trip to Raleigh, North Carolina to attend The Green Start Academy.  I was ecstatic, it was better than winning the lotto!

Being totally prepared a week in advance, I finally set off for my flight to North Carolina.  I have never been to this part of the States it was incredibly exciting, my eyes were wide open the entire way there, a total of 6 hours of travel time seemed to pass in mere minutes.  As I departed the gates at Raleigh Airport there was a man holding a sign with the Green Start Academy Logo – now that is a welcome!

GSA began with a welcome dinner at the famous BBQ place in town called The Pit.  Here I introduced myself to every attending delegate, presenter, sponsor, and organizer. It was amazing to learn where other people were from and their history of experience.  Everyone comes from a variety of walks-of-life which made for great discussions.

Over the next couple of days they were filled with presentations including tours of the John Deere Turf Care facility and the Bayer Training Center.  The focus of GSA is Leadership training and preparing yourself to take the next steps to become a Superintendent.  Each candidate was selected by the Superintendents panel with a written essay and a copy of their resume, each were chosen based on their experience and enthusiasm to be a part of an exclusive mentoring opportunity.

Leadership training was an experience all on its own.  With presenters like Bob Baldassari – PGA Senior Director of Player Development and Dr. Bob Milligan – Senior Consultant, Dairy Strategies, LLC & Emeritus, Cornell University. These men talked about Vision – Personal development and Building Relationships.  Bob Baldassari talked about how to involve more females on the course.  Growing the game of golf is ever changing.  Women are becoming more involved with the decisions on when and where to golf because they are the schedulers and accountants of the family and they decide where the family time will be spent. Basically get the Pro-Shop involved with prioritizing time around the female members, as they will more likely schedule time for events.  Also, he wanted to add that hiring females on the course would increase production because women tend to be more job detailed orientated (but we already know that), I was happy to hear this come from Mr. Baldassari.  Personal development is key to succeed in any job.  The way you people manage is especially important because people who work for you in the future will either make you or break you.  A few things that I was able to take away from Dr. Milligan presentation were developing trusting relationships.  Job satisfaction will affect job performance, increasing strategies such as becoming a better listener, engaging your employee with daily tasks and setting realistic goals and, recognize their job performance with positive and redirected feedback.  I appreciated these talks; they were both thought provoking and gave me some great directional and motivational ideas to bring forth to my course and future courses.

We had group rotations with the Superintendents Panel and each of the 5 had some influential ideas of networking to present to us. Ed Ibarguen and Billy Weeks talked about creating the leadership bridge for teamwork and success.  Chris Carson’s presentation was how to increase your chances of making the step from Assistant to Superintendent.   I will forever remember these words of wisdom:

Find what you’re uncomfortable with and go with it. – Pat Finlen, Interim GM at The Olympics Club

My priorities are:  my Faith, my family, my friends, and then my work. – Billy Weeks, Golf Course Superintendent of The Duke University Golf Club

Separating me from the crowded room of men wasn’t hard to do as I was the only selected female assistant superintendent.  I was humbled by the opportunity to stand with the talented group of individuals.  I have come away with a re-energized charge to go forward in my career as a Superintendent and be a role model for future women in the turf industry.

I’d like to thank John Deere Turf and Bayer Crop Science, the panelist Ken Magnum, Chris Condon, Bryan Stromme, Pat Finlen, Bob Farren, presenters Bob Baldassari, Dr. Bob Milligan, Ed Ibarguen, Billy Weeks, Chris Carson and the outdoor sessions with Mike Pergram, Ed Loeffler, Mike Newnam, Dr. Rutledge and organizers for an amazing successful mentoring program.

Extraordinary journeys begin when you least expect them. – Andrea Li



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