I ask Mary Boyle, the certified golf course superintendent at Shadow Ridge Country Club in Omaha, Nebraska, if she has ever had any problems with idiot sexist males in the industry.
I don’t want to ask her this question, I must admit. It’s a very personal question, especially considering that Boyle doesn’t know me from Adam. I almost feel like I’m being a bit TMZ-ish.
“I knew that was going to be a question you asked,” Boyle replies. “But you can ask me anything.”
Boyle, being a woman in a man’s world – when it comes to this profession, that is – says she doesn’t get tired of the question and expects it from time to time, especially when she knows her gender represents about 3 percent of all superintendents. What I’m happy to report, on behalf of all women and men in the industry, is that Boyle says any sexism, at least for her, has been a non-issue in the industry for many years.
Good for Boyle, who has been the superintendent at Shadow Ridge since 2003. Hopefully, other female superintendents and course crew workers can say the same.
But Boyle admits she was aware of what she was getting into when she began working on a golf course back in high school in Mason City, Iowa, when she was 17. Of course she noticed that men, who were bigger and stronger than her, surrounded her.
“But I kept up with them … I kept up with everything they did. I did just as much work as they did,” she says.
Boyle wanted to prove herself – and she did. She proved her point, whether she had to or not. The bottom line is that Boyle, whether man, woman or Martian, is clearly capable of being a successful superintendent. That’s why she’s been at Shadow Ridge for going on 13 years.
So fast-forward to now. We all know that the woman in the golf course maintenance industry story has been told before. Some of us, even women, might be tired of it.
The fact is, the 54-year-old Boyle loves golf course maintenance for the same reasons her male counterparts do.
“It’s about the freedom of being outside, doing the work and being able to look back to see what you have accomplished,” she says.
Boyle is married and is the mother of two children. Her kids are older now, but Boyle, just like male superintendents, had to learn how to balance career and family. After Boyle’s second child was born, it was decided that her husband, Greg, would stay home with the kids.
“When you think about this job – and how much time it takes to do it in the summer – it was comforting to know my kids were home with their dad,” she says. “There were times when I missed out on things, like going boating. I can’t say it was easy, but it made it easier knowing they were with their dad.”
It has gotten to the point where Boyle doesn’t think much about being in the minority. Oftentimes, especially at local association meetings, she’s the only woman in the room. But most don’t care, especially Boyle.
“I know what I know and I do what I do, and I feel comfortable with that,” she says.
Some women might consider Boyle’s story a victory for their gender. That’s cool, but Boyle would rather not make such a big deal out of it. “It’s just something I enjoy doing,” she says.