Meet the TOP Female Greenskeepers Who Are Inspiring Others in the US and their Home Countries

Oct. 12, 2021
TOP interns Andrea Chávez of Mexico (top left), Zineb Alouani of Morocco (top right), and Nancy HiuLam Chim of Hong Kong (bottom) are advancing in their field as they advance women’s representation.

By Jason Owens

This story could start with a heartwarming image of Andrea Chávez of Mexico seeing a bear on her bike ride to work or her experiencing falling snow for the first time during her internship at The Broadmoor, the historic resort in Colorado Springs, CO.  But female greenskeepers like Chávez are almost as rare as snow in the tropics.  This story is about three women who are training at golf courses in Ohio or other states, thanks to the Turfgrass Internship, one of several internship programs of The Ohio Program (TOP) that send Americans abroad and bring internationals to the US. 

Nancy HiuLam Chim joined the TOP program in May, interning at Scioto Country Club in Columbus taking part in a major golf course restoration there under golf course architect Andrew Green (a man aptly named as Andrew is the patron saint of Scotland, where modern golf began, and is still played on the greens at St Andrews).  Green’s team is restoring the course along the lines of its original architect, Donald Ross, who designed or redesigned more than 400 US golf courses throughout the first half of the 20th century.  Chim notes “The whole golf course restoration project has opened my mind. Seeing greens, tees and bunkers being torn up, followed by careful shaping through the use of GPS, lasers and a wide range of precision equipment, all new irrigation and drainage lines, as well as sodding, seeding, fertilizing and a hand-watering process, a course has come to life again!” Chim is moving in October to Harbour Town Golf Links on Hilton Head Island, SC, closer to the oceanside climate of her native Hong Kong. 

Zineb Alouani is interning at Hyde Park Golf Club in Cincinnati.  She states, “The work is like going to the gym every day for 8 to 10 hours non-stop.” She welcomes acquiring the manual skills and management knowledge necessary for achieving her goal of becoming the first female golf course superintendent in her country, Morocco.  She reports having faced attitudes there prevalent in many regions and eras – either that physical labor is men’s work or that the machines that aid in such work were beyond her ability to operate.  She sums up, “In Morocco, all the Superintendents and Greenkeepers are men, so, being a Moroccan woman greenkeeper is unheard of for them.”

Only around 4% of the US’s Sports Turf Managers Association (STMA) members are women.  We are pleased that these interns and TOP are serving as sports turf role models to the women of the US, as well as those in their own countries.