Women & Golf recently spoke to Sophie Bulpitt, Assistant Greenkeeper at The Berkshire Golf Club. We asked about her role and if she would recommend it to other women. Find out what she said…
Tell us why and how you decided to join the greenkeeping industry?
Before starting out in this industry I worked part-time in a bar as well as having a part-time job in primary schools teaching sport. Prior to this I studied business management and criminology, so probably not the expected route to a career as a greenkeeper. From a young age I enjoyed going to work with my grandad, spending time around machinery on farms. From this I established that I wanted a job outdoors that involved using machinery, demanding, yet fun.
After completing an apprenticeship at East Berkshire Golf Club and gaining my NVQ Level 2, I’d found a real passion for the job, and have since self-funded my NVQ Level 3 which I will soon complete. After this I plan to continue to learn in order to become the most well-rounded greenkeeper that I can possibly be.
What do you enjoy about your role?
There are two aspects of this job that I enjoy most. First, it’s the satisfaction of successfully presenting the course to a standard that you’re proud of and seeing golfers enjoying the platform you’ve provided for them to play on. The second is the amazing opportunities to travel around the world through volunteering and tournament preparation. I was recently in the US volunteering at TPC San Antonio for the Valero Texas Open. Having opportunities like this are extremely rewarding and experiences I would recommend to other greenkeepers.
It is still a very male-dominated industry, so how have other greenkeepers and club members received you?
The fact that this is a male dominated industry is something that doesn’t even register with me. It may provide a few extra challenges occasionally, but these are things that I utilise in order to prove my worth and show I’m just as valuable, if not more than others. My only negative experiences so far are from those who haven’t worked with me and they doubt my abilities and how serious I am about pursuing my career. This negativity simply spurs me on to push and prove myself further and show everyone that gender is irrelevant.
You have been selected as a member of the support greenkeeping team at this year’s Open at Royal Portrush. What excites you most about this opportunity?
I’m so happy to have been selected to be part of the BIGGA support team and I’m extremely looking forward to the experience. I’m most looking forward to meeting other like-minded greenkeepers that are also part of the team, and broadening my contacts within the industry. Of course, I am also looking forward to witnessing some of the best golfing talent on such a prestigious course.
Would you recommend this role to other women?
I wouldn’t hesitate in recommending this role to other women, however, I am aware that it isn’t an environment that would suit everyone.
It’s no secret that a large group of men together can be loud and maybe even intimidating to some. So, with this in mind a certain confidence is required in order to be heard and not fade into the background. Despite this, most people don’t have a problem with women working in a role that isn’t usually associated with them, and some of the guys that I’ve had the pleasure of working for and with, have been key in helping me get to where I am today, as well as realising my own potential. Yes, there may be difficulties at times with peoples’ opinions on each other, but that’s no different to what occurs in any other role.
Where do you see yourself within this industry in 5 years time?
I have every intention of making it to the top of the chain one day and that’s why I believe the next five years are key in setting out the foundations for my future career. In five years time I see myself in a first assistant role at the least, and maybe even searching for that deputy role. It’s something I’m confident I can achieve and will keep pushing myself to do so over the next few years.
Do you play golf?
My golfing ability is somewhat basic at present, but I enjoy playing every couple of weeks and I am working hard to improve my game. I’m currently having weekly lessons in order to keep improving as I feel having an understanding of golf and the course from a player’s perspective is a vital tool in becoming a better greenkeeper.