'Greenkeeping Is A Male Dominant Industry But It's Changing Slowly'

We catch up with Siobhan Cusack, Senior Greenkeeper for The Golf Course at Adare Manor, on her career, the industry and working at Adare

'Greenkeeping Is A Male Dominant Industry But It's Changing Slowly'
(Image credit: Performance 54)

We catch up with Siobhan Cusack, Senior Greenkeeper for The Golf Course at Adare Manor, on her esteemed career, the industry and working at Adare

'Greenkeeping Is A Male Dominant Industry But It's Changing Slowly'

What made you get into greenkeeping?

Greenkeeping for me all started with a love for the outdoors, driving machinery and being out in nature. I also had a passion for sciences too and greenkeeping offers you the chance to combine science and the outdoors, so it was an ideal job that seemed to tick all the boxes. Once I got into it, I really began to love creating landscapes, particularly perfectly manicured lawns – it gave me a great sense of achievement in what has been produced from effectively nothing but bare land. It’s sort of just snowballed on from there…

What has your career journey been?

My greenkeeping career began at Nenagh Golf Course here in Ireland, while I studied a FETAC Level 6 in Sportsground Maintenance and Greenkeeping. Once I finished my placement at Nenagh, I decided to undertake a three-year BSc degree in Horticulture at Waterford Institute of Technology which is where I really started to progress.

I sat in on a talk by Mike O’Keeffe of Ohio Turf Programme about a work placement in the USA and the opportunities that it presented to aspiring greenkeepers.

As part of the degree at Waterford, I was already due to undergo a placement year, so following the talk I decided that I wanted to go to the USA, and I was offered a position at Seapines Resort, Hilton Head Island, South Carolina.

Adare Manor from above

At Seapines, I worked on two golf courses whilst I was over there – the Heron and the Ocean Golf Course. All the work was under the guidance of the resort’s superintendent, Jim Cregan and presented so much opportunity to learn from the very best.

Over the year the resort held a number of tournaments, across both the course, and with Harbour Town Golf Course only just down the road, I was able to help out there too whilst they stage two Heritage PGA tournaments.

It was just an amazing year, both professionally and personally. I then came back to Ireland to finish my degree at Waterford and decided to continue with academia through a BSc Hons degree in Land Management, whilst working part time in greenkeeping and turf management at local golf courses  and sports pitches.

Once I finished my year, an opportunity for me to return to the States arose through the Ohio Turf Programme, so I jumped at the chance.

I worked at the Ohio State University turf research facility in Columbus, Ohio where I was exposed to some of the industry’s top researchers and leading agronomists.

It was a real insight into holistic turf management, from fungicides, herbicides, growth regulators, soil damage and weed grasses – there is far more to it than people realise!

During my time in Columbus, I volunteered at weekends with the famous Huntington Park Baseball Stadium, home of the Columbus Clippers an affiliate of the Cleveland Indians, and also gave up my time to work at the Mapfre Stadium, now Historic Crew Stadium, which staged MLS games and Columbus Crew SC.

A general view of the Historic Crew Stadium in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images)

Excitingly, the Mapfre stadium also hosted international soccer games – so it was quite interesting preparing the grass for some of the world’s best players.

Being part of the team to stage these events for the players at the pinnacle of the game was something I really enjoyed, and now, being at Adare, it is something I am able to continue to pursue every day as we inch closer to the 2027 Ryder Cup.

One of the biggest projects I was involved with was at the Ohio State University Football Stadium, where I worked as part of large team to transform the pitch from a synthetic surface to a natural grass pitch for five days. The surface had to be perfect, with no room for error, as the stadium was gearing up to welcome PSG versus Real Madrid as part of a pre-season tour.

After 18 months and an epic experience I decided that it was time to come back to Ireland and I began working for Richard Hayden at Hayden TurfCare for 6 months.

We worked on feasibility testing, problem solving exciting pitches, advising on pitch maintenance and even construction.

It wasn’t long after that role that I was offered the opportunity to work at Adare Manor and come full circle back closer to home.

How did your role at Adare Manor come about?

The finishing hole at Adare Manor

I came to Adare Manor as a Senior Greenkeeper in 2017, which is sort of towards the end of the Tom Fazio redesign, when focus had turned to the finer work of maintaining the grass. Straight away I was busy, as we began to prepare for the reopening, and I supported the team in ensuring the grass was consistently maintained to the very highest of standards.

This set the tone for next few years! To date I have been exposed across the course and all aspects of the turfgrass maintenance. There is never a dull day, and the job varies from day to day immensely – it’s a special place.

I joined Adare Manor near the end of the ‘growing in’ stage of the redesign, so to be honest I wasn’t exposed to a lot of the process. Although I did visit the previous incarnation of the course, that was over ten years ago – and I guess much has changed since!

Is it fair to say that greenkeeping is a male dominated industry? Why is that and what is it like being a woman in that environment?

Yes, greenkeeping is a male dominant industry but I think this is changing slowly. Increasingly we are seeing more and more female greenkeepers on the course, and I think it is great.

There is this preconception with greenkeeping that it is very physically demanding and laborious, but it is not always the case – especially with the integration of smart systems and the level of technology designed into courses these days. Though, that’s not to say it is an easy role!

I have been fortunate across my time in turf management to have worked in some amazing teams and be accompanied by some wonderfully entertaining and clever peers. Really, I have been spoilt by great comradery and that is true more than ever at Adare Manor. We are all working towards one goal and every day are motivated to offer superior levels of presentation to produce an experience like no other for our members and guests.

What’s life like working at Adare Manor?

The 1st green

We have an amazing team here at Adare. Every day we work to achieve the highest calibre of playing surfaces and set the standard of presentation and guest experience. Our collective mindset is to make Adare Manor the very best golf courses in the world, so there is always plenty to do as we strive to continue to exceed expectations.

It stems down from being motivated, and we all work hard to create that wow factor for our visitors, and when we achieve that we know our work is done for the day… before we start again the next day!

Elliott Heath
Senior Staff Writer

Elliott Heath is our Senior Staff Writer and has been with Golf Monthly since early 2016 after graduating with a degree in Sports Journalism. He manages the Golf Monthly news, features, courses and travel sections as well as our large Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages. Elliott has interviewed some huge names in the golf world including Sergio Garcia, Thomas Bjorn, Bernd Wiesberger and Scotty Cameron as well as a number of professionals on the DP World and PGA Tours. He covered the 2022 Masters from Augusta National as well as four Open Championships on-site including the 150th at St Andrews. He has played 35 of our Top 100 golf courses, with his favourites being both Sunningdales, Woodhall Spa, Old Head and Turnberry. He has been obsessed with the sport since the age of 8 and currently plays at West Byfleet Golf Club in Surrey, where his handicap index floats anywhere between 2-6. His golfing highlights are making albatross on the 9th hole on the Hotchkin Course at Woodhall Spa, shooting an under-par round, playing in the Aramco Team Series on the Ladies European Tour and making his one and only hole-in-one at the age of 15 - a long time ago now!

Elliott is currently playing:

Driver: Titleist TSR4

3 wood: TaylorMade SIM2 Max

Hybrid: TaylorMade SIM Max

Irons: Mizuno MP5 4-PW

Wedges: Cleveland RTX ZipCore 50, 54, 58

Putter: Odyssey White Hot OG #5

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x