Helping motivated Greenkeepers and Turfgrass manager to develop themselves and live their dream is in our genes.
Over the years we have developed close relationship with Mike O’Keeffe and the OSU program as well as work placement at international venues supplemented with formal education.
Some months ago, we met Zineb Alouani in Morocco, Zineb expressed her desired to continue learning and gaining more experience in the turfgrass management. After introducing Zineb to the OSU program and after some successful interviews, Zineb was offered a position.
We have asked Zineb to tell us more about her, who she is, what is her background and also to tell her about the first few months working in the USA.
I am from Morocco Country, North of Africa. I was born in an agricultural family environment so the choice of my university was not a coincidence; I had the conviction and the faith in myself that I would be absolutely admitted taking a course in the field of Agronomy.
After graduation, I started working in 36 Holes Golf Course in Morocco as an Agronomic Engineer in Landscape Architecture and Greenkeeping, and this was the beginning of my career in Greenkeeping and Turfgrass Management on Golf Courses.
People always asked me how I ended up working in greenkeeping, and it wasn’t easy for me in the beginning to explain to people that is my passion and that’s what I really want.
In Morocco, all the Superintendents and Greenkeepers are men, so, being a Moroccan Woman Greenkeeper is unheard-of for them.
However, I was not ready for what to expect. Certainly, I was aware that it is a men’s job, and that I would have to face a team work with a high number of men, and I said to myself that won’t be a problem for me since I want it passionately.
But, as a woman, the reality wasn’t as simple as I thought, working with a team of 50 male gardeners on a 36 holes course was not as easy as I thought it was. In addition, being a young woman freshly graduated, I had to prove myself to gain the respect and consideration of all the staff. Speaking fluently French and English has helped me taking on responsibilities with intermediary role between the management and the staff.
During those years working in Morocco,I had the opportunity to work closely and learn from some renowned turfgrass expert such as Sylvain Duval, Simon Doyle, Patrick Fray and Didier Comte, just to name a few.
The American Dream
Before meeting with Sylvain Duval, I had no idea about the Ohio State University program for turf managers. After finding out what the program was about, I realized it was exactly what I needed to continue developing myself and gain practical experience.
Being a part of this program is giving me the opportunity to learn as much as I possibly can, learn new skills and give me the foundations needed as I work towards my goal of becoming the First Women Golf Course Superintendent in Morocco. I also see it as a great life experience, working with people from different cultures and backgrounds.
Mowing tees at Hyde Park Golf & Country Club
After going through weeks of paperwork, including an interview at the American ambassy in Morocco, I finally had everything needed to travel to America to start living my dream.
I flew to Washington first, then to Cincinnati on 1st may, 2021 and was welcomed by Golf Course Superintendent Pat O’Brien and his wife at the airport. I could not hope for a better start coming all over from Morocco and for my first time in United States of America.
My internship at the Hyde Park Golf and Country Club through the Ohio State University Program had now started.
Arrival & The first few days in USA.
When I first met with Pat O’Brien and his wife at the airport with a big smile, it was this moment that I knew I would be welcomed and loved during my stay in America.
A good place to start is by setting up a comfortable personal space (bedroom) for any intern student that will stay in a foreign country. At the beginning, it can be difficult to adjust to a new living situation with people and culture you don’t know. So offering me a room that is warm, comfortable, and inviting was a great way to show me that they care about my welfare during my stay at Hyde Park Golf and country Club.
Hard work but enjoying every minutes.
Indeed, the first weeks after my arrival in this new country was the most challenging for me because of the sheer amount of newness that surrounds. From tasting new foods, facing new weather, my body was challenging the transition process to get used to this entire environment.
Beside, working long hours in early start was the most challenging part of all of it, so much around you is new, and learning to navigate your newfound situation will come with its challenges.
First tasks and work on the golf course.
My first tasks in my training were Bunker Maintenance and Walk Mowers (Tees, Nursery), all about physical work, the thing that I was waiting for but didn’t expect that it will be hard to maintain. With that said, golf course maintenance workers should possess the same qualities as other maintenance technicians. They should be physically fit, detail-oriented, able to work under pressure, and skilled at repairing routine assets and I am so proud to be able to maintain this routine of hard work and be able to repeat the tasks in the rules of the game.
Looking back after a few months.
It wasn’t easy for me at the beginning to hold it firm physically and mentally at my training due to the hard work and long hours 7 days a week, it was like going to the gym every day for 8 to 10 hours no stop, but I knew that the hardest part will be on the first months because I did cross the big step that I fear the worst. I didn’t give up and continue to work harder than before despite all the tiredness. My mental strength helped me a lot during all this month’s thanks to my patience, persistence and especially to have believed in my biggest dream ever, simply, believing in me that I will achieve my goal.
Learning how to do things to the American way and standard.
According to the history, no one can deny that America is the best place to learn the standard ways of golf course maintenance in the world.
Golf course maintenance teams start their day at the crack of dawn, so they have time to prepare their course for golfers with little disruption. Working early, enables them to operate at peak efficiency. For example, on a typical morning, golf course maintenance workers mow enough turf to cover more than 25 football fields. In addition to mowing, staff members change hole locations, move tee markers, rake bunkers, clean up debris, and may irrigate select areas. After their morning work, a second round of tasks begin and we continue working hard.
Making rapid progress from raking bunkers to mowing greens.
My first task at my training was Bunker Maintenance (Add sand, cleaning, hand rake …), this task helped me to gain confidence in myself and especially be able to work both alone and under supervision. I learned that I also need to be good with my hands and pay attention to details. Besides, I was practicing the Walk Mower on the nursery before moving to the Greens the thing that helped me to develop my skills in a timely way.
Learning something new every day.
I was given the opportunity to learn many things in a short period. I was assigned to maintain bunkers, Mow tees, Nursery, Tees Divots, Brush greens, Weeding, Putting Holes cups, Sod Work …
Using different Machines: Greens Walk Mower, Tees Walk Mower, Golf Hole Cutter, Rotary Mower, Fly Mower, Misc Weedeat / Brush Cutter, Groomer Brush Greens, Compactor, Sod Cutter, Dew Drag Fairway Clippings, Backpack Blower, Buffalo Blower …
Next step my goals.
Experience is often the best way to advance as a golf-course superintendent, and this is what I am looking for, gaining more practical experience.
I didn’t expect I will learn that fast in a short period and building my skills in greenkeeping in that way and the best thing is that I still have all the summer to spend here learning more things related to the agronomic side.
My first goal was to practice as I was not given this chance before, but my real goals are to develop my skills that I used to work with in Morocco to be the best possible superintendent. Proficient levels of oral and written understanding are necessary as well. Leadership, business and organizational skills for creating reports, making schedules and efficiently assigning tasks. Comfort with quick mathematical calculations, knowledge of safety practices and interpersonal skills are often demanded of the top golf-course maintenance superintendent.
Our next appointment
I will continue to give you some news from America before the end of 2021 and before moving south for more exciting new experiences. I hope you have enjoyed reading about my experience and please feel free to contact directly with me should you have any questions.