Women’s Golf Month Spotlight: Ginny Smith
In honor of Women’s Golf Month, we are commemorating a woman who has been blazing a trail in the golf industry since she was a teenager. Here’s how she got started, the hurdles she’s met, and how she’s been successful in a male-dominated industry.
What started your interest in the industry?
“It all boils down to my love of playing golf. I have loved golf since my brother introduced me to it when I was 12.”
What was your first job in the golf industry?
“The first job I landed in the industry was on a golf course grounds crew at age 14. The Owner/Superintendent’s wife was not sure about hiring a girl. But after meeting me and seeking advice from colleagues, he thought I could handle the job. I worked there all through high school and college, and after graduating from Purdue with a degree in Turf Management, I became the Superintendent at that same course.”
Did you have any hurdles you needed to overcome?
“Yes. I was 27 years old when I landed my first sales job selling Jacobsen turf equipment. I pulled a 20-foot trailer, and this would shock some customers when I visited. Those same customers would pick my brain with questions as if they were trying to decide if I really knew what I was doing. For instance, I had only been in this position a short time when my Sales Manager asked me to go over paperwork with a customer that just bought several pieces of equipment that had not been delivered yet. I was very familiar with the equipment I was selling because I had grown up with it. When I showed up, the customer continuously asked me easy questions about the equipment he was purchasing. I answered all of them and proved I had the experience to do the job. Eventually, all the people who thought I did not know what I was doing figured out I was here to stay.”
Did you have anyone to look up to in the industry that you attribute your professional success to?
“I have two. I credit the Owner/Superintendent who gave me my first job as the catalyst that pushed me into this business as a career. He taught me a lot, was a pleasure to work for, and took a chance on me when others may not have. I also credit Dan Gamble, who was my Sales Manager at the Jacobsen distributor that hired me for my first sales job, for getting me into the sales side of the golf industry. His boss was absolutely against hiring a woman for equipment sales. But Dan wasn’t. After my interview with Dan, on the advice of a friend, I sat down and typed a thank you letter to him for granting me an interview. Dan appreciated the effort I made with the letter and fought for me. He told his boss, ‘if I made the effort to write a thank you letter, I was going to make the effort to do a good job.’”
What would you say has been the biggest professional win for you?
“Other than that first interview at the Jacobsen distributor, I have never had to interview for a job. Every job that I have had since then I was asked to work there. I attribute this to the fact that I provide my customers with exemplary service, which has therefore given me a good reputation. Most of my customers have stuck with me no matter where I have gone or whom I have worked for. That’s another professional achievement I am proud of.”
What is the biggest lesson you’ve had to learn during your career?
“From a sales standpoint, I think the biggest lesson I’ve had to learn is to listen to people instead of doing all the talking. By listening, you can better serve them, and you can focus on having something in mind to sell them that is going to help them out. By doing this, you aren’t wasting their time or yours.”
As a successful woman in the golf industry, what would you say is your secret to success?
“I try to do the best I can at what I do, and I always look out for the betterment of my customers and who I work for. This means being honest, ethical, and service-oriented. I treat my work colleagues with respect and try to put myself in their shoes. Same with my customers.”