Raking bunkers on a golf course was literally child’s play for Amanda Fontaine. Today, it’s part of her job as IGM’s Golf Course Superintendent at The Ledges in Massachusetts. Following in her father’s footsteps, Amanda says she fought the pull to the agricultural world for a long time before giving in and climbing the golf course maintenance rungs to her current role with IGM.
Women in the Industry
In 2021, not only are women a growing demographic among golfers, but they are also increasingly visible in the turfgrass industry. Women are forming subgroups within national turfgrass organizations, such as the Golf Course Superintendents Association, to empower and support other women in the field. However, “However, women remain a minority in the turfgrass industry and represent a drastically smaller percentage of labor proportional to the global female workforce,” according to GCM online magazine.
From Playing to Working
As a child, Amanda Fontaine liked playing in bunkers or riding in a golf cart with her dad, Superintendent Michael Fontaine. While her first golf course job was in the pro shop, she realized she could earn more working with the maintenance crew. “I moved outside and started getting good at it,” she says, eventually working her way up to an assistant superintendent position at The Ledges.
As a skilled hockey player and goaltender, Amanda knows the value of hard work, dedication, and teamwork. After playing Division-1 ice hockey for Sacred Heart University and graduating with a degree in exercise science, Amanda honed her leadership skills coaching college ice hockey teams in the New England region. She then opted to broaden her golf course maintenance experience, taking an assistant superintendent position at Lochmere Country Club in New Hampshire.
While Amanda was establishing herself in New Hampshire, IGM Regional Manager Tyler Minamyer stayed in touch with her, encouraging her to return to IGM. When the opportunity arose for a new superintendent at The Ledges, where Michael Fontaine is now General Manager, Amanda was a perfect fit. “We campaigned to get her back, and we’re lucky to have her,” says Minamyer.
To further expand her agronomic knowledge, Amanda completed the certificate program in International Turf Management at University of Massachusetts and holds a pesticide applicator license. She continues to learn by talking regularly with IGM’s agronomists, her chemical products provider and attending seminars offered by the GCSAA. And of course, she consults with Michael on a regular basis.
Amanda is no stranger to working closely with Michael. “We have always had a professional and an at-home relationship; he coached me playing sports growing up and he couldn’t favor me more than the others then, either. If anything, he holds me to a higher standard and expects more from me than anyone, which makes me put in more effort and pushes me to be better.” She describes their work relationship at The Ledges as “a flip of the switch.” At work, he is Michael, and they talk about fertilizer and turf. She doesn’t see him often because he is in the Clubhouse, and she makes appointments when she needs to meet with him.
Amanda started her new role in January 2021 amid the Massachusetts winter. In those first months, she had to repair her fair share of breaks in the irrigation system. “There were only two of us working then, so I was part irrigation tech, part mechanic, and part superintendent.” She adds there’s been a lot of mowing and debris clean up to be done, because of the drastic temperature highs and lows. “We have a strong chemical program to counteract that, but there’s a lot to be done this time of year.” Amanda happily notes she has already received positive comments from club members about the overall appearance of the golf course and landscaping.
Minamyer is extremely pleased with Amanda’s performance. “She’s done a good job of adding key players to her team. She has strong agronomic skills and administrative skills. She’s detail-oriented but also looks at the big picture and what she wants to achieve. We hired Amanda on her merits, and she performs every day according to IGM’s standards.”
Looking forward, Amanda is excited about a couple of upcoming tournaments and seeing how the course looks and performs when she has a full crew working for the peak season. She’s doing a lot of seasonal training and follow up with her maintenance team to ensure things are being done the way they need to be. “I want to build trust that I know what I’m doing.”
Amanda acknowledges some challenges in being a young, female superintendent, but she takes a no-nonsense approach to leadership. “It’s not appropriate for a crew member to call me ‘sweetie,’ and I tell them to knock it off. Younger guys aren’t bothered so much about working for a younger woman.”
And like others in the Women in Turfgrass Management group, Amanda admits club members also must adapt to a woman in charge. “Even if I’m driving a cart with a bunch of shovels in the back, some golfers still mistake me for the beverage cart. I’ve learned to ignore it.” The women’s forums are helpful for mentoring and creating a voice for women in the industry.
“There’s always more to learn, like dealing with problem employees or diversifying what I know,” notes Amanda. “I feel supported by the IGM leadership and my crew.”
“Amanda is smart, well-spoken, and conscientious, a terrific ambassador of The Ledges and of IGM’s brand,” adds Minamyer. “IGM is proud to offer opportunities to all qualified individuals. It’s especially gratifying to watch employees climb the ranks within our organization.”
IGM provides complete golf course maintenance services in markets across the U.S. The company is committed to agronomic excellence and environmentally conscious methods and products. To request a consult, please contact Greg Plotner, Executive Vice President, 407-589-7200. Additional information may be obtained by visiting IGM’s website at golfmaintenance.com.