By Alex Podlogar

It doesn’t come up.

It’s the obvious question, but it becomes overshadowed by something. Something…interesting. Once you hear it, well, it stops you.

Before we get to that news, some context.

Andrea Salzman is a 23-year-old assistant superintendent on Pinehurst No. 2 and The Cradle, just a couple of years out of college from the University of Minnesota. The Sheboygan, WI, native is thriving in a competitive field that is dominated by male counterparts, and is doing so in only about the fourth or fifth year of even knowing this was a career, let alone one that she wanted to pursue. She’s worked a Ryder Cup and a course renovation. She’s now working a U.S. Open on her course. This week.

In 2022, the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America reported it had 299 female members among its 18,500 members worldwide, or just over 1.5 percent. From comes this: That includes 61 female superintendents (Class A and B) — 54 in the U.S., three in Canada and one each in Malaysia, Singapore, South Africa and South Korea. Although still a small percentage, that number has grown since first being counted in 1990. And, only about half of all course superintendents in America are members of the Association, so the overall number of women in the role is likely higher.

Salzman is certainly unique in her field, and it’s clear after returning to Pinehurst following an internship on Pinehurst No. 8 in 2022 that she’s found her calling. She is good at this.

It’s just how she found that calling that makes one need to consider which is the true outlier.

“I, um…I don’t golf at all,” Salzman explains. “I don’t really know anything about the golf industry. I didn’t really know where or what Pinehurst was before I got here.”

Salzman’s original major at Minnesota was human physiology – a track for a career in medicine. The summer after her freshman year, she returned near home and got an internship working with Kohler. “They put us in a factory,” she says. “I figured I’d make a little bit of money.”

Problem is, Kohler ran out of things for them to do. So…

“So they just threw us out, us college kids, and out onto the golf course,” Salzman says. “So I ended up outside at Blackwolf Run.

“And something clicked.”

That something was golf. And in particular, it was golf course maintenance. A year later, Salzman changed her major to plant science, with a turfgrass science track.

Working through her newfound connections, she caught on with Whistling Straits a year before the Ryder Cup, interning there to help get the golf course ready. That internship led to a meeting with superintendent Tracey Catelino, who had ties to Pinehurst. She mentioned a renovation project at No. 8, and thought Salzman would be good for it. Another internship. Another step.

An altogether new world.

“I was mainly drawn here because Pinehurst was renovating Course 8,” Salzman says. “I was thinking a bit long term. I had worked the tournament (It was the Ryder Cup, Andrea!) at Straits, and I thought, ‘OK, if I can work on a renovation, too, that would be good experience.’

“I remember the first time I saw the golf courses. I drove down with my dad before I moved in and walked out onto Thistle Dhu and I was like…Ohhhhhhhhh…Oh, what the heck? Am I seeing this? Where am I?

“Then I saw a course map of all of Pinehurst. Oh. My. Gosh.”

Salzman acclimated quickly, and she inherently gets the scope and scale of what’s happening this week. But with more responsibility comes more attention. And she has that now. Acutely.

“She’s an all-star,” says Daniel Whisenant, who hired Salzman as an intern when he was the superintendent of No. 8 (Whisenant now runs GCM for No. 10). “At that time, I had been with Pinehurst for 13 years, and she is by far – by far – the best intern I’ve ever seen come through here. In Year 1 with us, she’s on No. 2. That alone says who she is and why she’s here.”

When she was ready to come back to Pinehurst, No. 2 Superintendent John Jeffreys didn’t hesitate to add her to the staff, Whisenant says.

“If John didn’t hire her, I would have for No. 10,” Whisenant says. “But I’m glad he did. Her youth, her exuberance – she adds a lot of flair to that group.”

It’s a buzz that’s heightened now that it’s U.S. week.

“I think I’m nervous,” she says of the week. “My mind just goes to the worst thing. What if the golf course explodes?!”

Don’t worry. Salzman walks herself back from the mower’s fine edge.

“I’m excited to see all the people here,” she says. “This is what we’ve all been preparing for.”

Where things go from here doesn’t really matter at this moment. Salzman is well on her way, and with the drive and ability to make the appropriate next step. She’s still learning the nuances of Pinehurst, but it’s starting to become personal, become more ingrained, become a true part of her and something more.

“The teamwork is really special to me,” she says. “I mean, some of the jobs we do suck. But you’re suffering together, and that really bonds you. John (Jeffreys) says it multiple times, and you can really feel how others doing this genuinely care for each other.

“Pride, that’s what I feel most. To be a part of this? Oh gosh. We had some guys from Course 4 helping us topdress before the championship, and to hear them say, ‘I’ve never seen a bermudagrass green look like this.’ And I’m like, ‘Whoa.’ And it doesn’t mean that’s because of something I did, but it’s still ours.”