Pam Brown of Moorefield: ‘gutsy move’ to Colorado leads to USGA and beyond

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Pam Brown of Moorefield: ‘gutsy move’ to Colorado leads to USGA and beyond

  Pam Brown left the family farm near Moorefield in Switzerland County shortly after graduating from college in 1987.

  That was the beginning of a great adventure that she’s still on — an adventure that has taken her all around the country.

  “I moved out to Colorado in 1987 and started working with Keystone Resort,” she said. “Mainly to work at the ski area. I started working at the golf course in the summers and I fell in love with that. I worked the greens staff for several years. I went back to Rutgers and got my two-year turf certificate. Became a superintendent and worked in golf course maintenance for 30 years.”

  Pam said that the work was season to season because the golf course at the resort is open from May 15th through October 15th yearly — so when the golf course shut down for the year, she’d go back and work in the ski area on the chair lifts.

  Keystone Resorts is located in Summit County, Colorado — about 60 miles west of Denver.

  So how does a girl from Moorefield find a life in Colorado?

  “I was a girl from Moorefield, Indiana in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado,” she laughs. “I don’t know. I graduated college in 1987, and that was before the Internet. I was looking through the job postings. I went to school at Eastern Kentucky University. I saw these ski-area jobs in Colorado, so I just sent out some resumes and got an interview and took the job. Keystone offered housing and three meals a day — so I thought, ‘This is a no-brainer. I’m going to go out’.”

  With a degree in recreation and park manager, initially Pam wanted to be a Forest Ranger, but when she decided not to pursue that career, she says she fell in love with the mountain lifestyle of skiing, mountain biking, golf, and everything else.

  On her way to work at a large ski resort in Colorado, Pam laughs when she admits she hadn’t done much skiing herself.

  “I’d been to Ski Butler a couple of times,” she says. “It was open back then, and I went there a couple of times, but that was about it.”

  The entire decision was an incredibly big one.

  “I’d never been to Colorado in my life,” she says. “Looking back, it was a really gutsy move, really. Loading up my old ‘78 Chevette and heading out West by myself. I don’t know that I would do that, now.”

  Pam said that working at the golf course was at first something to fill her time during the season when the ski resort wasn’t open, but she says that she quickly fell in love with the golf course maintenance industry.

  “My father was Norman Brown (mother Wilma Jean) and he sold farm implements and had the feed mill there. We had a little farm, so maybe it was just in my blood to grow grass,” she says. “It just seemed like a natural fit for what I was doing at the time. I went year around at the ski area as the lift operations manager in the Spring of 2019, so I kind of retired from golf -— although I still go out and help in the Fall with aeration and fertilizing; and even during the summer I’ll go out and help if they’re having problems with something. You know there’s a lot of information in my head that’s not written down about irrigation and so on.”

  In her responsibilities as life operations manager, Pam oversees about 125 employees during the winter. They also operate the chair lift in the summer for mountain biking and other activities.

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  Her experience and expertise in golf course maintenance then led to some incredible opportunities for Pam.

  “In 2021 the U.S. Women’s Open was at The Olympic Club in San Francisco; and the superintendent there, Troy Flannigan, he had kind of a vision of bringing a bunch of women from the turf industry together to worth with the maintenance team for the tournament,” Pam said. “It takes a ton of volunteers to pull a major tournament off like that. A former fertilizer salesperson got ahold of me and asked me if I’d be interested in doing this — they’re trying to get a bunch of women. I said I didn’t know if they would want an old buzzard like me, but I would love to. I filled out the application and went out there— I think it was Memorial Day weekend — worked that tournament and then there are 28 of us. Half of the women who were at The Olympic Club then worked Pine Needles (Golf Club, North Carolina) in 2022; and the other half of us were invited to go to Pebble Beach (California) this year, which I did.”

 This year’s U.S. Women’s Open was held the week of July 2nd.

  Pam said that the experience of being on two of the most famous golf courses in America for two major tournaments exceeded all of her expectations.

  “The pictures and television doesn’t do it justice,” Pam said of Pebble Beach. “You can’t imagine how beautiful it is in person.”

  Arriving on Sunday, July 2nd, Pam and her fellow workers had to get things prepped for the practice rounds, which were held on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday — and then the four-day tournament started on Thursday, July 6th with the champion being crowned on Sunday, July 9th.

  “I’m not sure how I got awarded the job, but I got to mow fairways,” she said of her experience at Pebble Beach. “It was amazing. They didn’t run their irrigation the whole week, so there were about 22 people every morning when we’d go out and every evening when we went out behind play who hand watered tees, greens, fairways, and rough. The reason that they didn’t run the irrigation is because they didn’t want to risk a sprinkler head sticking on or something blowing out of the ground.”

  Pam said when she was at The Olympic Club three years ago, she worked with a greens mowing team, and noted that they had large thin plastic sheets that they placed on each side of the green for the mower to turn on so it wouldn’t leave an impression in the grass.

  “The superintendents would have a meeting with the USGA (U.S. Golf Association) everyday at 1:30 p.m. and make adjustments to our chores as needed,” Pam said. “We had to lower the height of the cut of the rough one evening from 4 1/2-inches to 4-inches. You couldn’t see your feet in that rough.

  “At Pebble Beach, they housed us in dormitories, which was about a 15 minute drive,” she continued. “We’d leave the dorms at 3:15 a.m. and we were out the door on our mowers by 4:10 a.m. They had lights on all of the machines, but it was pitch dark and foggy.”

  And not only the golf, but the players, greatly impressed Pam.

  “Watching those women play, the best in the world, it just amazed me,” she said. “Those smooth as silk swings and just how accurate they are with their shots. Watching them on the driving range — holy smokes. They could drop each show within a basket. It was incredible.”

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  After her self-proclaimed ‘gutsy move’ to Colorado 36 years ago, there is still a bit of Switzerland County that beats in Pam Brown’s heart.

  “There are things I miss about Southern Indiana,” she says. “There’s nothing like a homegrown tomato from back there. Sweet corn. I miss the falls back there. Southern Indiana is so pretty with all of those hardwoods. The change of colors is pretty amazing.”