Home Lifestyle ‘WORKING THE GRAND SLAM’: Pinehurst greenkeeper boasts jobs at several major golf...

‘WORKING THE GRAND SLAM’: Pinehurst greenkeeper boasts jobs at several major golf tournaments

Kaye Pierson, a greenkeeper at Pinehurst No. 2, has worked the grounds at the Masters in Augusta, Georgia, the U.S. Open in Pinehurst, the Open Championship in St. Andrews, Scotland, and the PGA Tournament at Quail Hollow in Charlotte. Photo by John Patota

SOUTHERN PINES — This week, in the morning darkness, just before the sun starts breaking over the top of the longleaf pines, you will find Kaye Pierson volunteering at Pine Needles Lodge and Golf Club, site of the 77th U.S. Women’s Open.

This is Pierson’s third U.S. Women’s Open as a groundskeeper — which is impressive, but Pierson holds an accomplishment not many others can claim.

Pierson’s turfgrass journey began in 2008 after she got her job as the first female starter/ranger at the famed Pinehurst Resort. After moving to the area from Bath, Maine, Pierson was looking for a retirement job that she would enjoy.

“Initially I applied not even really knowing what I was applying for but I just loved to be outside,” Pierson said.

In her first year at Pinehurst, during some downtime one day while waiting for groups to pass, Pierson went out of her way to fill some divots in a fairway. Unbeknownst to her, Paul Jett, the superintendent of Pinehurst No. 2, saw her and made his way over to thank her for her work.

“He came over and said, Thank you so very much, you are my ever most favorite ranger,’” Pierson recalled.

Little did she know at that moment but that small interaction ended up landing her a job on Pinehurst No. 2’s groundskeeping crew later that year when she transitioned from starter to groundskeeper.

Pierson has been on Pinehurst’s grounds ever since and works there to this day, 14 years later.

Pierson’s journey to championship groundskeeping began as a patron on a trip to the 2012 Masters Tournament in Augusta, Georgia, a few years after her transition to groundskeeping at Pinehurst.

“I saw a woman greenskeeper sitting at the fairway with a bunch of men with a backpack blower and I went right over to her and said I want to do this,” she said.

After making some calls, a little persistence, and the help of her boss — Bob Farren, director of golf course maintenance at Pinehurst Resort — Pierson got her first taste of major tournament golf at that tournament the following year.

“It was amazing,” she said. “I showed up the first morning at Augusta and I was mowing the greens!”

Pierson followed up her first major experience with another berth at the 2014 Masters — prior to working both the Women’s and Men’s U.S. Opens at her home course of Pinehurst No. 2 in the summer of 2014.


During the week of the Men’s U.S. open, Pierson had a conversation with a fellow grounds crewman from Europe working for the week at Pinehurst, chasing his dream of “working the grand slam.”

That was new terminology for Pierson and the young man informed her of what is considered working the grand slam of golf: the Masters, the U.S. Open, the PGA Championship and the Open Championship.

Though halfway to “working the grand slam” without even knowing it, after the U.S. Open in 2014 she began planning on how to accomplish that goal.

The opportunity to be a part of the groundskeeping support team at the Open Championship is highly coveted. To even be considered, Pierson would have to join The British and International Golf Greenkeepers Association before even going through the process of applying to work the event.

“It was a yearlong process and then fingers crossed, all on the hope that maybe it might happen,” she said.

Out of all the international members, only three are selected each year to work the Open.

As fate would have it, Pierson would be selected the very next year for one of the coveted international spots to work the tournament in 2015 at the famed Old Course of St. Andrews in Scotland. Pierson was the only woman on the support team that year.

Two years later, at the 2017 PGA Championship at Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, Pierson would achieve her goal and finish off the rare feat of “working the grand slam.”

Aside from her achievements on the golf course, Pierson is also quite the artist. When she is not playing her Gibson guitar, you might also find her taking pictures in the early morning light out at Pinehurst.

One of her photos went viral on Facebook several years back.

Some of Pierson’s work is available for sale at the Pinehurst Resort golf shop or on the online store including her photo “First Light at Pinehurst No. 2” — and if you are out early enough, you might even be able to get her to sign it.

CORRECTION: Change made 3:05 p.m. 6-3-22.

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