Golf made more appealing through teaching, camaraderieWomen on Course offers networking opportunities in a recreational setting.
Group puts women on course
Golf made more appealing through teaching, camaraderie
BY TOD LEONARD
VISTA — Francie Murphy was a straight-A student in school and now owns a successful Del Mar public relations business. She speaks several languages and played tennis for 20 years.
When Murphy decided she’d take up golf a few years ago to be able to play with her husband while also improving her networking prospects, she figured she’d pick it up in no time.
“Ha!” Murphy said with a self-effacing laugh. “I couldn’t get it and it was horrible! I was so frustrated, I just quit.”
Murphy might have never come back if not for Women on Course, a national organization that encourages women from all walks to learn golf at their own pace and play a game that can benefit them in myriad ways.
A friend took Murphy to a Women on Course play day three years ago, and though the golf didn’t come any easier, Murphy enjoyed the camaraderie and had plenty of other women to commiserate with -- preferably, over a nice glass of merlot.
“Why shouldn’t we be out there? Why should it be all men?” Murphy said at a recent Women on Course gathering of 50 women at Shadowridge Country Club.
Despite golf’s tough times, Women on Course has been growing at a rapid clip. Founded in Washington, D.C., by Donna Hoffman, a television producer and mother of three, the organization has 1,500 members and 30 city chapters.
The San Diego group meets several times per month for play days dubbed “Nine & Wine” and “Fore & Pour.”
At the Shadowridge meeting, designated as a “signature event” by Women on Course, Callaway hosted an equipment demonstration and the participants – some of whom had only held a golf club a few times -- broke into small groups for individualized instruction. Others played nine holes.
“I want to meet women at my beginning stages,” said first-time participant Lindsey Smith, a real estate professional who had played only a handful of rounds.
“We’re professionals in a male-dominated world. There’s a commonality of being interested in golf, being professionals and being chicks.”
Debbie Keller, a former LPGA Tour pro who wrote a book, “Venus on the Fairway,” which humorously highlights the differences between men and women when they play golf, gave a spirited lecture to the group.
“You need to play this game,” Keller told the women. “In business today, it’s a prerequisite. Companies are sending women to golf camps so they can talk the talk. Taking a client out to lunch at a golf course – that’s a big deal.
“Women on Course isn’t about getting women into competition or leagues,” Keller added. “This is about networking. Women are good at networking. When they like something, they tell everybody.”
According to Murphy and other attendees at Shadowridge, there is much about golf that intimidates even the most confident woman. Murphy said she used to get anxious simply going up to the starter’s window at Torrey Pines. Others say they are uncomfortable because there are so many rules and possible breaches of etiquette.
“When I first started, I was really shy,” said Megan Chawathe, 30, a financial professional who lives in the UTC area and started playing golf to spend time with her fiancée. “Just to get out there, it was like, ‘What will people think if I play bad? What if people laugh at me?’
“With Women on Course, every time I come to events I have friendly faces. That really hooks me and makes me want to get out there.”
Many of the San Diego women, including Chawathe, take lessons from Del Mar resident Patty Atkins, the director of player development for Women on Course who also teaches at the La Jolla Golftec site.
Atkins’ own experience is an inspiration. She grew up playing golf in Omaha, Neb., and is the great niece of Johnny Goodman, the last amateur to win the U.S. Open, in 1933. Atkins chose a career in the medical field as a nurse and later was an award-winning administrator at Sharp Hospital before deciding in her mid-40s that golf was a passion she wanted pursue.
Atkins attended the Golf Academy of America in Carlsbad, eventually quit her job and earned her LPGA teaching credential last year. “I love golf; it’s in my blood,” Atkins said. “I feel most at home on a golf course.”
About 50 percent of Atkins’ clients are women, she said – well above the national Golftec average of 14 percent women. She said she wants to help “bridge” women to their comfort level in the game while also counseling that no one in golf is an overnight success.
Murphy understands that now. She laughed when asked how well she scores.
“I don’t keep score!” she said. “I plan on keeping score someday, but I’m not there yet. Men that I know make fun of me because I don’t keep score. Women don’t, because they know we’re out here to have fun.”
Group ‘Links’ Business with Pleasure
Women on Course offers networking opportunities in a recreational setting.
BY CAITLIN ADAMS
The golf course and clubhouse have traditionally been male-dominated bastions, but more women are discovering the benefits of golf as a means of exercise, socializing and, particularly, business networking.
The sport is still most popular among men, but more clubs are catering to women golfers, with women-friendly amenities, female trainers and staff, specialized equipment, clean and well-maintained ladies’ restrooms on the greens and a variety of women’s merchandise in the shops.
Women on Course – or WOC – is a national organization that coordinates golfing events in more than 20 cities across the country. Four are planned in Orange County this month alone – two in Aliso Viejo and one each in Mission Viejo and Rancho Santa Margarita. WOC members can also request Play Day events in a specific city.
The program was founded by Donna Hoffman, a self-described “golf widow” during her first marriage, who was converted to the game by her second husband. After discovering a newfound passion for the game, Hoffman wanted to share its benefits with other women. She drew on her experience in television – she formerly had a career as a producer – to create a women’s golf television pilot. While she didn’t end up with a TV show, Women on Course transformed into the national organization it is today.
WOC sets itself apart from other golf programs and organizations for women by not focusing solely on “putting the ball in the hole.” The local events are coordinated by the national management team, and geared toward engaging women with all aspects of the golf lifestyle, including fashion, fitness, travel, networking, socializing, and usually, a glass of wine to end the day.
Signature events usually take place every couple of months, are open to women of all levels, and might include a luncheon, golf experience with instruction or spa party. Play Day events are usually tailored to skill level and include short rounds of play, day trips, indoor practice, clinics, golf yoga and other fun outings.
Women interested in learning more about the game can pick up a copy of Southland Golf magazine’s March Women’s Issue, dedicated to female athletes changing the face of the game. Businesswomen will also be interested in OC METRO’s 20 Women to Watch March issue, featuring innovative female entrepreneurs and executives from all over Orange County.
Guidelines for ‘Women Friendly’ Facilities
- A staff, including at least 10% women, that has a consistent approach to all players regardless of gender, from the pro shop to the bag staff and the marshals
- Equal services provided to men and women. If club fitting is offered, fitters that are well trained to fit equipment for women with equipment available for women golfers of various skill levels. If clothing is sold, an adequate selection of women’s clothing in a variety of styles and sizes.
- At least two sets of tees rated for women. The first set should be between 4,600 and 5,300 yards, and the second between 5,300 and 5,800 yards. Courses get extra credit for having a third set of rated tees 5800 yards or longer.
- Carries from the forward tees limited to 50 yards or less for the majority of holes.
- Slope and rating data and course handicap conversion tables for women available in an obvious and easily accessible area.
- Distance markers inside 100 yards.
- Facilities that are relatively equal for men and women, including tee boxes maintained in equal condition and with similar basic amenities (like ball washers and trash cans).
- Clean pleasant restrooms at least every six holes on the course.
- Access for women to any area of the facility except men’s locker rooms.