Women's Golf Day Is Just the Tip of the Iceberg for Women in Golf
I didn't know there was a Women's Golf Day until my boss told me about it just four days before the event, to which I promptly replied: "Does that mean I can take the day off work to play golf?"
I didn't take the full day, but I did go check out one of the few proceedings near Manhattan, at Trump Golf Links at Ferry Point in the Bronx.
I wish I had heard sooner, and I wish I had told more ladies about it.
The evening was split into two sections: two hours of playing and two hours of socializing around cocktail hour. We were a small group of 12 women split between playing nine holes and partaking in a two-hour clinic. Some had played before, some were novices, and some (like me) were rusty. In between hammering the kinks out of my 7-iron, I watched as three pros made their way up and down the range instructing the eager students with simple tips and tricks. Director of Golf Brad Worthington was helpful and humorous, putting us at ease.
We then moved to the short game area where we practiced different types of chip shots. One first timer, 25-year-old Alyssa Lubrino, holed a pitch shot that any experienced player would admire, setting off a round applause from the group. The last stop was the putting green, where a course was set up to sharpen our green-reading and speeds, outlined by neon green string. The game: you putt outside the string, you add a stroke. It taught us patience while improving our skill, but mostly it was fun.
I realize how cheesy that sounds. But to these ladies, like Kathy Grey, 52, who had dropped the game for many years to work and raise a family before recently picking it up again; Nancy Lee, 54, who joined the Executive Women's Golf Association three years ago to help her game and make new friends; and me, 26, a golf writer and producer who constantly struggles to keep up with her coworkers at office outings — that made all the difference.
By the end of the two hours, five of us still had the itch. Cocktails be damned! We wanted more golf. (Also, the lovely staff at Trump delivered drinks halfway through the clinic.) "What other sport can you play and drink?" Nathalie Daniel, 36, joked. She started playing while on maternity leave as a way to get back into shape and hasn't looked back. So out we went to play a one-hole scramble to test our new and improved skills.
From the ladies tees, the first hole of Ferry Point is a 317-yard par-4. Jackie Lyons, 53, hit a lofty drive to 170 yards which thrilled the group. Kathy's drive went just as far but settled in the right rough, Nancy found in the middle of the fairway but just short, and Alyssa and I flubbed our shots. Great start!
I hit the group's best approach shot, a 5-hybrid to about 15 yards short of the green (I redeemed myself!). Again, rookie Alyssa impressed us all with a beautiful chip onto the green which slid slightly past the hole, about 15 feet, for our third. The putt was right to left and the green was slower than anticipated. Our fourth shot, my putt, finished four feet below the hole.
Everyone had led off once, which meant it was Alyssa's turn again. Drive for show and putt for dough, they say — and while Alyssa's drive left much to the imagination, she wasn't messing around with the greens. A firm putt uphill dropped right into the middle of the cup for our collective bogey. More cheers, and high fives all around.
We didn't smash it off the tee. We didn't do anything flashy. We didn't birdie. None of that mattered as we walked back to the patio for drinks, because we felt like we belonged out there.
When I asked these women why golf was important to them, why they trekked to the Bronx from Westchester, Lower Manhattan, New Jersey and Midtown for two hours of a difficult game, the response was unanimous: this is a way for us to be included, for us to have fun and be part of the group.
"A lot of people were playing and I got tired of not joining and waiting at the hotel," Jackie said. She once worked as a hockey producer for the New Jersey Devils and is now the vice president of network operations at Madison Square Garden Networks. “If you're going to plan an office outing, golf is the general interest. They don't plan tennis or hiking trips which might be more amenable and affordable to a lot of people. Forget about the playing, it’s the socializing and the dealmaking that gets made on the course."
Kathy's job as Director of Tools and Insights at Omnicom Media Group, which she held while raising three girls, forced her to leave the game she once played with her father. She and Jackie played together as girls.
"This is my comeback year, and I love playing with my husband now," she said. "I feel bad that my daughters don't play. They haven't gotten into like I did, so I wish they would pick it up now."
Kathy suggested that there should be more promotion of female golfers as role models. The U.S. Women's National Soccer Team, for example, help her daughters, ages 19, 18 and 16 repectively, get interested in sports. Everyone in my golf group knows the LPGA pros are talented. They just don't see enough of them.
Some of the women knew about the Women's Golf Day event months in advance. Others, like me, heard just days before. Herein lies the problem with promoting the women's game — it’s scattered, half-hearted, and delayed. There's so much interest that it seems a shame that someone who works in golf media had no idea Women's National Golf Day was a thing.
Nathalie, VP of Internal Audit in Wealth Management at Morgan Stanley, has arranged numerous events for women at her work to play golf — that's how Alyssa got here, too (she's an Associate at Morgan Stanley). They're paying out of pocket for their next event with PGA professional Leslie Andrews, where 14 women from Morgan Stanley will play an 18-hole scramble in July.
"It shows there is an interest there, but it needs to be planned, we need to have more time, we need to remove the intimidation by going with a colleague," Nathalie said. "It’s nice to get acquainted with a course to see if you want to play it again."
All of the women want to do this again, and all of them want to bring more friends to it. Alyssa is playing in that 18-hole scramble after her first day out at Trump Ferry Point.
"I will definitely keep going," she said. "Knowing how many people play, and seeing how friendly and welcoming all of these women are, I need that. It's much more relaxed than I expected."
"You feel less pressure-filled when you're with your own peers. A day like this is an amazing idea," Jackie said. "When you're comfortable or more at ease, you do everything in life better."
Women seem to be chomping at the bit for more golf. Women didn't need their own day of golf to tell them this, but it sure doesn't hurt. Women's Golf Day is on the edge of something much, much bigger in women's golf -- it just needs a little push.