As a countdown to our 25th Anniversary Celebration in Colonial Williamsburg in April, EWGA Founder Nancy Oliver has agreed to write a weekly column and share her amazing collection of newsletters and press clips revealing the early years.
Before moving onto to the chapters forming outside of the State of Florida, I wanted to include a press clip from the launch of the Tampa Bay Chapter. As it turned out, the marketing director for Emerald Dunes (our original host club in West Palm Beach), Kim Throckmorton, took another job at a club in Tampa…and around that time, Penny White was transferred from Ft. Lauderdale to Tampa as well. That’s all it took to get everyone fired up for clinics at Bardmoor Golf Club, where they harnessed the audience of the local Economic Development Council to help get the word out. These were humble times where we all learned from each other how to best promote our respective chapters. And when existing chapter leaders reached out to help neighboring chapters get up and going. Thankfully, this tradition of support and idea-exchanges continues to this day!!!
The Spring of ’92 was a flurry of activity. Hold onto your boots Annie! It was time to publish a newsletter and mail it out to all of our almost 1,000 members (Remember – there was no INTERNET!) As you can see from the Spring ’92 edition of “Tee to Green”, women across the country were stepping up to start new chapters. And as you can see from the Calendar of Events, the chapters and host clubs in Florida were in full swing, not to mention a new chapter in Cleveland that was about to explode! Stay tuned!
I took a break over the Christmas holidays in 1991 to reflect on what I had gotten myself into. YIKES! But soon the words of encouragement continued to pour in, like a very nice letter from the Executive Director of the Florida State Golf Association. Looked like I was destined to keep the ball rolling. So I decided to host an event for all of the Florida chapters that had been formed and called it the Spring Fling (which was turned out to set the tone for hundreds of EWG events to follow!) You can’t imagine how invigorating is was to see all these fun, incredible women all come together for one giant bonding session. Talk about adding fuel to the fire! By the time this event took place in May of 1992, I was already responding to new chapter requests across the country. If it weren’t for the cheering squad at the first Spring Fling (recognize any names???), we may not have spread beyond the State of Florida!
On a personal note: I am so looking forward to attending the Austin Chapter’s January Social. If your chapter is having a particularly special event this year, I would be happy to try to come as long as you can get me there and back, and provide a nice comfy couch to sleep on (just like the OLD DAYS!)
We all knew that women were eager to take up the game in a women-friendly, welcome environment. But the golf industry was starting to recognize the importance of better catering to the women’s market as well…and the dollars that it promised to bring into golf courses that were actively participating.
Beginner lessons were one thing, but having beginner-oriented follow up events and activities were crucial to having these women stay in the game. What better environment to progress after the lesson phase than 9-hole fun outings with fellow members! The Executive Women’s Golf League (as it was called back then) was becoming the answer for both the women who participated, and the golf courses that catered to them.
Thanks to our very own Trish Davis (now Trish Leary Joyce) for helping to educate golf course owners to this concept in this article in Golf Market Today, and to Joe Steranka of the PGA of America for getting behind us in the early stages of the game. Both were instrumental in the rapid growth that we experience in our second year of existence!
By the end of the year, we had “graduates” from more than a dozen of the 8-week clinics in Palm Beach County, Ft. Lauderdale, Jupiter, and Stuart, so I started organizing 9-hole fun outings, which also attracted existing golfers.
As you can imagine, I was far too busy keeping up with the growing participation to pay much attention to my our golf marketing business, much less to actually play much golf. After a 9-hole outing at the Palm Beach Par 3 late in 1991, I confessed that I simply could not continue doing all this by myself.
The group suggested that we create “twosomes” to take on the responsibility of organizing the monthly outings for the next few months. They also suggested that everyone could pitch in $20 to help defray expenses, which would officially make them “members”. And so the concept of EWG chapters was born …and then we all ordered another glass of wine!
Shortly after the first few series of clinics at Emerald Dunes in the summer of 1991, I was getting inquiries from women in various parts of South Florida. I contacted another one of my clients, the Carolina Club in Fort Lauderdale, to arrange for an EWG clinic there. On the opening afternoon, several Miami TV stations arrived and started broadcasting live from the putting green. Reporters from a variety of south Florida newspapers and publications - the Miami Herald, The Public Golfer and Sports Forum - wrote stories on the phenomena that was unfolding at the Carolina Club.
They all seemed to find this concept to be rather interesting – women taking up the game of golf so they could use it for business – what a novel idea! The South Florida media took the ball and ran with it!
I had been in the golf business for 12 years but had never actually PLAYED the game. I was so involved in the game that I helped spearhead the first “Florida Golf Summit”, where it became clear to me that the golf industry simply needed more women in the game. And although much to my embarrassment I personally didn’t play golf, it also became clear that I was well-positioned and somehow destined to get the ball rolling…at least in the State of Florida.
So I decided to put together an 8-week “soup to nuts” clinic for beginner golfers that I could just slip into without anyone realizing that I didn’t know how to play. I contacted one of my clients, Ray Finch of Emerald Dunes, with my idea, and he said “If you get more than a half-dozen women here, I’ll eat my hat.” Sounded like a challenge to me…so after some brainstorming with a couple of friends, we came up with the name “Executive Women’s Golf League” because we didn’t want to be immediately labeled as beginners, and could only assume that we would, over time, get better. Then we ordered another glass of wine!
On the first day, Tuesday, July 9, 1991, we did in fact have more than a half dozen women…(it was actually 28), and by the third or fourth session, we had all become fast friends and they were telling all of their friends about it. Out of sheer demand, we started another 8-week session on Thursdays. Upon graduation of that second group, I invited Ray to come to the podium so he could officially “Eat His Hat”!
A big shout out to some of the enthusiastic individuals of the “early days” who made things happen behind the scenes – Kim Throckmorton, Penny White (Parks) , Joyce Pepin, Beth Cohen, Sally Benson, Pat Stephenson, Dianne Redding, Saundra Kellam, and a special thanks to Ray Finch, Rob Young and Rich LeConche of Emerald Dunes, our first host club, for believing in the possibilities!
EDITOR'S NOTE: This was back in 1991 and the golf industry still needs more women to take up the game today.
It’s hard to believe it’s been almost 25 years ago that I wanted to first learn how to play golf. But I didn’t want to do it alone. So I gathered a group of friends and fellow businesswomen for group lessons, and called it the “Executive Women’s Golf League”. Who knew what it would turn into!!!
Call me sentimental, but when I saw this starting to spread across the country, I began stashing samples of newsletters, press clips, invitations and the like, and somehow had the presence of mind to create a time capsule of sorts. The box has everything from the first five years of our existence.
So...I invite you to join me as I go back through time and share the items in this delightful box of goodies. I promise to share the “back stories”, the important moments in our history, and snippets about the incredible women who made this organization the wonderful place that it is. Here is the first press clipping from June 1991 to get us started. Get ready for a fun ride!