The 3rd annual Southern California Women’s Golf Summit was held on Tuesday, September 1st, on National Women’s Golf Day. The virtual summit, presented by the Southern California PGA and the Southern California Golf Association, was open to local amateurs, business executives, golf merchandisers and PGA and LPGA members. The summit included speakers from the golf industry who discussed topics such as the state of the game, diversity and inclusion, and the future of women’s golf. The LGA’s USGA Boatwright Interns, Maci Roberts and Morgan Bulliard, both attended the virtual summit and some of the highlights are below.
The summit was headed by Nikki Gatch, PGA professional and Assistant Executive Director/COO of the Southern California PGA. Key note speakers included Suzy Whaley, the first woman President of the PGA of America, Michael Whan, the commissioner of the LPGA, Suzanne Kelley, the SCGA Foundation President, among many other inspiring leaders in the golf industry.
The first panel discussion of the summit revolved around the state of the industry during the pandemic. Kim Falcone, Cathy Harbin, Suzy Whaley, and Dr. Alison Curdt spoke about the challenges they faced in March, and continue to face, as they adapt and evolve to the situation at hand. They agreed that, while it has been difficult, golf has been thriving due to the fact that a golf course is one of the few places that you can spend time with friends and family while still adhering to all COVID-19 precautions. The panel also discussed how to get more women involved in golf and how to increase retention of women golfers, mentioning programs like LPGA Golf 101 and creating welcoming environments for women at golf courses.
One of the most interesting discussion topics in the summit was that of diversity and inclusion in golf. Suzanne Kelley, Teresa Thornton, and Kathy Cho were among the women who spoke of challenges they faced as each was the only woman and/or only woman of color on their golf course. They were often looked over on invites to events or social gatherings, unlike their male colleagues. Kelley detailed one particular experience in which she finished playing a round of golf with a few men and they proceeded to grab drinks in the men’s grill, which, in this case, didn’t allow women. They did not invite her along or even attempt to sit in a more mixed space to have a drink with her.
These women had often experienced looks upon arrival as they were thought of as slow players who were not good at golf. It takes practice and patience to get better at any sport. Some people are naturally gifted with the talents of the game, but for anyone to have a chance at succeeding they need to be given the opportunity to learn without judgement or ridicule.
There is still a long way to go as far as inclusion of women in golf, but like the rest of the world it has grown significantly over the years and will continue to change. Currently 36% of junior golfers are female and 23% of all golfers are female. With the help of female leaders in the golf industry and other organizations, the SoCal PGA and SCGA hope to see a continuous increase to that percentage over the forthcoming years. In Louisiana, the LGA is two years into its unification with the Louisiana Women’s Golf Association, and we are working hard to advance women’s golf in our state and provide more opportunities for female golfers.