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Chip Shots — Women and Golf: The Time is Now

As I sat down to write this Blog about women and golf I started by doing some research on the internet. The first things to come up were articles about International Women’s Golf Day, which was held June 7. Apparently, over 400 golf courses and golf retail locations in 25 countries hosted female golfers for special gatherings to celebrate the occasion. I didn’t see anything about it locally, but it indicates a subtle shift in focus, and I think that’s a good (and necessary) thing for the game.

Why is this important? Well, there are many reasons, but the biggest is that in order for golf to thrive it needs to cultivate interest among youth, minorities, and women. Based on what I see around the greater Bangor area, more women are playing, but there is always room for more!

Here are some statistics regarding women and golf:

19% – Percentage of all U.S. golfers who are women, according to the National Golf Foundation.

48% – Number of women who say they want to learn golf with other beginners, according to the National Golf Foundation (indicating group golf lessons might be popular).

67% – Number of new golfers who were women in 2006, according to wsj.com.

On my recent Chip Shots segment on 92.9 FM (The Ticket) I asked personable and enthusiastic Hermon Meadow Teaching Pro Thea Davis to be my guest and provide listeners with her perspective as one of only two female teaching pros in Maine. We had a great chat, which continued after the show.

Thea’s golf origins harken back to playing golf with her parents at Palmyra Golf Course, starting when she was 11 years old. Based on her approach, even then, it’s no surprise she made golf her career. “I was disciplined and pretty much taught myself how to play initially. When I played, if I three-putted a green I would make myself practice 15 minutes before I could play again.”

She played golf into her adult years, but didn’t get lessons until she was 35, with great results. That led her to become a teaching pro at the age of 37.

“I love golf. It has brought many wonderful things and people to my life,” observed Thea. Her tip for women who may be considering taking up the game is, “Find a course that is relatively short and quiet, and play with someone that is familiar with etiquette and some of the basic rules of golf. Remember the pace of play is decided by the groups in front of you not the ones behind you. Golf is a lifetime sport. You can learn to play the game at any age and it will introduce you to some very special people (she met her husband of 40 years at the Palmyra Golf Course). I think it’s a great idea for women to learn to play golf also for business purposes. There are many business transactions that happen on a golf course or over a cold brew while sitting in the club house after a round.”

A great example of a woman enjoying the game while leveraging its benefits, both personal and professional, is Sarah Dubay. Sarah is Chief Communications and Public Affairs Officer for Penobscot Community Health Care and a member of Penobscot Valley Country Club. I have the pleasure of working with her from time to time, most recently on the local Circle of Caring Challenge which is raising awareness and funds in support of combating the opioid epidemic. She is a high energy, gregarious person who doesn’t back away from a challenge.

“Technically, this is the start of my fourth season playing golf. But, to be honest, I feel like I just started yesterday,” comments Sarah. “You quickly learn that golf is one of those sports that you will spend your whole life mastering. You have moments where you feel like ‘Michelle Wie’s got nothing on me, I should be out on tour now!’ and moments where you feel like you’ve never swung a club before. For me, it’s an ultimate challenge mentally and physically that keeps me coming back for more.”

Sarah Dubay gets set to tee off while playing Kebo in Bar Harbor.
Sarah Dubay gets set to tee off while playing Kebo in Bar Harbor.

Sarah’s advice for women just starting out; “Find a couple of tolerant friends who are willing to play with you and then suck up every piece of knowledge they are willing to share. And my biggest piece of advice is . . . take lessons! If you think you can do it without lessons, well then good luck to you!” she says, smiling.

Sarah says her mother encouraged her to play when she was young, because (like Thea), she knew it provided a lot of networking and business opportunities. And, as they say, Mother knows best. “In my work in communications, advocacy and fundraising, doors have been opened for me because people know me from the course,” she comments.

Her top reasons for playing, in her own words, are:

  • The challenge. Even during my worst round, I hit that one shot that keeps me coming back.
  • It gets me outside and moving. Golf is part of my weekly workout plan. I walk and I carry my clubs. I am a member at Penobscot Valley Country Club, where nine holes is at least 3.5 miles and I burn a pile of calories lugging my clubs up and down some decent hills.
  • It’s something I can do anywhere and it gives me the chance to meet so many different people.
  • It’s something that I can continue to do throughout my life, at any age.
  • It’s something I can share with some really good friends.
  • It’s a good excuse to plan some cool getaways and vacations.

I hope this Blog inspires at least a few women who have been considering golf, to go ahead and give it a try. It’s a fun and challenging game played on beautiful tracts of land that offers exercise, opportunities to socialize, and the promise of glory with one swing of the club. Check out your local course to find out more. Make this the summer you give golf a try; you’ll be happy you did.

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