REAL WOMEN GOLFERS
OF THE 21ST CENTURY
By Yvonne Thomas
Are you a 21st century woman golfer? If not, would you like to be?
YGolf Magazine's motto defines it as being fit, fabulous, passionate about your golf game and how you look on the course. But that is just the tip of the iceberg. The 21st century woman golfer not only gets great joy from the sport, but she's also a very business savvy individual who has discovered the great networking opportunities that are just waiting to be taken advantage of.
Since 2011, YGolf Magazine has brought you stories of real 21st century women golfers to share how and when they started golfing and why they remain so passionate about the sport. I keep getting asked how I got started in the game. So, here's my story.
For the 21st century
My personal golf journey was ignited in 2002, but when I took a deeper look at my own story, I realized that my hidden passion existed long before I even realized it. Born in Fort Ord, California on the Monterey Peninsula, I can honestly say my first breath was taken in an area that can be described as one of the world's most beautiful golf meccas.
My big brother was bitten by the golf bug when he was a teenager, and I went to a driving range for the first time with him when I was 8 or 9 years old. I spent most of that time watching him hit balls with me goofing around with the putter, and I didn't actually pick up another golf club until my senior year in college at USC.
As a Sports Information broadcasting major, I graduated with a double major in broadcast journalism and physical education, and the curriculum required selecting and completing a few courses that combined not only theoretical comprehension of the sport but active participation as well. At first glance, golf seemed a safer choice than trying to run drills with the Trojan football team. Ya think?
I spent one semester learning the basics of golf and actually getting out on a real course for practical experience. My memories of trying to hit the ball at Arroyo Seco golf course in Pasadena were priceless albeit for the wrong reasons. I quickly learned that "swing and a miss" is a term not used exclusively for baseball. The few times I swung and actually hit the golf ball though was an exhilarating feeling. But after the semester ended, I didn't pick up another golf club for almost 20 years.
In the meantime, the Tiger Woods phenomenon officially began in 1997. I was mesmerized by his story, became a huge fan, followed his career closely on television and attended tournaments when he came to town. Watching golf became one of my favorite pastimes, and coincidently, I was also looking for a new hobby. After 13 years in corporate America and then finally getting my feet wet as a budding entrepreneur, it was becoming apparent that all work and no play was the fast track to career burnout. I wanted to have more fun.
While sifting through some junk mail one day, I thumbed through a community college catalogue, saw a listing for golf lessons and immediately got excited. I also immediately told myself to calm down, and it took a lot of self control to stop myself from running out to the nearest sporting goods store and buying a set of golf clubs. One visit to the spare bedroom in my house would divulge my dark little secret. I already owned a sporting goods store, and it was downstairs in my house!
Welcome to Yvonne's 24-hour fitness gym! I had a treadmill, a weight bench, 100+ pounds of chrome free weights, a Jane Fonda step for step aerobics, an Ab-doer, a library of fitness videos, a Wavemaster punching bag, AND I had floor to ceiling mirrors installed on one wall (just like in the gyms) so I could watch my progress. But I think I forgot to mention one minor detail. It all looked good, but I wasn't actually using any of it. All of this equipment was collecting dust except that my two very enterprising cats had started using my leather weight bench as a scratching post. At least somebody was getting some exercise.
My sad admission is that I had been searching for a hobby for years but nothing stuck. I would get excited, run out and buy all of the goodies, use them for a month or two and promptly lose interest. At least this time I recognized my illness before investing hard earned cash on a set of clubs that quite possibly were going to end up as a cat toy.
So I changed my strategy, and I signed up for the group golf lessons at El Cariso golf course -- without buying any clubs first. An instructor spent time showing me the proper technique, and I actually hit the ball! After a few lessons, I decided that I was really starting to like this golf thing, and I gave myself permission to buy a starter set. My boyfriend at the time was not a golfer, but he offered to go to the range and hit balls with me. We both got completely hooked on the game, and it became an activity that we shared together for many years.
As my game improved, it made me only want to play more and more. Over the years, I've been a member of two women's golf teams, and I've met friends and made numerous, valuable business acquaintances. But I've neglected to mention possibly my most favorite thing about golf. The beautiful nature and wildlife that surrounds you on the course. The rabbits, the deer, and the squirrels that are resident spectators are a constant reminder that I have found my own little piece of heaven right here on earth.
I am now entering my 9th year as a "real golfer," and I'm focusing on using the sport as a business and networking tool. What better place to meet with a client than on the golf course? I've taken private lessons 3 or 4 times from a variety of excellent teachers in Southern California, and my confidence has soared to the point where I can spontaneously show up at any course and sign up as a single. The majority of the time I get paired up with 3 guys, but I have no fear. Once they figure out that I can really play, I simply become one of their golf buddies for the day. My handicap hovers around 15 but my golf self esteem is enormous.
As the year progresses, I will be bringing you more stories of Real 21st century women who golf. And YGolf Magazine continues to actively recruit advertisers and sponsors that will assist us in organizing clinics and events that will introduce the world of golf to women everywhere.
YGolf Magazine, Publisher
“Golfing while Black”, abbreviated as GWB, is a new phrase in American English that refers to the racial profiling of African American golfers. It implies that a golfer has been confronted, questioned, harassed and asked to leave a golf course because of racial bias.
I spent most of yesterday reading articles and comments about the incident at a Pennsylvania golf course last weekend where police were called by the owners to remove a group of black female golfers for allegedly playing too slowly.
Golfers playing slowly? No surprise there. That’s just one of the irritating consequences of booking a tee time on a beautiful day when the rest of the world has the exact same idea. Overbooked golf courses often lead to slow play.
Calling the police to remove slow golfers?
Absolutely. Unheard. Of.
I am a black female golfer. I am also an old school journalist with a responsibility of researching the facts before publishing my words in print. So I continued researching and reading about the incident without bias. It’s important to note that my journalist side agreed to refrain from making a premature judgment, but my black female golfer side admittedly started feeling my heart rate increase. While reading some news articles reposted on Facebook, I promised myself that I would simply gather information and that I would stay away from getting into any Facebook debates. I found myself carefully measuring the number of comments by people who were outraged against people who believe the club’s owners and the police were justified in their actions.
I was doing pretty well managing my elevated heart rate, but then I stumbled across my trigger comment. You know what I’m talking about. It’s usually an asinine comment written by someone you don’t even know that manages to get under your skin just a little too much.
The headline of a post yesterday on GolfDigest.com was “African-American women claim racial, gender discrimination at Pennsylvania golf course.” There was one comment on the post written by a man that caught my attention. He said, “I’m sure they sucked at golf and held everybody up.”
The man was promptly attacked by several people and engaged in lengthy online debates with those who ridiculed everything from his choice of words to his profile picture.
I only had one question for him.
And you’re sure they sucked at golf because...?
But he never responded to my comment.
Actually, he didn’t need to respond to my comment because I already know the answer. But here’s a multiple choice quiz for you all today just in case you need help figuring it out.
(1) Did he assume that they sucked at golf because they were a group of black women?
(2) Would he make that assumption if they had been a group of black men?
(3) Would he make that assumption if they had been a group of white women?
(4) Was the owner justified in his actions because those women fit into a category that wins the jackpot in the discrimination lottery? They had the audacity to be Black, female, AND golfers! I can almost hear the bells ringing! Kind of like hitting a Triple 7 on a racist/chauvinistic slot machine.
The real reason behind why this incident happened is not just about racism in golf. It’s also clearly about sexism.
I am a passionate golfer. I love the game, and I have played hundreds of rounds of golf over the past 16 years at numerous public courses, and as a member of a private golf club. As I mentioned earlier, slow play is a part of the game experienced more so at public courses than at the private ones. Personally, I am fortunate to have experienced very little racism at the many courses I’ve played on in California. But I have to admit, I have witnessed a ton of sexism which is often treated as acceptable behavior by most women golfers that I’ve played with over the years.
There are a lot of men who do not want to golf with women. And to be fair, I know a lot of women who do not want to golf with men. Personal preferences are one thing and unless you have a private course in your backyard, you will often end up playing a round of golf with someone of the opposite sex.
It is important to note that men outnumber women golfers by a large percentage. I am the Publisher and Founder of YGolf Magazine for Women. The mission statement of YGolf is to bring women together of different races and ages that share the common bond of golf.
I have worked hard over the past decade to highlight the networking opportunities and benefits that the sport has to offer women and to help make the game more inclusive. And today, I am extending a verbal backhand slap to the face of the owners of Grandview Golf Course whose actions may have just set the cause backwards by 50 years! This is precisely why so many women feel unwelcome on golf courses and why the game struggles to attract new female and minority players. A friend who I have been encouraging to learn the game admitted to me that this single incident makes her a little scared to step out there for the first time.
So was this a case of discrimination, intimidation, segregation or all of the above?
In the past 72 hours, the owners of Grandview have issued two statements. One apologizing to the women for calling the police and then a second statement redacting the apology. (Insert puzzled face emoji here)
As this topic continues to trend on social media, a few things stand out to me like a red flag. This is very similar to last week’s “Waiting Inside a Starbucks while Black” incident when several white customers spoke up to say that the men were not loitering. It is very troubling to me that the men’s stories were strongly questioned and not believed UNTIL their actions were validated by white people.
Fast forward to Grandview. A golfer who was videotaped in the background of the confrontation came forward to corroborate the women’s account of what took place. Several comments then followed on social media in support of the women.
So what is the lesson that can be taken away from all this? Let us be thankful that social media and smart phone video cameras have given us the tools to record and expose racial injustices and let the world see who exactly the perpetrators are.
It is true that a few bad apples can spoil the entire pie -- but only if we let them.
Bad golfers come in all colors and in both genders. To the owners of Grandview. If this had been a group of white male golfers playing slow, would they have been confronted in the same way? Would they have been confronted at all?
I’ve been shocked and stunned by the ignorance and insensitivity of some people when it comes to racial bias and instances of discrimination. Just because you might be noticing racial profiling for the first time doesn’t mean it just started. Black people have been experiencing this for centuries.
My outrage on this matter is a little muted simply because I think I’ve become somewhat numb. Whereas in the past, those trigger comments would have led to heated words flowing from my brain, down to my fingertips and into my laptop keyboard landing as an explosive tirade on Facebook. I’ve now learned to save my venting for a different audience and for a much more active approach.
In the words of the great Maya Angelou, when people show you who they are, believe them. There are far too many golf courses on this planet to continue frequenting the ones who have clearly demonstrated that they don’t want our business. Because of the legs on this story, the world now knows who Grandview is and how they operate. It was reported that the owners at Grandview gleefully offered to refund the money that this group of women paid for their memberships. To the lady golfers – please take that money and never look back.
by Yvonne Thomas
Golfing while Black