(Jane Geddes is the Executive Director of the LPGA Amateur Golf Association and chairperson for WE ARE GOLF’s Women’s Task Force. Geddes played on the LPGA Tour from 1983 through 2003 and won 11 times, with her first career victory coming at the 1986 U.S. Women’s Open. Geddes is this month’s industry contributor for The Q, weighing in on the WE ARE GOLF’s #inviteHER campaign.)
When I was asked to be the chairperson for WE ARE GOLF’s Women’s Task Force last summer, I immediately identified it as an opportunity to make a difference. It had always been a goal of mine to contribute to the growth of golf among females, so before I accepted the offer from World Golf Foundation CEO Steve Mona, I made sure he knew we intended to take action.
We did just that by launching #inviteHER, an industry-wide campaign designed to get the 24 million current golfers – both men and women – to encourage the females in their lives to pick up the game through the “power of invitation.”
The driving force behind the campaign is the fact that many women feel as if golf is not a game for them. Despite that flawed notion, women’s interest in the game is there.
National Golf Foundation research finds that one-third of the 15 million non-golfers who are very interested in taking up the sport in the future are women. In 2017, there were 2.6 million Americans that tried golf for the first time, with 35 percent of that group being female. This positive data proves the entire industry has an opportunity to open the game up to an untapped demographic, which makes up more than half of the United States population.
My introduction to the game of golf took an unusual path. Growing up on Long Island, no one in my family played, but I was a natural athlete looking to get involved in any and all sports. I grew up playing softball, basketball and was always the quarterback when a football game broke out on the playground. But golf? No way. Golf was an afterthought.
Everything changed after my ninth-grade school year when my dad transferred jobs and our family moved to South Carolina. I was distraught. As a fifteen-year-old New York girl plucked out of the only place I had ever known, moving to a small, rural, southern state was my worst nightmare.
I immediately found myself out of place in this foreign land, with no friends or anything to keep me busy. My mom desperately wanted me to take up an activity to get me out of the house. One day, she read a story about local golf star named Beth Daniel and her coach, Derek Hardy. My mom then came to me and asked if I wanted to try golf. My immediate reaction was ‘no,’ but it was too late.
My mom booked the lesson with Derek before she ever consulted me. The rest was history. In fact, Hardy remained my swing coach throughout the entirety of my career, leading to 15 professional wins, including 11 on the LPGA Tour and two major championships.
So how do we make a difference?
As golf industry professionals, it is up to us to create a more inclusive environment for women to try the game. It begins with a simple invitation to someone who has expressed interest to you about playing golf, an impactful gesture that shows women they are not only welcome, they are wanted.
Without my mom going through the process of thinking of me and inviting me to the course, I would have never taken up the game. My life would not be the same without it. Shouldn’t every woman have that opportunity? I started playing golf because someone else took action to have me experience the game.
We know – a full 18-holes is a commitment, but golf is more than that. It’s walking a few miles alongside your best friend, bonding with your colleagues or building relationships with people you didn’t know when you stepped onto the first tee. I am here to tell you that golf can be whatever you want it to be. All it takes is welcoming all of our friends to the golf community.
That is what #inviteHER is asking golfers to do – take action. Set up a lesson, make a tee time or even attend one of the many #inviteHER clinics.
From tips for beginners to best practices when mentoring a new golfer, inviteHER.com is home to the best information about getting involved in growing the game among women. The way you choose to invite her is up to you!