Women Are Leveraging A Passion For The Game Of Golf With Business Success
by Pamela Swensen, Chief Executive Officer of the Executive Women's Golf Association
Who would have thought that 12 years ago a group calling itself the Executive Women’s Golf Association (EWGA) would grow from its humble beginnings of hosting one instructional golf clinic in South Florida to an association with over 17,000 members and more than 106 Chapters across the United States and Canada?
Well, to name a few, all of the members who have joined the EWGA!
The EWGA is unique in the world of women’s golf. While there are many golf leagues, clinics, schools, and instructional programs for women that operate at a local or regional level, there is only one organization that actively seeks to promote the growth of women’s golf and serves as an advocate for issues of importance to women golfers on a national and international basis, and that is the EWGA.
The consistent growth the EWGA experienced during its first decade provided the basis for the belief the EWGA solidly fills a niche for professional women who want to use golf as a tool for personal growth and corporate advancement. By targeting this specific niche of female golfers, it has become its greatest strength.
So much has been written about the importance of playing golf and using this skill as a business tool. Women in business have reached a new pinnacle. Women now make up 15.7% of top-ranking executives in America’s largest companies.
Catalyst, a noted research firm, has stated, however, that one of the top reasons cited by women for lack of parity with men in the corporate ranks is due to exclusion from informal networks. The number one reason EWGA members “state” for belonging to the organization is the friendships they have made and the networking opportunities they have been presented with. Today the game of golf is de rigueur for professional women; it provides women with cachet, business clients and the chance to drive a shot straight through the glass ceiling.
The South Florida Business Journal had this to say when it named EWGA its Women’s Organization of the Year in 2002:
“Many business deals have been sealed on the golf course. What comes to most people’s minds when they envision such a meeting is several men in khaki pants concentrating on their putt while discussing some important piece of business. The Executive Women’s Golf Association is working to change that stereotype. It is making the golf course a business enclave for women by promoting and fostering a spirit of acceptance, dignity and respect for career-oriented women golfers.’
For those who do not play the sport, they may be wondering what draws one to golf. It’s a social game. The golf course allows everyone to start at the same level, regardless of job, title, salary or gender. There is always some success in a golf round. There’s always something extraordinary that happens and something that’s not perfect. It’s humbling. It’s a good test of one’s inner strength and character.
For those ready and willing to tee off or perhaps already play and are looking for some new and interesting playing partners and don’t know where to go – the EWGA is the place to go.
What does it really mean to be a member of the EWGA?
For many members, involvement and support of the EWGA takes place around golf events and education at the local EWGA Chapter level. It is because of this strong grassroots infrastructure of local Chapters, Host Clubs, LPGA and PGA Teaching Professionals, and thousands of dedicated volunteer leaders that the EWGA has become the most successful program anywhere for attracting and keeping women in the game of golf.
EWGA membership has grown almost 40% over the last three years while the rest of the golf industry growth has remained flat. Its retention rate is higher, its rounds played are higher, its spending is higher, its average handicap is lower than the industry averages for women golfers, and it has worked diligently to let the voice of its members be heard at industry meetings, conferences, and one-on-one with industry leaders.
While individual membership provides members with a local affiliation with the EWGA, it also offers a membership on a much broader scope. Members have access to over 100 other local groups (Chapters) that provide an instant network of friends, potential business clients and golf companions when traveling for business or pleasure or when relocating to another area. Membership provides benefits at over 200 golf facilities (Host and Associate Clubs) throughout the U.S. and Canada and with many national companies who sponsor the EWGA programs and initiatives including Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, MassMutual and OppenheimerFunds, Office Depot, Canon USA, Golfsmith, Cutter & Buck, Bette & Court, Coors, Top-Flite, Titleist, FootJoy and Cobra and The Ad Solution.
And, it means being part of an influential voice for women’s golf.
Sadly, golf has long been a sport where women have not always been made to feel welcome. But this is changing. Notably, 2002 was a breakthrough year for the advocacy efforts of the EWGA with an invitation to become a part of the Golf 20/20 Executive Board, a group of leaders who will be instrumental in shaping the golf industry now and in the future. The members of the Golf 20/20 Executive Board include the Commissioner of the PGA Tour and the LPGA Tour, top executives of the USGA, PGA of America, National Golf Course Owners Association, Golf Course Superintendents of America Association, American Golf Corporation, The First Tee, The Golf Channel, ClubCorp, Golfweek, Club Car, Callaway Golf, and the Acushnet Company (Titleist, Footjoy, Cobra). These men and now, one woman, representing the EWGA, will influence what happens on the golf course, in the pro shop, on the lesson tee, how golf courses are designed, what is read in the press and what we is seen on TV, what golf equipment and accessories are used, , and virtually every aspect of the experience in golf.
The EWGA has truly become the “driving force” for women in golf. And through its continued efforts via members, Chapter leaders, Sectional Team members, Association Board members, and staff working in conjunction with our partners in business, affiliated women’s professional associations and the golf industry, we are changing, shaping, and improving the experience of women playing golf.
As members of the EWGA, women are making their influence felt in golf. The EWGA is an open avenue for women to use golf as a tool for both personal growth and corporate advancement. The EWGA provides women the opportunity to gain proficiency in this business sport in a welcoming and comfortable environment – among other businesswomen – among friends. For more information on the EWGA, go to www.ewga.com.
It doesn’t matter what the golf skill level or whether one wants to learn to play. The EWGA is the place to be!
THE EWGA WAY
The EWGA believes in and conducts itself according to the values embodied by the game of golf: Honesty, Integrity, Respect, Honor, Sportsmanship, Fun and Friendship.
The Core Values of the EWGA touch every aspect of what we do:
Inclusivity and diversity; golf is for all.
Golf is an important asset for women in business.
Volunteer Service is the cornerstone of the Association.
Mentoring and support for new golfers.
Advancement of golf skills for all women golfers.
Make a difference for women’s golf.
Professionalism in our operations and relationships.
Here are some real life EWGA member testimonials:
“One of the Guys”
For the last 20 years, I have worked in business management in the male-dominated aerospace industry. Every quarter or so, the engineering and production divisions sponsor a scramble event as a team-building, group bonding activity. I took up golf about eight years ago and started playing with the guys about four years back. The fact that I can drive the golf ball over 200 years quickly made the guys aware of who I was. My handicap index is a 16, so I have played the “b” position for the last few times out. After participating in the event, I am no longer just that “woman from contracts.” “I’m Kitty – and she’s okay to work with and she knows her stuff.” And it’s really just because I play and talk golf with them. Of course, it didn’t hurt that I have been on the winning team three times. Cathleen C.
“Dual Success through Business Golf”
As director of business development, I have used golf to build relationships and network for many years. I have found that playing golf with clients and prospective business partners is an invaluable business tool, and lets me get to know them without the traditional walls of an office. Gretchen K.
Excerpt from a speech from a member at the Annual Milwaukee Chapter Kick-Off:
“About a year ago, I attended this event called a Chapter kick-off. It was interesting to me as to how I got there. A month or two earlier, I had read an article in one of my husband’s financial magazines, called “Driving to the Board Room.” In it I was struck by the phrase “Knowing how to golf for women is as important to a women’s resume as a Harvard MBA.” The article proceeded to talk about the value of golf in career advancement and although I didn’t recognize this at the time, talked about the Executive Women’s Golf Association as an important vehicle though which to achieve this.
Then I received an invitation to this kick-off. The timing was incredible. I had no desire to go back to school for that Harvard MBA, but I was interested in how to advance myself in my six-month career as executive director of Community Health Charities of Wisconsin.
I can honestly say that NOTHING that I have become involved in has ever met its promises so well. I joined the Association. I joined a league. I took lessons. I bought new clubs. I joined another league. I had not touched a golf club in over twenty years and now I was getting hooked and the benefits were just beginning.
My organization represents 39 health charities in workplace giving campaigns. Translate that into about 30 health charity golf outings each year. Invitations to participate began flowing in and it was my job to accept them – and to invite others to join me – Do you have any idea what you can accomplish while spending 4 _ hours in a golf cart with your board chairman?”