1. When did you start playing golf? What sparked your initial interest?
I learned to play golf when I was 10 years old, but the spark came later. My parents started playing golf after they were married because it was an activity they could do together. My two older brothers learned to play, and the next thing I knew, it was a family affair. At first, I resisted playing golf, so my parents let me drive the golf cart and gave me the important role of being the group photographer. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was learning to love being outside on the golf course without even picking up a club. My middle brother, Matt, played competitively, and I was dragged around to his tournaments. Instead of watching him play (which was incredibly boring to a 10-year-old), I decided to pick up a club and go to the driving range.
The “spark” happened one day when a female PGA professional came out of the pro shop, walked over to me and quite sternly said, “You have a great natural swing and should be out on the course.” That was the incentive I needed. It drove me to take golf more seriously and push myself. I ultimately entered the same competitive world as my brother and no longer simply watched him play. I took lessons next to him, practiced side by side with him, competed with him and later played in tournaments around the country with him.
2. Research shows that involvement in sports helps build confidence. How do you think your involvement in sports has shaped your leadership abilities?
After I joined the golf team in high school, my golf game clicked. With the support of my teammates and coach, I became more confident in my game. I entered sophomore year as co-captain of the team. Later, I would become captain of my college team. Getting hands-on leadership experience at an early age was invaluable, and being part of a team helped get me out of my comfort zone, improve communication and develop important leadership skills. Golf has taught me the following three leadership lessons:
- Trust Your Gut. Who hasn’t made the mistake of overthinking a decision, listening too much to a naysayer or not pushing back hard enough when you instinctively know something is right? Golf has taught me to listen to my gut instinct. The ability to make and trust quick decisions based on experience are important to effective leadership.
- Recover Graciously. Golf is a mental game. Bad shots are inevitable. How you recover from bad shots or bad bounces often defines your score. Disappointments are inevitable in golf and life. Moving on, adapting and problem-solving are essential to success.
- Always Carry Yourself As If People Are Watching. Whether you are teeing off on the first hole in front of a crowd or playing a round with friends, someone is always watching you play. It is the nature of the game. I have been fortunate to play golf with complete strangers and folks of all ages. This has helped me get comfortable with the spotlight and understand that when leading, you need to always be on.
3. How can we encourage other young girls to take up golf?
We need to make golf fun for girls. Girls will have fun if they are with their friends, learning a game that challenges them to improve every day in an open environment. Ultimately, the way to get more girls playing golf is to create a support system for them.
When I reflect on my experience, I am grateful that my family played because I had a built-in support system and learned lessons about the game, and about life, from those closest to me. What made me stick with golf over the long term was my teammates. The bottom line is that golf can be fun when you have peers to challenge you and build you up.
Local golf courses have done a great job building their junior golf programs. My hope is that parents encourage their girls to learn to play golf and join these programs that are widely available to both boys and girls.
4. Golf is typically thought of as an individual sport. What is the role of team in the game of golf?
Golf is a high-pressure individual game where the support of teammates is crucial when playing competitively. At the collegiate level, teammates do not get involved with changing others’ games or styles. Instead, they know each other’s strengths and act as rocks to support and encourage those strengths. The team goes to the course together prior to the matches to practice and develop a plan for course management. We knew we either won or lost as a team, and every team member was as important as the others. All golfers, whether playing a fun round with friends or competing in a charity tournament, develop a team relationship with their playing partners.
5. What advice would you give your younger self?
I would tell my younger self to be patient, practice hard, laugh and don’t forget to have fun. Golf is more than the matches and a means to a college scholarship. It is a lifelong sport that is great to learn at a young age.
As a girl, when adults learned that I played golf, first they would be surprised and then enthusiastic and encouraging. I never quite understood their reaction or why my parents wanted me to stick with golf. Now I understand. Golf is a connector – it helps you meet amazing people and form lifelong friendships. My high school and college golf teammates are some of my best friends. Golf will provide you the ability to network with others even after your competitive days are past. Golf allows you to spend time developing relationships with family, coworkers, clients, prospects and friends.
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