Great Day for Women’s Golf: Augusta National Announces a Women’s Amateur Championship

For years I have been wishing Augusta National would take “meaningful action” to support women’s golf. Yes, Augusta welcomed female members in 2012 when Condoleezza Rice and Darla Moore were extended invitations to join the club. However like most women who love golf, and as a fan of women’s golf, I wanted to see women play Augusta National.

Today the announcement came! Perhaps this announcement was not the one that women professional golfers hoped for but the Augusta National Women’s Amateur Championship is monumental for women’s golf. Here is the post from Twitter:

Masters Announcement on Twitter

Augusta National Tweet – Women’s Amateur Championship

The event being conducted within the same time frame as Drive, Chip and Putt and The Masters is excellent! The event will be held right before DCP (the wonderful golf championship for young golfers). Just imagine a young girl participating in DCP, watching the Augusta National Women’s Amateur Championship and knowing that one day (if she works hard) she may be playing the Augusta National Women’s Amateur Championship!

Of course, the big question for the LPGA is what does this mean for the ANA Inspiration? Will the top female amateurs, who normally play the ANA Inspiration, now have to choose between the two events? My guess is the LPGA will move the ANA (perhaps the week before the new amateur event). After all, it would be a communications manager’s dream story line – promoting the opportunity to watch the top amateur female golfers playing in the ANA Inspiration who will be then playing in the Augusta National Women’s Amateur Championship the following week.  And if the ANA is after the event, the LPGA promotes the winner of the Augusta National Women’s Amateur playing in the LPGA’s first major of the year. I say it’s a win/win for the LPGA (unless they do not move the date of the ANA)

I can’t wait until 2019 when I can watch the inaugural Augusta National Amateur Women’s Championship.

It’s a good day for women’s golf!

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Women of the Golf Channel (2018 Edition)

I find it interesting that my post Women of the Golf Channel is always a top visited page (even though it was written back in 2012). A lot has changed with the on-air talent so I thought I’d write an update.

From my post on March 8 2012:

Only two of the six women I highlighted in my previous post are still with Golf Channel. They are Kelly Tilghman and Lauren Thompson.

(1) Kelly Tilghman has a bio on the Golf Channel site but to be honest I watch a lot of Golf Channel and golf tournament coverage and I don’t see her that much except for “Life From” during major championships.

(2) Lauren Thompson is a co-host on Morning Drive. Back in 2012 she seemed to be a fill-in on-air talent for Holly Sonders (who left Morning Drive and went to FOX in 2014). Now Thompson is a key member of the morning team. You can read her full bio on the Golf Channel Website.

More Great Women on Golf Channel:

If you go to the bio page for TV personalities for Golf Channel you will see 11 women listed which is wonderful. I would break the list into two groups: On-air TV show personalities (e.g., Morning Drive, Golf Channel, etc.) and golf tournament coverage talent that do the on-air analysis for the tour coverage on Golf Channel.

As I did in my 2012 post, I am going to list just a few of the 11 women. At the end of the post is a list of links for the bios of all the women on Golf Channel’s website.

chantel-mccabe-golfchannel(1) Chantel McCabe is my new favorite on-air personality and seems to be the “go to person” for golf channel. By that I mean, McCabe is on Golf Central, Morning Driving, does interviews at PGA and LPGA tournaments, and does digital work for their website. It makes sense to me that the leadership at the golf channel would tap her for so many jobs because she is great on air. I like her style, her voice, she asks good questions, and she has a good sense of humor.

She is a seasoned reporter with experience working for FOX sports prior to joining the Golf Channel and was a reporter for a local television station in Springfield MA. She also scores points with me because she is a New England Patriots fan.

paigemackenzie_320x400(2) Paige Mackenzie is a co-host on Morning Drive. She joined Morning Drive while she was still on the LPGA Tour. The reasons I really like her is because she is very down to earth and relatable! For example, she chooses on-air outfits that any woman might wear. What I mean by that is sometimes (not always) other women, like Bailey Mosier, are so into fashion that their outfits seem over-the-top for a golf morning show.

I also enjoy Mackenzie’s tips when she does the “Watch and Learn” segments on Morning Drive. In these segments she reviews a player’s swing or a specific shot of a player from yesterday’s golf tournaments and explains what we can learn from it.

karenstupples_320x400(3) Karen Stupples is an on-course reporter and analyst for LPGA tour coverage. Stupples played on the LPGA and LET (Ladies European Tour) for 15 years and is the 2004 Women’s British Open Champion. She had an albatross (a 2 on a par 5) which you can watch in this Golf Channel video flashback.

I always find her insights interesting and her personality comes through even though you only hear her voice during coverage. She is funny and I often enjoy the banter with the other on-air analysts.

Golf Channel Bios

This would be a long blog post if I reviewed every women so below is a convenient chart with each woman’s name linked to their official bio on the Golf Channel website.

On-air Personalities Golf Tournament Coverage
Cara Banks Kay Cockerill
Lisa Cornwell Judy Rankin
Paige Mackenzie Karen Stupples
Chantel Mccabe Social Media Host for Tournaments
Bailey Mosier Alexandra O’Laughlin
Kelly Tilghman
Lauren Thompson

 

Lifestyle Ship Sticks Ads Get My Thumbs Up

It’s amazing how commercials really can shape your view of a product, service, or company. I have always thought that Ship Sticks (a service that will ship your golf clubs so you don’t have to lug them through an airport) was a great idea but I hated their commercials. In fact, I hated them so much that it tarnished my view of their brand.

Ship Sticks anywhere

The first one that really bothered me was an ad with a beautiful women at her door talking to a ship sticks delivery man picking up clubs. The joke of the ad was a male voice coming from inside a golf bag asking “Honey, are we there yet?” My reaction to this ad was that it was insulting to men. And I wondered if male golfers found the ad funny? Also, I have no problem with beautiful women selling product but I think the overt exposure of the woman’s cleavage in this ad is gratuitous and using this tactic is just plain lazy. If you haven’t seen it, you can view the “Ship Sticks Anywhere” for yourself.

Ship Sticks LarryThe next ad that seemed to run a lot on TV was called “Larry” which featured three co-workers giving a man a hard time for not having his clubs at the airport. Again, I thought to myself, do men really want to be portrayed as idiots (the three men questioning their co-worker)? At least “Larry” looked at the three men like they were idiots. Both these ads try to use humor but to me the ads are sophomoric and annoying.

I assume the ad agency presented the leadership of Ship Sticks all the demographic data that would indicate these commercials would be successful. Perhaps they are but I always thought the #1 Rule in advertising was don’t insult your customer; and 80 percent of golfers are male. Of course, I am a woman and have no idea if men find the portrayal of the man hiding in the bag and three co-workers insulting or funny.

Anyway, I am not writing because of the ads I dislike. I am writing because of the new direction of their commercials with two ads I recently saw on TV that I like.

The new ads use what I believe is a lifestyle approach focusing on things that golfers actually can relate to in their own golf lives. First is “Challenges” (see below) which shows images of bucket list golf destinations (with a voice over about ship sticks service). It might be viewed as boring or basic but if you are a golfer it catches your eye and makes you day dream (even if only for a few seconds) of playing those courses.

 

The other new ad that I like is “4 Buddies” (see below). Every golfer loves a great golf trip with their friends. Obviously, the reason I like this one if because women are the “buddies’ in the ad. Too many times I have seen golf commercials, online articles or print ads that are written as if only men take buddy trips. Not true! Yes, the majority of buddy trips are taken by men but I know many women golfers that take buddy trips. Now I think the ad will also catch the eye of male viewers because the women are young and beautiful (nothing wrong with that but I would surmise that most women taking golf buddy trips are a bit older).

 

Bottom line, I’m just one woman golfer but a smart marketer knows the “power of the purse.”  Personally, my opinion is that these ads appeal to a much broader customer base and improved the brand image of Ship Sticks; and I might even try their service when I take my next golf trip.

 

My Golf Journey – Overcoming my fear of playing with strangers

Golf is Hard

It is common knowledge that golf is hard and anyone who plays the game knows that anxious feeling on the first tee. New or less skilled golfers often describe golf as intimidating and pray they avoid cringe-worthy moments in front of other golfers. And for women golfers add the crap shoot factor of possibly being paired with men who do not hide the fact their round was just ruined by your presence in their foursome. For me the anxiety created from feelings of intimidation often felt overwhelming. And, for years I let my anxiety of playing golf with strangers keep me from enjoying the sport I love.

Source of My Fear

As a young girl I watched golf on television but it never occurred to me that I could play golf because I didn’t know anyone that actually played the game. In my late-twenties I met my ex-husband, a golfer with an eight handicap, and my golf journey began.

My ex-husband went on a business trip to Japan. He was gone for a month so I got clubs and took lessons. Besides teaching me swing basics, the golf pro gave me tips for playing with my husband (e.g., play fast, pick up your ball after your hit your drive and hit your second shot from where your husband’s drive lands) and for my last lesson he took me on the course to teach me golf etiquette.  Above all the pro told me “Don’t be that golfer that plays slow, takes too many swings, or is clueless about what is going on around them.” I knew exactly what he meant because my ex-husband would complain about “that golfer” when he talked about players in his Tuesday night golf league. All the tips were great but the message “don’t be that golfer” was probably not the best thought to put in someone’s head who already had a tendency to care too much about what other people think.

In the beginning I only played with my ex-husband and he was very supportive when we played alone. I played fast, ready golf and I had excellent golf etiquette. However, when we were paired with other golfers, my ex-husband made me feel uncomfortable. On the first tee, he would excessively reassure the other golfers that I wouldn’t slow them down, or he would pick up my ball even if I was not slowing anyone down. I have one clear memory of a golfer whispering to me, “Don’t let your husband pick up your ball. You’re doing fine and not holding us up. Play your own game.” Instead of feeling grateful for his support, I just felt embarrassed. Of course, these experiences sewed the seeds of my fear of playing with strangers.

After my marriage ended, I only played golf with two female friends. My fear kept me from playing golf when my friends were not available. At one point I joined a women’s golf association hoping for the opportunity to play golf in a less intimidating environment. Unfortunately the few times I played, the women in my foursome were seasoned players and not very welcoming. Instead of finding women in the chapter that were more welcoming, I just felt stressed and went back to only playing with my two best friends. Even with my friends, if a stranger joined our group my anxiety went through the roof.

I moved to a new state for a job and did not know anyone. I knew if I wanted to play golf I had to address my fear. I knew “getting out of my head” was part of the solution but telling myself not to worry wasn’t going to cut it.  I needed something tangible to focus on to improve my game which would boost my confidence and hopefully reduce my anxiety. My tangible issue, a reason I felt I could work on, was the lack of distance in my game.

Create and Work a Plan

My plan was simple. (1) Find a good teaching pro and I defined “good” as someone I felt comfortable with and who taught in a way that fit how I learned. (2) Practice what I learned in my lessons. (3) Force myself to play with strangers.

I found a great pro, Mike Havay at Quail Brook Golf Course in Somerset New Jersey. I knew from my first lesson he was a great fit for me because he was honest about the work it would take to meet my goals. As we worked together that first day he explained the first swing change he wanted me to work on in four different ways, after which Mike said to me “you are a very visual learner.” Bingo!

Basically. we had to completely rebuild my swing. I was not offended when Mike described my swing as a “typical beginner women’s swing” (even though I had been playing golf for a number of years). My swing was over-the-top, steep and all arms. My driver and woods went about the same distance (and not very far) because I wasn’t creating any power.

I worked hard at rebuilding my swing. After each lesson with Mike I would sit in my car and put notes into my phone. I would go to the range after work to practice before my next lesson. In the off season I would swing a club in my house. By the end of the second golf season Mike told me it was time for new clubs! I was so excited because I knew that meant my new swing was consistent.

During the time I was rebuilding my swing I joined the local chapter of Executive Women’s Golf Association (EWGA) which was the golf association I had joined but never really participated in while living in Boston. I played in the Tuesday night league and attended a few weekend outings. I also joined the golf club at work and forced myself to play in work golf outings which was very stressful because many of the staff played college golf. Playing in my first work golf outing I was paired with a woman that played from the back tees, hit her drive 230+ yards and had a 0.7 handicap. I hit my drive about 130 yards (with roll) and my handicap was 34. Talk about triggering anxiety!

You would think that after two years I would be completely cured of my fear. I had made great strides! I had no stress playing with golfers I did not know at work or in my EWGA chapter. I even played competitive golf (e.g., EWGA championship events and work championship events). But the reality was I still could not get myself to signup for a tee time as a single.

Every week in my lessons, Mike reassured me that I was a good golfer and I just need to go play with strangers. He said you may get paired with guys that don’t want to play with you but that’s not about you (they’re just jerks) so don’t let them get in your head. He told me to remember every golfer has a bad shot, a bad hole or even a bad day. That’s just golf and no one is judging you. If anything, most golfers just hope they don’t catch a struggling player’s bad mojo and find their own game going south. The only thing golfers hate is the same thing you hate – slow players or players that display bad golf etiquette. After his mental coaching, I took the leap and booked my very first tee time as a single.

Weeks later I was taking a lesson with Mike, two men in a golf cart (making the turn) stopped and said “Hi Catherine! Remember us? We played a few weeks ago.” Then they said to Mike “She’s a lot of fun to play with but don’t make her any better or she’ll beat us!”  They drove off and Mike said to me “In all my years of teaching I have never had any golfers stop and make comments about one of my students. And certainly not male golfers about a female student. You need to realize how big this moment is for you.” I just laughed. Looking back at that moment, I now recognize it was a big deal.

Results

As golfers we always look at our numbers. I track greens in regulation (GIR), putts and other parts of my game to discover areas to improve but how I play (my score) is really the ultimate measure. I typically shoot in the mid-to-low 90s but twice this year I broke 90 (breaking 90 was a goal I set for 2017).  I also set a goal to get my handicap to 18 this golf season and I exceeded that goal (handicap chart below).  I am thrilled with my numbers but overcoming my fear is my greatest result!

My Handicap History 2017

This year, four years after I made my decision to address my fear, I have no anxiety going to the course and playing as a “single” or being paired with men to fill out a  foursome. Sure I have the first tee jitters that most golfers feel but that’s normal. I have bad days and feel a bit embarrassed (and frustrated) when I play poorly but I know all golfers have those feelings when their game leaves them.

The overwhelming anxiety is gone. I feel excited to get to the course. It saddens me that I still have to face the “cold shoulder” when I get paired with some men but I don’t let it get in my head. After a few holes the guys usually get very chatty with me trying to make up for the blatant disdain they displayed on the first tee. And, playing more as a single I have experience more nice guys that like playing with women then men that jump to conclusions about playing with me just because of my gender.

One last important metric – rounds played. The active golf season for where I live is April 1 to October 30 or approximately 30 weeks. In 2013, I only played 12 rounds of golf compared to 2017 in which I have played 40 rounds of golf. My 2017 rounds could be inflated because of the great weather this year – playing golf in November and the handicap season was extended to November 15. The point is, I played!

 

“Lydia Ko goes Pro” video gets four stars

It has been many months since my last post because I have had a lot of life changes in the past nine months (no, I did not have a child).  I have moved to a new state for a dream job! As we all know with a new job and a big move other things fall to the wayside.  But now I am more settled in my job and new home; and of course fall is here (so less daylight hours to play golf), which makes it a logical time to focus on my blog.

I wanted to start with something light and fun!  And Lydia Ko’s announcement that she is turning pro is just the ticket!  I read that she decided to release a video rather than do a press conference and sure enough she tweeted out to her followers the link to the video on October 22.  Here is the video for your enjoyment:

I give the video four stars because it is entertaining (Lydia speed golfing) and shows her personality (e.g., she laughs a lot); and it certainly beats a boring press conference video.

I have said in a previous post that I am not a fan of the younger and younger players we see in professional events.  And that a player like Michele Wie is a cautionary tale because she is only 23 and struggles to find her game.  But, Lydia Ko seems to be a very poised and talented young women.  Ko has won a number of professional tournaments and made history winning the CN Canadian Women’s Open in 2012 and 2013. As the press has pointed out, Ko has left over $1 Million in money on the table as an amateur.

Now we just have to wait for the LPGA Commissioner, Mike Whan, to approve her request to waive the rule requiring LPGA professionals to be at least 18 years old.  The waiver is a  “fiat accompli” given the popularity of Ko, the fact she has already won multiple professional events as an amateur, and Whan waived the age requirement for Lexi Thompson after she won an LPGA event.

As a professional, Ko will face a new kind of scrutiny because everyone will be watching to see if she falters under the “pressure” of being a pro. Time and time again a young amateur golfer is hailed as the next “Tiger or Annika” and seems to lose their talent (or maybe free spirit) as a professional.  Only time will tell if Ko is able win as much as a professional as she did as an amateur.

Hopefully, she will have a smooth transition from the “darling of the amateur ranks” to a regular pro on tour. Bottom line, I know I will be watching to see how she plays in her first tournament as a professional.

Michelle Wie’s 2013 season is off to a rough start

Michelle Wie is a very popular LPGA player.  She really made her name as an amateur and was viewed as the golden girl who would help rejuvenate the struggling brand of women’s golf when she turned pro in 2005 (note: her LPGA Rookie year is 2009.)  Fast forward to 2013 and Michelle Wie is still a popular player on the LPGA tour but she has not achieved the “greatness” bestowed on her as an Amateur.

In the press this week Michelle Wie spoke about all the hard work she had done during the off-season — working on every part of her game.  Unfortunately at the Women’s Australian Open this week Wie missed the cut by 2 strokes or 1-over par.  That might not seem bad but it is awful compared to the leader (after two rounds) at 15-under par.  So Wie starts her 2013 year where she ended her 2012 season — missing cuts.

2012 really was a horrible year for Wie. She played 23 tournaments and missed the cut 10 times.  We could state this in a positive way and say she made the cut (or played the weekend and earned money) 13 out of 23 times (or 56% of the time) but that is still awful.

Let’s look at some statistics for the last three years.

Chart of Stats for Wie

Michelle Wie has never been a great putter and in 2012 she had no confidence.  She would stand over a putt for an eternity and still miss it.  Wie has always been long off the tee (she is ranked 4 in overall driving distance) but being long does not matter when you look at Wie’s greens in regulation (GIR) and driving accuracy statistics which are poor.  In general, the statistics I have looked at indicate that many of the top players have GIRs between 72% and 76%. The top players also have putting averages below 30 (the really great putter’s have averages between 25 to 27).  Let’s look at Wei’s statistics against two other American stars.

Stats Comparision ChartOne last comparison (for fun) — Michelle Wie was in the LPGA rookie class of 2009.  Another member of the 2009 class, Jiyai Shin.  Shin won the Women’s Australian Open this week beating Yani Tseng (#1 Ranked women golfer in the world) and Lydia Ko (#1 ranked amateur golfer in the world).  Shin is also the current RICOH Women’s British Open Champion.  In 2012, Shin played 18 LPGA tournaments and made the cut in all 18 events. In 2010, Shin was the #1 player in the world rankings for 16 weeks.  Shin is a serious contender in 2013.

Will Michelle Wie ever achieve the success of, Jiyai Shin, her LPGA rookie year classmate?  Will Wei regain some of the glory of her amateur career?  Will she find the success so many people expected of her since turning pro?  Only time will tell but it crossed my mind today that maybe time is running out for Wie to achieve “greatness.”  Given Wie is only 23 years old that might seem like a ridiculous statement but the LPGA is full of young talented players so it is easy to jump to the conclusion that Wie may have missed her time to dominate.  My hope for Wie is that she finds her game soon.

2013 PGA Merchandise Show – Morning Drive and LPGA News

The ability to follow the PGA Merchandise show from the comfort of your own home is amazing!  I am here in the cold Northeast (seven degrees this morning) and seeing updates on Twitter, Facebook, Ustream and more.

The Golf Channel Morning Drive show and the LPGA both started tweeting early in the morning that big announcements were coming.  Given I am a fan of both, I was curious to see what was “big” to each organization.

Morning Drive Announcement

The Morning Drive show is expanding to seven days a week.  Great!  They are adding to the cast.  Most of co-anchor additions make sense because they have been on the show or are members of the golf channel.  The one odd addition is Ahmad Rashad. He is an NBC broadcast “star” so I get that but what does he know about golf?  I guess we will find out soon.

The other big reveal was the new set of the show.  Below is a photo of the old set.

Morning Drive Set

TV Screen Shot of Holly Sonders on Morning Drive Set. Click image to Enlarge.

Now one thing I always liked about the current set is that it seemed “cozy” and had lots of golf memorabilia and “chotskies” on the set.  I also think the intimate feel of the set added to the relaxed style of the co-anchors.  It never felt like a “formal” news show like the evening recap show, Golf Central.

The Golf Channel provided a photo gallery of the new set.  If you click on the photo below it will take you to a cool time-lapse video of the construction of the new set.

Click on Photo to see a time-lapse video of the construction of the new set.

Click on Photo to see a time-lapse video of the construction of the new set.

The new set and staff is a clear indication of the success of the show.  I will keep an open mind but I hope what I loved most about the show does not get lost in the new high-gloss set.

LPGA Announcement

In a previous post, The LPGA’s Marketing Challenge, I noted some concerns about the tour’s perception in the American market.  Basically, the LPGA is a global tour but the American market needs a new star which I felt was Stacy Lewis.  I am happy to see that the tour is now promoting Stacy Lewis.  Stacy certainly made it easier for them by winning Player of the Year.  I am happy to see the management at the LPGA finally embracing Stacy Lewis as a tour star.

The LPGA also deserves credit for figuring out a way to capitalize on the statement they have been emphasizing all year that they are a “global tour.”  I was thrilled with the announcement of the “International Crown” by the LPGA.  It is a new match play tournament that will debut in 2014.  The tournament will be 8 countries vying for the crown. I also like the promotional video.

And to my point earlier about promoting Stacy Lewis, there is a nice video of Stacy talking about the new tournament.

I like the International Crown for two reasons.  First, the LPGA did not just follow the PGA tour and create a “Presidents Cup” for the ladies.  The Presidents Cup is the USA against the rest of the world (minus Europe).  Second, it ties nicely to the fact that golf will be part of the Olympics in 2016 and what do we all love to do during the Olympics? Cheer for our country.  The fact fans love to cheer for their country should make the International Crown a big hit among golf fans; and hopefully, bring new fans to the LPGA.