As I arrived for an afternoon round at Washtenaw Golf Club today, I was happy to find the front nine hosting a large high school girls golf match.
I was happy because the match seemed to me to signify a return to a bit of normality in this topsy-turvy plague year. Although the tournament meant that I could only play the back nine, I did not mind in the least. Indeed, it was an absolute delight to see so many young people engaged in the game.
These young women are the future of our beloved sport in so many ways. As youth, they represent a generation that will follow my own. I’m pushing 60, so my golf days are realistically numbered. At some level, it is comforting to know that the game is in such good hands.
The fact that it was such a large girls golf tournament also is promising. At this point, the best estimate is that women constitute just 20% of golfers in the United States. Since women are 51% of the population, they are significantly under-represented in our sport.
Imagine the rewards that could be reaped by all golfers (and especially the golf industry) if the number of women increased to the point where they accounted for 51% of all golfers. Even increasing women’s participation from 20% to 30% would erase the losses in players that golf has reportedly suffered over the last decade. A significant increase in the number of players will put an end to course closures and may even lead to new openings.
I have long thought that golf is the perfect sport for women. Multiple tee boxes and handicaps mean that women are not at an immediate disadvantage as they would be in, say, basketball, with its fixed 10 foot hoops. Golf is a game where balance and coordination are just as — if not more — important than the male dominated strength and speed.
Further, golf is a social game. Guys use golf as an excuse to socialize with their friends in an outdoor, sporting environment. We don’t admit it, but camaraderie is really what the regular foursome is all about. If men enjoy spending four hours hanging out with their buddies, I cannot imagine why women would not enjoy that opportunity as well.
Washtenaw has a long history of supporting women in golf. In 1927, when many (most?) clubs excluded women, Washtenaw was holding women’s golf tournaments.
I coached high school girls golf a number of years ago, and even had the honor of sending a couple of players off to college with golf scholarships in hand. They were talented, and I think that only real contribution was managing paperwork and requests from college coaches. I am nothing if not a highly efficient paper pusher.
I’m still proud.
In addition to hosting numerous junior and high school events, Washtenaw is the home course for Concordia University, a Lutheran school in Ann Arbor.
Earlier this season, Washtenaw Golf Club hosted the Golf Association of Michigan’s Junior Kickoff.
Michigan Golf Hall-of-Famer Dave Kendall, who owns Washtenaw Golf Club, gets it. Grow the game, and you reap the benefits both in the short and long term. Junior players with fond memories of their round at Washtenaw will want to return (with their parent and siblings in tow). Decades from now, today’s juniors may bring their own children to Washtenaw.
It’s a long game. But for golf, with its five hundred year history, the long game is where it’s at.
Golf is back.