Last Updated on Sunday, 12 August 2012 14:24
Sunday, 12 August 2012 13:53
by Gord Montgomery
It’s up to women professional golfers to fix what ails the game in this day and age.
The fact there aren’t a lot of young women playing the game is nothing new but the fact that it’s up to those in the upper echelons to help change the face of the game is perhaps an idea that hasn’t really been bandied about before – at least until recently.
Laura Witvoet, the director of instruction at Alberta’s famed Wolf Creek GC, said in a recent interview with Inside Golf that the ladies at the top best be paying attention to the youth below them in order to help their livelihood thrive and yes, even survive.
After all, the former LPGA pro noted, there is lots out there for young female players in today’s world of golf but no one seems to be leading the charge to grab onto those perks.
“I think there are actually a number of reasons,” she said about girls continuing to shy away from the sport. “There’s the time factor, the expense, just the availability as well. I don’t think we make it very conducive to the enjoyment, the fun, bringing them up in the game and getting them enthused about it.
“From my perspective there needs to be a little more initiative on our part as professionals to entice them to play – to make it enjoyable, make it affordable. Build on trying to make them excited about playing the game.”
Witvoet noted she uses the tried and true college scholarship availability route to dangle that proverbial carrot in front of young females just coming into the game and even for those who have played for a while and show a modicum of talent.
“That’s an avenue I use for girls who may be looking to further their career, whether it’s in golf or not.”
At a grassroots level, golf courses everywhere must break down the so-called clique barriers that often keep youngsters out of the game simply because their friends don’t see the sport as “cool,” or think it uses time better spent on shopping or hanging out at the mall.
Witvoet suggests part of this problem could perhaps be cured by the pros in the women’s end of the game stepping forward and taking charge.
After all, she feels golf can give a dedicated player lots in return for their effort.
“With my experience on the LPGA Tour, we had a girls’ initiative and we as players went around to clubs,” to foster growth on the female side of the game.
“That took off. That seemed to spur a lot of excitement, some enthusiasm for it with the young girls especially.”
She continues by noting that in Alberta “where they get started but then get out of the game for a number of reasons – their friends don’t play or it takes too much time or there are too many other opportunities, too many other things to do,” it’s a battle to keep young females thinking the game is a pleasure to play.
“So, I think getting back to making the game fun again and then really enticing them, making it available for them and making it so it is the “neat” thing to do,” is the best way to approach this conundrum, she said.
Asked point-blank if the LPGA tour does enough to promote the game to today’s youth, Witvoet says she feels that they have a long way to go in order to gain acclaim for their efforts, not only through working with kids but with women golfers as well.
“I know they’ve started a few more initiatives and are targeting and geared more toward that,” she responded. “I think what you’re seeing now is just the repercussions of not doing that earlier on.
“We haven’t developed enough North American players where it’s exciting, where you can turn on the television on during the weekend and see your favourite player.
Now, no one can relate to who’s out there it seems. You have to go pretty deep down the leader board before you actually see a local player or someone you like to follow.
“That’s an area that as a group, the LPGA, even the teaching division could be a whole lot better at.”
Paula Creamer, aka The 'Pink Panther', Has A Pretty Good Following Among Young Girls
Witvoet noted as a youngster she never had the luxury of junior leagues to compete in and against other females. Instead she played against boys for the most part and practiced continually to become better.
She never went the college route instead playing mini-tours to gain status before becoming a club teaching pro. Now, she wants to pass on the lessons she learned over her career and hopes she can find more young ladies willing to take the time to listen, learn and benefit from a game that will give back one way or another.
“It goes back to getting people to be a little more aware, especially girls, and that’s where my attention now goes,” she stated.
Besides educational opportunities and perhaps a career on the pro level, the game of golf provides a large number of life skills that everyone can use.
“You learn to get along with others, learn honesty, integrity. Golf’s a difficult game and when you learn to cope with it you learn life skills like patience and getting along with others.
“It’s such a well-rounded sport and whether you play competitive or not, it’s a game of a lifetime. Obviously you’ll take to the game a bit better if you start young but you don’t have to, and I’m an example of that.
“I didn’t turn pro until I was 25 but I took it to the highest level and I’m still enjoying it. It’s a game for a lifetime and a lot of fun,” and its doors are always open for new players, especially young girls looking for a sporting outlet that has much to offer in return for simply giving it a shot.
About the writer: Gord Montgomery is the sports editor of two weekly newspapers in the Edmonton area and is a member of the Golf Journalists Association of Canada. He has written for Inside Golf for the past four years with the majority of his coverage in north and central Alberta.
By Gord Montgomery
About the writer: Gord Montgomery is the sports editor of two weekly newspapers in the Edmonton area and is a member of the Golf Journalists Association of Canada. He has written for Inside Golf for the past four years with the majority of his coverage in north and central Alberta. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
More articles by Gord Montgomery