8 women on the obstacles they've faced, and overcome, in golf
It might feel counter to the spirit of Women's Golf Day to focus on the consistent challenges women face in the game. Shouldn't this be a day when we celebrate women's accomplishments in golf rather than lament everything they are forced to overcome? But viewed another way, what better way to acknowledge the incredible road women have traveled and continue to travel than to revisit some of the obstacles they've faced and the resilience required to combat them?
Below, we asked eight women in golf to describe examples of adversity they've overcome in golf. Their answers are all testaments to the strength and determination found throughout the female golf community.
Pia Nilsson and Lynn Marriott, Golf performance gurus, authors of four books, founders of Vision54, ranked on Golf Digest's 50 Greatest Teachers
"The first time Lynn and I went to a book agent in New York with the ideas and a draft to 'Every Shot Must Have A Purpose,' we were told we should probably rewrite it as a book for women golfers. We were so disappointed since we knew our message is for all golfers. We walked out being a little frustrated. A few weeks later we got a call that he had changed his mind."
Nilsson also recalled the time Marriott took the player aptitude test to become a member of the PGA of America as another obstacle in the golf world that needed overcoming. "When Lynn took the PAT for PGA of America in 1983 and she had to play PGA National in Florida from the same tees as the guys. On some holes it was hard to reach the fairway. (She made it though!)"
Nilsson herself faced an issue when she started coaching. "When I became head coach in Sweden for the women’s teams in 1990 and had the exact same job as my colleague on the men’s side and it was suggested my pay should be lower. (I managed to get them to change their minds.)"
Sandra Gal, LPGA Tour Winner
"I had a neck injury where the pain radiated out into my arm," Gal recalls. "It was hard to figure out what it was."
The injury required Gal to miss some tournaments and take time away from golf to heal. This injury taught her about the relationship between her mind and her body, and that for one to be healthy, the other must be healthy, too.
"Usually if I’m balanced and happy, there’s less chance of injury for me," said Gal. "If an injury comes up, it’s a sign that I need to take it easier and not put as much pressure on me. Resetting my mindset. Once I did that, I didn't have as much tension in my body. It helped me heal."
"That injury, that I had for quite a while, never came back," said Gal. "One thing that golf has taught me, is getting to know myself, and working on mindset. Something that fascinates me is how you can find the best mental state for you to be in. And what mindsets you can get in that aren’t healthy, and how you can change them. Finding the right balance. It’s all correlated."
Marina Alex LPGA Tour Winner
LPGA Tour player Marina Alex grew up playing junior golf the way a lot of women grew up playing junior golf: As one of the few, if not the only, girls present. That meant competing against the boys. Depending on the tournament, the tees would be adjusted for female players to even the playing field against the males. But Alex recalls an event where she found herself playing straight up.
"The first thing that came to mind was playing on the guy's golf team in high school and playing in a “league/county” tournament," said Alex. "I was the only girl in the tournament. They set up my tees 5-10 yards ahead, which in high school was long."
Having been given an adjustment slight enough to not really be an adjustment at all made it feel like she was being set up for failure. The course was between 6,600-6,700 yards.
Alex won the tournament.
Andia Winslow Professional golfer, instructor and fitness coach, the first African-American woman to play Ivy League Golf
"Turning professional during a down economy was probably the biggest challenge I can recall during this life-long love affair with the game of golf. Not only was it difficult to secure the funds from sponsors and investors necessary to be competitive at the highest level, it was quite the juggling act to work multiple jobs while competing full time. Those years were not only character building, they were character revealing! What I call my 'resourcefulness muscles' were developed as I walked that tenuous line between make it or break it. As a result, I've explored so many professional endeavors and the richness of those seemingly disparate experiences has made me the creatively fulfilled multi-hyphenate I am today. What continues to be a challenge—but a welcomed one at that— is growing the game of golf in diverse communities and amongst women and girls. It's something to which I will be forever committed whether I'm teaching golf clinics during after-school programs in Los Angles or speaking about the business of golf in executive boardrooms in Manhattan."
Megan LaMothe, Founder and CEO of NYC-based women's golf clothing line, Foray
"The misunderstanding of who women golfers are, and trying to overcome that hurdle," LaMothe describes as the biggest obstacle she's faced since launching her company in 2017. "So many people who are deciders are men, and that’s great and fine, but we have to educate them as to why their customers are underserved. Buyers will say ‘We don’t have a women’s business, we don’t need to buy your stuff.’ And then we’ll get them to try it, and then I’ll get emails saying that they’ve sold out."
LaMothe and her team at Foray have taken on the task of recreating the conversation around women's golf apparel and making it an empowering one.
"It’s interesting to get people across the hurdle to understand what a woman golfer looks like and what she needs," LaMothe explains. "People have a preconceived notion about women’s golf and what it looks like and what it should feel like—that it should be uncomfortable, and preppy, and basic. It doesn’t have to be any of those things. It should just feel like you. You should go out on the golf course and feel authentic. You should feel like you. Always. This is just another place where you should feel like you."
Photo by Dom Furore
Erika Larkin, Instructor, Golf Digest Best Young Teacher
Larkin's biggest obstacle to overcome in her golf life was accessing golf in the first place. She grew up in Queens, in a family that had no connection to golf whatsoever.
"Five subway stops away, we stumbled on a Pitch & Putt in Flushing Meadows Park," Larkin writes on her website. "I was eight years old and my adventurous parents and I — an only child — decided on a whim to try our hand at golf. The three of us spent two years playing in the shadow of Shea Stadium before ever stepping foot on a "real" course. When we did, we were hooked for good."
Larkin was self-taught until she was 15-years-old, and then went on to get a golf scholarship to James Madison. She's now the author of a book and the instructor at The Club at Creighton Farms in Aldie, Va.
Gaby Lopez, LPGA Tour winner
"In order to play golf at any level, we’ve got to overcome our own fears, doubts, insecurities, and the only way to overcome them is by facing them all. Knowing that it might take time, patience, and people that can push us to do so. The outcome might not be quick or easy, but the day we do it, it’s the most rewarding and satisfying feeling that will make you the strongest you’ve ever been."
Women's Golf Day is a day put aside on the calendar to celebrate women's golf and unite women across the world in the sport. There are over 800 events happening in over 46 countries. Click here to find one near you.