The importance of the week before Masters Week — Interview: Rebecca Caimano — Must-click women’s golf links
The IX: Golf Thursday with Addie Parker, April 7, 2022
Happy Golf Thursday! How lucky can we get as golf fans? After saying farewell to Mission Hills (huge congratulations to first-time LPGA Tour winner and major champ Jennifer Kupcho), we head straight into the greatest week of the year — Masters Week. Added bonus, we will see Tiger Woods tee it up hoping to chase down his SIXTH green jacket a little over a year after his horrific car accident. I couldn’t write a story this good if I tried.
It’s fair to say that we romanticize Augusta National more than any other course, but we can’t help it! There’s something magical about the pristine condition of the grass, the blooming magnolias scattered across the grounds, and the overall pageantry that makes this week unlike any other.
My favorite thing about The Masters is how much pre-tournament coverage there is. No other golf event gets dissected and analyzed before the first tee shot is even hit the way The Masters does. Every golf media outlet is posting about it all week long, and yet there’s still so much that we don’t know. Bits and pieces of the traditions are hidden away from those who aren’t physically there. For example, patrons are not allowed to have their cellphones while on the grounds. Quite literally, they force you to be present in the moment and I, for one, don’t hate that. I’m definitely the kind of person who takes a million photos on vacation, but I think when you’re in or around something that’s so prestigious your mental camera will serve you just fine.
I can drone on and on about the mystic that is Augusta National, but make no mistake about it — those perfectly manicured greens still have flaws. We’ve previously discussed the racist and sexist past of Augusta and its course designers, but we will now have the conversation about how that narrative has changed ever so slightly.
Junior and women’s amateur golf were front and center this past week, and it was special to see. Especially at a place that so many of us admire but know we would never be accepted.
If you’re unfamiliar with Drive, Chip and Putt, have no fear, I’m going to give you the 411 on one of my favorite junior golf events. I was once a participant, I never made it to the final round for a chance to showcase my talents at Augusta, but it allowed me to travel to new places and compete against kids from up and down the east coast.
Drive, Chip and Putt is a free nationwide junior golf development competition aimed at growing the game by focusing on the three fundamental skills employed in golf. By tapping the creative and competitive spirit of girls and boys ages 7-15, Drive, Chip and Putt provides aspiring junior golfers an opportunity to play with their peers in qualifiers around the country.
The highlight of the weekend was when 10-year-old Kylie Chung gave an interview after winning her division, saying that she can’t wait to go home and tell the boys that she’s good at golf. Something that every female golfer has said or would like to say to the men in their lives.
Kylie will have this moment forever, and I hope she never stops telling people that she’s good at golf — she’s earned her bragging rights.
You can find the full list of winners along with some really cool photos of the juniors with golf legends like Tom Watson and Nancy Lopez here.
Before the Drive, Chip and Putt finale happened, the third annual Augusta National Women’s Amateur (with the exception of 2020) took place and it was EPIC. The tournament debuted in 2019, with the intention of bolstering women’s golf at the very place where women were not permitted prior to 2012. Augusta National chairman Fred Ridley said in his April 2018 press conference that the event was “established to inspire greater interest and participation in the women’s game by creating a new, exciting and rewarding pathway for these players to fulfill their dreams”.
This year’s field featured 70 amateurs ranging from some of the NCAA’s best like Stanford’s Rachel Heck to girls who haven’t even gotten their learner’s permits yet.
This year’s champion Anna Davis is the definition of California-cool. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to catch any of the live coverage, but when I saw the tweets of Davis rocking pigtails and a bucket hat I knew I had no choice but to cheer for her. Let’s also marvel in the fact that she’s a lefty, which always a special occurrence on the course.
Besides her uniquely cool demeanor, her telling the press that she didn’t really watch The Masters growing up, when asked about her favorite Masters memory was ice freaking cold. I don’t think she even meant to say it to try and sound “cool” or to be different, she’s probably being brutally honest the way only teenage girls can. I mean prior to Tiger’s win in 2019, the last time he had won the green jacket was before she was even born. No offense to guys like Phil, Adam Scott, Zach Johnson, Bubba Watson and company, but the PGA Tour without Tiger wasn’t as fun to watch. He’s the greatest ball-striker in the history of the game and no, you can’t change my mind.
But back to Anna and the ANWA…what these young women did last week has set the precedent for girls in golf. I hope that every parent, aunt, uncle, grandparent, coach, teacher, mentor is exposing their young golfers to this event. Watching professional golf isn’t the only method anymore. The final round of the ANWA was broadcasted on NBCSports — that’s huge. As golf continues to grow and reach younger audiences, think about how motivating it will be for junior golfers to see their peers, kids their age, playing on the course of their dreams on TV.
And for the cherry on top of what was already a legendary week, Chevron Championship winner Jennifer Kupcho won the first-ever ANWA in 2019 on the same exact weekend. In three years she went from amateur status to becoming a LPGA major-winning champion. The golf gods have pulled out all the stops this week, I’m telling y’all.
Augusta has and will always be historic, but the way it’s revolutionizing it’s legacy beyond the perfect shade of emerald green fairways to a hub of junior and amateur golf excellence makes me a very, very happy fan.
Download The Masters app if you haven’t already, get your sweet tea and homemade pimento cheese sandwiches ready, and enjoy another fabulous weekend of golf.
” I always said that if they have a golf course like this [Augusta] in heaven, I want to be the head pro.”
— Gary Player
This week in women’s golf
If you have links you wish to share for Golf Thursday, sources for golf news, or want to talk about anything at all, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org ! Discussion of any kind is always welcome…I mean it…MESSAGE ME!
I think we’re all still mourning Mission Hills and we’re unsure of our emotions. Players are sharing our same sentiments along with other view points for how women’s golf is getting the cold shoulder despite the fact that Chevron is attempting to bolster the tour.
LPGA vet Christina Kim had extremely passionate words about leaving Mission Hills and about how the ANWA coincides with golf’s first major. “Truth be told, I’m not gonna lie. I’m really upset with Augusta National. Because there’s no reason why we couldn’t continue to have this tournament be the first major in professional golf,” Kim said. “And I think it’s absolutely disgusting what they’re doing and I have no problem saying that. It’s bull hockey what they’re doing.” Read the full story on Golfweek.
But wait, we’re not done with Chevron just yet! The LPGA announced on Wednesday that the company donated over $2 million for diversity and inclusion nonprofits over the weekend as a way to highlight their commitment to women’s golf and diversity.
More Masters news….how cool is it that a brother and sister play on the PGA and LPGA?!
The LET has been on a South African streak but the tour is headed east to Thailand! Here’s what you need to know for Trust Golf Asian Mixed Cup series coming up.
A couple weeks back Saudi Arabia hosted the Aramco Saudi International, and the Aramco Team series has plans to expand into Asia starting next month! This means that there will be five tournaments held in Thailand, UK, Spain, USA and Saudi Arabia with a $5m total purse in further boost for women’s golf!!!
Epson Tour News
We’re no strangers to the kinds of sacrifices that tour players and their families have to make in order to make qualifying tournaments, nourish themselves, cover travel costs, etc…Brynn Walker, an Epson Tour player, shares a heartfelt piece about her mom and all the tour moms.
Epson Tour race for the card recap…Every year, the top 10 in the Race for the Card earn LPGA Tour membership for the following season. From 1999-2002, the official qualifying tour of the LPGA handed out three cards. Then from 2003-2007, the number increased to five before 10 were distributed starting in 2008. Since the inaugural year, 172 players have graduated to the big stage.
This moment is what it’s all about. Empowered women empower women. But also check out this article that ties into what I was describing above, Anna’s win is bigger than just her…it’s historic.
Sometimes I get Twitter happy, but this was just too cool.
Five at The IX: My conversation with Rebecca Caimano
This week’s article and Five at The IX conversation are so near and dear to my heart. After four months off, my team and I are back to long hours at the course developing our juniors into better golfers and even better people. For me, my junior golf days were and still are unforgettable, and they started at my local First Tee chapter.
The First Tee shaped who I am. I spent most of my formative years going to Girls Golf classes twice a week, and I knew the nine core values better than any math formula. I had the absolute privilege to sit down and chat with Rebecca Caimano, Assistant Executive Director of The First Tee of Greater Philadelphia.
Rebecca shares how she got involved with The First Tee, how things have evolved since she’s been there, and what being a coach means to the young girls she sees every week. Enjoy!
Q: What does The First Tee mean to you and how did you get involved?
RC: I was finishing school, I studied political science, and realized that I did not want to go into political science. Luckily, The First Tee of Greater Philadelphia chapter, actually, at the time was just the First Tee of Philadelphia, was looking for a female to really grow the game of golf. So I came on board in January 2011. My job was develop the Girls Golf program, and to go out to some of the schools in the area and talk to students and get them interested in the game of golf. And through First Tee, which is really about helping young people make really good decisions off of the golf course, just as much as on the golf course. So that really continued to draw me in, I was thinking about the fact that it was so cool that I was able to do something that I grew up with and gave me confidence without realizing at the time. So now I get to help young people really understand that and see that. So through my years at First Tee and growing the Girls Golf program, I began to grow into another role as the program director.
First Tee has really helped me grow professionally but also personally. Four or five years ago, I was a different person than I am right now. And not a different person, because I can think you’re always who you are at your core, but I was making some really poor decisions. I was in an unhealthy relationship, not just with another person, but also with myself, I didn’t see myself for who I was. I didn’t respect myself with some of the choices that I was making. I was eating and I was drinking, and I wasn’t putting myself first and I kind of lost sight of myself.
One day, I was teaching a Girls Golf class, at the time I also coached an all girls high school golf team and those girls were watching this class. There I was teaching a young class and I was talking about the very thing that I wasn’t doing well. I was talking about having good relationships with friends, surrounding yourself with positive people that can bring you up because so often we get caught up with tearing ourselves down. And in that moment, I was like, man, I am asking these women, these young girls, that are going to be women that eventually be my age someday, to make good decisions about being with the right kind of people, and I’m not doing that. So, you know, I kind of reflected on that and I made some serious changes in my life.
Q: I’m sure, like most women, your experience as a woman in the golf industry has been demanding, but, what has been the most rewarding thing you have done? The most challenging?
The most rewarding thing is that I love to see the shock on people’s faces when I say that I can golf and that I teach golf. It’s rewarding because it shouldn’t be a shock. That shouldn’t be something that’s rewarding, but at the same time, you know, there is a little bit of that “oh, you can do that?” It’s not even just for men sometimes, it happens in conversations with other women when they ask what I do for a living.
Another reward is introducing those who may not have had the opportunity to play before and giving that to them. Being in the position that I’m in, if I want to shut the golf course down, if I want to close the driving range down and have a clinic — I can. Often times we will have women’s networking events, and we bring them to the golf course, we shut the golf course down. And we teach women in other sports industries, how to play how to play golf, because especially during COVID, golf was the only thing that people could do, so a lot of people picked it up. So I think that’s pretty rewarding. And also, again, just seeing more more women!
As for a challenge, when I started I went through the LPGA program, four years ago, because I felt like I needed to have something that proved that I belonged at the table, whatever that table meant. I feel like that can be pretty challenging sometimes. There are some really strong females in the Philadelphia section that play golf, or that are directors of instruction in the area, but there’s still a lot of work that needs to be done. And so it is challenging to have a conversation or be worried that you just might be brushed off or ignored or being mid conversation with someone and then another person just comes in and interrupts you almost like you don’t exist. Things like that are frustrating and difficult but that’s fuel to the fire. It’s fuel because if I feel this way as a 33 year old female that’s been in the industry for 11 years — imagine how a young female feels who’s 13 years old, who’s going to a golf course for the first time, who could be a phenomenal golfer, but that doesn’t matter even if they’re a phenomenal golfer, because they aren’t made to feel accepted on every course. I don’t want them to be treated that way.
Q: How many young girls do you see a week, on average?
Around 100 to 120, and that’s only in our golf courses. I would say we probably see another 100 in our schools and new service organizations that I don’t go out to see as much as I’d like to. But yeah, I think we are 42% female across the board.
Q: What would you personally, not systemically within The First Tee, or even golf in general, but what do you personally think needs to happen in order to engage more girls in golf? Imagine you had the final say and it happens immediately.
For starters, getting rid of “ladies” tees. That’s number one, because why even define that?
Cost is also super important! To become a PGA or LPGA professional is so flipping expensive. And like some people just aren’t at that capacity to do so. I think a lot of kids do four years of college, and they don’t even think that things like PGM (professional golf management) is an option. They’ve already paid or are paying or four years for college, and now they got to pay another like, I think it’s like $8,000 to do certifications and things like that. And those take like three or four years to do it — but that’s a whole other story.
Cost for apparel and equipment is also a big issue. FootJoy, Callaway and Nike can all do a better job with women’s apparel. If you’re a female, no matter what kind of female, no matter where you are on the golf scale, you should be able to go to the golf course and feel comfortable and confident with what you’re wearing. I, for one hate wearing golf shirts. I hate the colors. I don’t know what it is. I think maybe it’s because I had to wear them so much growing up!
I very rarely wear a collared shirt. I’m not going to say that every female is like me being that they don’t like to wear collared shirts, but I when I was in high school, I had to wear a men’s shirt because they didn’t order women’s shirts. I had to roll my sleeves a lot because I’m so short. So, a men’s shirt on me is a dress.
Anyways, I think that making spaces like bathrooms and locker rooms more welcoming would also be nice. There are pieces of golf that make it feel like certain people aren’t welcome. If those little pieces could just be flipped in different directions where like the puzzle pieces could actually fit, or if there was just no puzzle at all — that would just be better for everybody.
Q: Your dream foursome to play at Augusta?
Oh, boy I mean, like, obviously, Louis [her fiancé]. Louis, Tiger Woods and I don’t know who the fourth would be. I think that threesome would be enough. Louis would talked enough for everybody!
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