The IX: Golf Thursday with Carly Grenfell, November 14, 2019

Golf and Accessibility — Interview with Abby Liebenthal — Must-click links in women's golf

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Golf and Accessibility

Not going to lie, I’m excited about the focus of today’s newsletter. It’s nothing groundbreaking, but I hope it opens your eyes to a new perspective and makes you think a little. With the LPGA season winding down, and there not being a lot of major news ahead of the final tournament, I figured today would be the perfect opportunity to dive into this topic: accessibility in golf. Before we really dive in, here’s what you need to know in the world of women’s golf news this week!

  • Catriona Matthew will captain the Solheim Cup Europe team in 2021. Not surprised there. I’m guessing Suzann Pettersen will follow in 2023.

  • Carlota Ciganda won $1 million dollars after finishing first in the Aon Risk Reward Challenge (casual).

  • Stacy Lewis locked in the final spot for CME, the last event of the 2019 season, which tees off in Naples, FL November 21-23.

Now back to accessibility in golf. Let’s do this, starting with a really interesting conversation PGA President Suzy Whaley had with Whaley talks about something as simple as a golf score card and there being plenty of ways to make it more inviting. Is there anything that particularly strikes you when you look at a scorecard? See below for you visual learners.

As Suzy points out, and to be honest it’s not something I’ve ever thought about, there’s a level of segregation, if you will when it comes to what tees you play from. And guess what? The men’s tees are at the top and the ladies tees are at the bottom. The point she makes is—why does it matter what tees we play from?

“What we have to accomplish in the game is kind of a new set of mores and norms,” Whaley said. “The scorecard typically has the four back tees at the top and the two forward tees at the bottom. Why is that? Why aren’t they all together? Who is going to go to the forward tees if it’s below on the card? Why don’t we just have every tee box at the top and choose the tee where you want to play?”

I agree. A new set of norms would do the game of golf good. I went golfing the other day with a few co-workers, all male, and felt like it would have been inconvenient for me to play the ladies tees when they were all playing the back tees. I realize I was probably overthinking it, but it would have been annoying to tee off from separate tees. My solution? Play from the men’s tees. Playing from tees I wasn’t “qualified” to play from had no impact on how much I enjoyed our round. It actually probably made it more enjoyable because I didn’t have to go off on my own every hole. So why not drop the labels or make it less an emphasis? I don’t keep score anyway. 🙂

“There are a number of norms in golf that, according to Whaley, exist just because they always have, rather than enduring because they make inherent sense. As a leading executive and one of the most important people in the game, Whaley is focused on eliminating some of those aspects that might keep some people from diving head-first into the game she loves. Taking it another step further, Whaley would like to see double-par as an option on some scorecards as a secondary level of accomplishment for beginning players.”

I love this part of the article so much. The scorecard isn’t the only thing in golf that exists just because it has always been that way. I would say majority of the sport is like that—dressing a certain way, acting a certain way, looking a certain way and the list goes on. I’m not in charge but I say wear whatever you want. Play music and make a little noise when you’re out with your friends. Pick up your ball if you shank it. Skip a hole to have a drink. Golf doesn’t have to look one way.

This is something I talked about with Abby Liebenthal, as touched on in the interview section down below, and how we can eliminate these kind of barriers and stereotypes. I won’t give too much away, but she launched a program that is a really great way to try golf if you never have or simply want to play in a carefree, non-competitive, relaxed environment. We aren’t professional golfers and most of us never will be. So why not make it as fun as possible and mold it to your own personal preferences?

This Week in Women’s Golf

Reminder: First, the underlined words are the links. Second. CLICK these, even if you’ve already read them. Clicks = Attention from editors, producers and webmasters. Third, if you want to push out stuff you’ve written or read, email me!

Check out my podcast with the PGA, Fairway Tales.

The realities and tough decisions collegiate golfers face when turning pro.

Why PGA President Suzy Whaley wants to change the design of the golf score card.

Topgolf announces deal to expand in Asia.

Valenzuela leaves Stanford to pursue professional career.

Another day, another purse increase on the LPGA Tour!

Wow. Great story on Karine Icher returning to Q-school at age 40.

Ai Suzuki won her first LPGA event last week in Japan.

The stage is set for the LPGA season finale – the CME Tour Championship.

To no surprise, Catriona Matthew will be back to captain Europe in the 2021 Solheim.

You can vote for the most impressive streak of 2019 on the LPGA, and what a list it is.

More commentary on the potential merge between the LPGA and LET.

Stacy Lewis clinches the final spot of the CME Championship.

This golfer hasn’t won an LPGA event, but is finding her voice through writing.

After having her first child, Brittany Lincicome is set to return to competition.

Amidst some controversy, Lucy Li will play on the Symetra Tour this season.

Check out this list of 2020 women’s college golfer signees.

A midseason report of the women’s and men’s college golf season.

Tweet of the Week

Five at The IX: Abby Liebenthal

As someone who essentially founded an initiative trying to combat barriers in golf, and making the sport more accessible, this interview seemed fitting. Abby Liebenthal has made a career for herself in the industry, working in the for-profit and non-profit sectors, and is now doing a little more to take the game to new heights—especially for women! See what Fore the Ladies is all about and enjoy this chat we had yesterday afternoon. While you’re at it, stay tuned for her full podcast episode coming out next Wednesday (November 20) too!

Q: Tell us a little bit about yourself, Abby.

A: I am Abby Liebenthal and I work for Imperial Headwear, which makes hats and t-shirts and golf accessories for some many golf courses and golf brands across the nation. But aside from work, I’m just an almost-30-something, I live in New England, I play golf when I can and my life is not all golf, but it definitely tends to center around it a lot of the time. I swear I have other hobbies and I have other interests outside of golf! But sometimes it doesn’t feel like it.

Q: Start out by telling us your golf journey and how you were introduced to the game.

A: I was introduced to the game at a young age, probably around four or five. There’s a story about me that I would hit golf balls around my grandparents front yard with plastic clubs that you can probably still purchase today. You probably will see kids getting them for Christmas this year. But then I participated in junior golf clinics every summer; I was not a big competitive golfer. I played in high school but other things were my priority—I was a ballet dancer and a cheerleader, golf was just always there. I will say my dad is a huge golfer and my brother played college golf so it’s just been a big part of our lives that’s continued until today.

Q: For those people that are maybe a little timid to get their foot in the door, what advice would you give them?

A: You have to give golf a chance like you do when you try a new workout or a new skills class. You’re not going to be first on that leaderboard the first time you try a cycle class. You’re not going to perfect all the techniques in a pottery class or a bar class or whatever you try. You’re never going to be perfect at it unless you’re a supernatural human. I think that’s what I would tell them—your mindset should be the same as it would as trying something else new.

Q: How did you come up with the concept behind Fore the Ladies?

A: Fore the Ladies is this group of events that I am trying to host to provide approachable and accessible instruction and an introduction to young professional women and introducing them to golf. I’m trying to do it in a way where any expected barriers that you might come up when trying golf—those are gone. I’m trying to eliminate any barriers to the game at least during the introduction. So whether that’s making them affordable at $20-$25 a participant or having women’s golf apparel pop-up shots for your next round; and just providing a positive experience.

Q: If there’s a PGA Professional or someone that works at a golf course that sees this interview, how do they get involved with Fore the Ladies?

A: There are multiple ways to get involved, one of which being a host facility. So whether you’re an indoor simulator or a golf course—being open to hosting a women’s event is huge. We aren’t taking up a lot of time and space. I typically host these events for two hours on a Sunday evening. I tend to look for PGA Professionals to volunteer, so i’ll reach out to a local section or a leader in the area and ask them to spread the word about volunteering at an event. A lot of women have gone on to take lessons from these PGA Professionals afterwards because they feel comfortable with that person. They know this person isn’t going to judge them because they’ve seen them before. And again, Fore the Ladies is all about taking out these barriers that you may experience if you haven’t played before. It’s a whole other side to it in trying to get them to continue to play.

Mondays: Soccer
By: Annie Peterson, @AnnieMPeterson AP Women’s Soccer
Tuesdays: Tennis
By Stephanie Livaudais, @Livaudais
Wednesdays: Basketball
By: Howard Megdal, @HowardMegdal High Post Hoops
Thursdays: Golf
By Carly Grenfell, @Carlygren
Fridays: Hockey
By: Erica Ayala, @ELindsay08 NWHL Broadcaster

Written by Annie Peterson