The IX: Golf Thursday with Sarah Kellam, November 12, 2020
'The time to tell their stories is NOW!' — Interview: Samantha Marks — Must-click women's golf links
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My take on Golf Saudi’s “Ladies First Club”
Happy Masters week! With a week on tap where there is so much golf history to be made and all of the focus is on Augusta National, it’s easy to forget there’s other golf going on, but, alas, here we are.
This week the Ladies European Tour makes history of its own by teeing it up in Saudi Arabia at the Aramco Saudi Ladies International, becoming the first women’s professional golf event to ever be held in the country.
With this tournament and the team event that follows it comes quite a bit of criticism because of the nation’s prevalent human rights issues and cultural treatment of women.
From my perspective as both a feminist and women’s golf fan, I think the LET needs to tread very lightly here with the implications that such events could bring and the chance for scrutiny of the tour’s belief system. Hosting a women’s golf tournament in a country that’s often criticized for treatment of women could seem in poor taste to both sponsors and fans and, while the European Tour has had some success with the Saudi International, it is worth asking whether the gains for women will outweigh giving a public relations victory to a regime that has terrorized women.
But beyond the regime, it is worth considering the value to the women of Saudi Arabia themselves. And I’d like to share with you something I recently learned about Saudi Arabian golf that I don’t recall making many headlines.
While on the Ladies European Tour website, I stumbled upon an article about Golf Saudi’s new “Ladies First Club”, a new campaign that allows 1,000 female members to utilize the driving range, take lessons, and have playing privileges at three courses across Saudi Arabia. (Click here to read the story.)
Along with these benefits, members will be privy to online resources for those new to golf and also have the option to attend a monthly clinic with a teaching professional. Twelve women will then be selected and receive a yearlong membership at any club they so choose.
Golf Saudi is hoping that this endeavor will continue the trend of growth golf is seeing in the country, with their CEO Majed Al Sorour expressing the significance of the new venture.
“The Ladies First Club will be a club like no other. It is our most exciting initiative yet aimed at developing the great game of golf across Saudi Arabia and is the ideal way to celebrate the historic nature of the Kingdom’s first ever women’s golf tournament, the Aramco Saudi Ladies International presented by Public Investment Fund. Golf is growing in Saudi Arabia and we remain committed to our targets. We are already seeing a steady rise in interest from women golfers and we hope the Ladies First Club will help us reach that next level.” (via ladieseuropeantour.com)
Honestly, something like the “Ladies First Club” may not undo the pre-conceived notions or change how the world sees Saudi Arabia. However, it’s notable to me that the first country to institute such a program is one that tends to be at the center of controversy when it comes to women’s rights and that nations who generally are more forward thinking when it comes to women’s golf haven’t thought of something like this sooner.
We must, as journalists, hold Saudi Arabia to their promises here. But if it happens, 1,000 women, no matter their background or what they deal with on a daily basis, will have the chance to find some autonomy and solace in golf. This program will allow them to grow not only as golfers, but as human beings, and will provide them a safe space to build a community while getting to play one of the greatest sports of all.
In short: a large group of women will be exposed to a game that can be so empowering and that teaches so many important life skills. Even though it may be just 1,000 women, there’s no telling what something like the “Ladies First Club” could do for an individual, or what impact those 1,000 golfers will have on other women in the years to come.
As someone who has seen it firsthand, golf can truly be impactful for a person, and I hope that through this program these women will not only learn how to play golf, but will also gain a community and sharpen skills that they can utilize in everyday life. There are wins to be had, even in the darkest corners of the globe.
This week in women’s golf
(Reminder: First: the underlined words are the links. Second: CLICK these, even if you’ve already read them. ESPECIALLY NOW, as newsrooms are forced to make difficult choices. Clicks = Attention from editors, producers and webmasters. Third, if you want to push out stuff you’ve written or read, email me! firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Augusta National Golf Club is sponsoring a women’s golf program at Paine College. (via WRDW.com)
Charley Hull and Georgia Hall weigh in before playing this week in Saudi Arabia. (via LadiesEuropeanTour.com)
Jennifer Kupcho relives her experience at the Augusta National Women’s Amateur. (via Golf Digest)
Learn about the legend that is Renee Powell. (via Golfweek)
How the oldest living Masters champion is connected to the U.S. Women’s Open. (via Golfweek)
Jin Young Ko is only 25 years old. Take a look at what has happened since she was born. (via LPGA.com)
How ANWA changed the way Maria Fassi views The Masters. (via LPGA.com)
Maha Haddioui becomes the first Arabic woman to play in Saudi Arabia. (via LadiesEuropeanTour.com)
Renee Powell reflects on her golf success and life on the LPGA Tour. (via Golfweek)
Meet the five Symetra Tour players who earned a spot in the U.S. Women’s Open and got their LPGA Tour card. (via Golfweek)
20 amateurs have been added to the U.S. Women’s Open. (via Golfweek)
Why Stacy Lewis isn’t taking her U.S. Women’s Open spot for granted. (via Golf Digest)
Frida Kinhult takes home Symetra Tour Championship title. (via Golfweek)
More on Frida Kinhult’s Symetra Tour Championship win. (via GolfChannel.com)
Top 5 money leaders on Symetra Tour added to field at the U.S. Women’s Open. (via LPGA.com)
There are three new inductees into the LPGA Professionals Hall of Fame. (via LPGA.com)
Frida Kinhult captures Symetra Tour Championship victory in first her professional win. (via SymetraTour.com)
Learn more about the five new LPGA Tour members who graduated from the Symetra Tour. (via SymetraTour.com)
What to know about Frida Kinhult. (via SymetraTour.com)
How the zone helped Sei Young Kim win the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship.(via LPGA.com)
Celine Boutier inches closer to Costa del Sol top ten after OMEGA Dubai Moonlight Classic. (via LadiesEuropeanTour.com)
Minjee Lee wins OMEGA Dubai Moonlight Classic. (via LadiesEuropeanTour.com)
Let’s introduce ourselves to Janie Jackson. (via LPGA.com)
Renee Powell in her own words. (via LPGA.com)
Tweet of the Week
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Five at The IX: Interview with Samantha Marks of Travis Fulton Golf
What’s your favorite story or event you’ve covered, both in news reporting and while working for Golf Channel?
What a great question. This really racked my brain and put me in a good mood this morning! When I was a news reporter/anchor at FOX21 in Colorado, I found an incredible “Sweepstakes piece” and I went to Supermax Prison and got to talk one-on-one with men who made mistakes (mostly murder) at a young age and are now getting a second chance at life outside of prison. These men committed heinous crimes at a young age, and have been in prison since they were 15-18 years old. They don’t know what a debit card is, a self-checkout line, or how to drive a car – That is a completely foreign concept to them. I went into the prison and told their stories and how they are trying to acclimate to life outside prison using Virtual Reality systems provided by the prison. It was incredible to sit down with these men and hear their stories – It was truly an experience I will never forget.
In the golf scene, at Golf Channel, my first Masters was covered from the HQ in Orlando. But, wow, what a scene in the office. Everyone was staring at the TVs at the same time, and it was dead quiet. We were all absolutely in awe of what Tiger Woods was about to do. The days leading up to and the days after his win were crazy, but in the best way. Growing up watching Tiger, watching him fall, then watching him rise again was such a surreal moment for me and many others – and knowing it was my first time covering the Masters for the Golf Channel… I couldn’t help but think that I could’ve been somewhat of a lucky charm ;).
You have quite the hilarious Twitter account. What’s the key to gaining and maintaining a follower count? How do you think of creative content to post?
I feel like I kind of gained followers on accident – and I couldn’t be happier about the little community I’ve created. My main goal behind all of my social media accounts is to be and remain as relatable as possible. I show the good and the bad, whereas most people on social media show their “highlight reels.” I try my best to show the struggles as much as I do the triumphs. I was very vocal about my sadness when getting laid off from Golf Channel, and I try to be that way as much as possible with all the lows in life. I’ve been vocal about the difficulty in starting my own business and juggling everything as a business owner. But I really started gaining followers when I started tweeting about my tragic dating life – LOL. I realized the majority of my followers, who are older men, love reading about it. So I kept that content coming, and I feel like my “brand” is just saying the things other people are afraid to say. Come for the hot takes, stay for the jokes.
How do we make golf appear cool and fun for the younger generation and continue to grow the game?
Gosh, what a question. The number one thing we can do is MAKE it fun – Not just make it LOOK fun – which is such a big misconception. Golf is such a unique sport where we can learn it young and play it forever. You can’t learn football at a young age and play it until you’re 100 – but in golf, you can (barring injury, of course). It’s great for business relations, it’s a great family activity, and overall such a fun thing to do, even though it’s so hard – LOL. I think places like TopGolf are really spreading the good news of golf and making it fun with good food and good drinks and good vibes. If you are a golfer, whenever you go out, invite your friends. If they say no, OK. But if they say yes, oh, if they say yes… We got another one into the game, baby!
From your perspective as an avid golf fan and a journalist, how do we more effectively cover women’s golf?
Tell their stories. Reach out to the most random people and tell their stories and get people invested in them early. That’s it. There are SO many stories out there begging to be told. I have so many friends (players and caddies) on the Symetra and Korn Ferry Tours who are flying under the radar with some of the best stories of triumphs and tribulations you’d never know about unless asking them. The people on those tours are going to be the ones we are watching hoist trophies on championship Sunday in the coming years – The time to tell their stories is NOW!
Having played Division I college golf, what has it been like to watch your friends and fellow competitors have success professionally in the game?
Professional golf wasn’t for me, and that’s OK. I knew the work ethic I was going to have to put in on the range and on the course, and I realized it wasn’t something I was willing to do. Again, that’s OK! I absolutely love watching my old teammates like Gaby Lopez, Maria Fassi, Austin Cook, Alana Uriell, and more owning it on the Symetra and LPGA Tours. Seeing their success and knowing we came from the same place, the same coaches, and the same program gives me such a feeling of gratitude in feeling their success with them.
Make sure to follow Samantha on Twitter @SamanthaSMarks!