Women’s majors ARE majors— Interview with Taylor Olson — Must-click women’s golf links
In case you didn’t know, major championship golf is still going on. The golf world likes to tell fans that there are only four major tournaments that culminate with the Open Championship in July, but that is simply not the case.
It seems that the game and its biggest proponents continually elect to ignore the five biggest tournaments in women’s golf, claiming that they aren’t as historic or as significant as their counterparts on the men’s side. But, the ANA Inspiration, U.S. Women’s Open, KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, Evian Championship, and this week’s AIG Women’s Open always seem to provide some of the best stories in golf, ones that transcend the sport itself.
Let’s flashback to the 2020 edition of the AIG Women’s Open when Sophia Popov rocked the golf world with her improbable victory at Royal Troon. She had only just nabbed her first professional win on the Cactus Tour earlier that year and had considered quitting the game 12 months prior. With no status on the LPGA Tour, the German did the impossible, winning a major championship as a virtual nobody, and it was her incredible story that captured the hearts of golf fans everywhere.
Back in June, Yuka Saso gained a whole host of new supporters after her win at the U.S. Women’s Open at Olympic Club. Her admiration and imitation of Rory McIlroy’s golf swing combined with her sweet, shy personality endeared Saso to the golf community and even garnered the attention of the Northern Irishman.
At Atlanta Athletic Club later that same month, it was David versus Goliath with Nelly Korda and Lizette Salas duking it out in the final round for the KPMG Women’s PGA title. While Nelly won the tournament and seized the top spot in the rankings, Salas’s willingness to open up about her battle with her mental health both on and off the golf course made more noise across the golf world and really shone a light on what professional athletes go through on a daily basis.
While you can expect storylines like these at EVERY event on the LPGA Tour calendar, they’re especially present at the major championships. The powers that be need to recognize that it’s important to take these events just as seriously as the men’s majors. Yes, some of them aren’t as old as say the Masters or the Open, but that doesn’t make them any less significant.
Some entities—like the USGA and AIG, which announced a $1.3 million increase in the purse for this week’s event—absolutely get it and make sure that people know there are more than four majors in golf. But, there’s more progress that needs to be made. We have got to start redefining how we think of these types of tournaments.
If you take the time to add them up, there aren’t just four majors, but rather four men’s majors, five women’s majors, five senior men’s majors, and two senior women’s majors. Majors are majors are majors and all should be treated as such no matter their respective tours. It’s just another thing in the world of golf’s thinking that desperately needs to change.
This week in women’s golf
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Five at The IX: Taylor Olson, Founder Draw + Fade Modern
Where did the idea for Draw + Fade Modern come from? What’s your history with golf?
Like so many other female golfers, I was tired of saying “when will women’s golf clothes not be florescent pink and not fit me?” Originally, Draw & Fade Modern started as a women’s golf clothing brand, but then when I looked at golf as a whole, I realized it wasn’t just the clothes that made me feel like I didn’t belong – there were a number of issues that made me feel intimidated and not entirely welcome on the golf course. So Draw & Fade Modern, quickly evolved into a mission driven brand whose aim is to make golf more inviting and welcoming to the game’s diverse players.
My history with golf runs deep – I’ve had a golf club in my hand since practically the minute I could stand (Thanks, Dad!). Ever since then, I’ve been on the course as much as possible – it was even the first date I went on with my husband (I outdrove him and he knew I was the one then and there J).
Professionally, I was at a sports marketing firm for 5 years and worked in and around golf from a sponsorship/marketing perspective. The stigma of golf being male dominated was only heightened on that side of the industry. The number of tournaments I played in professionally where courses didn’t have women’s rentals sets, tee boxes set up outside of the tips or women’s items in the tee prizes only solidified that change needed to happen in the industry.
How challenging is it to start a small golf business in this day and age?
Challenging is an understatement! Besides me being a borderline shopaholic, I don’t have any experience in fashion so am learning through trial and error. But, I will say, this day and age makes it easier than ever (I imagine) to start a business. All the resources you could want or questions you need answered are a Google search away (my questions about taxes took multiple Google searches). I love that through Draw & Fade Modern, we’ve been able to support various female freelance workers on the fashion side and have close to 10 female contributors for our community initiative.
Outside of the clothing aspect, most of the people I interact with about changing the gender tee boxes or handicap limitations are men so it’s a lot of reiterating the importance of removing those barriers for women. Especially because a lot of men aren’t even aware of the gendered signage online or on the course and that women typically can’t post their score from anything further back than the two forwardmost tee boxes. The biggest point I try and make is that we aren’t changing golf – the changes that we make will not affect men’s game in the slightest, but they will make their daughters, wives, sisters, moms, friends feel more welcome on the golf course.
So every day is a new adventure, a new challenge but also a new opportunity to learn and grow. Everything we go through is validated when we receive messages from people telling us how much they support what we’re doing – It shows me that we’re on the right path.
What experiences have you had in golf that made you want to start a women-focused golf company?
The most notable experience is in my 25+ years of playing the game. I know first-hand the issues, women specifically, face at the golf course. Whether it’s the starters telling me where the “ladies tees” are or having to talk to head pros about how to post my score from the tees I played from that day.
I’ve also dealt with the fashion woes: clothes that are too tight or too baggy, clothes that are too bright and clothes that just downright seem like they’re not made with a golfer in mind (if I lose another ball due to my too tight and too small of pockets, I’m going to lose my mind). But most importantly, I’ve dealt with the sense of not feeling like I belong nearly every time I step on the course. From jokes about ‘golf’ standing for Gentlemen Only, Ladies Forbidden to usually being one of the only females on the course – I’ve struggled with finding my sense of self at the course – and still do to this day.
I wanted to start Draw & Fade Modern to fix all the things that I dealt with growing up playing so that golf could become a more inclusive and welcoming environment for anyone who didn’t fit the mold of the typically golfer I saw on TV or at the course every weekend. It’s too great of a game to be dominated by one demographic.
How do we make women feel more comfortable in the game?
It’s cliché, but I would say just support female golfers – and that means on and off the course. I guarantee you, the female golfer you see on the range is already feeling anxious about being the only female there so just give them a head nod, high five or something to let them know they’re welcome on the golf course. I would say, support doesn’t mean swing tips J But really, it’s hard enough being one of the only people in a room or area, add on top of that they likely don’t feel 100% comfortable in their clothes, they see signs telling them where or where not to play from, their locker rooms are likely half the size of the men’s with half of the amenities – just let them know they are supported, and they are meant to be there. Golf should be just as fun and carefree for women as it is for men.
I’d also recommend starting small – if you’ve never played before, start out at some clinics or locations like On Par Now or City Swing to start figuring out your swing. Join organizations like Fore The Ladies to find a group of women in your area (and your age) to play with – if nothing else you’ll have a huge support group to lean on and learn from. Most importantly, get out there and play. Golf is not easy by all means, just get out there, have fun and enjoy the scenery and lack of cell service!
How can The IX readers support Draw + Fade Modern?
Follow us on Instagram (@dfmodern) and online (www.dfmodern.com) – we’re working towards releasing our first clothing collection this winter, but have a great line of hats and an incredible platform for women to get golf related content that’s created by women for women. Please also reach out to me (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you see any courses with gender specific tee signage either online or on the course – it’s an issue we have to tackle course by course, so having help knowing who we need to reach out to is extremely helpful!
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