The IX: Golf Thursday with Sarah Kellam, December 3, 2020
2020's golf boom and women's golf — Interview with Bailey Chamblee — Must-click women's golf links
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The 2020 golf boom and women’s golf
It’s no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic took a toll on many industries in an unimaginable way this year. Companies either closed their doors entirely, or laid off staff in massive quantities, requiring remaining employees to continue work from the confines of their homes.
Financial stability was lacking for numerous businesses and even the seemingly untouchable world of professional sports ground to a halt in the wake of the coronavirus. It’s hard to imagine it’s been anything but an incredibly tough year for most industries. However, a few did escape the crisis virtually unscathed.
Shockingly, golf has had a fantastic year of growth in spite of the ongoing pandemic. With the sport being one of few activities safe enough to leave home to participate in, 2020 has been a banner year for the game.
According to a Golfweek article written by Jason Lusk, 2020 is expected to see a ten percent increase in rounds played compared to 2019. In August alone, there were 10 million more rounds played than there were in August of 2019 and September saw a 25.5% jump in rounds played compared to the previous year.
That’s a huge jump in golf participation over the course of 12 months and it’s comforting to see this growth of the game, amid the pandemic’s restrictions on other social activities.
But, you may be wondering: what does this have to do with women’s golf? This increase as a whole means that, logically, the women’s game should’ve grown right along with it, right? Right? RIGHT?
Well…maybe. We don’t have the numbers to back that theory up and, while it is plausible that more women got into golf this year, we can’t say that the increase in participation overall correlates to more female golfers.
I spoke with Cindy Miller, a former LPGA Tour player and current Class A LPGA professional, about her thoughts on what the 2020 golf boom has meant as it relates to the women’s game.
“We have been blessed that the game wasn’t shut down very long. Many people have started to play. Have there been more women? I don’t think so,” Miller told me. “The biggest growth we have seen is young men who played soccer, baseball, or hockey who couldn’t have a season. I don’t believe this has contributed to the growth of women in the game.”
However, despite not seeing a female-based rise, Miller says that she has seen an uptick in juniors picking up golf and is excited because of the values that the sport can teach youngsters.
“We have seen growth in our junior lessons,” said Miller. “About 70% are young men, 30% girls. I believe learning to play the game of golf is important because it teaches so many life lessons.”
That 30% number is encouraging, but, as we know, women’s golf still has much room for improvement, even if a golf boom is happening. Miller has seen firsthand how the game has grown and thinks that, if ladies want to get in on the fun, they certainly can find outlets.
“This year I have personally given over 2400 lessons myself. The game is growing and people are learning to enjoy the game more every year,” Miller told me. “I believe there are many opportunities for women who want to play the game to get started and find people to play with. We can get more women into the game by inviting them. I believe we need to reach out and ask someone to come with us and learn to learn.”
Thus, while the increase in golf participation that 2020 has seen doesn’t really provide any insight into the health of women’s golf, I think these numbers can give us some hope that, even if it wasn’t recorded, more women picked up a golf club this year. If 30% of the participants at the junior level are women, it is certainly likely that a similar percentage of the new rounds of golf this year were played by women as well.
So, rest assured: while we can’t yet quantify the impact of this year’s golf boom on women’s golf, know that the odds are good that many girls and women found their way to the game this year. And that’s reason to be optimistic.
This week in women’s golf
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Brittany Lincicome is out of the Volunteers of America Classic after a positive COVID-19 test, but remains hopeful to play in the U.S. Women’s Open. (via Golfweek)
So Yeon Ryu is making her first start since February this week. (via Golfweek)
Emily Kristine Pedersen has won her last three events in a row, becoming the first to do so on the LET since 1989. (via Golfweek)
Hear from Gabby Herzig, a women’s college golfer at Pomona College, about what life is like as a college golfer dealing with the impact of COVID-19. (via Golf.com)
Stacy Lewis is looking forward to playing in hometown Houston. (via LPGA.com)
Annika Sorenstam’s opinion on how to get more women and girls into golf. (via womenandgolf.com)
Cheyenne Knight defends this week at the Volunteers of America Classic. (via LPGA.com)
A reflection on the year that was 2020 culminating at this week’s Volunteers of America Classic from Ron Sirak. (via LPGA.com)
The LPGA, LET, and John Deere come together in new sponsorship agreement. (via LPGA.com)
The Rose Ladies Series may return in 2021. (via womenandgolf.com)
Lexi Thompson continues her streak of U.S. Women’s Open participation next week in Houston. (via Golfweek)
Sea Island creates new women’s amateur event scheduled for July. (via Golfweek)
One of the newest members of the LPGA Tour, Fatima Fernandez Cano is inspired by death of friend Celia Barquín Arozamena. (via SymetraTour.com)
More on Emily Kristine Pedersen, who’s making history on the Ladies European Tour. (via Golf Digest)
Brittany Lincicome hopes to play in next week’s U.S. Women’s Open after positive COVID-19 test at the Volunteers of America Classic. (via Golf Digest)
Find out what the Korda sisters do and don’t know about each other. (via Golf.com)
Here’s what you need to know ahead of this week’s Volunteers of America Classic. (via LPGA.com)
So Yeon Ryu is back in action this week in Texas. (via LPGA.com)
Kristen Gillman excited to be playing in home state of Texas. (via LPGA.com)
Rose Zhang takes home another title at AJGA Rolex Tournament of Champions. (via Golfweek)
Do you have a young golfer at home? Here’s some advice from one of the top junior golf instructors in the world. (via LPGA.com)
Charlaine Hirst of Whispering Pines earns Sandy Labauve Spirit Award honor. (via LPGA.com)
Emily Kristine Pedersen wins the LET break par challenge after third consecutive victory. (via LadiesEuropeanTour.com)
There’s a new partnership between John Deere, the LPGA, and the LET. (via LadiesEuropeanTour.com)
After her third win in a row, Emily Kristine Pedersen takes home the Race to Costa del Sol. (via LadiesEuropeanTour.com)
Emily Kristine Pedersen captures third victory in a row at the Andalucía Costa Del Sol Open De Espana. (via LadiesEuropeanTour.com)
Haley Moore’s story still resonates with so many. (via LPGA.com)
Stephanie Kyriacou is the LET Rookie of the Year. (via womenandgolf.com)
More on the history Emily Kristine Pedersen made after her win at the Andalucía Costa Del Sol Open De Espana. (via womenandgolf.com)
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Five at the IX: Interview with Bailey Chamblee, Golf Channel Host, Reporter and Fashion Expert
When did you decide to pursue a career in the golf industry and when did you begin to delve into golf fashion? What have you been working on lately?
I started playing golf when I was 15, and around that same time I began to pay attention to professional golf on TV. As a child, I was always interested in and had a proficiency in writing/journalism, so when I began watching Kelly Tilghman on Golf Channel, I knew that was what I wanted to do – become a female golf broadcaster. I admired her depth of golf knowledge, professionalism and ability to weave in moments of levity and human connection. I am now fortunate to call her a mentor and friend, and have marveled at and learned from her talents, up-close, for the better part of a decade.
The golf fashion coverage aspect of my job evolved organically. Early in my career at Golf Channel, I was the only female in my department (editorial for GolfChannel.com), so I didn’t get much resistance when I asked if I could take the reins of the fashion beat, specifically to do some apparel coverage at the two annual golf trade shows – the one in Orlando each January, and the one in Las Vegas each August. At the time, there was little apparel coverage across the golf industry as a whole, but social media, vast advancements in technological fabrics and a growing appetite for golf consumerism were ever-increasing. I feel fortunate to have been in my position at the precipice of that movement.
This year has been a whirlwind for us all. My husband and I recently moved to Scottsdale, so we have been busy putting our home together. I am still contracted to do work for Golf Channel, but because of COVID-19, I haven’t been able to travel and perform as much work. I have been working for the USGA’s digital team, where I covered the U.S. Open at Winged Foot in September and will be a part of the team for the upcoming U.S. Women’s Open at Champions Golf Club. Additionally, I’ve become an ambassador for Duca del Cosma, a luxury maker of Italian golf shoes, and Kindli, a social unity app that is dedicated to paying it forward and changing the world through acts of kindness. I’ve toyed around with the idea of starting my own women’s golf and lifestyle clothing line, as well as my own podcast, but those are just ideas still germinating in my mind for the time being. I got my Masters degree from Arizona State’s Walter Cronkite School in 2009, so now that I am back in the Valley, I’ve been approached about being an adjunct professor to teach sports reporting. So, it’s an uncertain but exciting time, with many fun adventures on the horizon.
With the PGA Merchandise Show being held virtually this year, can we expect to see the Golf Fashion Show? What in golf fashion has you fired up for 2021?
I hosted and emceed a trend panel and virtual fashion show this past August, since we weren’t able to host the PGA Merchandise Show in-person in Las Vegas, and we are going to do the same thing again in January. We have some golf industry insiders joining the panel this year that I’m very enthused to converse with. Casualization of golf apparel is a huge trend right now, but I’m actually keeping my eye out for some brands and pieces that swing the pendulum back the other way. Maybe it’s just where I’m at in my life right now, but I’m steering away from uber-sporty/athletic looks and leaning more into old-school elegance. I think with the advancements in technological fabrics, there’s opportunity to do some really cool things with pieces that may not look like they’re built to perform, but they do.
What are some of the female owned and operated golf companies we should be supporting?
I marvel at the women who have created their own golf apparel companies and am greatly appreciative of them. If you haven’t already, definitely check out FORAY (owned by Megan Lamothe), Olaya Sport (owned by Lauren Olaya), Movetes (owned by Maureen Carruthers), Hedge (owned by Meagan Ouderkirk and Antonia DiPaolo) and Double Circle Golf (an accessories brand that empowers and employs elderly women in the Vancouver, Canada community).
According to the USGA’s social media platforms, you collaborated with them on content for the U.S. Open. Can we expect to see you doing the same for the U.S. Women’s Open? Who is your pick to win?
Yes, I leave for Houston in a few days, and will be doing similar coverage as I did for the men’s open. I will be hosting daily video packages entitled, “Backstories with Bailey” where I present viewers with an in-depth look at some of the storylines they should be paying attention to for the week. These are stories that are lesser-known and a little more nuanced.
I’m liking Inbee Park for the U.S. Women’s Open. She’s trying to become the first three-time winning U.S. Women’s Open champion since Annika Sorenstam. She is having a stellar year and I like the way she’s trending. I was joking with my producer the other day that I feel like Inbee is one of those players who can flip a switch and just go out and win. I know it’s not that simple, but she sure makes it look that way sometimes.
What is the dynamic like between you and Brandel on the course? Do you often beat him when playing together?
I’ve beat Brandel for nine holes a couple of times, but never on a full 18. It is definitely a goal of mine to top him for 18, but I fear that may take some time, especially since I nudged him back into the competitive arena a few years ago. Not my finest move to ensure I achieve my goal, but I’m up for the challenge. That being said, our rounds together are very lax; it becomes clear early on if I have any chance of scoring well that day, and most days, I consider the round a success so long as I get at least one birdie. Brandel is very supportive of my mediocre golf (I’m a 7 handicap) and he’ll sit on the edge of his seat while I recount my round of 81, shot-by-shot.