Singing, dancing, running a race, wearing pink hair bows, and making new friends; if I told you all of these activities happened at a golf tournament would you believe me? Well I’m happy to share with you, they were and the event was both memorable and transformative for everyone who participated!
The 1st Annual LPGA*USGA Girls Golf of the Treasure Coast Turkey Trot Tournament at Bent Pine Golf Club showcased the epitome of what the Girls Golf program is all about. The event brought together 60 local girls, paired them with 25 female mentors, put them all on a golf course, and threw in plenty of fun along the way! The results were life changing for everyone involved, including myself.
I was fortunate enough to participate as a mentor in the Turkey Trot tournament. After meeting my two new young friends/playing partners Caitlin and Madeline, who were 6 and 8 years old respectively. Our first order of business was picking a team name.
“Do all the teams get to pick their names?” they asked as we walked to our golf cart.
“I’m not sure, but you both will get to pick ours!” I replied.
After seeing the sweet smiles grow on their faces, I knew right away we were going to have a great day together!
The format for the event was a 6-hole, alternate shot tournament from shortened tees. This was not a traditional golf tournament; there were fun rules to follow throughout the round, which got teams to let loose and even get a little silly. At the end of each hole, we had to dance the turkey trot on our way back to our golf cart. Each team could even deduct a stroke from their score after each hole if the girls showed good sportsmanship and encouraged one another.
Caitlin and Madeline were both fairly new golfers and hadn’t spent much time on a golf course or competed in a golf tournament yet, which gave me a great platform to help teach them some of golf’s basic rules and etiquette. I helped teach them how to mark their golf ball, the importance of waiting your turn to play, how to rake a bunker, the anatomy of a scorecard, how to keep track of our team’s score, and so much more. We danced, we laughed, and we even raced our way through those six holes.
I was blown away by the girls’ positivity; they never got upset about missing a shot (which didn’t happen often, I might add, as they both had wonderful golf swings) and they supported each throughout the day, offering encouraging words and giving each other advice. As our round of golf came to a close, the girls asked if we could keep playing; they couldn’t wait to see each other again and come back for the next Girls Golf event. I found myself wishing the day could have lasted longer too.
While spending that time with Caitlin and Madeline, I couldn’t help but think back to my experience venturing onto a golf course when I was their age. As a young girl, my parents chose to give up our family’s membership at our local golf course because my sister and I often times felt unwelcome. I remember the excitement we I felt when we got the chance to tag along with our dad to the course. He wanted so badly to share his love for the game with us and for us to create fun memories playing golf together as a family. Unfortunately, we were often times met with sour looks and groans from the men at the club who were clearly not as excited as we were that we’d be playing ahead of their group. Little did they know, we were capable of outdriving and outplaying them all. I wonder now if I would have been too discouraged to continue playing if I not been a skilled and confident golfer.
The experience that I thought back to was so very different than that of Caitlin and Madeline’s day during the Turkey Trot tournament which I am truly thankful for. There is no doubt in my mind that they fell in love with the game of golf that day and that they’ll be golfers for life. The treatment they received from the event hosts and staff at Bent Pine Golf Club that day was nothing short of remarkable. Not only did the host golf course, a prestigious private club, close the front nine holes just for the girls and women playing in the event, but the Head Golf Professional personally came out, driving around the golf course and stopping to thank every group and player for participating in the event.
My participation in the Turkey Trot tournament is a day I will never forget. As I have learned many times throughout my time working for the LPGA Foundation golf is much more than a game and sometimes the teacher learns more than the student. I had the chance to see first-hand that the Girls Golf movement is here, it is strong, and it is creating a brighter future for girls to learn and enjoy this life changing sport.