This interview was originally posted by http://www.GolfConversations.com.
The Executive Women’s Golf Association (EWGA) represents 16,000 members throughout the U.S. That makes them a force to be reckoned with as the golf industry tries to attract and retain new players. Heading this important organization is CEO Pam Swensen, who shares her views on the state of the game, men who give unsolicited “advice” to women, and suggestions for making the game more accessible to beginners.
Golf Conversations: How did you become involved with the EWGA?
Pam Swensen: In the early 90s, the company that I worked for was being deregulated and needed to identify strategies to retain and solidify relationships with its top business customers. Since I was in charge of business advertising at the time, the assignment came to me as to what we were going to do.
The CEO was an avid golfer and clearly understood the benefits of developing relationships through the game of golf. I didn’t play golf at the time and had heard about this group called the Executive Women’s Golf Association and thought I’d better learn how to walk the walk and talk the talk. So that’s when I started playing golf.
GC: Who taught you how to play?
PS: I joined the EWGA and started taking lessons. I was fortunate to work with a woman that I later worked for — Janie Blalock (winner of 27 LPGA Tour events) — and she willingly gave me tips.
GC: Why was the EWGA created?
PS: To help women get together in a non-intimidating environment to learn how to play the game of golf and then use it to build relationships for personal and professional reasons. Remember, this was 1991 when there was a great deal of talk about women breaking through the glass ceiling.
GC: What are some of the problems/challenges women golfers encounter in learning/practicing/playing the game?
PS: Time is a major factor. Women are multi-taskers and have only so much time they can dedicate to any specific activity. That’s why the EWGA is so great — because we offer organized, convenient golf to meet a busy woman’s schedule.
GC: How many EWGA local chapters are there?
GC: How many members do you have?
PS: Over 16,000 from coast to coast.
GC: Have you had men who’ve asked to join EWGA? Can they join?
PS: Yes — and they can. My husband is a member. While we are focused on serving our women members, we have a loyal group of men who believe in our organization and enjoy the many benefits and discounts that EWGA membership offers.
GC: If a woman has never played golf before but wants to learn, how would you recommend she go about getting started?
PS: Take lessons. See your local LPGA or PGA professional. On the PGA’s www.playgolfamerica.com website, there are many listings for “Get Golf Ready” programs. And, of course, join a local EWGA group. Our chapters offer clinics and beginner golf programs taught by golf professionals, as well as mentoring to get new golfers comfortable playing the game.
GC: What percentage of EWGA members wear those golf gloves which have a slit on the ring finger?
PS: They are more likely to wear the traditional glove … or at least ones that allow you to tan through it!
GC: What are some of the misconceptions beginning women golfers have about golf?
PS: That it looks easy. Ever wonder why they say it’s a lifelong sport? You can always learn something. Golf takes dedication, patience and perseverance to excel.
GC: Why do women golfers give up the game?
PS: Time, family, work and sometimes injury.
GC: What are some of the best “women-friendly” schools/resorts/courses in the US?
PS: The Annika Academy, Peggy Kirk Bell’s School, Sycuan Resort, and Pinehurst immediately come to mind. We have just revamped our EWGA women-friendly golf course criteria to reflect the latest research on what is important to keep women involved and enjoy the game. Our “Fair Way Forward” advocacy initiative that we are rolling out in 2011 will recognize and reward female-friendly facilities. That will reinforce why it makes good business sense for these facilities to welcome and support women golfers.
GC: Has the LPGA been supportive of the EWGA’s efforts?
PS: Yes, they are a partner of ours and have provided us with great LPGA players to use to promote several of our programs.
GC: What’s your opinion of private golf clubs that discriminate against women in various ways?
PS: They still exist???
GC: Do you recommend that women be fitted for golf clubs?
PS: Absolutely. The worst thing you can do is accept someone else’s clubs or ones that might have been purchased at a yard sale or found in a relative’s garage. Technology is so wonderful today and can make such a difference in how you play or even get into the game. You should get fitted for the equipment that can make the game FUN for you. We want you to stay in the game!
GC: What is the average handicap of an EWGA member?
PS: 23.3. We have a proven track record of getting women hooked on golf and then becoming avid golfers. We are good for golf.
GC: Why do men feel compelled to give women golfers “advice”?
PS: They can’t help themselves — they’re instinctively educators at heart!
GC: Do women give other women advice the way men do?
PS: Women are more sensitive to other women, so they usually will only give it when asked. Women are more compelled to ask questions, and offer encouragement rather than unsolicited advice.
GC: How has the present economic climate affected the EWGA?
PS: Being a volunteer-led, grassroots organization, we depend upon our members to spread the word and invite women to join us. As a membership-based organization, it has been challenging with so many people losing their jobs. However, EWGA provides an excellent support network and as the economy gets better, we expect more women to get involved in the game and EWGA. Over 100,000 women have been touched by our association and 84% of former members continue to play. Whatever the economic times, we are a vital portal for engaging and keeping women in the game.
GC: Who are some of your favorite pro golfers – men and women?
PS: Annika, Christina Kim, Rosie Jones, Kathy Whitworth, Fred Couples, Phil Mickelson, Steve Stricker, Olin Browne, and Paul Azinger.
GC: What’s your opinion of the state of the golf industry today?
PS: Like all businesses, the industry is doing a good job of managing the economic challenges. It’s important to educate elected officials on what golf delivers to the overall US economy from a jobs perspective and economic impact. The image of golf took an unfair hit last year, and as believers and leaders in this great game, we need to aid in the image of the game and make it welcoming to everyone.
GC: Does EWGA organize golf trips?
PS: Yes, there are dozens of golf travel opportunities throughout the association. The EWGA Golfpalooza (formerly known as our Annual Conference) will be held at Amelia Island on April 12-16, 2011. This is a must-attend gathering packed with golf, parties, inspiring speakers, LPGA stars, and more.
We offer “on course” events at 4-star resorts for our Executive Distinction members, an annual EWGA championship competition, and we are introducing an association-wide match play competition in 2011. Plus, there’s an EWGA package to attend the Solheim Cup. And our local chapters frequently organize trips and friendly competitions with other chapters – the Dixie Cup, Flamingo Cup, Lone Star Cup and the War on I-4, to name just a few.
GC: What don’t men understand about women golfers?
PS: That we want a welcoming environment and to be respected as golfers and have the same positive golf experiences as men. For women, that means things like clean restrooms, a forward tee box that is well maintained, and multiple tees rated for women. And we still want to dress with style!
GC: Are women becoming more assertive? Is the golf industry hearing their voices?
PS: We speak with the power of the purse. Current and former EWGA members account for 1.7 million rounds of golf per year and over $173 million for the golf industry. If you want returning customers — treat them well. Our presence at the many different golf facilities where we host events have certainly opened the eyes of many operators to recognize us as a great customer group. We anticipate that our new “Fair Way Forward” initiative will add to this recognition that women are good golf customers to pursue.
GC: What’s been the reaction of EWGA members to the Tiger Woods divorce?
PS: Who cares! Let’s move on.
GC: What are your favorite golf tournaments to attend?
PS: The Solheim Cup, Ryder Cup, and the PGA Championship. The Honda Classic is also fun and in our backyard.
GC: How often do you play golf ?
PS: Not as often as I would like. I try to play 3-4 times a month. If I could, I’d really like to play 3-4 times a week. I absolutely love it!
GC: If you could change anything about the way golf is conducted in the US, what would that be?
PS: Offer alternative tees to make the golf course more fun and attractive to all skill levels. Make par attainable for all. This will help enjoyment of the game and keep people coming back.
GC: Do women golfers in other countries face similar problems as American women?
PS: There are cultural differences — not one size fits all. We have had Canadian chapters for many years and there are EWGA groups forming in Italy and Ireland.
GC: Do you have to be an executive to join the Executive Women’s Golf Association?
PS: No, we are for every woman, with events tailored to a busy working woman’s schedule. In 2009, we introduced a new logo which is only the acronym EWGA to take the limiting factor of “executive” out of our name … and added the tagline: “connect, learn, play, belong.” That is what our organization is all about: connecting women to learn and play golf, and belong to a nationwide network for business and fun.
I strongly believe that every working woman should have golf as a skill on her resume. It’s a door opener and conversation starter. It sets you apart and gives you a leg up on your competition … and you can have lots of fun while playing the game.
What are you waiting for? Come join us today! Go to www.EWGA.com.
For information about EWGA member benefits and discounts, visit www.EWGA.com