I love sports. I love sports so much that I began and built my career in sports. I could tell you all about who I think is going to be in the Final Four, what team won the Constructor’s Cup last year in F1, or why I still think Mia Hamm is a better player than Megan Rapinoe (controversial, I know). All that being said, I didn’t know much about the world of golf prior to finding the Grads to Golf program. Sure, I could recite the definition of a birdie and the four Majors, but I didn’t understand the impact golf could have on my professional life.
As I began my career fresh out of college and excited to take the business world by storm, I didn’t realize that watercooler talk about weekend scores at the local municipal course were the highest form of social currency. How was I to realize that an active golf handicap would open invitations to play in charity tournaments to network with leaders in my city? Or, that weekly golf leagues would get me unparalleled access to leaders within my organization? I soon realized that I was missing out on opportunities to help my career by not knowing or playing golf. However, I didn’t have the resources or knowledge to do anything about it until I decided to go to grad school.
When I enrolled at the University of Tennessee to pursue my MBA, I immediately joined an organization that focused on supporting women in business. One of the tent pole programs within this organization was a program called Grads to Golf. The goal of Grads to Golf is to create a comfortable learning environment to learn about the game of golf, while removing barriers that many women face while beginning their golfing journey. Clubs were donated by the University of Tennessee women’s golf team, range lessons provided by the best golf pro in East Tennessee, and lunch and learns to understand the rules of the game. The hope of the Grads to Golf program is to get women to continue playing golf after graduating, for both personal enjoyment and to benefit their career growth.
Since completing the Grads to Golf program and graduating with my MBA, I have purchased my own golf clubs, continue to take lessons, and joined a local par three course. I try and hit golf balls almost every day during my lunch break and do my best to pay several rounds a month. I have even joined my local LPGA organization and am a member of two weekly women’s leagues. I have even been able to use golf to make several business connections since starting my role after grad school!Last summer, I decided to play golf alone and was paired with a very kind woman. After getting over the first tee box jitters, we began chatting and discovered that we were from the same hometown and both beginners at golf. We laughed and commiserated over shanks and missed putts, all while encouraging each other and swapping stories. As the round concluded, I found out both of us have a love for hosting events! She shared her business card with me and she has been instrumental in helping me create my own business plan for golf events. Had I not decided to go out and play alone, I would have never met a woman that has been the best sound board for my own business ideas – and I know this is just one of many wonderful connections I will make through golf.
I feel very fortunate to have begun my golf journey with talented, generous, creative women who love the game of golf. Their confidence and steadfast encouragement have allowed my passion for the game of golf to blossom. I am encouraged by the number of women who are picking up the game of golf and am excited to become the biggest cheerleader for women in golf. While it’s nice to be able to participate in the watercooler chat on Monday after the Masters, I have loved the women and opportunities I have met through golf – it has truly changed my life.
Grads to Golf
Grads to Golf is a program that promotes an interest in golf among female Master of Business Administration students through hands on golf instruction, tournaments, events and speakers to understand the value of golf in their professional and personal career. Created by Janet McKinley at the University of Tennessee Knoxville.