As a countdown to our 25th Anniversary Celebration in Colonial Williamsburg in April, EWGA Founder Nancy Oliver has agreed to write a weekly column and share her amazing collection of newsletters and press clips revealing the early years.
Yes, it’s been quite a journey going through our little “time capsule” of the first five years of EWG! A box filled with memories, trinkets, photos, press clips, newsletters, VHS tapes, pins, and a few championship awards that were never claimed. I delivered a box of these to EWGA HQ last week and had a nice chat with Pam Swensen, comparing notes about caring for EWG back in the 90’s vs. how things are done today. Ah, to have had the technology that exists today – wouldn’t that have been interesting!!
But perhaps it was not meant to be, because it was the unending passion of women from coast to coast that kept them “stuffing, sealing, licking and stamping” hundreds of envelopes each month to welcome new members and invite them to the next series of activities and events. When you actually received a printed invitation to most outings or social get-togethers. Back when a “phone tree” was the primary method of instant communication among chapter members, but wasn’t it nice to actually hear the enthusiasm in a chapter volunteer’s voice encouraging you to participate and get involved? And of course it was always a nice surprise when you saw your name in an issue of Tee to Green that you could pass along to your mother!
Those were the times that I cherish the most. When visiting a chapter meant sleeping in someone’s guest room or sofa, and staying up till all hours of the night sharing personal stories and getting excited about the kick-off scheduled for the next afternoon or evening. Or when local chapters hosted Sectional Leadership Training sessions for neighboring chapter leaders, where I got to witness the excitement of exchanging creative tried-and-true ways of helping each chapter live up to its full potential. Or getting a call from the media who found it so intriguing that such an organization had been formed to help women learn the game of golf so they could use it as a business tool. I ran across this list of Media Reviews in that box, which seemed to tell the fairytale story of an overnight success of something called the Executive Women’s Golf League – now YOUR Executive Women’s Golf Association. Read it with pride and remember that together, we are STILL making a difference!
In December of 1997, one of golf's long standing publishers, Charlie Stine, published one of my favorite pictures, coined "Golf's Leading Ladies". It was a significant photo back then, because it was the first and only time that three women served as the President of some of golf's most significant organizations in golf at the time. Since that time, more and more women have been recognized and taken leadership roles within the male-dominated golf industry. The fact that Suzy Whaley is the first female officer of the PGA of America speaks volumes. And the fact that Diana Murphy is now President of the United State Golf Association and Sheila Johnson serving as Secretary further accentuates the progress made.
Much has been accomplished behind the scenes, as noted in my letter to our members back in 1995. So I would like to thank a few individuals who, behind the scenes, helped make EWGA the organization it is today. Like Holly Geoghegan who helped us establish our very first website and email in 1998, and later helped us land Cadillac as our title sponsor. Or Jill Starr who took it upon herself to produce all of our EWG merchandise and prizes on her own nickel and took orders one by one from chapters who needed product support. And Jim Blugerman who was with Aureus in 1994 when we were in desperate need if logoed shirts – and he agreed to produce hundreds of them but shipped them out one shirt at a time to our members. A big shout out to Kerry Graham of the LPGA who opened doors right and left for us and served as a terrific mentor to me when I needed it most. Barbara Nicklaus was also a tremendous support, writing individual letters of encouragement to each new Chapter President in the spring. And more often than not, it was Joe Steranka of the PGA of America who came through, year after year, to provide us with encouragement, support and financial resources to get us to the next level. The unbelievable staff over the years, the incredible chapter, sectional and regional leaders…all pulling together to make the EWGA happen.
I was blessed to have so many giving so much to make this dream a reality. Yes…I DO get quite teary-eyed when I think about it…and all of you out there who continue to keep the dream alive!
Behind the scenes, the Executive Women's Golf League was instrumental in bringing the issue of gender discrimination to the forefront. Behind the scenes, we connected reporters with women who had experienced the frustration of discrimination within their club. As noted in this article in the Miami Herald, many south Florida clubs fell into that category, right in the back yard of our own EWG headquarters. So we took every opportunity to provide ammunition for interested journalists across the country, including USA Today.
Our efforts behind the scenes included support in Minnesota, Massachusetts, Michigan, Florida, New York to name a few - simply connecting all the women who were facing these issues so they could all work together within their state, and to connect those groups to the leaders within other states who had found successful approaches. As noted in this article "Golf: Not just for (business)men anymore", you can see that Michigan tied the punishment to removing a club's liquor license. This approach, unlike clubs in other states who simply said "So fine us", got serious traction.
I recently read an interesting article within which our own Pam Swensen and long-time supporter Nancy Berkley were recognized (note the paragraph entitled "Is there hope?").
It provides an interesting read, written more than 23 years after the article noted above. Yes, we're still at it ladies but making progress.
In December of 1997, one of golf's long standing publishers, Charlie Stine, published one of my favorite pictures, coined "Golf's Leading Ladies". It was a significant photo back then, because it was the first and only time that three women served as the President of some of golf's most significant organizations in golf at the time. I took great pride in knowing that our tag line at the time was coming true - EWG - Making a Difference Together. And I still do!
More and more chapters were born and by the end of 1994, we had established six regions within the organization. Each region had an experienced chapter leader who was appointed as a Regional Director. In addition to helping chapters with leadership issues, they were also the ones who helped new chapters get their feet on the ground. Each region had an annual event to which all the chapters within that region were invited. Each chapter had a flighted chapter championship, with the opportunity for the winners of each flight to advance to compete at the Regional Championship. And the winner of each flight of the Regional Championships had the opportunity to compete at the National Championship. Yes – these were exciting times for our competitive members!
But just as importantly, most of the chapters started their Mentor Programs, where experienced golfers would take newcomers under their wing, help teach them the practical side of playing ready golf, and encouraging them to work their way from the 9-hole scrambles to a full 18-hole round of golf. Without this critical element of each chapter’s existence, we would never have had the “full circle” complement that I had always dreamed of. It was through these mentor programs that women would truly be welcomed into the game!
And it was our second year of marshalling a hole at the U. S. Women’s Open (which later lead to the first time a hole at the Men’s US OPEN was ever marshalled by women!!). We were no longer an emerging organization. According to the national association for executive directors, EWG was the fastest growing non-profit in the country. And we were the largest businesswomen’s golf association in the US as well. Thanks to ALL of the women who made this possible coast to coast, and a terrific staff!
I invite you to check out this issue of Tee to Green (without the six full-page ads that we garnered) and imagine being involved back in the early 1990’s – STILL without a website nor email addresses! Indeed exciting times for EWG – less than four years old!
Looking to mix things up a little, EWGA Founder Nancy Oliver has a video blog this week.
By the end of 1992, we went to press with our Winter 93 edition of Tee to Green – with a little splash of color and another four pages. On the front page, we introduced our prestigious Advisory Board, and were promoting the first “national event” entitled “The Great Palm Beach Golf Getaway”. It was also the beginning of the trend of highlighting advertisers and sponsors, a key to our continued success.
Please take a few moments to read through this newsletter – which serves as a wonderful benchmark of the “flavor” of the organization in its early haydays, and a testament to the incredible amount of energy being generated across the country by the women of EWG! Call me one proud momma!
We had a number of women from Los Angeles respond to this article in the LA Times…and together with the various PGA pros in the area, we were able to form an organizing committee. But as is typically the case, it takes one dedicated woman to lead the charge. Eventually, the most appropriate woman revealed herself in the form of an LPGA Teaching Professional, Helene Landers. Helene had just finished a video entitled the Women’s Golf Guide, and she with all those other volunteers brought this chapter to life. From there, the Orange County Chapter was born, and today, the Southern California chapters have truly developed a tight camaraderie.
I am looking forward to visiting the Orange County Chapter’s “Summer Getaway” at Sycuan Golf Resort in San Diego the middle of May, and hoping to see lots of other Southern California members there, too! Sure is fun catching up with all these chapters and going down memory lane!
Over 350 women attended the kick-off of the Detroit Chapter in 1993. Yes…EWG was well on its way to becoming a national organization. Back then, it typically took one fearless woman to get the ball rolling for any new chapter – a role which we called the “Network Coordinator”. That individual for Detroit was Janina Jacobs, probably the best golfer we had encountered to date. And she was in the golf business – lucky us!
Janina, together with Carol Frassrand, Nancy Clavel and a close knit group of like men and women, amazed us all with the largest event yet to take place. I had the pleasure of attending that event, thanks to Continental Airlines who provided us with 25 complimentary tickets!!!
The Good News? The original mission is still being met – and the friendships that are formed through this organization are truly the best thing of all. Congratulations to all - Keep up the good work ladies!!!
Shortly thereafter, their sister chapter in Baltimore set the bar with a tremendous kick-off at Turf Valley in early 1993. Attorney Chris Owens’ organizational skills were a key element in their successful launch, with over 300 women signing up for membership that evening. The strategy? She enlisted the help of other female leaders within the business community, such as Judith Martinak, Joan Clark, Nancy Trail, Lynn Cole and Faye Johnson. It is this type of networking that truly provides a diversity in both geographic terms as well as professional affiliations. The Baltimore Chapter continues to demonstrate leadership thanks to the foundation set in 1993 and followed by long term support from people like Sharon Waller, Sharon Guida, Colleen Baum and others.
In the fall of 1992, we welcomed the Atlanta Chapter. Both teaching professional Joyce Wilcox, businesswomen Lynn Foster, marketing guru Terri Badour and a handful of other enthusiastic volunteers stepped up to launch this important new chapter. It was their combined talents that made it such a success.
By this time, we were gaining recognition in the golf industry, particularly in the area of potential sponsorships, including Atlanta-based ATT. And after sponsoring our first Spring Fling, Golf Digest recognized the importance of growing the game (and readership) among women, which in turn helped their advertisers as well. It was this kind of symbiotic relationship that opened the door for more golf-related companies to take notice.
I had the pleasure of joining the Atlanta Chapter for the celebration of their 20th Anniversary, which we later realized was actually their 21st anniversary. The Atlanta Chapter had truly come of age!
1992 was an incredible year. I was busy raising four kids, and simultaneously trying to raise several dozen new EWG chapters coast to coast. My own business (Oliver & Co.) had been put on the back burner and I had transformed my dining room into EWG Central. I prayed a lot. My husband was a saint. I hired a part-time secretary (all I could afford), and enlisted my kids to prepare membership packages on our pool table. Five Cents a package! I was indeed eating my Wheaties (and drinking lots of coffee).
In looking back at pictures of myself, I must have lost 10-15 lbs. during the course of the summer. But I was passionate about helping women across the country to establish their respective chapters. It was THEIR enthusiasm that kept me going. Attached are pages from our Summer 1992 newsletter – only one year after our first clinic. Thanks to the PGA of America who invited us to utilize their mail and copy room using their “Women’s Initiatives account”, and all of the dozens of PGA members who offered to conduct our EWG beginner clinics at host clubs.
I’ll go into more detail in the next few blog entries about the new chapters in Washington, DC, Atlanta and Detroit but suffice it to say…EWG was meant to be. I was just holding on for dear life!
While helping all the new Florida chapters get up and going, I was also helping to give birth to a handful of new chapters in different parts of the country. It was Susan Dunning and her band of other feisty women who brought the Cleveland Chapter to life with several hundred women at their chapter kick-off. And thanks to my friend George Sweda of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, we were able to get plenty of ink to let area women know what was about to happen. Susan had an amazing amount of determination, creativity, and enthusiasm which all came into play in launching this incredible chapter. And did I mention – she had a 2=year old AND she was pregnant??? By the end of the year, they needed to start another chapter on the other side of Cleveland. Kudos to Susan, Marguerite Harkness, Josie Nagy, Carolyn Emkey and other chapter leaders who served as the backbone of this vibrant chapter!