The End of Golf for 2014 Hits a High Point for Women

News flash! Data released by the National Golf Foundation (NGF) two months ago reported both the number of female adult and female junior golfers in the United States increased in 2013 over 2012. In contrast, during the same period adult male golfers in the U.S. (age 18 and older) decreased by 1 million – or approximately 5 percent, a decline in that has driven the total number of golfers in the U.S. to the lowest participation rate in over 15 years.

The NGF Golf Participation in the United States 2014 Report (of 2013 year-end figures) did not draw too much attention when it was released, which was not surprising since the report was released at the same time the Ryder Cup was underway. Who was interested in reading NGF email and downloading statistics when all the U.S. vs. Europe golf news was on social media?

And, it was the social media stemming from the Ryder Cup that was the undoing of Ted Bishop, who soon became the former president of the PGA of America as a result of his inflammatory sexist remarks. If Bishop had only read the NGF report and the news about an uptick in women’s golf, he might not have tweeted denigrating generalizations about English golfer Ian Poulter being a “Lil Girl.” The whole Bishop unraveling sent the PGA of America headquarters into the recovery room to try and get its act together.

Ironically, on another front the organization may have a recovery opportunity just waiting to happen. This coming week the PGA of America’s board of directors could elect its first female officer in its almost 100-year history. Suzy Whaley, a PGA professional and LPGA professional, is one of three candidates for the position of board Secretary. Historically, the secretary is subsequently elected to the position of vice president and then on to the position of president of the PGA of America.

Suzy has been my friend and golf colleague for over a decade. She wrote the Introduction to the 2003 book I authored for the NGF entitled, “Women Welcome Here! A Guide to Growing Women’s Golf.” It will be very good news – a real high point – for the golf industry and for all women golfers if Suzy makes history. It would be my pleasure to re-publish that book Introduction as everything she wrote in 2003 remains right on target today.

And there is more good news for women’s golf. The LPGA held its second-to-last 2014 tournament this past weekend: the Lorena Ochoa Invitational in Mexico City. And the winner was Christina Kim, a 30-year old from California. I know why I love golf whenever I watch Christina. The game presents us each with our own unique struggles, both physical and mental. Christina has been very forthcoming about her battle with depression.

As I watched the LPGA this weekend I noticed all the different swings, looks and personalities of the players. I just don’t know if I could wear Christina’s black beret, but I love to watch her wearing it. I love the rhythm of Inbee Park’s swing. (Do I take the club back that slowly?) I love the power in Lexi Thompson’s follow-through. (Could I ever really turn through like that?) But, what I really want is to be able to wear one of those pleated skirts the local women’s Mexican team was wearing . . . if only they made it two inches longer!

Women’s golf is becoming a big, big tent, one that is making room for girls and women from many diverse countries and backgrounds. The LPGA under Commissioner Mike Whan’s leadership and the team he put together has created that big tent and the reason more girls and women want to come inside. Credit the LPGA and its successful LPGA-USGA Girls Golf for much of the surge in the number of female golfers.

One of this year’s LPGA’s pinnacles came at the inaugural LPGA International Crown Tournament. LPGA players, who come from all over the world, were playing for their country’s team, sort of a warm-up for the 2016 Olympics. The evidence is in that LPGA Tour players can wear two hats – one for their country and one for the LPGA at the same time.

Another high for women’s golf this year is the launch of the LPGA’s “Teaching HER” program, which is an online program consisting of four one-hour sessions. Brava! to Nancy Henderson, LPGA chief teaching officer, for getting this program off the ground.

A major feature of the new Teaching HER program is that it is open to both LPGA and PGA professionals. That makes it a historic partnership for the LPGA and PGA and bodes well for the future. The program is directed and taught by one of the most respected instructors in golf, Karen Palacios-Jensen. In my view the success of the new partnership will be determined by how many PGA professionals sign up for the class because men and women do approach and play the game differently.

And perhaps women have not been demanding better treatment. At a recent speech I gave to 400 PGA of America golf professionals (only six of whom were women) about how to encourage more women to play the game, I asked a simple question: “How many of you have played a full 18-hole round with a woman with a 30 handicap?”

Four hands were raised. If I were “king” or “queen” of the PGA, playing a full round of golf with women of different handicaps would be a requirement. It’s the simple “know your customer” rule.

The LPGA season is culminating this coming weekend with the CME Group Tour Championship at the Tiburon Golf Club in Naples, Fla. The CME Group, an international communications company and generous supporter of the LPGA, has inaugurated a season-long points system called “The Race to the CME Globe.” If you’ve followed LPGA golf you have seen “Race to the CME Globe” on the back of the caddies’ bibs.

The CME Globe competition is something like the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup, but not quite as complicated in that the points reset just once going into the tournament. It’s also the event that determines the Rolex Player of the Year, the Rookie of the Year and several other awards. For information about the tournament go to “fan guide” at

Golf Channel will cover all four rounds of the CME Group Tour Championship with excellent commentators who will talk about the shots and the players and their personal struggles and victories. Follow the excitement of this season-ending event and you will understand why women’s golf is ending 2014 on a high. Get inspired: Play more golf.

Nancy Berkley, President of Berkley Golf Consulting, is an expert on women’s golf and junior-girls golf. She is a frequent contributor to Her book, “Women Welcome Here! A Guide to Growing Women’s Golf,” published by the National Golf Foundation, is an industry reference on marketing golf to women and spotting trends within the industry. She offers information and advice about the golf industry on and is often quoted in national publications. She was a contributing editor of “Golf for Women” magazine and a founding advisor of “Golfer Girl Magazine.” Her interviews with women in the golf industry now appear on Nancy lives in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., and is a graduate of the University of Minnesota, Harvard University and Rutgers Law School. After a business and legal career, she decided to write about the game she learned and loved as a teenager. She describes herself as a good bogey golfer with permanent potential.

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