I think in any sport or activity it’s important to have role models, to see people who look like you doing things you like to do or want to do. In this case, it’s important for young girls to see the “big girl” having fun and being really good at golf. They may not learn or retain a single pointer or lesson about swing mechanics, but they’re going to remember having a conversation with a professional female athlete, they’re going to hang on to the autograph, they’re going follow that player on social media and that is going to have an impact on how she perceives golf, herself and her future in the game.
For my daughter, it was living in golf community where the main road went right by the driving range and seeing all the older kids up there. It’s what the cool kids were doing and she wanted to be a cool kid. So when she then went the range or at a tournament and she’s surrounded by the older girls like Courtney Cobb (now an assistant coach at UNF), Emily Tillo (now working for the PGA TOUR), Jennifer Hooper (who had a stellar career at SMU), Kaitlyn Price (now working for PXG) and Elise Lobb (now a golf influencer with nearly 1mm followers) she had people to look up to, to practice with, to try and beat. And those older girls were always welcoming and happy to see the young ones coming up behind them.
10 years ago those was probably all “big girls” I could name. They paved the way just like an even smaller number of amazing women did for them and so on, all the way back to the original 18 players who started the LPGA. But now there are thousands of young women playing the game at a really high level. Now, I see Hannah and her peers all doing the same thing thing – giving back the same way and going out of their way. We’ll actually have to turn some of our players away who want to teach at the clinic because they’re eager to give back like their mentors did.
Last week I was at the Symetra Tour Championship and this young girl, 7 years old maybe, about the same age Hannah was when she started , walked to the back of the green during tournament play and asked the three players for an autograph. All three stood there and talked to the girl, signed her flag, high fived her. This was during tournament play! And it’s the norm in women’s golf. So the junior clinic isn’t about these junior players learning the game from our players (though they will, most definitely), it’s seeing themselves, asking questions and bonding with the game.