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The Growth of the EWGA

By: Bob Spiwak


The Executive Women's Golf Association (EWGA) is not only for executive women. Comprised of women from all walks of professional, blue-collar and the non-employed ranks, it has grown from a small clinic for female golfers to an international organization of 18,000 members.

Originally called Executive Women's Golf League, the program was founded by Nancy Oliver in Florida in 1991. Oliver, aware of how much business was conducted on the golf course, wondered how many female decision-makers could enter this male-dominated realm and learn to play golf. She put together a clinic for women golfers in West Palm Beach, Fla., at the Emerald Dunes course with a handful of participants. The enthusiasm shown by those in attendance piqued her interest and, from a loft in her home, she created the league and wrote the first chapter manual. The original league was a for-profit organization.

Trish Davis, now EWGA Director of Chapter development, was at that time the media relations coordinator for the National Golf Foundation, (NGF). She wrote an article about the nascent women's organization, and other golf media soon picked up the story. At its core was the non-rhetorical question, "How many women are missing business contacts, networking and deal making by not playing golf?"

With a membership of 10,000 members around the U.S. five years after its founding, Oliver transferred all the information she had collected and, from this, the EWGA – a not-for-profit organization, was born. Over the years some questioned the limiting nature of the word "Executive," said Davis, since the thrust of the organization was a series of programs designed for the busy schedules of working women – whether in the boardroom or living room and open to any woman interested in getting into golf. According to Davis, a vote was taken among the membership to consider changing the word "Executive," but it was defeated. More and more, Davis notes, the organization goes by the EWGA acronym.

Currently there are 118 chapters in the U.S. and two in Canada. Davis offered a sample of the association demographics: 68% of the members are between ages 35-55, 35% have incomes between $50,000 and $80,000, with 44% earning in excess of $80,000.

As the association has grown, it has picked up support throughout the golf universe. It has impressed the PGA of America (with whom it shares a building) by its proven program of recruiting and keeping women involved in golf that exceeds the national average of all golfers. This is an important factor when golf participation has leveled out over the past few years.

Around the nation are "Host Clubs," women-friendly groups that have a signed agreement with the association. There are 18-hole venues and what are called Associate Host Clubs, which are par-3, nine-hole, executive-length courses as well as driving ranges.

The women's skills are put to the test in an annual EWGA championship. It is not the LPGA Tour, as one participant advised me that she had gotten her handicap down to a 20 and was eager to compete in the upcoming year.

For more detail on this facet of the association, we contacted someone close to Cybergolf’s home office, Janet Young in Seattle. Young is director of the Pacific Northwest Section and oversees chapters in Seattle, Spokane, Tacoma, Portland and Salem, Ore., Boise, Ida., and is working on establishing chapters in Hawaii and British Columbia. She is also involved in the family business of providing fire safety in nursing homes. A very busy woman.

As an EWGA member since 1998, Young moved up the ladder to her present position. At one time she was president and committee chairperson of the annual championship. "I work to maintain contact with each chapter, stay in touch with the presidents of each of the chapters [six and growing] and keep them abreast of information as well as hearing their concerns," Young said.

The competition begins at the chapter level, similar in manner to qualifying at USGA tournaments. Working their way up to the national chapter, winners move through sectional events where there are five flights based on handicaps. Victors in the sectionals go to the finals, held at first-class venues like The Hermitage in Nashville and Crystal Mountain in Michigan. The finals are held at various venues around the country. Recently, says Young, there were about 2,100 competitors, with over 100 making it to the finals.

Yeah, OK you say. What’s this gonna cost me if I want to join? As little as $90 or as much as $250. It’s up to you and your budget. At the top of the scale is the Executive membership, next the premier at $150 a year, and least expensive ($90) is the Classic. Or you can be a supporting member for $30, which does not include a chapter affiliation. The benefits that go with each category are too numerous to enumerate here. But if you’re interested, boot up the computer and go to www.ewga.com or call them at 561/691-0096. Either way, you will get the membership brochure and more detailed information than we have space for here.

If you love golf and are of the female persuasion, this is the gig for you. By and for women, the EWGA’s success in a mere 15 years is quite amazing, and by joining you’ll get a lot more than a bag tag and membership card.

Would that we males had something as good.

Bob Spiwak took up golf in 1953 as a respite from the rigors of selling bibles door-to-door in North Dakota. Though suffering a four-year lapse, he's back to being a fanatical golfer. Spiwak has written articles for almost every golf magazine in the Western world. Bob’s most treasured golf antiquity is a nod he got from Gerald Ford at the 1990 Golf Summit. Spiwak lives in Mazama, Wash., with his wife and several pets next to his fabled ultraprivate Whispering Rattlesnakes Golf & Flubbers Club.