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June 2020

Women’s Golf Day Celebrates 5 Years

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By Doug McPherson

You could see the cold chill bumps on Elisa Gaudet’s forearm. She was watching the Golf Channel’s airing of the 2017 Solheim Cup.

They popped up suddenly when Gaudet saw fans from both the U.S. & European sides holding placards high and proudly above their heads promoting Women’s Golf Day (WGD), the one-day event on the first Tuesday of every June that introduces women and girls to golf. Gaudet founded the organization in 2016.

“It was amazing to see when our industry is so fragmented … to see all these women and fans joined together,” Gaudet said. “And although it’s a competition, WGD is for everyone and it is common ground when there were two rivals.”

For Gaudet, it was like watching a wobbly toddler take its first steps. WGD is her baby.

“It will be my fingerprint I leave on this world – I don’t have children,” she said. “It’s impacted a lot of girls and women. I know some who’d never touched a club before WGD and now they teach golf.”

This year WGD celebrates its fifth birthday — which caused Gaudet to reminisce how WGD came to be.
When she started working in the golf industry in 1999, Gaudet was hearing what everyone else was hearing: the reports, studies, articles and statistics that all pointed to the sport needing more women.

“Everyone was saying the same thing, that women wanted to come to the sport; some did come but they were quick to leave,” Gaudet said. “The problem was well known, so at some point, you have to pull the trigger.”

Maybe Gaudet’s trigger finger was itchier than all the others when the idea hit her to set aside a day for women to try golf. After brainstorming what that day would look like and what would happen at golf courses that hosted players, she tested the concept at a course in Boston, Massachusetts.
“We wanted it to be relaxed and comfortable. The women and girls could have experience or not, it didn’t matter,” Gaudet said. “We mixed them together and just allowed them to feel comfortable, not intimidated, and to socialize. They could take lessons or play nine holes.”

It worked. The women liked it, enjoyed themselves. What’s more, the course management saw it as another pipeline to get more golfers. 

Women’s Golf Day was born. Gaudet said from the start there were two keys that made it work. One, that it only took a few hours (events typically last 4 hours), and two, that public or private courses could host the event.

The next step — expand from Boston to the world — literally. “There was no business plan, we just did it, and it took off anyway.”

Took off indeed — and in all directions. Gaudet said she began sending information about the event to everyone she knew, including the World Golf Foundation and the International Golf Federation. Both joined the cause and gave WGD a strong international flavor.

In its first year, 2016, 460 courses hosted WGD. In 2017 WGD grew 68 percent.
 
“After years one and two, we were like holy cow — this is really being well received,” Gaudet said.
The momentum continued as well-known sponsors joined, including PGA Superstore, TopGolf, LPGA and many others. Big named golfers have pitched in, too: Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, and Annika Sorenstam along with famed golf instructor David Leadbetter, among others.

Supporting WGD was a no-brainer for Cynthia Howard, director of media sales for the PGA Tour. She recalls meeting Gaudet when she was just getting WGD off the ground. Howard has been selling corporate sponsorships and helping WGD ever since.   

“I welcomed the concept of getting more women interested in any sport, and particularly golf,” said Howard, a board member of the New York City chapter of The First Tee, a nonprofit that promotes golf for kids. “Through The First Tee, I know golf impacts lives, builds character, instills life-enhancing values and promotes healthy choices. WGD weaves well into these exact values.”

Gaudet appreciates the support. “It doesn’t matter who gets behind it — individuals or corporations — they can move the needle.”

That needle has moved. Today Gaudet said WGD is the fastest growing movement in golf — with 900-plus events in 66 countries.

“Women’s golf is enjoying a resurgence that’s long overdue. Over the last five years, we have seen an increase in the number of female tour events, mixed events taking root around the globe and of course WGD’s global growth.”

When Gaudet talks about the future of WGD, she undoubtedly talks about numbers, but an overriding theme is unity. That stirs her — fuels the chill bumps. Those rose when fans united for those few seconds. Gaudet likes it when people come together — especially for a good cause.
  
“Our ultimate dream is to get as many organizations to work together as we
can.” 

Doug McPherson is a freelance writer in Denver, Colorado.


NOTE: The COVID-19 crisis has led the Women’s Golf Day team to get creative, announcing it will hold a “virtual” celebration of its fifth anniversary on June 2, with the actual festivities being moved to Sept. 1, providing that there is clearance from the WHO and governing bodies.

“The global community finds itself in an unprecedented situation and we need to respond appropriately. Women’s Golf Day is in a unique position because we have the flexibility to react quickly to the changing landscape whilst also giving the industry something positive to aim towards,” said founder Elisa Gaudet “Our mission and platform is that of a global unifier. We will continue to monitor the situation very closely, but we are hopeful that the September date is realistic.”

To help more locations join the community in time for the September date, WGD is offering free basic registration on the website womensgolfday.com with the code WGDUnites.

To learn the latest about the June 2 virtual event, and all the details for participating in September, go online to the WGD website.

 

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